Films Boutique Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'

Comedies popular with Karlovy Vary film fest's young audience

Berlin-based sales company Films Boutique has kick-started international sales on comedy “Monument to Michael Jackson,” which world premiered Tuesday at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. Sale demonstrates the fest’s ability to be a launch-pad for auteur pics with a humorous edge.

Darko Lungulov’s film was picked up in Hungary by Cirko Film, which also released the helmer’s previous and first film, 2009’s “Here and There.” That pic, which was also handled in international markets by Films Boutique, was sold to 15 territories, including eOne in North America. It won 20 awards at more than 50 festivals following its Tribeca premiere, and played in Karlovy Vary in the Variety Critics’ Choice section.

“Monument to Michael Jackson,” which was picked up by Films Boutique at script stage, plays in Karlovy Vary’s East of the West competition sidebar.

The movie, which is set in 2009, centers on a barber who is a hopeless dreamer. Faced with the prospect of being abandoned by his disgruntled wife, he conjures up an absurd plan to bring fame to their dead-end town: they will replace the town’s communist-era monument with a statue of Michael Jackson.

Films Boutique also represents another film world premiering at Karlovy Vary, Pascal Rabate’s “Patchwork Family,” which played in the main competition section. Jean-Christophe Simon, Films Boutique’s CEO, describes the film as a “crowdpleaser.”

The pic, which was released this week in France by Ad Vitam Distribution, follows Christian, a divorced father who can only see his young daughter Vanessa every other weekend. When he meets the single mother Christine, and decides to participate in a summer TV show, his whole life is turned upside down.

Films Boutique also worked with the filmmaker on his previous film, “Holidays by the Sea,” which played in competition in Karlovy Vary three years ago, and won the directing prize. The film attracted 450,000 admissions in France.

Rabate is best known in France as the author of comic-books, and both films are adaptations of his comic-books.

“People see the film as being very original, with strong visual imagery, extremely colorful, and a hint of the absurd,” Simon said. “It is a crowd-pleaser for festival audiences, and just the kind of film distributors are looking for right now.”

He added that Karlovy Vary is an ideal launch-pad for auteur comedies like “Patchwork Family” and “Monument to Michael Jackson.” While Cannes and Berlin are less likely to accept such comedies, which are perceived as being more “commercial,” Karlovy Vary — with a younger audience than the other two — is more receptive to such fare.

“They are the type of films that the Karlovy Vary festival likes, but not films that could play at Cannes or Berlin as they are a bit too comedic,” Simon said. “Karlovy Vary is the perfect place for them because you have a good platform for the launch, and afterwards other festivals will pick up the film. For distributors, the films work as commercial auteur movies.”

It also helps that the festival has a Central and East European focus as both the previous pics from the filmmakers sold to a lot of territories in the region, Simon said.

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