Companies nab rights to 'Secret,' ' Lan Yu,' 'Hush!'

TORONTO — Sony Pictures Classics has struck first blood at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival, snagging North American rights to Iranian filmmaker Babak Payami’s “Secret Ballot.”

Payami won best director at the Venice Film Festival. SPC bought the sophomore pic, a light look at the election process in rural Iran, from Paris-based Celluloid Dreams.

Meanwhile, Strand Releasing has acquired domestic rights to two Asian pics: Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan’s “Lan Yu” and Japanese helmer Hashiguchi Ryosuke’s romantic comedy “Hush!”

The few English-language pics for which domestic rights are available have generated interest but no firm deals yet. Acquisitions execs packed the Uptown Theatre on Yonge Street Friday night to watch the world premiere of Rose Troche’s “The Safety of Objects,” starring Glenn Close and Dermot Mulroney, produced by InFilms’ Dorothy Berwin and Killer Films’ Christine Vachon. At the post-pic bash, attorney John Sloss, who is selling the pic, said: “It’s a particular film that needs the right distributor.” A deal is expected by fest’s end.

McConaughey to the rescue

“Thirteen Conversations about One Thing,” directed by Jill Sprecher, also garnered positive reaction Friday night. The William Morris Agency Independent’s Cassian Elwes says acquisitions interest for the pic is high. But rather than buzzing about the content of pic, talk centered on an incident during the screening: a Toronto woman fainted mid-way through the pic and co-star Matthew McConaughey rushed to try to help her. Toronto Sun on Sunday reported the incident on its front page.

Gregor Jordan’s “Buffalo Soldiers” was the hot ticket Saturday night, with the post-party bash at Left Bank, thrown by Film Four and GoodMachine, attracting a room full of top execs, including New Line topper Robert Shaye, Sony Pictures Classics’ Tom Bernard and Michael Barker; Good Machine’s David Linde and James Schamus; and Film Four’s Rebecca Yeldham. Execs from Good Machine, which is selling off the pic’s domestic rights, say they expect a deal by fest’s end.

Domestic rights for another GoodMachine pic, “Lovely and Amazing,” which preemed at Telluride last week, are also still up for grabs. Though a deal seemed imminent with Fox Searchlight, that pact unraveled, with new bidders more likely takers.

“Prozac Nation,” starring Christina Ricci screened Saturday night to decidedly mixed reaction; the pic still seeks a domestic distrib.

In other deals, Orfeo Films has sold a slew of rights, including in the U.K., Germany, France and Italy, to Venice Golden Lion winner, “Monsoon Wedding,” directed Mira Nair. USA Films is distributing domestically.

(David Rooney in Venice contributed to this report.)

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