Buyers back San Sebastian favorites

Competition titles generate heat

SAN SEBASTIAN — The San Sebastian Film Festival rounded its final bend Friday with buyers backing the front runners in the kudo race.

As well as announcing their San Sebastian deals, sales agents also took the opportunity to reveal news of sales and pickups made before the fest.

Germany’s Bavaria Film Intl. sold competition player, Daniel Burman’s “The Empty Nest,” to Switzerland’s Trigon Film and is “very close to a U.S. deal, which we’ll close in the next 10 days,” said BFI sales head Stefanie Zeitler.

On competish screener “Louise-Michel,” which played to hoots of laughter, France’s Funny Balloons has closed Germany with Kool Film Distribution, Australia/New Zealand with Vendetta Films, Austria with Pony Films, Switzerland (Columbus Films), India (UTV), Hungary (Cirko Films), Romania (Independenta), Russia and Baltic States (Maywin Media).

On Courtney Hunt’s “Frozen River,” one of the best-received competish players, France’s Rezo Films confirmed a bevy of sales, the latest to Switzerland’s Xenix Film Distribution, Poland’s Kino Swiat and Spain’s Sagrera TV.

Niche Spanish distribution house Karma Films has taken Spanish rights on competitor “Pandora’s Box” from The Match Factory.

Karma founder Miguel Angel Perez also announced at San Sebastian that Karma has picked up Jan Sverak’s Czech comedy “Empties” from U.K.’s Fandango Portobello Sales.

“Empties” is Karma’s first joint acquisition for Spain and France, where Perez bowed distributor Medula Films last year.

Deals on some of the fest’s highest-profile hits also look likely to go down in the upcoming weeks.

Anais Clanet at Paris-based Wide Management said she’d received offers on Christian Poveda’s El Salvador Mara gang docu-feature “La Vida loca,” a standout in San Sebastian’s Horizontes Latinos.

Miami-based sales agent Ondamax Films has received offers for “Gasolina” from French, North American and Latin American distributors, Ondamax CEO Eric Mathis confirmed at San Sebastian.

Miami-based Venevision Intl. signed U.S. DVD, VOD and pay TV rights on a four-film package with Spanish sales agent DeAPlaneta Intl.

Deal includes Jose Enrique March’s urban tale “Escuchando a Gabriel.” Venevision also has negotiated an eight TV movie package with DeAPlaneta.

In a separate move, DeAPlaneta announced at San Sebastian that it has taken international rights on weddings comedy “A Fiance for Yasmina,” helmed by Irene Cardona. Pic is a Spanish-Moroccan co-production.

In production news at San Sebastian, Sao Paulo-based Bossa Nova Films inked with Galicia’s Keltia Produccions and Catalonia’s Fenix P.C. to co-produce an as-yet-untitled music documentary portraying Galician bagpiper Carlos Nunez.

Fenix’s Francisco Lazaro exec produces; Robert Bellsola directs part of the documentary. Nunez’s Keltia majority co-produces, aiming for a late 2009 delivery.

“Still Walking,” “Frozen River,” “Louise-Michel,” “Bullet in the Head,” “Camino” and “Laila’s Birthday” look like favorites to take home awards, but San Sebastian juries have a habit of springing surprises.

Fest closes Saturday.

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