25 May, 2008


by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

With major U.S. distribution companies, for the most part, sitting out this year’s Cannes Film Festival, there was some last minute activity as the Festival came to a close this past weekend. Among the winners announced on Sunday (a European clean sweep), only Three Monkeys, the latest film from Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan (who won the Best Director prize), has a U.S. distributor in place. New Yorker Films, a specialty outfit, picked up the rights prior to the Festival, capitalizing on its prior relationship with the director on his previous film Distant.

Of the other winners, there are rumors that Sony Pictures Classics, the gold standard of U.S. specialty divisions, is in final negotiations to pick up the North American rights to Le Silence de Lorna, the latest film from the Belgian brother duo, Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne (which won the Best Screenplay prize at the Festival). The company released the brothers’ previous Palme d’Or winner, The Child (L’Enfant). So far, neither Entre Les Murs, the French film by Laurent Cantent that won the Palme d’Or, nor Il Divo, the Italian film by Paolo Sorrentino that copped the Jury Prize, have a U.S. home. Obviously, this can change over the next few days or weeks.

Sony Pictures Classics is also reportedly in the final stages of closing a deal to pick up North American rights to O’Horten, the latest film from Norwegian director Bent Hamer (Kitchen Stories). The dramatic comedy, which is co-produced with Germany’s Pandora Filmproduktion, depicts the solitude and wasted resources of an aging man with warm and humor. The off-beat film presents a marketing challenge, but could benefit from the warm reception received by the Norwegian film Reprise, which has been an arthouse hit in the U.S. this Spring.

I Am Because We Are, the UK documentary about the children of Malawi, which is directed by Nathan Rissman and written, produced and narrated by music superstar Madonna, is heading to the Sundance Channel cable network in the U.S. This probably means that the film will not receive anything other than a token theatrical release. The film had its world premiere at last month’s Tribeca Film Festival and also had a gala screening in Cannes, with the “material girl” receiving the attention of paparazzi.

In a final nod to the Cannes Film Festival, the closing night film What Just Happened is being positioned for an October theatrical release in the United States via specialty distributor Magnolia Pictures. The film, which opened the Sundance Film Festival last January, was widely panned but has apparently been greatly re-edited and re-tooled. The film, a satire on the film industry starring Robert De Niro, Bruce Willis, Sean Penn, John Turturro and Stanley Tucci, is directed by veteran Barry Levinson (Rain Man). The distribution deal is not as rosy as it appears….the film was produced by 2929 Productions which is linked to Magnolia Pictures under the corporate wing of film entrepreneur Mark Cuban. The fact that it is to be distributed by Magnolia Pictures means that a higher profile deal was not forthcoming (no surprise after its disasterous premiere at Sundance).

Such are the fortunes of this year's Cannes Film Festival....perhaps we will hear of more deals in the future, but so far, most of the European films on tap will need to enter the film festival circuit in North America (Toronto, New York, Chicago) in the Fall to reach audiences.

23 May, 2008

Americans Hold Back On Buying At Cannes

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

Friday, May 23------The whooshing sound that you hear is the rapid departure of film professionals leaving in droves as the Cannes Film Festival enters its final weekend. In fact, professionals have been leaving en masse since Wednesday, with film sales offices at the Marche du Film and the local hotels virtual ghost towns. The American distribution contingent, which were on the Croisette in great numbers, have left Cannes without many major acquisitions. The tepid Cannes market continued what's been a dismal cycle for the finished-film market that began last year in Toronto.

Theatrical grosses have dropped, there's been a glut of product, and then came the closing of Warners' specialty divisions, Picturehouse Entertainment, Warner Independent Pictures and New Line Cinema. The result, insiders say, is that there will be fewer independent releases this year, and one of the casualties will certainly be for European and international films looking to North America as its major overseas market. With “foreign language” films making up a scant 2% of the box office (upped to 5% if you count English-language films from the UK, Canada and Australia), an already dismal situation could get a lot worse.

The marketplace is definitely soft. A case in point: Miramax Films. The company made a big splash last year with its $3 million purchase of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, but its only Cannes-related acquisition was the film opener Blindness, which received very mixed reviews and whose box office potential seems decidedly limited. Last year, studios in a bidding war for the James Gray-directed We Own The Night (which eventually was sold for nearly $12 Million to Columbia Pictures and grossed less than $10 Million in the US), were less enthused with Gray’s current Cannes film, Two Lovers, which so far has not been picked up for U.S. distribution (highly unusual considering its cast of Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow).

