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CANNES ’08 BIZ DAILY | Europe Day, Another Pick-Up For IFC, Optimum Takes “Whiteout,” Celluloid Opti

CANNES '08 BIZ DAILY | Europe Day, Another Pick-Up For IFC, Optimum Takes "Whiteout," Celluloid Opti

Continuing coverage of the Marche du Film in Cannes, indieWIRE reports on the latest deals and news from the Croisette. Monday afternoon saw the 6th Europe Day program take place, IFC acquired the North American rights to “The Chaser,” Optimum Releasing announced plans to release “Whiteout,” Celluloid Dreams options the right to Phillip K. Dick‘s “UBIK,” Lightning Media acquires the rights to Amy Redford‘s “Guitar,” a look at the Hungarian Pavilion, and more.

Cannes Turns the Spotlight on Europe; E.U. Cultural Ministers Lead Event

Cannes feted the continent Monday afternoon with the 6th Europe Day program, with 14 cultural ministers taking part in morning meetings discussing international film cooperation in addition to honoring Portuguese filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira whose film, “Douro, Faina, Fluvial” (1930) will be shown on the Croisette, and last year’s Palme d’Or winner, Cristian Mungiu (“4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days“) who served as patron of this year’s Europe Day. Fourteen films representing 900,000 euros of co-funding from the European Union’s MEDIA program were selected to screen during the Festival de Cannes.

European Film Commissioner Jose Manuel Barroso opened the meeting Monday under the multilingual banner, “Cinema, Dianying yan, Kino, Chalchitra, Cine: Building a world of exchanges,” ushering in a conversation with the participating ministers, filmmakers, and film industry figures on how to incorporate audiovisual exchanges between EU countries in addition to facilitating trade agreements between the EU and other parts of the world. The discussion also touched on ways to stimulate joint initiatives between film distributors.

“Nobody thought we’d have a place for the cultural ministers to exchange views with filmmakers,” commented Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media at a closing press conference in the Palais des Festivals Monday afternoon. “We have to open our borders and extend European filmmaking to other continents as well… The fact that Jose Manuel Barroso was here symbolizes European progress in [connecting] with its filmmakers… We believe in our filmmakers, and we believe in our films. Vive le cinema Europeen!”

In a related topic, actress Jeanne Moreau blew the starting whistle for the “Tour de France of European filmmakers in Cannes.” Organized by Europa Cinemas as part of the European Cultural Season under the French presidency of the European Union, the “tour” takes place July 1st to December 31. The program will allow French audiences to view 27 titles from across the region in French cinemas and meet participating directors. The initial films selected to take part include: “Gomorra” by Matteo Garrone (Italy); “Happy-Go-Lucky” by Mike Leigh (U.K.); “Tricks” by Andrzej Jakimowski (Poland); “Exile Family Movie” by Arash T. Riahi (Austria); “Desmond and the Swamp Creature” by Magnus Carlsson (Sweden); “The Unpolished” by Pia Marais (Germany); “Songs of Songs” by Josh Appignanesi (U.K.); and “Ca m’est egal si demain n’arrive jamais” by Guillaume Malandrin (Belgium).

“It is the idea of ‘crossing boundaries’ which pleased me with this project and for that reason I agreed to be president,” said Moreau about her position as head of the Tour de France of European filmmakers in a statement. “I know the importance of traveling, of exchanges with others in the life of an artist and his work: it is vital to creation.” [Brian Brooks]

IFC Solicits “The Chaser” for North America

IFC Films has announced a deal for all North American rights to “The Chaser,” continuing a very busy Cannes with the recent acquisitions of “A Christmas Tale,” “Summer Hours,” “The Pleasure of Being Robbed,” and “Mermaid.” The Korean title screened as a midnight film here at Cannes this past Saturday. Elizabeth Nastro, director of acquisitions and production for IFC Films negotiated the agreement with Young-joo Suh, CEO of Finecut.

From first time director Na Hong-jin, “Chaser” tells the story of a detective turned pimp who finds himself in trouble when several of his girls disappear without paying him. While trying to track down the women, he discovers that all of them were called up by the same client. After tracking him down, the suspect claims to have killed the women, but the pimp believes one missing girl may be alive. Though the serial killer is finally in detention, the pimp has only 12 hours to find the missing girl before his warrant expires…

“There’s a reason that this film is already being remade. It’s an ingeniously plotted twist on the serial killer genre,” noted Jonathan Sehring, President of IFC Entertainment. “We are thrilled to introduce NA Hong-jin to an American audience and hope this is the beginning of a long relationship.” Warner Bros. recently announced their plans to remake the film.

IFC Films acquired back to back Palme d’Or winners, including Cristian Mungiu’s “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days” and Ken Loach‘s “The Wind that Shakes the Barley.” Last year, the company picked up 10 titles at Cannes, including Gus Van Sant‘s “Paranoid Park,” which won the Prize of the 60th Anniversary.” [Brian Brooks and James Israel]

Optimum Sees Gold in “Whiteout”

Commencing their multi-picture deal with Joel Silver’s Dark Castle, Optimum Releasing has announced that they will be releasing the action thriller “Whiteout” next year. Directed by Dominic Sena, the film is based on the award winning graphic novel by Greg Rucka. It stars Kate Beckinsale as a US Marshal stationed in Antarctica who must investigate the continent’s first murder and find the perpetrator before 24 hours of darkness settles in. “Developing strong relationships with companies such as Dark Castle is key to our plans for growing the mainstream side of our slate,” said Optimum CEO Will Clarke in a release. Further releases slated for Optimum this year are “Complete History of my Sexual Failures,” “Donkey Punch,” “Cass,” “Elite Squad” (“Tropa D’Elite”), “Somerstown,” “Paris,” “American Teen,” and “In the Loop.” [Jenny Sung]

