German shingle closes after fighting fiscal woes

BERLIN — The insolvency of German distrib Ottfilm left a blemish on an otherwise upbeat European Film Market as the Berlin Intl. Film Festival began winding down Thursday.

Company had been having financial difficulties since a planned pan-European distribution partnership with Spain’s Aurum Producciones and Swiss-based Epsilon Motion Pictures fell through last year. The failed deal cost Ottfilm a package that included “The In-Laws,” “Confidence” and “Alex and Emma,” which were instead picked up by RTL Group’s Universum Film.

The Berlin-based Ottfilm, headed by Christoph Ott, had reduced its staff in recent months to a bare minimum before filing for insolvency earlier this month. Its most recent release, Franka Potente-starrer “Blueprint,” flopped at the box office.

Ottfilm’s upcoming titles, including Berlinale competition contender “Head-On,” is now being released by other distribs. The newly established Timebandits will be releasing “Head-On” while Reverse Angle Mediasales, a new Berlin-based distribution outfit set up by Wim Wenders and Peter Schwartzkopff, will be handling Wenders’ contribution to “The Blues” series, “Soul of a Man,” which had also been in Ottfilm’s lineup.

Reverse Angle will also release Richard Pearce’s “The Road to Memphis,” Martin Scorsese’s “Feel Like Going Home” and Antoine Fuqua’s blues documentary “Lightning in a Bottle,” which is screening out of competition at the Berlinale.

Wenders is set to return to Germany for his next project following completion of “Don’t Come Knocking,” which stars Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange.

Turkish-German helmer Fatih Akin’s “Head-On,” a tale about a Turkish woman in Hamburg who tries to escape the constraints of her family, was well received Thursday following a very negative reception for the other German title in competition, Romuald Karmakar’s “Night Songs,” on Wednesday. In a heated press conference after the screening, Karmakar lashed out at journalists who criticized his pic, about a relationship on the rocks, telling them that watching too many American movies was affecting their ability to understand his kind of films.

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