Two other high-profile American films that were screened in competition (Steven Soderbergh’s four-hour epic Che and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut Synedoche New York) are also leaving Cannes without a North American distribution deal. Even the more commercially oriented Cannes market failed to seduce buyers, who took a wait-and-see attitude toward movies like Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles and Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler.

Several of the most successful distribution companies (Paramount Vantage, Focus Features and Fox Searchlight) have gotten into the producing game, making their own films in-house and relying less on finished films for acquisitions. This has been a risky strategy in the past, but distributors with enough capital and clout continue to put themselves into the in-house production world, even though a “flop” of one of those films can negatively affect the company’s final ledgers more than an outside acquision.

One of the dismaying trends at this year’s Cannes was distributors concerns that audiences will stay away from “downer films”, films that are hard-hitting and somewhat depressing (despite this year’s Oscar wins by the Coen Brothers’ No Country For Old Men and Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood). This reluctance by major American distributors to gamble on more artistic and gritty films has left many prominent European films showcased at the Festival without a distribution deal in place (although the situation could change in the coming weeks). Films that currently have no homes in the United States and Canada include Delta (Kornel Mundruczo), Entres Les Murs (Laurent Cantet), Gomorra (Matteo Garrone), Il Divo (Paolo Sorrentino), La Frontiere De L’Aube (Phillipe Garrel), Le Silence De Lorna (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne) and Palermo Shooting (Wim Wenders).

European sellers are not necessarily sympathetic to American fears over less easily marketable films. As one European sales agent was quoted in one of the Cannes dailies: “The Americans are lazy, they're arrogant and too scared to do any deals. I tell them: get some balls -- your companies are all going down the toilet, maybe now's the time to get some films before it all collapses." The truth is that the prices for a film (most now figured in euros or pounds sterling) make it a quite expensive investment for smaller distribution firms. But prices tend to drop sharply in the weeks following the Festival, giving more cautious American companies an opportunity to come on board. It also allows smaller companies, that are not subsidized by a large studio or media conglomerate, a chance to snag top-line films, which has been happening more and more.

However, there have been some bright spots amidst all the gloom. IFC Entertainment, which includes theatrical distributor IFC Films and the Independent Film Channel cable network, was one of the few American companies on a buying spree. In total, the company picked up seven new titles, including Arnaud Desplechin's A Christmas Tale, Olivier Assayas' Summer Hours, Josh Safdie's The Pleasure of Being Robbed, Steve McQueen’s Hunger (which opened the Un Certain Regard section) and Anna Melikyan's Mermaid. IFC Entertainment seems more open to buying films, since its distribution model includes day-and-date releases in both theaters and video on demand on cable and satellite television networks (giving audiences the choice of seeing a new film in a movie theater or in the comfort of their own homes). While this model is still controversial, it has given the company the confidence to realize full revenue potential in a film's initial release.

Another mid-sized American company, First Independent Pictures announced that it has acquired that US distribution rights for the coming of UK coming-of-age film Sixty Six, produced by Working Title Films. Directed by Paul Weiland, the family comedy's title refers to the year that England won the World Cup. Already garnering attention from US Jewish Film Festivals, the film was executive produced by Richard Curtis (Bridget Jones' Diary, Love Actually, Notting Hill), with a cast that includes Helena Bonham Carter, Eddie Marsan, Stephen Rea, Catherine Tate, and up and comer Gregg Sulkin. The film is planned to be released in New York, then Los Angeles, in early August of this year

On a final positive note, German giant Bavaria Film International made a sale to Canada’s Mongrel Media of the latest film from Doris Dorrie. Cherry Blossoms-Hanami has played at various U.S. film festivals but still does not have a U.S. distributor in place. Such is the case for many European films, making the film festival circuit one of the only places to catch the latest film from some of European’s film auteurs. It is hard to say if this situation will change in the coming months. However, what has always proven to be true, when adversity strikes, it is also accompanied by opportunity. So look for the good, the bad, and the ugly as European films continue their struggle to be seen on the large screen in the United States and Canada.

