Market Activity Continues in Berlin; Palm Gets Two Films
by Eugene Hernandez
The buying continued on Wednesday at the European Film Market here in Berlin, which is running concurrent with the 2003 Berlinale. Palm Pictures, Chris Blackwell's entertainment company, has acquired two feature films here in Berlin, nabbing the Rotterdam/European Film Market hit "Noi Albinoi" (Noi The Albino) and the new French film, "Un Femme de Menage" (The Housekeeper). Both deals were closed here at the European Film Market by Palm's David Koh and Ryan Werner.
Dagur Kari's "Noi Albinoi" from Iceland, screening here at the EFM, won the MovieZone youth jury award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and two awards at the Gothenburg Film Festival. The story of a teenager (Tomas Lemarquis) yearning to escape life in a remote fjord of Northern Iceland, "Noi" marks the second acquisition of an Icelandic film by Palm. They are releasing Baltasar Kormakur's "The Sea" in the U.S. in late May.
"Noi Albinoi" was sold in Berlin by The Co-Production Office. Buzz about the film has been strong since the opening of the EFM, with a number of festival programmers interested in the picture for key events later this year and into the Fall. It will be released in the latter part of 2003.
Fresh from success in France, "The Housekeeper" was directed by Claude Berri ("Germinal," "Lucie Aubrac") and stars Jean-Pierre Bacri ("The Taste of Others") and Emilie Dequenne ("Rosetta"). Palm will release the movie in theaters this summer followed by a debut on the Palm Pictures DVD label. The film was sold by Pascal Diot, head of sales for Pathe International. The film will have its North American premiere at next month's Rendezvous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center in New York.
Filling the DaimlerChrysler Atrium adjacent to the Berlinale Palast in Potsdamer Platz, the European Film Market offers two levels of booth space and spots for industry networking and dealmaking. For more than 20 years, the European Film Market (headed by Beki Probst), has been designed "to strengthen the European film industry on an international level (and not least to create a counterbalance to the American Film Market, or AFM)."
Attendees view the 300 registered films at market-only screenings that are held in the CinemaxX and Cinestar theaters here in Potsdamer Platz. While Berlinale films are showcased at the EFM, screenings of non-festival films are also quite popular. A number of countries use the market to showcase work from their region and set up large booths to promote work from their countries. Unifrance is a major presence, as is the popular German Boulevard, not to mention booths and spaces from countless countries and international regions. And of course, major sales companies set up space to promote the films they are selling at the EFM. At five o'clock each evening, when the clock stikes happy hour, it's commonplace to see regional outfits and sales companies popping the cork to offer attendees a cocktail or two to celebrate the latest deal.
American filmmakers and Berlinale attendees regulary hover around the IFP's booth adjacent to Unifrance. Registered attendees use the space as a home base during the fest and filmmakers selected for the IFP's American Showcase gather alongside other U.S. filmmakers who have made the trip to Berlin to get their film in front of the buyers, and as importantly, film festival programmers from around the world. David Koh, head of acquisitions and production at Palm and Ryan Werner, Palm's new head of distribution, are among the buyers from the U.S. who are working the market here in Berlin. The duo spoke with indieWIRE on Wednesday, about the EFM and their two acquisitions.
For Palm, which is emerging as a more active player on the festival and acquisitions circuit, the Berlinale and the European Film Market are a key stop, according to David Koh. The exec noted that the programming here in Berlin tends to feature a strong European and Asian influence, which is of key interest to Palm. Koh and Werner, along with Jose Martinez, have also used the trip to Berlin as a way to forge stronger relationships with buyers who are getting a sense that Palm is an increasingly active player in the independent and foreign film biz.
Koh indicated that Palm, whose film division is headed by Karol Martesko, is looking to release 8 to 10 films theatrically this year, while its DVD pipeline is much larger and may hit 75 titles. About one third of those are theatrically released films like the recent "The Believer." Koh said that Palm is actively acquiring a number of other titles, with nnouncements of some notable purchases due soon. DVD plans will include work by Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, and Chris Cunningham. Other arms of Palm include a music label, Manga Entertainment (the leading Japanese anime brand in the world), sputnik7.com, epitonic.com, Arthouse Films, and RES Media Group. Upcoming releases include Matthew Barney's "Cremaster Cycle," Oxide Pang and Danny Pang's "The Eye," Johnnie To & Wai Ka Fai's "Fulltime Killer," and Stephen Norrington's "The Last Minute."
Buying has been swift here at the European Film Market, with a number of companies stepping to the plate so far, ranging from Indiewood players to smaller distributors. Sony Pictures Classics nabbed "My Life Without Me" and "Broken Wings," while Miramax secured "I'm Not Scared" and Magnolia closed its deal for "La Trilogie." Buyers are eyeing a number of competition entries as the market winds down. More pacts for North American theatrical distribution are expected as the event closes this week, or when buyers head to Santa Monica, Calif., next week for the American Film Market (AFM).
[DISCLOSURE: indieWIRE Managing Member and Co-Founder Karol Martesko-Fenster is part of the management team of Palm Pictures.]