“UBIK” Gets Converted Into Celluloid

Philip K. Dick‘s sci-fi novel “UBIK” has been optioned by Celluloid Dreams, announced on Monday. The author’s work is well known for his previous Hollywood adaptations such as “Blade Runner” and “Total Recall.” To be co-produced by Hengameh Panahi of Celluloid and Isa Dick Hackett of Electric Shepherd Productions, this project is described as a metaphysical comedy where the dead offer business advice and shop for their next incarnation. Said Hackett in a statement, “We are thrilled to actively participate in adapting ‘UBIK’…we are happy to be partnering with Celluloid Dreams, whose overall vision and appreciation of the material is consistent with our own.” Electric Shepherd will also be producing an HBO biopic on the sci-fi author. [Jenny Sung]

Newly Formed Lighting Media Takes “Guitar”

Lightning Media, the newly formed Santa Monica-based distribution company, announced in Cannes Monday that it has acquired the U.S. distribution rights to Amy Redford‘s “The Guitar.” Launched just weeks ago, Lightning Media is an operating division of Lightning Entertainment Group, which was recently formed as a parent company of three separate, wholly owned operating divisions: Lightning Media, Lightning Home Entertainment, and Lightning Entertainment. “I am very excited to work with Lightning Entertainment on the release of this film,” said Redford in a statement. “They presented us with some innovative ideas around the release, and knowing that they share my passion and vision for ‘The Guitar’ is, of course, gratifying.” “Guitar” stars Saffron Burrows as a woman who finds out she has terminal cancer, has lost her job, and her boyfriend, all of which happens in the same morning. Lightning will release the film in late 2008 or early 2009. [Peter Knegt]

Artificial Eyes “O’Horten”

O’Horten,” showing this Wednesday in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard competition, has been picked up by UK’s Artificial Eye for distribution rights. Represented by The Match Factory, the Norwegian tragicomedy by Bent Hamer has been sold to several other European markets, such as Ocean Films for France, Filmcoopi for Switzerland, Pandora Film for Germany, and Scanbox for Scandinavia. The Match Factory has also announced many other deals for their German films, including Soren Kragh-Jacobsen‘s “What No One Knows,” Gotz Spielmann‘s “Revanche,” Ozgur Yildirim‘s “Chiko,” and Stefan Aresenijevic‘s “Love & Other Crimes.” [Jenny Sung]

The Match Factory Waltzes on Cloud 9

The rights to the political animated piece by Ari Folman, “Waltz With Bashir” has been sold by The Match Factory to Italy’s Lucky Red, Benelux’s Cineart, Spain’s Golem, Greece’s Seven One, and Canada’s Seville Pictures, with pending deals with Asia and Australia. Also, after its premiere in Un Certain Regard, Andreas Dresen‘s “Cloud 9” has been sold to certain regions of Europe, such as Cooperative Nouveau Cinema for Benelux, Filmcoopi for Swizerland, Seven One for Greece, Mongrel Media for Canada, with pending sales for France and Spain. “Waltz With Bashir” will screen for the final time in Cannes on May 20th at the Marche du Film. [Jenny Sung]

BFI Takes Davies Doc For UK

On the day of its world premiere in Cannes, the British Film Institute has acquired the UK distribution rights to Terence Davies‘ “Of Time and the City.” “City,” a documentary that details Davies’ life as a Liverpudlian and the changes of British social life post-war, the film was produced by Northwest Vision and Media as part of its “Digital Departures” initiative, a competitive scheme which has supported three feature film projects for Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture. Following Cannes, the film will screen in at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June. BFI will release the film in the UK this November. [Peter Knegt]

Hungary Presents a New Generation at Cannes

Last year at Cannes, Bela Tarr‘s “The Man From London” was the first Hungarian film featured in competition in 19 years. This year, Hungary continues to exert reinvigorated presence with another film, Kornel Mundruczo‘s “Delta,” in official competition. The film already has won both the grand prize and critic’s prize of the 2008 Hungarian Film Week. “It is our pleasure that we are following [“London”] with another film,” said Eva Vezer, General Manager of Magyar, which runs the Hungarian Pavilion. “Mundruczo is a very talented young director.”

Vezer believes Mundruczo is part of a new generation of Hungarian filmmakers that have a lot of promise to bring focus to the country’s output. “The Hungarian cinema was quite well known in the good old days,” Vezer reflected, noting specifically Miklos Jansco, “the great master of Hungarian cinema” who won best director at Cannes in 1972 for “Red Psalm.” “But recently we realized there’s a new generation cropping up. And we [at the Pavilion] would like to present that there is a real uprising of young directors in Hungarian cinema.”

She is not only referencing Mundruczo, whose “Delta” is screening Tuesday night at the Lumiere Theatre, but also Daniel Erdelyl, whose short, “411-Z,” is screening in official selection, and Geza M. Toth, who has a short, “Ergo,” in Critic’s Week. “We are very proud that there is such a strong lineup,” said Vezer. “We already consider [Cannes] an absolute success in that we can be so present.” Another example comes from Cinefondation, where Benedek Fliegauf, “yet another talented director,” smiles Vezer, is showing his project “Womb,” and the 23 Hungarian films in the Market, 10 of which are feature directorial debuts.

The organization Vezer works for, Magyar, has been representing Hungary at the Hungarian Pavilion for six years now. An agency of the Hungarian Motion Picture Foundation, Vezer and her colleagues’ task is to promote the films screening both officially and in the market, and to provide information and contacts for the Hungarian film industry. “We are acting like a switchboard to connect different people from different productions,” Vezer explained. If this year is any indication, that “switchboard” might be getting busier and busier in Cannes to come. [Peter Knegt]

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