21 May, 2008

European Films Find Homes In North America

Tuesday, May 20-----Despite soggy weather and a rather unenthusiastic response to most films at the Cannes Film Festival, there are a number of deals to announce for European films that have found homes with U.S. distributors. The films, all screening in either the official sections of the Festival or in the Cannes Film Market, will all be released theatrically in the United States in the next few months.

IFC Films has been among the busiest companies on the Croisette. The company has acquired a string of films, including North American rights to the latest film from French film auteur Olivier Assayas. Summer Hours (L'Heure d'Ete), which stars Juliette Binoche, is the story of three 40-something siblings whose lives collide when their mother, an heiress, dies suddenly. The film is being represented in Cannes by MK2 International. 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 Cannes Film Festival.

One of the few buzzed-about films is Waltz With Bashir, an animation epic by Israeli director Ari Folman. The film was co-produced by Arte France, with funding from a number of sources including the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg. The film, which mixes dream-like surrealism with the harsh reality of war, is being represented internationally by the German sales company The Match Factory, and has already been sold to Italy, Benleux, Spain, Greece and to Canada’s Seville Pictures. A U.S. deal is expected by later this week.

Cloud 9 by German director Andreas Dresen has been sold to Mongrel Media for Canadian distribution and is in negotiations for a deal in the United States. The film has already been sold to various European countries, including Cooperative Nouveau Cinema for Benelux, Filmcoopi for Swizerland, Seven One for Greece, with pending sales for France and Spain. The film had its final screening today at the Marche du Film.

Liberation Entertainment, a new U.S. distribution company launched by media entrepreneur Jay Boberg, acquired the North American rights to Tokyo, which had its world premiere at Cannes. The film reflects city life in Tokyo through three narratives by three directors, including the French directors Michel Gondry and Leos Carax (the third is Bong Joon-ho). The company plans a theatrical release for the film later this year.

Strand Releasing has acquired all U.S. distribution rights to How About You, a UK/Ireland co-production directed by Anthony Byrne. The film is the story of a young girl left in charge of a residential home over Christmas and is based on the short story by Irish author Maeve Binchy. The film stars an impressive cast of film veterans, including Vanessa Redgrave, Imelda Staunton and Brenda Fricker. How About You is a co-production between Ireland’s Ferndale Films and the UK’s Sarah Radclyffe Productions, and is represented by London based international sales agency and financing company Bankside Films. Strand plans to release the film theatrically this September. Expect more deals later this week as the Cannes Film Festival moves into its final days.

Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor,

16 May, 2008

U.S. Distributors On the Prowl At Cannes

By Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

Don’t bother trying to contact American film professionals in their New York or Los Angeles offices this week… the bulk of them are cruising the Croisette at the Cannes Film Festival, looking for films that they can add to their theatrical slates. Distribution bigwigs are mixing with smaller specialty companies in a mad search for the next small European gem that could become a major box office champion. With many available titles vying for attention in the Official Competition, Un Certain Regard, Directors’ Fortnight and the International Critics Week, and hundreds of others available in the Cannes Film Market, distributors will need to cover all their bases to find the golden needle in a very crowded haystack.

While there certainly were some bright spots on the U.S. theatrical landscape for European films this past year (including La Vie en Rose, Atonement, The Diving Bell And The Butterfly and Persepolis), most were very small releases that never reached the $1 Million mark in their theatrical releases. To make matters worse, news was announced just days before the start of the Cannes Film Festival that rocked the insular world of specialty film distribution in the United States.

Two active companies that were specialty divisions of media giant Time Warner (Warner Independent Pictures and Picturehouse Entertainment) will cease operations in the next few weeks. Both companies have been extremely active in the successful releases of both American independent and international film titles in the United States and Canada, but senior management at Time Warner made the decision that it will now distribute more specialized films through studio giant Warner Brothers or through the veteran distributor New Line Cinema (a company that was bought by Time Warner almost a decade ago, and has been responsible for the release of many independent auteurs as well as the lucrative Lord of the Rings series).

