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.

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