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CANNES ’08 BIZ DAILY | IFC Takes Two, Salt Launches, Fortissimo Busy, Delpy Pre-Sales, Ukranian Pavi

CANNES '08 BIZ DAILY | IFC Takes Two, Salt Launches, Fortissimo Busy, Delpy Pre-Sales, Ukranian Pavi

Continuing coverage of the Marche du Film in Cannes, indieWIRE reports on the latest deals and news from the Croisette. IFC has acquired a pair of Cannes festival entries, Arnaud Desplechin‘s “A Christmas Tale” and Josh Safdie‘s “The Pleasure of Being Robbed.” Meanwhile, Fortissimo has had a busy round of sales leading up to the festival, while Salt launches for its first market after being re-branded. Finally, Julie Delpy inks pre-sales for her passion project, a look at the Ukranian pavillion, and more.

IFC Films Busy in Cannes, Gets “Christmas,” “Pleasure”

On Wednesday afternoon at the Marche du Film, IFC Films announced the acquisition of two Cannes festival titles. The New York-based distributor picked up U.S. rights to Arnaud Desplechin‘s competition film “A Christmas Tale” (Un Conte de Noel) and confirmed its deal for North American rights to the Directors Fortnight closing film, “The Pleasure of Being Robbed,” directed by Josh Safdie.

Starring Catherine Deneuve, Jean-Paul Roussillon, Mathieu Amalric, Anne Consigny, Melvil Poupaud, Emmanuelle Devos and Chiara Mastroianni, Desplechin’s “A Christmas Tale” is a contemporary family drama set in France. The feature has its competition debut Friday night at the Palais des Festivals. IFC’s Arianna Bocco, vice president of acquisitions negotiated the deal with Laurent Baudens of Wild Bunch on behalf of the filmmakers.

“There has been a lot of talk about the doom and gloom hanging over this year’s market. However, we are feeling particularly bullish about our business, and we are thrilled to kick off our Cannes Film Festival with this announcement,” commented Jonathan Sehring, president, IFC Entertainment in a statement. “Arnaud Desplechin is one of the great filmmakers working today.”

IFC has been after Safdie’s “The Pleasure of Being Robbed” since its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in March. The comedy is the directorial debut for the 24 year-old filmmaker and is the only U.S. feature in this year’s Directors Fortnight where it will screen as an International Premiere. Bocco negotiated the deal with Josh Braun from Submarine Entertainment, who represented the filmmaker.

“Pleasure,” meanwile, centers on Eleonore (Eleonore Hendricks), an attractive, free-spirited young woman who is also a fearless, habitual thief, though her actions at times are strangely generous. The film is co-produced by by Andy Spade and Casey Neistat. The film is co-written by Hendricks. Other cast members include Wayne Chin and Jerry Damons.

“Pleasure” is being sold internationally in Cannes by New York-based film production and sales company, Visit Films. IFC Films has also been active in Cannes in recent years, acquiring the last two Palme d’Or winners, Cristian Mungiu‘s “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days” and Ken Loach‘s “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” in the United States, as well as Gus Van Sant‘s “Paranoid Park” and Hou Hsiau Hsien‘s “Flight of the Red Balloon.” [Brian Brooks/indieWIRE]

Film Company Aims To Be The “Salt” of The Earth

Tagging itself as “the filmmaker’s essential ingredient,” the Salt Company has sewn the seeds of its re-birth from its former identity as Lumina Films. The U.K. based international film sales and production company changed its name to Salt in April to “better reflect the full range of services that the company are able to offer the international filmmaking community.”

“I got involved with Lumina when it was focused on Latin American film,” said Salt’s managing director Samantha Horley, who heads the team. “The idea was to grow [the company] to include English-language films, so it seemed the Lumina label was not capturing what it was we were doing.” Salt’s Latin American lineage, inherited from Lumina with a library that includes “Favela Rising” by Matt Mochary and Jeff Zimbalist (Brazil), “Espectro” by Juan Felipe Orozco (Colombia) and Pablo Trapero‘s “Familia Rodante” (Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, Spain, U.K.) will continue under the company’s re-branded moniker, but on a more limited basis.

English-language fare including “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee” by Rebecca Miller, which Horley describes as “very smart, but also entertaining” in the vein of “‘American Beauty‘ with dark subject matter.” Also on tap is John Maringouin‘s feature doc “Big River Man” about an overweight, hard-drinking 50-plus year-old Slovenian activist who decides to swim the Amazon River to highlight pollution in the world’s rivers.