Warner Independent Pictures, which began operations in 2004, successfully released such European films as and A Very Long Engagement (France, 2004), March of the Penguins (France, 2005) and Paradise Now (France/Israel/Palestine, 2005). Its fortunes were much more modest lately, including the release of the English language version of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, which made a paltry $1.2 Million in its theatrical release.

Picturehouse Entertainment, which has only been in existence for three years, had a number of European film successes, including Tristram Shandy (UK, 2006), Pan’s Labyrinth (Spain/Mexico, 2006), Starter For Ten (UK, 2006) and The Orphanage (Spain, 2007). The company was praised for its handling of the Edith Piaf biopic La Vie En Rose (2007), which went on to win Oscars for Best Actress for Marion Cotillard and an award for makeup. However, despite its success d’estime, the film grossed less than $12 Million. When special-effects films and silly comedies make that in a single day, it was just a matter of time before the studio executives at Time Warner pulled the plug. However, the news that these two formidable divisions will no longer be in business has shaken the fragile specialty distribution to the core. If these well financed divisions, supported by their parent companies deep pockets, couldn’t make it, what chance was there for other companies?

Well, that is not really the case. Other studio specialty divisions have been extremely well. Fox Searchlight Pictures, a division of Twentieth Century Fox, has become one of the most shingles in Hollywood, including successful distribution of such European titles as The Full Monty (UK, 1997), Waking Ned Devine (UK, 1998), Sexy Beast (UK, 2001), Bend It Like Beckham (UK, 2002), L’Auberge Espanole (France, 2003), 28 Days Later (UK, 2003), The Dreamers (UK/Monte Carlo, 2004), Nightwatch (Russia, 2005), Notes On A Scandal (UK, 2006), The Last King of Scotland (UK, 2006) and last year’s Once (Ireland).

Sony Pictures Classics, the most successful of the arthouse divisions with a long history of supporting European films, is one of the major companies looking at new European titles at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Their past successes have included such landmark films as The City of the Lost Children (France, 1995), Ma Vie En Rose (Belgium, 1997), Run Lola Run (Germany, 1999), All About My Mother (Spain, 1999), Talk To Her (Spain, 2002), Goodbye Lenin! (Germany, 2004), The Triplettes of Belleville (France, 2004), Layercake (UK, 2005), Volver (Spain, 2006), The Lives of Others (Germany, 2007) and current hits The Counterfeiters (Austria), Persepolis (France) and Brick Lane (UK).

Focus Features, the specialty division of Universal Pictures, had a major success this past year with the film Atonement, which was nominated for 7 Oscars. The company not only distributes films but often produces and co-produces them, especially the films of its “in-house auteur” Ang Lee. Other important European films it has released over the past decade include: 8 Women (France, 2002), The Pianist (France/Austria, 2002), Swimming Pool (France, 2003), Brothers (Denmark, 2004), Vanity Fair (UK, 2004), Talk To Me (Spain, 2007) and In Bruges (UK/Ireland, 2008).

Other companies that will be competing for top European titles at Cannes include Miramax Films (The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, The Queen), The Weinstein Company (Persepolis), ThinkFilm (My Brother Is An Only Child), IFC Films (4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days), Magnolia Pictures (Boarding Gate), Strand Releasing (The Edge of Heaven, Irina Palm), Roadside Attractions (Roman de Gare), Palm Pictures (13 Tzameti), Zeitgeist Films (Regular Lovers, Sophie Scholl) and a host of smaller companies with more irregular release patterns.

Big and small, high and mighty, well-financed and on-their-last-dollar, everyone is on the hunt for the film that can make their year, their career and their investors happy. Not easy, but hope springs eternal every May on the Cote d’Azur.

13 May, 2008

Spotlight On Polish Cinema

By Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

Poland has had an active film industry since the beginning of the 20th century and continues to be one of the most active players on the Eastern European film scene. Having produced such acknowledged film masters as Roman Polanski, Andrzej Wajda, Agnieszka Holland, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Jan Lenica, Lech Majewski and Jerzy Skolimowski, the Polish film scene has flourished, even under the strict demands of 40 years of Communist rule. As the economic dynamo of the “new Europe” and host country to the world-renowned Lodz International Film School, a new generation of filmmakers is now emerging.

