Fine Line hot about ‘Arctic’

Indie grabs U.S. rights to Medem pic

SAN SEBASTIAN — Fine Line Features has acquired U.S. rights to Julio Medem’s “The Lovers of the Arctic Circle,” the first pic to emerge from a new film sales and production alliance between European media giants Canal Plus and Sogecable.

“Lovers,” writer/director Medem’s fourth film, is an offbeat romantic drama starring Fele Martinez and Najwa Nimri. It’s the story of two young people, Otto (Martinez) and Ana (Nimri), who are drawn together by fate. Pic follows their relationship from adolescence to adulthood.

Pic, which currently is riding high at the Spanish box office, is considered Medem’s most accessible film to date. