Deals shape up at growing Swiss fest
LOCARNO — Among early sales at an applauded and impressively attended 4th edition of Locarno’s Industry Days, Films Boutique has sold Lionel Baier’s “Longwave,” which world premiered on Sunday at Locarno’s Piazza Grande, to much of South America.
In a deal signed at Locarno, Zeta Films has closed Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay, Films Boutique’s Jean-Christophe Simon announced at Locarno Tuesday.
Set during Portugal’s 1974 Carnation Revolution, which removed its neo-fascist dictatorship from power, “Longwave” will be released in France by Happiness Distribution and Pathe in Switzerland.
“Longwave’s” South American deal is one of the first to come out of Locarno. Many look set to follow. Some might be announced in the next 24 hours. Most will close, however, after early September’s Toronto Festival when most arthouse/crossover distributors worldwide have screened Locarno world premieres plus other summer art-house offerings playing at Venice and Canada’s mega-event.
“Buyers come here in part as preparation for Toronto, to meet the sales agents, find out what’s in Toronto, and ask for screeners and promotional material,” she added.
So, half-way through the Festival, many Locarno deals were shaping up, rather than in the shape of short-form contracts.
Wide House in negotiations with the U.S., Poland and
France on “The Special Need,” the Filmmakers of the Present closer, which she describes as a “lighthearted, emotional documentary” about Enea, a 29-year-old Italian autist who sets out across Europe with his two best friends to try to lose his virginity.
A deal launch-pad, Locarno is taken seriously by the industry.
“Locarno is relaxing, but it’s still a big festival and still definitely business: You can spend an hour with a distributor, talking about a strategy, not just telling him ‘buy it,’” said Clanet, who has also picked up world sales rights to “Watermarks,” the third part of Luc Schaedler’s Asian trilogy, a three-location portrait of the complexities of contemporary China, which plays Locarno’s Critics’ Week.
Anyone who hasn’t visited Locarno in a few years will be struck, near shocked, at just how vigorously it has ramped up its industry initiatives and attendance.
Its all-time record of 1,047 industry accreditations two days out from this year’s fest’s get-go was not only an all-time record but 15% up on 2012. It included 263 buyers, 217 from Europe, led from abroad by massive attendances from France (102 companies present), and Germany (77 shingles).
The caliber of attendees, often company toppers or top execs, is also impressive.
An enthusiastic reception from press and, above all, audiences, can do wonders for foreign sales as well. Four nights out from Locarno’s prize announcements on Saturday, it is difficult to second-guess this year’s Golden Leopard.
But distributors will take large note of the standing ovation at Locarno for the Memento-sold “Short Term 12,” and applause for potential German blockbuster “Wetlands,” repped by The Match Factory, and Mexico’s “The Amazing Cat-Fish,” sold by Pyramide Intl., which plays Filmmakers of the Present.
Locarno also has the full backing of its native country. Adding to the fest’s critical mass of industry figures, Swiss exhibitors hold a congress Aug. 7-10 at Locarno running parallel to the first days of the fest, in order to preview upcoming releases.
Three films from Paris-based sales agent Elle Driver alone were showcased by Swiss distributors to exhibitors this year, said Elle Driver’s Eva Diederix: Cannes Un Certain Regard player “Grand Central,” with Tahar Rahim and Lea Seydoux, which Frenetic opens end of August in Switzerland; Berlin competition contender “On My Way,” a Xenix Sept. 18 release; and the new Albert Dupontel movie, with Sandrine Kiberlain, “9 Months Stretch,” a JMH Oct. 16 bow.
Proudly supported by Swiss authorities and key film orgs, such as pubcaster SRG SSR and promotion org Swiss Films, which jointly presented a DVD collection of 20 docu-portraits of Swiss directors from Jean-Luc Godard and Alain Tanner to Baier, Andrea Staka and Ursula Meier, Locarno is unspooling is a country which has missed the full brunt of Europe’s crisis. It has the resources, and seeming will, to expand.