'Dentists,' 'Together' close to distrib pacts

TORONTO — Wednesday began on a solemn note at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival, with all business activity on hold and theaters dark in commemoration of Sept. 11.

But by midday, acquisitions activity was frenzied, with execs looking to close deals and head home.

IFC Films, whose release of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” makes the company a player here, nabbed all U.S. rights to Spanish/French/Swiss co-production “Novo,” its first acquisition of the festival. Film was directed by Jean-Pierre Limosin.

Sarah Lash, director of acquisitions at IFC Films, negotiated the deal along with Celluloid Dreams.

” ‘Novo’ is an incredibly sexy, smart and intimate film and has a unique combination of qualities similar to those with which we have cultivated success in the past,” Lash said. “We are thrilled to be distributing the film and to be working with Celluloid Dreams.”

Hooping it up for ‘Stevie’

Lions Gate grabbed North American rights to its second pic of the festival — docu “Stevie,” directed by “Hoop Dreams” helmer Steve James.

Cinetic Media negotiated the pact on behalf of James; Tom Ortenberg, Peter Block and Jason Constantine handled Lions Gate’s side of the deal. Film preemed in the Real-to-Reel section at the fest. Lions Gate plans an early 2003 release.

“Stevie” is produced by Adam Singer and Gordon Quinn; the production companies are Kartemquin Films and SenArt Films.

Pic chronicles Oscar-nominated James’ reunion with Stevie Fielding and his dysfunctional family. James was a Big Brother to Stevie when he was an 11-year-old.

Circling deals

Two other pics were near distribution pacts: Alan Rudolph’s “The Secret Lives of Dentists” and “Together,” from Chinese helmer Chen Kaige (“Farewell My Concubine”).

Another pic likely to be sold domestically is “The Guys,” Jim Simpson’s adaptation of the 9/11-themed play penned by Anne Nelson and starring Sigourney Weaver and Anthony LaPaglia. The pic played as every network in North America commemorated the terrorist attacks, giving the pic an added emotional resonance.

An 11:15 a.m. press and industry screening attracted every major specialty distrib and a host of top press. By film’s end, at least four reps for companies had rushed out of the screening room to contact their toppers and, presumably, relay their interest.

‘Guys’ goes beyond

German foreign sales shingle Peppermint has picked up the film’s foreign rights outside the U.S. and Canada.

“The Guys” focuses on a NYC fire captain who lost eight of his men in the World Trade Center collapse.

Simpson told a press conference Wednesday that the pic is “not a big voice, but it is an interesting voice, and I felt it should be among the voices commenting on Sept. 11. The more we’re given a chance to reflect on this, the better.”

But some of the filmmakers behind “11’09″01,” the other Sept. 11-themed movie at Toronto, said they thought it was the wrong day to screen the film. Alain Brigand, producer of the compilation, said, “It’s too close to home. This is the kind of film that needs a bit of space from the event.”

The collection of shorts inspired by 9/11 has drawn flak for what is perceived as an anti-American bias in some of the shorts.

Despite the flurry of acquisitions action, many industryites departed the city late Wednesday, and there was a distinct sense that the streets and hotel lobbies were less crowded.

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