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CANNES ’08 BIZ DAILY | Reliance Talks Big Numbers, Weinsteins Acquire “Lake” & Make Asian TV Deal,

CANNES '08 BIZ DAILY | Reliance Talks Big Numbers, Weinsteins Acquire "Lake" & Make Asian TV Deal,

Continuing coverage of the Marche du Film in Cannes, indieWIRE reports on the latest deals and news from the Croisette. India-based media company Reliance Big Entertainment commits to a $1 billion slate, the Weinsteins acquired “Eden Lake,” and inked a pan-Asian deal with TV network STAR, Greenstreet nabs the international rights to “Long Time Gone,” Flip Video puts on a shorts competition at Cannes, the Argentina Pavilion celebrates a full slate at the Festival, and more.

India’s Reliance Commits to $1 Billion ‘International’ Slate Through ’09

With some of the same panache of a very choreographed Bollywood production, Indian-based media and entertainment company Reliance Big Entertainment talked big numbers, global outreach and a very ambitious slate of projects it intends to produce of various genres for the world stage.

“To start off this, may I say that Reliance is planning to spend $1 billion by the end of 2009,” a representative from London-based P.R. firm DDA said ahead of introducing the press conference moderator, Beatrice Wachsberger, who would have easily been at home hosting a prime time talk show. Wachsberger lead the conversation with Reliance execs, who head the entertainment wing of the company which is a part of India’s huge Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group.

“We believe this is the right time to make this move…[India] is the world’s fourth largest economy and growing very fast, and we’re the biggest filmmaking country,” said the company’s chairman Amit Khanna at the press conference Friday morning at the Majestic Hotel off the Croisette. Khanna touted the film company’s ambitious slate of films, with 69 projects currently in various stages of production. “We also have 30 more in negotiation,” added Khanna. While the highlighted film trailers presented during the discussion were from various Indian filmmakers, the Reliance execs insisted many of the titles on their roster would have cross-cultural appeal. “We’re not restricting ourselves to one language or a certain budgetary limitation,” said Khanna. “We’re [working] with some of the most acclaimed Indian filmmakers, but we’re not ignoring emerging or so-called ‘independent’ filmmakers.”

Reliance has also laid out the cash to ensure the films get to screens outside of India. The company says it has acquired 250 screens in the United States in addition to cinema acquisitions in Malaysia, Nepal and others (it is also the largest exhibitor in India). And the company is placing bets that its stories will find appeal around the world. “People appreciate any kind of human story, it doesn’t matter where it comes from, it just depends on the presentation,” fellow Reliance exec Prasoon Joshi added. “Let’s face it, some Indian films are really crap [chuckles], but we also have a long storytelling tradition… I think Reliance is making good cinema.” The company plans to augment its international flavor in the next “two to three years” with what it describes as “non-India-centric” flavor.

For now, the company is producing Oscar-nominated director Vidhu Vinod Chopra‘s (“An Encounter with Faces“) English-language feature, “Broken Horses.” ICM head Jeff Berg was on hand to tout the project which he described as an “American-idiom crime gangster film.” “The film only have ‘international stars,'” added Chopra, who will also direct a Hindi feature titled “Talisman” for Reliance. Also introduced was director Abhishek Kapoor, whose Hindi-language film “Rock On” is currently in post-production. “You can’t design films for a target audience, that is the wrong [approach],” said Joshi. “You make honest films that cross over…” [Brian Brooks]

Weinsteins Acquire “Lake,” Inks Pan-Asian TV Deal

Friday was a busy day for the Weinsteins as they announced two diverse deals from Cannes. The first involves “Eden Lake,” a thriller that marks the directorial debut of James Watkins, known best for writing 2002’s “My Little Eye,” which drew an underground following after playing at a series of horror fests. The Weinstein Company acquired all North American rights to “Lake.”

“One of the most exciting aspects about the Cannes Film Festival is the opportunity to discover new filmmakers like James Watkins,” said Harvey Weinstein in a statement. “We are thrilled to add ‘Eden Lake’ to our slate and look forward to working with [the film’s producers] Christian Colson and Richard Holmes to introduce audiences to James Watkin’s edgy and daring film.”