“These are two extremes of films we’re doing right now,” explained Horley. But they’re also films we really want to see. We love working with new filmmakers, [and] are happy to look at material that doesn’t have all the elements together.” Explaining further Salt’s range of services, Horley emphasized the company’s ability to attach a producer to a project they’re committed to in addition to representing the finished product for sale. “We can package [a project] together so that it’s interesting for the international market. Pre-sales are so important now, so we do like to be involved early.”

Salt is also reaching into the North American market, which Horley describes as still “crucial” for a company. Former Paramount Classics acquisitions exec Susan Wrubel is spearheading the company’s U.S. operations from Los Angeles, while the company’s eight other principals are based in London. “We needed someone who’s in North America, and she has great taste and great connections,” said Horely. “We needed someone who can get to producers early [there] before they get to the agents and develop relationships with fimmakers.”

Product the company will pursue into the future will combine both passion for the subject matter and marketability to hopefully achieve success. “We’re into material that’s easy to pitch. Buyers need to be able to see what kind of DVD sales they’re going to get and what sort of TV deal they’ll get together… I know filmmakers hate to categorize their films, but buyers need to know what the film is [and] be clear what they’re going to get out of a movie.” [Brian Brooks]

Sunny Skies for Fortissimo as Company Unveils Sales

Amidst the grey skies that dominated the South of France, Fortissimo staffers arrived this weekend to set up their Grand Hotel office, where company leadership devised a seemingly sharp strategy. Sitting down with journalists earlier this week as the Market got underway, company head Michael Werner touted a host of deals closed by Fortissimo in the days and weeks leading up to the Marche du Film.

Sales were particularly strong for France, where Fortissimo sold Wong Kar Wai‘s “Ashes of Time” (ARP), Nathan Rissman‘s Madonna doc, “I Am Because We Are” (La Fabrique), Alex Rivera‘s Sundance favorite, “Sleep Dealer” (La Fabrique), Majid Majidi‘s “The Song of Sparrows” (FSF), Kiyoshi Kurosawa‘s Un Certain Regard entry “Tokyo Sonata,” and Brillante Mendoza‘s Competition film “Sebris” (SWIFT).

The sales company also sold six films to United King in Israel, including “Sparrows,” “Because We Are” and “Sebris,” but also Trisha Ziff and Luis Lope‘s “Chevolution,” Matt Aselton‘s Paul DanoZooey Deschanel starrer “Gigantic” and Valdis Oskarsottir‘s “Country Wedding.” In the UK, the entire libraries of both Wong Kar Wai and Hal Hartley were sold to Artificial Eye, while Jacob Cheung Chi Leung‘s “Battle of Wits” went to Metrodome.

“At these markets and festivals, you can’t quantify it, but there is a qualitative component to what that mood is all about,” noted company co-head Michael Werner, in a Tuesday afternoon interview. “If the weather is grey and rainy and there is bad news everywhere it sets a tone and it sets a mood.” As he detailed the company’s sales, the sun came out.

Various other sales occurred around global markets, where “Sparrows” also sold to Norway’s Action and Benelux’s Cinemien, Amin Matalga‘s Sundance winner “Captain Abu Raed” sold to both Taiwan’s Khan and Spain’s Golem, and Andrei Konchalovsky‘s “Gloss” headed to Taiwan’s Joint Entertainment.

But, the brighter weather late Tuesday into Wednesday may give way to rain as the market continues this week, in sync with the broader challenges facing some territories. “There is some turmoil in the U.S. marketplace that potentially will impact a lot of what happens here,” warned Werner, who speculated that perhaps the U.S. is too influential over other regions.” Continuing, he added, “Its a period of disequilibrium…(there is a) disruption in the marketplace, and one somehow has to be a bit smarter and a bit more conservative.”

Yet, Fortissimo is hardly giving up on the potential for U.S. deals. Later this week the company expects to announce deals surrounding American independents and also the documentary sector. [Eugene Hernandez and Peter Knegt/indieWIRE]

Delpy’s “Countess” Closes Pre-Sale

Director Julie Delpy‘s second feature directorial effort, “The Countess” has closed pre-sale agreements with the UK’s Halcyon and France’s Bac Films, Paris-based film sales company Celluloid Dreams announced Wednesday. The two pacts add to the 25 territories already pre-sold for Delpy’s directorial follow-up to her widely popular feature “2 Days in Paris” released last year. “The Countess,” which recently completed principal photography, is described as a “period thriller” about the notorious Countess Bathory, played by Delpy. William Hurt (“History of Violence“) and Daniel Bruhl (“Good Bye Lenin“) star in the film as a father and son torn apart by their relationship with the real-life Hungarian aristocrat, while Marinca (Anamaria Marinca, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days“) is her confidant.