American audiences have an opportunity to discover these new talents-in-the-making at the New York Polish Film Festival, which runs from May 9 to 13 at the Anthology Film Archives, one of New York’s most committed film showcases. For the fourth time, the Festival is presenting a fascinating program featuring some of the most interesting, exciting and diverse feature, short and documentary films from Poland.

One of the Festival’s highlights occurred on Sunday evening, with the premiere at the prestigious Museum of Modern Art of Katyn, the Oscar-nominated film by film master Andrzej Wajda. The film is a recreation of one of the most shocking incidents of World War II, when Soviet soldiers slaughtered thousands of Polish officers and citizens in the forests of Katyn. A story that could not be told during the Communist regime, Wajda brings all the drama of the incident and its aftermath in an impressive sweep of historical importance. The special screening was introduced by Dr. Annette Insdorf, Director of Undergraduate Film Studies at Columbia University and a noted writer and film critic who has written several books on films that chronicle the Holocaust.

Among the festival's films are: Savior's Square by Krzysztof Krauze and Joanna Kos-Krauze, which won Best Picture honors at the Gdynia Film Festival; Immensity of Justice by Wieslaw Saniewski; Jasminum by Jan Jakub Kolski; Extrasby Michal Kwiecinski; Tricks by Andrzej Jakimowski, which won the Best Film prize at the Miami Film Festival; Time To Die by Dorota Kedzierzawska; Tomorrow We Are Going To The Movies, which won the Best Debut film prize at the Gdynia Film Festival; Preserve by Lukasz Palkowski; and SSummer Love by Piotr Uklanski, a Polish Western (imagine that) that had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival. A short film or documentary accompanies each feature.

Most of the Festival’s are award-winners in Poland and abroad but have never been seen in the United States. Leading Polish directors, actors and young filmmakers are participating in the festival, using the opportunity to present their work with audiences and to perhaps find American distributor interest. New York is home to a large Polish community so there is a strong core audience interested in films that explore Polish history and contemporary culture.
The producer of the festival is Hanka Hartowicz Productions FILMART, which has introduced Polish films to the American public at special programs at various institutions, including the first American retrospective of the films of Jerzy Skolimowski at the Anthology Film Archives last December. .

The New York Polish Film Festival is co-organized by the Association of Polish Filmmakers, with support from the Polish Film Institute, the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in New York, and the Kosciusko Foundation. Plans are in place to do a touring program of the films, giving national audiences a chance to discover these blazing new talents. For more information on the Festival, visit their website:

08 May, 2008

New York Salutes Godard In The 1960s

By Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

This May marks a milestone in recent world history. It is the 40th anniversary of the “events of 1968”, a series of revolutionary protests that spanned the globe and created social and political turmoil, particularly in the United States, England and France. While the protests centered on the escalating war in Vietnam, the main engine was a discontent with politics as usual. In France, in particular, art mixed with politics, as leading filmmakers, artists and philosophers led the charge and envisioned a proletarian state where artists, students, workers and intellectuals would fight side by side for basic human rights. The protests even reached into the vaulted ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival, stopping the proceedings for the first and only time in the Festival’s sixty plus year history.

One of the key “artistic agitators” of the period was the director Jean-Luc Godard, whose prolific films of the decade were the most accurate depiction of both the promise and the doomed fatalism of the period. To mark the “events of 1968”, the Film Forum, New York’s most progressive arthouse complex, is screening a milestone five-week program devoted to Jean-Luc Godard, which began this past weekend with Godard’s breakthrough film, Breathless, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg.

Godard famously said of the films of this period that they “should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order.” That anarchic attitude is reflected in most of his films of the decade. Throughout the 1960s, cinephiles eagerly awaited the latest film — or two— by Jean-Luc Godard, a founding father of the nouvelle vague. The former film critic for “Cahiers du Cinema” was the most innovative and prolific of his contemporaries, with each new work seemingly rewriting the grammar of film. Jump cuts, asynchronous soundtracks, self-narration, cinema as essay, cinema as collage, self-referential cinema, cinema of anarchy — you name it, Godard’s 60s oeuvre redefined “cutting edge” — and, with location and available-light shooting, now provides a near-documentary time capsule of Paris in those years.