The Weinsteins other news involved a deal that will eventually make “Eden Lake” available across Asian television. STAR, the top rated English movie channel in India, Malaysia and Singapore, signed an exclusive five year contract with The Weinstein Company, bringing their films to the channel. This furthers the Weinsteins commitment to the Asian market, coming after the $275 million formation of the Asian Film Fund which recently say its inaugural release, “The Forbidden Kingdom,” reach the top of the North American box office.

“STAR is a premier Asian television network and is the perfect pay-TV home for our films in Asia,” said Weinstein Company President of International Distribution Glen Basner. “We have always prided ourselves on creating films that appeal to audiences across the world and look forward to working with STAR to share our dynamic and daring slate with Asian film lovers.” [Peter Knegt]

GreeneStreet Takes “Long Time”

GreeneStreet Films International announced that it has acquired the international rights to Adam Davidson‘s “Long Time Gone” for sales in the Cannes Market. Davidson, who won an Academy Award and the Palme d’Or for his short “The Lunch Date,” is working from a script from Karen McCullah Lutz (“Legally Blonde“). The film is about a family in crisis that is transformed by the presence of a young woman who turns up in their lives. The cast includes Christina Ricci, Anjelica Huston and Josh Lucas.

GreeneStreet Films International is thrilled to be part of this exciting project,” said GreeneStreet President Amy Beecroft in a statement. “It’s a pleasure and an honor to work with Academy Award winning director Adam Davidson as well as to have Karen McCullah Lutz‘s distinctive voice that has been so appealing to audiences around the world. It’s no coincidence that this project attracted such a stellar cast.”

In addition to “Gone,” GreeneStreet is selling Matt Reeves’ project “The Invisible Woman” and John Polson‘s “Tenderness,” starring Russell Crowe and Laura Dern. [Peter Knegt]

A scene from Steve Barron’s “Choking Man.” Image courtesy of Visit Films.

“Holly” and “Choking Man” Visit North America

Visit Films has sold two films for both the United States and Canada. To City Light Pictures, Visit has sold “Holly,” a film about an American card shark who meets Holly, a 12-year-old Vietnamese girl who was sold by her impoverished family to work as a (virgin) prostitute in Cambodia, and tries to bring her back to safety when she is sold to a child trafficker. “Holly” screened in New York in 2007 and opened at a weekend gross of $35,000, and is currently playing regionally across the United States and is on sale for international rights at the Cannes Market. Additionally, “Choking Man” has been sold to Film Movement for the United States and Canada. Directed by Steve Barron, “Choking Man” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was a part of indieWIRE’s Undiscovered Gems series with Emerging Pictures. It is described as a psychological drama that “encapsulates up the contemporary immigrant experience in America. [Jenny Sung]

High Point Gets Busy With “Shadows in the Sun,” “Skin” and “Summer Heat”

High Point Films, the film sales division of Carey Fitzgerald‘s London based High Point Media Group, has acquired international sales rights to David Rocksavage‘s “Shadows in the Sun” and has sold Hanro Smitsman‘s “Skin” to Ascot Elite, Germany. “Shadows” stars the Oscar nominated Jean Simmons, as well as James Wilby and Jamie Dornan. The film follows the story of a man who visits his mother on the Norfolk coast and finds himself concerned with her relationship with a mysterious young man. “Skin,” based on true events, is Smitsman’s first feature, having previously won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale for his short, “Klaas.” “Skin” details the Nazi skinhead movement and focuses on Frankie, a teenage son of Jewish Holocaust survivor who slowly gets roped in. High Point also picked up world sales for “Summer Heat,” a Dutch romantic thriller about a magazine photographer who falls in love with a mysterious woman connected to gangsters. Fitzgerald said in a statement, “‘Shadows in the Sun’ is a moving, beautifully realized and ultimately redemptive film about family, memory, forgiveness and love.” Regarding “Skin” and “Summer Heat,” he said the film represented “some of the most exciting talent, both established and fresh, coming out of Holland today.” [Jenny Sung]