The film tells the story of Countess Bathory’s rise and fall who fell victim to “love, conspiracy and a murderous vanity,” according to Celluloid. The German/French O6 million ($10 million) co-production was shot in eastern areas of Germany with Martin Ruhe (“Control”) serving as D.P. Andrew Bird (“The Edge of Heaven”) will begin editing the feature in Paris. “The Countess” is the second co-production between Celluloid Dreams and X-Filme International following Michael Haneke’s remake of “Funny Games.” [Brian Brooks]

Frears’ “Cheri” Nears Completion

Stephen Frears‘ “Cheri,” which is premiering clips in the Cannes Market, is moving to Cologne, Germany next week to complete production. Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Friend and Kathy Bates, the film is adapted from Colette’s famous novel by “Atonement” screenwriter Christopher Hampton. “Cheri” tells the story of a love affair between a retired courtesan (Pfieffer) and the son (Friend) of her old colleague and rival (Bates). “‘Cheri’ has been a long time in gestation but we have now put together a first class team on both sides of the camera,” commented producer Bill Kenwright in a statement. “I am confident that we will have a stunning film with universal appeal.” The film shot on locations in Biarritz and Paris in the past few months, and will finish production in Cologne, readying itself for international distribution at the end of 2008. Miramax will handle the film in the US, while Pathe will distribute in the UK and France, as well as handling “Cheri”‘s international sales. [Peter Knegt]

American World Takes Three

American World Pictures acquired three feature films in time to show them in the Cannes Market. “Material Lies,” a drama starring Dean Cain and Teri Polo about a young man diagnosed with Leukemia, marks the directorial debut of Katherine Starr. It starts shooting in June, and joins completed films “The Man Who Came Back” and “The Poet” on American World’s slate. “Man” features Billy Zane, Sean Young and Armand Assante and is set in post-Civil War America. “The Poet,” set to open on June 2, 2008 in Los Angeles, stars Daryl Hannah and the late Roy Scheider. [Peter Knegt]

Lightning Entertainment Invokes “The Invocation”

Lightning Entertainment announced today that it has acquired international sales rights to Emanuel Itier’s new documentary, “The Invocation.” With over 100 participants from around the world, the film addresses the issue of faith and belief (or lack-thereof) and its impact on world peace. “John Lennon sung about ‘imagining’ a world of peace, I invite each of us to ‘live’ in this world of peace right now, right here,” urged Itier in a statement, who comes from a multiple faith background. “The Invocation” debuts at Cannes Market this year, along with Lighting Entertainment’s “The Human Contract,” “Hey Hey, It’s Esther Blueburger,” “Anamorph,” and “Black Irish.” [Jenny Sung]

NonStop Likes “Not Like Others”

The Swedish vampire drama “Not Like Others” has been picked up by NonStop Sales for worldwide sales. “‘Not Like Others’ is a film about the fear of being left alone, a universal fear, told through the eyes of two vampire sisters,” said director Peter Pontikis in a release, about his first feature film. The film follows Vera and Vanja, two vampire sisters who are at a rift in their relationship as one wants to leave the other to live a normal human life. Production on the film is planned to wrap within a few weeks and will have its international market premiere this fall. NonStop Sales is showing select scenes at the Cannes Film Market this year. [Jenny Sung]

Seven Arts Signs Kahn to Direct “Neuromancer”

UK-based film production and distribution company Seven Arts Pictures, PLC has signed veteran music video director Joseph Kahn to direct the upcoming $60 million thriller, “Neuromancer,” produced by Julia Verdin and written by William Gibson and based on his novel of the same name. Set in the future, the film follows a “computer cowboy” who soars the superhighway rustling encoded secrets for anyone with the money to buy his skills. But when a deal goes wrong and the talent is lost from his mind, he finds himself exiled from cyberspace and trapped in a high tech underworld until a “shadowy conspiracy” provides a chance to find a way out. Along with “Neuromancer,” Seven Arts has Anthony Hickox‘s “Catwalk” in pre-production, while psychological thriller “Nine Miles Down” by Thomas Hedman recently completed production. [Brian Brooks]

