'Zelary' tells Czechoslovakian love story during WWII

PARK CITY — Continuing its hot acquisitions streak, Sony Pictures Classics announced a deal Thursday for North American rights to Czech foreign-language Oscar submission “Zelary,” the fourth new feature added to the specialty division’s slate in a week.

The epic historical drama was picked up from Menemsha Entertainment, marking a continuation of Sony Classics’ relationship with the Los Angeles-based outfit. Previous SPC titles acquired from the company include “Color of Paradise,” “Son of the Bride” and “Divided We Fall.”

Directed by Ondrej Trojan and produced by Trojan and Helena Uldrichova, the film was written by Petr Jarchovsky, based on the novella by Kveta Legatova. Exec producer was Milan Kuchynka.

Culture clash

Set against the backdrop of Nazi occupation in Czechoslovakia during World War II, “Zelary” is the love story of a couple brought together by clashing cultures — a free-spirited man of the mountains who sustains serious injuries and a scholarly nurse involved in the resistance who saves his life by sacrificing part of her own.

” ‘Zelary’ is both a great critical and commercial success in the Czech Republic,” said Menemsha president Neil Friedman, who brokered the sale. “Menemsha will now begin to introduce ‘Zelary’ to cinemagoers all over the world. With our international debut of the film, we are absolutely in the best hands by being with Sony Pictures Classics.”

“Zelary” screened at the Palm Springs Film Festival, along with a large crop of this year’s foreign-language Oscar submissions. The film did not screen at Sundance.

Earlier during the Sundance Film Festival, SPC closed a deal for North American and other English-speaking territory rights to Stacy Peralta’s surfing documentary “Riding Giants,” which opened the fest; and on Wednesday, locked worldwide rights — excluding U.K., India and Greece — to director Ian Iqbal Rashid’s coming-out comedy “Touch of Pink,” a Canadian-British co-prod that bowed in a Premiere slot.

Also on Wednesday, the distrib announced its acquisition of Merchant Ivory Prods.’ “Heights,” a multicharacter drama set in contemporary New York, by debuting director Chris Terrio. Currently in post production, that film is being positioned to bow at Cannes.

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