10 September, 2008

Toronto FF Market Watch

Everlasting Moments by Jan Troell

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

While the Toronto International Film Festival does not have an official film market like Berlin or Cannes, sales agents, film distributors and festival programmers from all over the world are here to sample the more than 300 films on display. So far, only a handful of films have been acquired, but the softness of the marketplace could mean that more announcements will come in the Festival's final days, or even in the next few weeks. It is no longer the "go go" market it was even a year or two ago.

"This is the quietest Toronto Film Festival that I can remember", one prominent distributor commented to me yesterday. But despite the indie sector being in a cautious mood, a number of Toronto films have announced major distribution deals.

Less than 24 hours after it won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, Darren Aronofsky's drama The Wrestler has been picked up for U.S. distribution by Fox Searchlight, the specialty division of 20th Century Fox (the distributor behind such recent hits as Juno and Little Miss Sunshine). The film, which features a comeback performance by Mickey Rourke that could well see him in contention for acting honors during awards season, screened in Toronto over the weekend to an enthusiastic response. Apparently a bidding war ensued, with Fox Searchlight the victor. After its Toronto screenings, the film will close the New York Film Festival next month.

Another high profile pick up was announced yesterday. IFC Films has acquired the North American rights to veteran Swedish director Jan Troell's Everlasting Moments. IFC Films will include the film in its IFC in Theaters program, which simultaneously releases a film in traditional cinemas and on video-on-demand platform on the same date. Everlasting Moments received a high profile launch at the Telluride Film Festival over Labor Day Weekend, including a special tribute to veteran director Jan Troell. The film is represented by Scandinavian sales agent Nordisk International.

Celluloid Dreams, the Paris-based international sales agent, has sold the French thriller Mark of An Angel (L'Empreinte de l'Ange) to Seville Films in Canada (and a US deal is expected shortly). The film, directed by Saffy Nebou and produced by Diaphana Films, stars Catherine Frot as a mother who loses custody of her child in an ugly divorce, who becomes fixated with the child of another mother, played by the always excellent Sandrine Bonnaire. The film has been a big summer hit in its native France.

After a very quiet Cannes for the British film industry, there are 25 British films (a mix of shorts, documentaries and features) being presented in Toronto this week. The films range from the big-budget (Saul Dibb's The Duchess, starring Keira Knightley and Richard Eyre's tale of l'amour fou, starring Liam Neeson, Laura Linney and Antonio Banderas) to the aggressively independent (including Slumdog Millionaire by Danny Boyle, Is There Anybody There? by John Crowley and the Colin Firth-starrer Genova by Michael Winterbottom).

Other British films making their North American premieres here include, the Cannes Camera d'Or winner by video artist Steve McQueen; the IRA drama Fifty Dead Men Walking by Kari Skogland and the latest film from veteran director Mike Leigh, the lighter-than-air

Nine of the 25 Toronto entries were partially funded by the UK Film Council, which hosted a reception this afternoon to introduce UK film producers to members of the international community and to discuss how the UK can work with the worldwide film industry. "One of the UK Film Council's key objectives is to help nuture and support British film in North America", UK Film Council US Office director Claire Chapman declared. "We are thrilled there is such a strong portfolio of UK films being showcased at Toronto this year."

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