Godard spawned a new kind of movie star, as well, with such New Wave icons as Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg, and Anna Karina, the latter doubling as the director’s muse through seven film collaborations and a rocky four-year marriage. Forty years after the tumultuous events of May ’68, one can almost see the chaos coming through the satire and social criticism in Godard’s chronicles of “the children of Marx and Coca-Cola.” For this pivotal decade, Godard was a seminal force in redrawing the map of film.

Among the films to be shown over the next five weeks at the Film Forum are Breathless (1959), Le Petit Soldat (1960), A Woman Is A Woman (1961), Les Carabiniers (1963), A Married Woman (1964), Band of Outsiders (1964), Alphaville (1965), Pierrot Le Fou (1965), Two Or Three Things I Know About Her (1966), Made In U.S.A. (1966), Masculine Feminine (1967), La Chinoise (1967), Weekend (1967), Vivre Sa Vie (1968), Le Gai Savoir (1969) and his documentary on the Rolling Stones, Sympathy For The Devil (1968). This is an astonishing output for any filmmaker, and indicates how Godard felt that his films were almost newsreels or “reports from the front lines”. In total, it presents us with a daring and provocative look at the Parisian scene and the revolutionary spirit unfolding in the French capital in those moody, melodramatic and mythical days.

05 May, 2008

Strong European Showing At 2008 Tribeca Film Festival Awards

By Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

Following a packed 10-day marathon of film screenings, industry events, seminar panels and chic parties, the Tribeca Film Festival ended this past weekend with the announcement of the winners of the juried awards in several categories. The World Competition winners were chosen from 12 narrative and 12 documentary features from 18 countries. Two awards were also given to honor New York films, which were chosen from seven narrative and nine documentary features. Awards were also given for the best narrative, best documentary and student visionary films in the Shorts competition.

European films figured strongly in the winners’ circle. The Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature was given to Let The Right One In (Lat den r├Ątte komma in) by Swedish director Tomas Alfredson. Novelist John Ajvide Linquit adapted his best-seller to tell the beautifully touching tale of the first romance of 12-year-old Oskar and the girl next door, Eli….who also happens to be a vampire. The jury commented that the film was exceptional “for its mesmerizing exploration of loneliness and alienation through a masterful reexamination of the vampire myth.” Director Tomas Alfredson receives a cash prize of $25,000 plus the art award "Maternal Nocture: Clearing Storm” created by Stephen Hannock. The film has a North American distribution in place, with Magnet Releasing, the specialty arm of Magnolia Pictures.

Winner of the Best New Narrative Filmmaker prize is Turkish director Huseyin Karabey for the film My Marlon And Brando. The film, a co-production with The Netherlands and the UK, is a cross-cultural love story between a Turkish actress living in Istanbul and a Kurdish actor living in Iraq. The story is set on the eve of the American invasion and spins a unique take on the “Romeo And Juliet” legend with contemporary references. The jury praised the film for “its skillful blending of documentary style with a classic love story.” The film had its world premiere at the Rotterdam Film Festival. The director receives a cash prize of $25,000, sponsored by American Express, and the art award “Bonfire,” created by Ross Bleckner.

Best Actor honors were shared by Thomas Turgose and Piotr Jagiello, the teenage protagonists of the UK drama Somers Town, directed by Shane Meadows. Turgose plays a lad from the British Midlands who strikes up an unlikely friendship with Jagiello, who plays a Polish refugee living with his construction worker father in a working class neighborhood of London. The jury was impressed with the twin actors’ “extraordinary and exhilarating rendering of a friendship found”. The prize, sponsored by Delta Air Lines, gives each winner a business elite ticket voucher for anywhere Delta travels.

Eileen Walsh, a haunting Irish actress, won Best Actress honors for “her exquisite rendering of a lonely wife aching to be seen and heard” in director Declan RecksEden. The film takes a frank look at the slow disintegration of a marriage during the week a couple celebrates their 10th anniversary. Adapted from Eugene O’Brien’s award-winning play, the film’s use of closeups and intimate editing only enhances its emotional impact. The actress receives two business elite ticket vouchers for anywhere Delta travels.