Cannes Flips for Shorts

As a part of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, a new competition, “Cannes a la Flip,” will be held in partnership with the Short Film Corner. The competition is giving away 250 free Flip Video camcorders to filmmakers and challenges competitors to shoot a 3-minute short with the camera within 7 days of the festival, to be uploaded by 5 PM on May 21st on The Auteurs website (www.theauteurs.com/competitions/1). The premiere of the competition is sponsored by the social networking site Facebook, and the international film sales company Celluloid Dreams. Facebook will also be presenting the winner with $10,000 grand prize, along with HP presenting a 30-inch monitor workstation to the director. The top ten films will be determined by a jury chaired by the founder and president of Celluloid Dreams, Hengemeh Panahi, and will be available to view on The Auteurs website and Facebook starting on May 22nd. [Jenny Sung]

“Emmanuelle” Grows Into Herself

Emmanuelle,” the French franchise, has just announced plans to begin production on a $50 million prequel to the series, “What Else Emmanuelle?Alain Siritzky, who recently acquired all publishing and merchandising rights to the franchise, will once again be collaborating with the Academy Award nominated director Alain Sarde for the film, the first time in 25 years. The story will follow a young Emmanuelle as she grows into the popular image of the sensual woman. Siritzky has also mentioned plans to expand the brand into other merchandise and services in the future. [Jenny Sung]

Entertainment Value Associates Raises “Raising Phoenix”

It was announced on Thursday that Entertainment Value Associates (EVA) has partnered with Academy Award winning visual effects expert Volker Engel and his Emmy Award winning partner Marc Weigert to produce “Raising Phoenix“. The film is described as a family adventure, detailing a boy’s discovery of a mysterious egg, which hatches on his trip to Germany. Kai-Roger Gruneke, CEO of EVA, said in a statement, “We are very proud to team up with Volker Engel and Marc Weigert and to realize ‘Raising Phoenix’ with their professionalism, expertise and vision.” [Jenny Sung]

Argentina Celebrates Large Presence at Cannes

Produced by the Instituto Nacional de Cine y Arftes Audiovisuales Argentina (INCAA), the Argentine Pavillion is in its fifth year in the International Village. INCAA International Affairs Manager Bernardo Bergeret notes the Pavillion’s “essential activity” as “business.” “We use the Pavillion like a desk for the business of the Argentine cinema industry,” said Bergeret. “We just help the distributors make their deals. We give them the tools.”

INCAA is financed by the Argentine government, but Bergeret notes the organization has “autonomy because in Argentina the laws regarding cinema gives [INCAA] the ability to collect 10% of box office and DVD sales.” With the rest of the funding made up from taxes, INCAA has no commercial purpose, funding qualified production companies. Since their 1987 inception, this has resulted in some of Argentina’s most notable films, include 2006 Cannes entry “Cronica de una fuga,” directed by Israel Adrian Caetano. At Cannes, this purpose means focus on the promotion of Argentine films and facilitating of deal making.

The institute is also welcoming new leadership. On May 22, the Pavilion will welcome INCAA’s new president, Liliana Mazure, with a cocktail reception. Elected two months ago, Mazure came to INCAA with a background producing and directing film. “She has a strong view about the needs that we have here [in Cannes],” said Bergeret.

Those needs are particularly high this year, as Argentina is celebrating two films in official competition: Pablo Trapero‘s “Leonara,” premiered Thursday night to a warm reception, particularly for lead actress Martina Gusman‘s performance. Lucrecia Martel‘s “La Mujer Sin Cabeza” (“The Headless Woman”), a follow up to Martel’s 2004 film “La Nina Santa” (“The Holy Girl”), which drew rave reviews when it played at Cannes. “La Mujer” screens next Wednesday.

They join three Argentine films in the Director’s Fortnight (Federico Veiroj‘s “Acne,” Lisandro Alonso‘s “Liverpool,” and Pablo Aguero‘s “Salamandra“), two films playing in Critic’s Week (Pablo Fendrik‘s “La Sangre Brota” and Pablo Lamar‘s “Oir Tu Grito“), and one in Cinefondation (Marco Berger‘s “El Reloj“). INCAA is organizing receptions for each film, and is optimistic about their potential from international buyers. [Peter Knegt/indieWIRE]

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

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