Niche distribs join forces

GRANADA, Spain — Madrid-based arthouse distributor Karma Films has picked up Spanish rights on Thomas Balmes’ documentary “Baby(ies),” which is repped by StudioCanal.

Produced by popular French actor-director Alain Chabat (“Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra”), the upscale doc follows one year in the life of babies in different parts of the world.

Karma, which acquires some 10 films per year, specializes in the distribution of international documentaries for the Spanish market. It looks for arthouse rarities, teaming with other niche buyers in Spain, such as former Manga Films exec Xavier Catafal’s Isaan Ent. or Madrid-based Avalon Prods.

Karma teamed with Isaan on the acquisition at Cannes of three pics: Blighty helmer Lucy Walker’s documentary “Blindsight,” winner of February’s Berlin Panorama section, and soccer doc “From the Hands of Gods,” both taken from The Little Film Company, and, from EuropaCorp., Gerard Depardieu’s musical drama “Quand j’etais chanteur.”

Avalon and Karma also joined forces to ink with Fortissimo Films on Hungarian helmer Bela Tarr’s switchman drama “The Man From London,” and Mexican gay story “El Cielo dividido.”

Montreal-based sales agent Films Transit Intl. licensed to Karma Austrian filmmaker Erwin Wagenhofer’s “We Feed the World,” a documentary about the origins of food.

Niche distribution can seem like a hand-to-mouth existence sometimes, but Karma maintains a balanced diet. “We survive thanks to theatrical, institutional aid and new DVD distribution methods,” explained company founder Miguel Angel Perez, who adds that the main challenge for arthouse distribbers in Spain is to rejuvenate its audiences.

Another arthouse company, Luis Angel Bellaba’s Aquelarre Servicios Cinematograficos, took two pics at Cannes from sales agent the Co-Production Office: Ulrich Seidl’s drama “Import Export” and Swedish helmer Roy Andersson’s “You, the Living.” Aquelarre used to sub-distribute its acquisitions via Sherlock Media or Basque Country-based Festival Films, in which the Bellaba family holds a stake.

As a logical next step, due to difficulties indie distributors face in Spain — most prompted by the lack of TV sales — Aquelarre is developing a co-production slate in order to spread the risk.

Bilbao-based Barton Films is following a similar path. A sub-distribber of Filmax, Alta Films and Eurocine Films for Northern Spain, Barton also distributes and co-produces animation and Basque-language films, such as “Olentzero.”

Barton has picked up Spanish rights on Cannes competish player “Tehilim,” a France-Israel co-production, and French toon “Piccolo & Saxo,” both acquired from Films Distribution.

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