Dealmakers bearing down at Berlinale

BERLIN — As Berlin’s European Film Market wound down Thursday, buyers and sellers headed for the city’s two airports with loads of freshly inked deal memos.

While few pics unspooling in the Berlin Film Festival’s Official Selection have generated a feeding frenzy, the slow-burning Competition has been gathering heat. Also, dealmaking volume has been exceptionally high thanks to a nearly 40% rise in registered attendees in the wake of the gap left open by the repositioned AFM.

France’s Wild Bunch has had an active market. It’s sold fest’s opening pic, “Man to Man,” to 20 territories even though it was snubbed by critics. Africa-set search for the missing link between man and apes, starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Joseph Fiennes, went to Bim Distribuzione for Italy, Lauren for Spain and TVA for Canada, among other territories.

Celluloid Dreams — another busy Gallic sales boutique — has been doing brisk biz with Jacques Audiard’s “The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” among the fest’s few standout titles.

Adaptation of U.S. helmer James Toback’s 1978 cult pic “Fingers,” about an aspiring concert pianist with mob ties, went to a slew of countries, including Artificial Eye for the U.K. and Vertigo for Spain.

Artificial Eye is also believed to have picked up another hot competition commodity, Palestinian suicide-bomber drama “Paradise Now,” which U.S. buyers are also circling.

Lions Gate Films Intl. closed a raft of sales on Luis Mandoki’s “Innocent Voices,” based on co-screenwriter Oscar Torres’ experience in El Salvador’s civil war in the 1980s. Mexican pic had its European premiere Saturday when it opened the Berlinale’s Kinderfilmfest. Lions Gate co-prexys Nick Meyer and Sergei Yershov completed sales to 18 territories, including France (Metropolitan), Germany (Solo Film), the U.K. (Content Film) and Japan (New Select). Twentieth Century Fox released it in Mexico on Jan. 28.

Teutonic sellers certainly benefited from the surge in market activity.

“The EFM has been much livelier than last year,” said Bavaria Film Intl. sales topper Thorsten Schaumann, underscoring the sharp increase in buyers from Japan and South America.

Bavaria’s WWII competition drama “Sophie Scholl — The Final Days,” about the trial of a young dissident by a Nazi court, sold to seven territories, including Japan (Kinetique), Spain (Lola Films) and Mexico (Quality Films).

Fellow German distrib Beta Cinema sold competition comedy “One Day in Europe” to seven territories, including Australia (Palace) and the CIS (Russian Report).

Reflecting the EFA’s greater independence from the Berlinale, a larger portion of deals than usual were unrelated to the fest.

Sony Pictures Classics picked up U.S. rights on Belgian helmer Erik Van Looy’s “The Alzheimer Case,” from the Works. Focus Features has U.S. remake rights to this drama about a killer with Alzheimer’s.

The U.K.’s Icon picked up the drama “Alpha Dog” and “Trust the Man” from Capitol, which also sold “Mistress of Spices” to a number of territories, including Scandinavia (Scanbox) and Italy (RAI Cinema).

A flurry of Asian activity saw a huge interest especially in pics from South Korea.

Cineclick sold “The Bow,” the latest pic by prolific Korean arthouse darling Kim Ki-duk, to a slew of territories, including Italy (Mikado).

(Adam Dawtrey in Berlin and Anna Marie de la Fuente in Hollywood contributed to this report.)

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