TORONTO 2001 BUZZ: Nair Wins in Venice; Familiar Faces in New Places and Strand Acquisitions
by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE
>> Nair’s “Wedding” Takes Top Award in Venice
(indieWIRE/09.09.01) — Industry-types networking in the Rogers Industry
Centre were buzzing yesterday afternoon were as festival-goers fielded calls from Venice and reported the Festival’s award winners.
Toronto festival-goers will have a chance to catch a number of Venice Film
Festival prize-winners this year. Mira Nair‘s “Monsoon Wedding” (screening in Toronto as a gala presentation) won The Golden Lion, the top prize at the
58th Venice Fest. The festival jury selected the movie from the event’s 21
competition films and presented awards at a ceremony last night in Venice.
Executive produced by IFC Films‘ Jonathan Sehring and Caroline Kaplan, the movie captures the beauty and music of old and new Punjabi culture, while exploring five interwoven storylines leading up to the wedding day.
The award for Lion of the Year went to Laurent Cantent for “L’emploi du
temp,” the director well-known for “Human Resources” is screening his new
movie here this week, while the prize for first film went to Jan Cvitkovic
for “Kruh in mleko” (Bread and Milk), it too will screen here in Toronto.
The competition jury presented its grand prize to Toronto spotlight
filmmaker Ulrich Seidl for “Hundstage” (Dog Days) and awarded a special
prize for director to Babak Payami for his work on “Raye makhfi” (Secret
Ballot) which is screening here in the Contemporary World Cinema Section.
The prize for best screenplay went to Alfonso Cuaron for “Y tu mama
tambien,” which is also showing here in Toronto.
The top acting awards went to two performers from “Light of My Eyes,” Luigi
Lo Cascio for best actor and Sandra Ceccarelli for best actress. Gael Garcia
Bernal and Diego Luna, stars of “Y tu mama tambien” won the emerging actor
Zhu Wen‘s “Haixian” was given a special jury prize, along with Damien Odoul for “Le souffle.”
Venice competition jurors included President Nanni Moretti, and jurors
Jeanne Balibar, Amitav Ghosh, Taylor Hackford, Cecilia Roth, Jerzy
Skolimowski, and Vibeke Windelov. While the “Cinema del Presente” jury
included President Shiguehiko Hasumi, Michel Ciment, Piera Detassis, Emanuel
Levy, and Gavin Smith. [Eugene Hernandez]
>> Familiar Faces in New Places: Pressman & Schmidt, Bingham at UA, ThinkFilm Debut, Eamonn’s New Gig
(indieWIRE/09.09.01) — While the studios typically view the Toronto
International Film Festival as the place debut their Oscar hopefuls, this
year the event is the launching pad for a number of new companies, all
involving familiar members of the independent and specialty film community.
Bingham Ray, Jeff Sackman, Eamonn Bowles, Ed Pressman and John Schmidt are in play, with many here in Toronto pressing the flesh and scouting for movies to fuel their new endeavors.
Ed Pressman Joins Forces with John Schmidt
One deal that is bound to have industry insiders buzzing this weekend is
news from famed producer Ed Pressman (“American Psycho,” “Badlands“) and former October Films partner John Schmidt. The two are launching
ContentFilm, a new production and distribution company that will be based in
New York City.
The fully financed company will be lead by Pressman in the role of Chairman
& CEO, with Schmidt on board as President and COO. Its plans include a full
slate of 12 – 15 features, many of which will be shot digitally (and under
the $2 million budget range). Distribution via traditional theatrical and
ancillary outlets (TV, home video/DVD etc) will be augmented by efforts to
pursue broadband delivery as well.
The aesthetic of film changed in the sixties, when cameras and other
equipment got better and lighter and easier to use,” Pressman said
yesterday. “We feel that the advent of digital technology will similarly
give a voice to a new generation of filmmakers, and John and I are excited
to bring the maverick spirit of Pressman and the old October Films into a
future that is full of possibilities.” The outfit intends to unveil its team
soon and open offices in Los Angeles and London. It will also soon unveil
its first projects and strategic distribution partners.