The Best New Documentary Filmmaker is Spanish director Carlos Carcas for the film Old Man Bebo. The film, which had its world premiere at the Malaga Film Festival in Spain, tells the story of Bebo Valedes, the greatest living Cuban musician who was one of the inventors of the mambo, who turns 90 this year. The joyful portrait film mixes archival footage with contemporary interviews and performance segments to offer a celebration of the man and his music. Director Carlos Carcas receives $25,000 cash, sponsored by American Express, and the art award “Maquette for Primary Compass,” created by Don Gummer.

The sole non-European filmmaker in the winners’ circle is American director Gini Reticker for her moving documentary film Pray The Devil Back To Hell. Winning the Best Documentary Feature prize for “its moving portrait of the women of Liberia, who show us how community, motherly love and perseverance can change the fate of a society.” The film, which had its world premiere at the Festival, wins for director Gini Reticker a cash award of $25,000 and the art award “Liza Minnelli,” created by Timothy White.

The Tribeca Film Festival has long demonstrated its support for local film talents. When it began, it hosted a separate “Made In New York” competition category. That has since been dropped, but the Festival still makes a point of honoring New York filmmaking talents through its New York Loves Film Award. This year’s documentary winners was Zoned In, a documentary by Daniela Zanzotto that traces the remarkable journey of a Bronx high schooler to an Ivy League university, with trenchant comments on the role of race and class in the American education system. Director Zanzotto receives a cash prize of $5000, sponsored by New York State Governor's Office for Motion Picture and Television Development, and the art award “Table Odeon,” created by Donna Ferrato.

Winner of the Best New York Feature was The Caller, directed by Richard Ledes. Acting veterans Frank Langella and Elliot Gould star, respectively, as an energy business executive, who is assisted by a private investigator in his effort to expose his corporation's corrupt practices. The jury hailed the film’s “superb use of its New York locations – from the sleek mid-town high-rises to the desolate Brooklyn Bridge piers – to create a chilling and finally stirring suspense movie; an unusual thriller whose mysterious plot finally exposes the mysteries of the heart.” The filmmakers receive a cash award of $5,000, sponsored by The City of New York Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, and the art award “Nude on Guitar” created by Ralph Gibson. Prize winning short films included Best Boy (Steph Green), Mandatory Service (Jessica Habie) and Elephant Garden (Jessica Habie).

The Cadillac Award was given to the documentary War Child, directed by C. Karim Chrobog. The American film, which had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, was voted on by Festival audiences. War Child tells the story of hip-hop artist Emmanuel Jal, a veteran of the 20-year civil war in southern Sudan. First-time filmmaker Chrobog follows Jal as he returns to Sudan for the first time in 18 years to reunite with his family, including the father who summoned him to war and then abandoned him. Now in his 20s, Jal is using his music to raise awareness about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Sudan and the plight of child soldiers throughout the world. The director receives a cash prize of $25,000 and the art award “Peripheral Drift Illusion” created by Ryan McGinness.

The Festival, in presenting over 120 films from 40 countries around the world, gave its loyal audiences the chance to check the pulse of world cinema and to be introduced to the amazing stories of both real and fictional people from many different cultures. It is often said that New York is the center of the world (perhaps an overinflated statement) but for the past 10 days, the world was certainly on display in all its glory and complications for New York audiences to savor, absorb and learn from. Aside from all the glitz and the industry buzz, that could ultimately be the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival’s most important legacy.

Wallflower Press Launches New Publications At Tribeca FF

By Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

One of the fab parties this week at the Tribeca Film Festival was the Tuesday evening bash at BAR 13, hosted by Wallflower Press, the largest publisher of film books and magazines in the United Kingdom. Yoram Allon, Editorial Director and Publisher, was in Gotham with his wife Nicky Allon and editor Ian Haydn Smith as part of the company’s North American launch of the International Film Guide, the authoritative Yearbook of International Cinema, and Film And Festivals Magazine, a quarterly publication covering the world of film festivals.

Wallflower Press arranged with the Tribeca Film Festival to distribute close to 1000 copies of the International Film Guide to Festival Industry Delegates as part of their “welcome bags” (which mainly consisted of thin brochures and gimmicky trinkets). Wallflower Press also distributed the April edition of Film And Festivals Magazine, which contains a preview article on the Tribeca Film Festival, as well as wrap and preview coverage of festivals in the first half of 2008 and various feature stories on films, festivals and how-to information for independent filmmakers.

