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Oscar nom puts wind in ‘Balseros’ sales

Pic following plight of Cuban refugees gets TV deal

Rolling off an Academy Award nomination, Spanish sales company Art Mood is licensing Carlos Bosch and Josep M. Domenech’s docu “Balseros” to pan-Euro pubcaster Arte.

The TV operator, which specializes in upscale cultural programming, will take short-term exclusive broadcast rights to France and Germany.

“Balseros” is a “rare, exceptional and important film which looks movingly at the sacrifices of immigration,” said Pierrette Ominetti, deputy director of Arte’s documentary arm.

Pic, which chronicles the plight of a handful of Cuban refugees in America after their exodus by boat in 1994, has been riding its Oscar nom and prior fest attention to sales in the U.S. and abroad.

HBO picked up North America and later Latin America after “Balseros” had its international premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in 2002.

Specialty house Seventh Art took theatrical in the U.S. after a Sundance screening. But Euro broadcasting interest really picked up in the wake of the Academy Award selection.

Since “Balseros” made it to the best docu shortlist in November, Art Mood has initiated sales talks for the U.K. and Italy, said founder and “Balseros” exec producer Maria Jose Solera. Offers are in from Belgium and the Czech Republic. U.S. interest was a natural.

“Balseros” focuses on immigration into the U.S. and subtly raises large questions of how far — and at what price — immigrants buy into the American dream.

The documentary begins in 1994 when Fidel Castro authorized citizens to leave the island. Many took to rickety rafts and paddled toward the Florida coast.

It follows seven Cubans through their detention in Guantanamo to early days in the U.S. and then revisits them six years later.

One woman becomes involved in the drug trade, one man with a religious sect. Another works in a market, one more fixes tires. The happiest is probably the man who sends back money to his mom in Cuba so that she can buy a refrigerator.

“Balseros” was produced by Barcelona documaker Bausan Films in association with Televisio de Catalunya and Buena Vida Films. Screenplay was by Bosch and David Trueba, whose “Soldiers of Salamina” screens tonight as part of the American Cinematheque’s Recent Spanish Cinema panorama.

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