Oz’s Bennett snares $7 mil for period pic

SYDNEY — Hot on the heels of the critical acclaim for his improvised road movie “Kiss or Kill,” writer-director Bill Bennett has received the final go-ahead from Australia’s Film Finance Corp. (FFC) to lense his A$10 million ($7 million) period piece, “In a Savage Land.”

Pic, set in the 1930s, follows a pair of newly married anthropologists in New Guinea to study the sexual mores of a group of villagers when they’re caught up in a Japanese invasion. It will commence lensing in February in Papua New Guinea, to the north of Oz, for a Cannes 1999 bow.

It will be distribbed globally by Oz’s Beyond. Other backers include Germany’s Hollywood Partners, moviecaster Showtime Australia and South Australia’s Film Corp.

The FFC greenlight ends a bumper year for Beyond, according to Beyond Films topper Gary Hamilton.

“Beyond has committed to projects with combined budgets expected to be more than A$40 million ($28 million) in calendar 1998, which greatly exceeds our production commitments in previous years,” Hamilton told Daily Variety. “This, and ‘In a Savage Land’s’ unprecedented budget (Oz’s average is $2.5 million), indicates our faith in the commercial viability of Australian production in the international marketplace.”

The FFC also greenlit two Beyond-backed comedies: “Dear Claudia,” with local distribution by UIP, and “Paperback Hero,” to be distribbed locally by Polygram.

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