Cannes buying spree likely to add 'Tyson'

CANNES — As the Cannes Film Festival came to a close over the weekend, Sony Pictures Classics picked up North American distribution rights to animated Israeli docu “Waltz With Bashir,” capping a late-hour buying spree by the specialty unit.

Michael Barker and Tom Bernard’s Sony Classics also sealed deals for Competition pic “Lorna’s Silence” and Un Certain Regard’s “O’Horten.” In addition, Sony’s specialty arm is expected to close a deal for all rights to James Toback’s Mike Tyson docu “Tyson” in the next few days.

For much of the festival, there was a noticeable lack of dealmaking on the part of North American buyers, prompting some to proclaim that the market was dead.

A burst of activity by IFC Films and, at the 11th hour, by Sony Pictures Classics changed that perception.

Still, bigger projects failed to ignite the interest of American buyers, reflecting the uncertainty in the specialty marketplace and demonstrating that the global film biz, rather than the U.S. film biz, was the center of the action at Cannes.

There were no big bidding wars, and no big sums paid for North American distrib rights, such as when Focus Features paid $10 million at Sundance earlier this year for rights to “Hamlet 2.”

Thus far, nobody has made a deal for domestic rights to high-profile Cannes titles including Steven Soderbergh’s “Che,” Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York” and James Gray’s “Two Lovers.” Cannes closer, the recut “What Just Happened?,” also left the fest without a domestic distrib, as it had at Sundance.

In the semiautobiographical “Waltz With Bashir,” director Ari Folman loosely recounts his time fighting as an Israeli solider in the 1982 war with Lebanon.

Last year, Sony Pictures Classics was domestic distrib of the animated “Persepolis,” about the Iranian revolution. Film was nominated for an Oscar. Specialty unit also released Israeli film “The Band’s Visit” in the U.S.

“Lorna’s Silence” was written and directed by Belgian filmmakers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne. Pic revolves around an Albanian woman who has second thoughts about taking part in a cold-blooded immigration scam. Dardenne brothers previously won Cannes’ Palme d’Or for 1999′s “Rosetta.”

“O’Horten” is the fifth feature from Norwegian filmmaker Bent Hamer, whose previous works include the 2005 Charles Bukowski adaptation “Factotum.” Tragicomedy focuses on an ultra-dedicated train engineer who’s struggling to transition into retirement.

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