"The Motorcycle Diaries," "Garden State," "Riding Giants," and "Open Water" Nabbed at Sundance; Slamdance Kicks Off 10th Year
by Eugene Hernandez and Jonny Leahan
Dealmaking at Sundance ignited over the weekend with pacts reaching the millions of dollars. Focus Features acquired Walter Salles' "The Motorcycle Diaries" in a deal that was rumored to hit more than $4 million, while Miramax and Fox Searchlight teamed up for a surprising joint multi-million-dollar pact for Zach Braff's "Garden State." Sony Classics acquired Stacy Peralta's opening night movie, "Riding Giants," while Lions Gate nabbed Chris Kentis' "Open Water."
In a late deal Sunday, Fox Searchlight acquired local filmmaker Jared Hess' "Napolean Dynamite" after a competitive session of bidding, leading to another multi-million-dollar deal. Cinetic Media sold the film to Fox after the movie's third screening on Sunday. Word of the pact spread at Cinetic's jam-packed party at Easy Street Sunday night with the film's large group of cast and crew celebrating downstairs. The comedy was produced by Jeremy Coon, Sean Covel, and Chris Wyatt and written by Hess and his wife Jerusha Hess.
Salles' "The Motorcycle Diaries," shot in Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Cuba, was written by Jose Rivera. Focus has acquired North American rights for the movie and plans to release it at the end of this year. In the film, inspired by the journey of Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Alberto Granado in 1952, the two explore Latin America to learn about the people of those countries and themselves.
"Knowing yourself is about knowing that there is a big world around you," Gael Garcia Bernal told indieWIRE Sunday, describing the movie as a story of the "loss of innocence." Co-star Rodrigo de la Serna told indieWIRE, in Spanish, "I learned a lot about my land and about myself as well." The film is a Film Four production with South Fork Pictures and Tu Vas Voir Productions and was acquired for Focus by Jason Resnick.
The deal for TV actor Zach Braff's "Garden State" is an unprecedented dual acquisition deal for worldwide rights, with Miramax and Fox Searchlight sharing worldwide revenues. The two distributors announced on Sunday that they are still determining which company will handle each territory.
"Garden State" is the story of an aspiring L.A. actor, played by Braff, who returns home to New Jersey for his mother's funeral. It also stars Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Ian Holm, Jean Smart, and Rob Liebman. It was executive produced by Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, and Stacey Sher, and was produced by Pam Abdy, Richard Klubeck, Gary Gilbert and Dan Halsted.
Sony Classics pact for the big wave surf doc "Riding Giants" marks the second time that the company and Peralta will work together. Sony Pictures Classics released the filmmaker's 2001 Sundance award-winner "Dogtown and Z-Boys," which is about skateboarding.
"We are delighted to be continuing our long-standing relationship with Sony Pictures Classics," said Muriel Sauvay and John Kochman of Studiocanal. "Sony Pictures Classics' unwavering commitment to Stacy Peralta and his singular talent makes 'Riding Giants' a perfect fit for all concerned."
Lions Gate Films nabbed worldwide rights for Chris Kentis' "Open Water" and will release the movie this summer, according to company president Tom Ortenberg. Kentis wrote, directed, and edited the picture, which was produced by Laura Lau. The true story of two married scuba divers inadvertently left behind to survive in shark-infested waters, was shot by Kentis and Lau. Ortenberg, Peter Block, and Jason Constantine, and Nick Meyer negotiated for Lions Gate.
"Chris Kentis and Laura Lau have crafted an unbelievably intense tale of fear and survival set in the vast, creepy expanse of the open ocean," said Ortenberg in a statement Sunday. "We are thrilled to be charged with bringing this superior, bone-chilling tale I would describe as 'Blair Witch' meets 'Jaws,' to a wide audience this summer, continuing to build our leadership in the horror/thriller genre, and letting audiences know that it won