Buñuel nod represents lucrative opportunity for Televisa

MEXICO CITY — Last month, “Los Olvidados,” Luis Buñuel’s 1950 classic, was added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, the second film named to a list that includes the Gutenberg Bible. Now Televisa is rushing to cash in on the honor.

The Mexican media giant owns the rights to the Spanish filmmaker’s brutal elegy to Mexico City street kids. It acquired them, along with six other Buñuel films, in the mid-90s, to ensure permanent broadcast rights in Mexico, according to Marcela Green, head of film sales at Televisa.

Earlier this year, though, Televisa signed a deal with Mexican distrib Alterfilms to put at least 100 Mexican films owned by net onto commercial DVDs. “Los Olvidados” (The Young and the Damned) was set to come out with the other Bunuel films, sometime in 2004. But in wake of the United Nations honor, awarded after the discovery of the film’s long-lost original celluloid negative, pushed up Televisa’s schedule.

A DVD, available in Mexico and the U.S., will be released in November, distributed by Alterfilms. Current titles in Alterfilms’ “Viva Mexico!” series retail for 130 pesos ($11.50) and have Enlish and Portuguese subtitles. Alterfilms also has distrib rights for Discovery Channel and Hallmark in Mexico. The new DVD will include a “lost” alternative ending to the film that was discovered along with the original negative, which is stored at Mexico’s National University. The more cheerful alternative ending was made at behest of film’s producer, Oscar Dancigers, who feared censorship, although it was never used.

Televisa has also used the newly discovered negative to produce at least 80 new exhibition prints of the 85 minute film. Pic, made on a roughly $300,000 budget, was initially a disaster, yanked from Mexican theaters after only three days

But it went on to net Bunuel best director laurels at Cannes in 1951 and returned for a triumphant second round in Mexico. It joined Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” on the UNESCO list.

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