Siritzky Takes “Emmanuelle” Franchise

In 1974, French-American exhibitor, producer and distributor Alain Siritzky financed and organized the production of the first film in the hit erotic series “Emmanuelle.” Seven films and nearly 35 years later, Siritzky has re-acquired all of the rights to the “Emmanuelle” brand, including audio/visual, publishing and merchandizing. “I could not be more pleased with my recent acquisition of all rights to the ‘Emmanuelle’ brand,” said Siritzky, in a statement. “‘Emmanuelle’ and I have grown together over the years and have accomplished so much.” [Peter Knegt]

PorchLight Snags Three Films

PorchLight Entertainment has announced its acquisition of international rights to three films: “Gooby” (excluding North America), “Emmanuel Jal: War Child”, and “Running the Sahara”. “Gooby” tells of an imaginative young boy who learns life lessons from his favorite childhood toy, Gooby, played by Robbie Coltrane. A Tribeca Audience Award winner, “War Child” is a documentary profiling the story of Emmanuel Jal and his journey from being a Sudanese child solider to an international hip hop artist. Also, “Running the Sahara”, executive produced by Matt Damon and directed by Academy Award winner James Moll, follows three long-distance runners and their experiences along their journey through the famously inhospitable desert. “It’s great to celebrate my first year anniversary with PorchLight in Cannes with these three wonderful films to our already great line-up,” said s Ken DuBow in a statement. A private party with a performance by Jal will be held at Cannes to celebrate “War Child”s international launch. [Jenny Sung]

Ukraine Sets up Shop in Cannes; Promotes Production and Identity

Asserting its own identity and promoting homegrown product, the Ukraine has made its arrival to the long row of Pavilions lining the beach near the Palais des Festivals. The former Soviet Republic’s current First Lady, Mme. Yushchenko no less, helped spearhead the Pavilion to not only promote the country’s emerging film biz, but to also assert the country’s modern place on the world stage. She is also expected in Cannes during the festival for a seaside party hosted by the Pavilion.

“For many years, foreign press and the [film] industry didn’t understand the difference between Russia and the Ukraine,” commented Ukrainian Cinema Foundation (UCF) director Andriy Khalpakhchi. “After the fall of the U.S.S.R., the Ukrainian film industry collapsed.” Now, the country is seeing an upsurge in both homemade production and foreign projects choosing the country as a destination to shoot. “There were fifty films shot per year during the Soviet era in Ukraine, though some were in the Russian language,” explained Khalpakhchi. “But until just five years ago, there was only one feature per year produced. Now there are [approximately] 12 features per year.”

The Ukrainian Cinema Foundation, a non-governmental organization that promotes the country’s cinema both domestically and abroad, established the Pavilion and is using its presence in Cannes to promote the commercial side of film during the festival. Minus government support, UCF has tapped Nemiroff Vodka for major funding. “Cinema is not just art, but also a product to advertise and sell, and the Pavilion is an important place for its presentation. It can also promote tourism,” commented Khalpakhchi. Though the Ukraine does not have any titles in this year’s Official Selection, six films are screening in the Marche du Film, including Aleksander Shapiro‘s “Casting,” Oleksandr Kyriyenko‘s “Illusion of Fear,” Robert Crombie’s “Sappho,” Mykola Mashchenko’s “Bohdan-Zynovii Khmel’Nyts’Kyi,” Roman Shirman‘s “An Awesome Tale,” and “Vladyka Andrey” by Oles Yanchuk. The Pavilion is also presenting four additional titles during special events over the first weekend and early next week. The films include what Khalpakhchi described as a blockbuster, an art house film and a criminal melodrama. “It’s a good sign they’re in all directions,” he added.

“It is important to find European distributors. We also hope that [a film like] ‘Sappho’ will be of interst to U.S. distributors. It is the first Ukrainian film about lesbians.” “Sappho” has also been submitted to American gay and lesbian film festivals, most of which take place over the summer.

Khalpakhchi, sitting in a deck chair with the Mediterranean in the background Wednesday afternoon, also touted his country’s benefits for filmmakers, and happily mentioned an upcoming production by Luc Besson in the seaside resort of Odessa this summer. “It is cheap to film in the Ukraine and the [infrastructure] is much better now. And Ukraine is very diverse geographically.” [Brian Brooks]

Get the latest from the 2008 Cannes Film Festival in indieWIRE’s special section.

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