“The Tribeca Film Festival is a perfect venue for us to reach both American and international industry professionals, filmmakers and media”, said Allon during the packed-to-the-rafters soiree. “Since taking over the publication of the International Film Guide from Variety, our goal is to make it the definitive resource on world cinema. Film And Festivals is poised to become a significant media presence with the coverage of international film festivals, world cinema and the personalities who make up our business.”

The Tuesday night fete, held in the James Bond-like Upper Lounge at BAR 13 and on the roof deck was co-hosted by International Media Resources, a New York-based public relations, marketing and editorial services company, and Columbia University Press, the trade publisher and distributor that represents Wallflower Press titles in North America. “This was a great opportunity to meet and greet Tribeca attendees and the New York film and media community”, Allon added. “We see this presence in New York as the first step in a year-long campaign to let both the North American industry and film buffs know about the books that we publish and the new media initiatives that we are launching.”

Wallflower Press is a London-based independent publishing house specializing in cinema and the moving image. The company publishes over 30 new titles each year and has recently moved into the magazine business with Film And Festivals Magazine and other publications. The company will be soon announcing various new media content creation and distribution initiatives for the coming year. For more information, consult the company website:

The International Film Guide, first published in 1963, is the world’s most authoritative and trusted yearbook of world cinema. The 2008 edition is a 450-page resource that covers the cinema output of over 100 countries. Special features in this double edition include: coverage of five ‘Directors of the Year’ (Fatih Akin, Suzanne Bier, Guillermo del Toro, Paul Greengrass and Jia Zhangke), a detailed country focus on Germany, industry analysis on documentary and the growth of DVD production and a comprehensive listing and description of all major international and smaller local film festivals from all over the world. This may have been Wallflower Press’ first clinch with the Tribeca Film Festival, but positive buzz surrounding the publications and the fab party makes it pretty certain it is not the last. Stay tuned.

02 May, 2008

Deals Signed At Tribeca Film Festival

By Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

Although the Tribeca Film Festival does not have a formal market, the sheer number of World and International Premieres has upped the acquisitions quotient for films participating in the program. In the past week, a number of deals were announced that have given the Festival more “industry cred”.

IFC Entertainment has acquired North American rights to Luis Piedrahita and Rodrigo Sopena's Fermat’s Room. The Spanish drama tells the story of four mathematicians who do not know each other, but are invited by a mysterious host on the pretext of resolving a great enigma. The room in which they find themselves turns out to be a shrinking room that will crush them if they do not discover in time what connects them all and why someone might wish to murder them. The mystery thriller had its world premiere at the Sitges Film Festival, while winning top prizes at Fantosporto in Portugal and the Malaga International Week of Fantastic Cinema in Spain.

Spanish international sales company Filmax has acquired international sales rights and Spanish theatrical rights to Paraiso Travel, which had its North American premiere at the Festival this past week. The film, a US/Colombia co-production directed by Simon Brand, is based on Jorge Franco’s novel and has been a major hit in its native Colombia. In the film, a lovesick teenager follows his seductive girlfriend as they illegally travel from Medellin to New York. When they become separated, he searches through the dark canyons of New York City to find his true love. Hollywood talent agency CAA is handling North American rights on the film and a deal could soon be announced. Filmax will aggressively market the film to the European theatrical and television markets.

Britain’s Channel 4 has announced a UK television deal for Waiting For Hockney, an American documentary about the artist Billy Pappas, that had its world premiere in the Discovery section of the Festival. In the film, a young working class Baltimore man spends 10 years on a single portrait, believing it is his means to fame and fortune. But he also believes that only one man can lead him there is the famous English artist David Hockney.

Uber sales company Fortissimo Films (with offices in Amsterdam and Hong Kong) has bought all rights outside of North America for the documentary film Chevolution, which is also world premiering at the Festival. The documentary, directed by the American team of Trisha Ziff and Luis Lopez, was financed by Red Envelope Entertainment, the distribution arm of Netflix. The film examines how the famous photograph of Che Guevara became an iconic image of revolt and political engagement. The film includes interviews with actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Antonio Banderas, as well as political and cultural figures from Cuba, South America, the US and Europe. The film will be screening in the Cannes Film Market later this month.

Expect more deals to be announced as the Tribeca Film Festival closes this coming weekend.