In the Wake of Shooting Gallery, Bowles Launching Magnolia
While his plans have yet to be announced in the trades, former Shooting
Gallery exec Eamonn Bowles has been making the rounds in Toronto quietly
talking up his new company. Bowles, who headed the acclaimed Shooting
Gallery Film Series (distributor of “Croupier, “A Time for Drunken Horses” and many more), has lured former teammate Ryan Werner for the new venture, dubbed Magnolia Pictures.
The duo are currently in the formative stages of their new distribution and
exhibition company, securing Manhattan office space and getting the word out
to select festival-goers.
Former Lions Gate Executives Unveil ThinkFilm
Yesterday morning (at a Windsor Arms Hotel breakfast) was the coming out
party for ThinkFilm, a new distribution outfit based here in Toronto and in
New York City.
When former Lions Gate Films president Jeff Sackman announced the launch of ThinkFilm, industry observers took notice, his solid reputation within the
biz is matched with a high-profile group of former Lions Gate execs as his
new outfit’s leadership. Mark Urman, who recently left Lions Gate, is on
board to head U.S. operations in New York, while Andy Myers, formerly of
Blackwatch Releasing, will head the Toronto headquarters where Sackman will
serve as President and CEO. The company’s first Canadian release, “Last
Wedding,” opened the Festival on Thursday and the outfit is in town to find
films for its slate of North American releases.
“The nice thing about being new and veteran at the same time is that you
don’t need to make too much of an impression. It’s just a question of
connecting with the people and the films, most importantly the films,” Urman
told indieWIRE. He is on the scene at screenings and in meetings, making sure
that the creative community and their reps are familiar thinking ThinkFilm.
“Every seller should be looking at every potential customer with a new pair
of eyes,” Urman added, “Artisan isn’t the same Artisan, Lions Gate isn’t the
same Lions Gate, Fine Line isn’t the same Fine Line.” [Eugene Hernandez]
The New UA with Bingham Ray at the Reigns
“Its nice to be back in the saddle,” Bingham Ray told indieWIRE earlier this
week. The co-founder of October Films is in the spotlight here in Toronto as
the new head of the new United Artists. A festival fixture, the exec had
been on the sidelines of late, after leaving October (now known as USA
Ray relocated the 82-year-old UA to new Manhattan offices as part of his
deal to join the outfit as its President. Founded in February of 1919 by
Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith and William S. Hart, the company has a storied lineage that includes such releases as “High Noon,” “The Apartment,” “West Side Story,” “Annie Hall,” “Midnight Cowboy,” “Some Like It Hot,” “Rocky,” and numerous James Bond films.
In Toronto, the company is touting “No Man’s Land,” the film it acquired at
Cannes this year before Ray took the helm. When asked if he feels a certain
amount of pressure for UA to make a certain impression here in Toronto, Ray
offered, “United Artists does not need to make a statement, this will be a
process for us — if there are films that I find very meaningful then I will
approach them with the idea of acquiring them.”
“What I am really interested in doing — and what I am willing to work very
hard to achieve — is a consistent level of success,” Ray told indieWIRE
when announcing the venture, “The kinds of films that you can make that can
be both profitable and provocative.” [Eugene Hernandez]
>> Strand Gets To Asian Movies, “Lan Yu” and “Hush!”
(indieWIRE/09.07.01) — Festival regulars Marcus Hu and Jon Gerrans,
co-presidents of indie distributor Strand Releasing have announced the
acquisition of the U.S. rights for two new films. The company has made deals
for Stanley Kwan’s “Lan Yu,” and Hashiguchi Ryosuke’s “Hush!”
Stanley Kwan’s “Lan Yu” is described in an announcement as the story of a
Communist businessman who develops a relationship with a male student amidst
the political crisis of 1988 in China. Hashiguchi Ryosuke’s “Hush!” is the
story of a gay Japanese couple’s attempts to start a family, with the help
of a woman they meet on the street. The company plans to release both movies
next year. Celluloid Dream’s Pierre Menahem sold “Lan Yu,” while Fortissimo’s
Wouter Barendrecht made the deal for “Hush!”
This year, Strand has handled Jonathan Nossiter’s “Signs and Wonders,” the
re-release of “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and also released Samantha Lang’s
“The Monkey’s Mask.” It recently opened “The Iron Ladies” and will soon
unveil Marcelo Pineyro’s “Burnt Money” and Henrique Goldman’s “Princesa.”