International sales group sweet on Renaissance pic

HONG KONG — Foreign sales outfit Fortissimo Films has acquired world rights to “Candy,” an independent drama starring Heath Ledger and Geoffrey Rush.

“Candy” is the first pic to resurface at a new sales banner since last month’s collapse of Brit seller Renaissance Films.

Pic, about an extreme love affair, is the helming debut of Australian legit director Neil Armfield and is based on Luke Davies’ novel of the same title.

Co-starring is rising Oz star Abbie Cornish (“Somersault”).

Renaissance was one of the biggest names in Blighty’s sales biz, and previously had $40 million backing from the Hermes pension fund. But it filed for bankruptcy administration in July as cash flow problems mounted and topper Angus Finney failed to raise new equity to keep it afloat.

At the time of its demise, Renaissance had eight movies on its slate, including Australian coming-of-age drama “Pobby and Dingan” and Rwanda-set drama “Shooting Dogs.” It was also representing four others for which contracts had not been completed. After the collapse of Renaissance, rights to the pics reverted to the producers.

“Candy” is produced by Margaret Fink and Emile Sherman with exec producers including Richard Payten and Andrew Mackie of Dendy Films.

The $5 million budget came from Film Finance Corp. Australia, New South Wales Film & Television Office and Paradigm Hyde Films.

Production in Sydney began in March, and the film is on course for completion in early 2006, with Dendy skedded to release it in Australia, ahead of a possible run in the spring festivals. Fortissimo will position it as an art-house title with crossover potential.

Other foreign sales outfits are circling the rest of Renaissance’s lineup, although new deals may not be struck in time for the forthcoming markets.

Michael Caton-Jones’ “Shooting Dogs” is skedded to preem in Toronto’s Contemporary World Cinema section and is repped by its U.K. and German producers, which include CrossDay Prods., Egoli-Tossell Film, BBC Films and the U.K. Film Council.

Fortissimo will honor and service all the licensing deals previously done by Renaissance on “Candy.”

Pic was sold to A Film (The Netherlands), Cineart (Belgium), Smile Entertainment (Scandinavia), LNK Filmes (Portugal), Lauren Films (Spain), Odeon (Greece), Phars (Middle East), Central Partnership (CIS) and California Films ( Brazil).

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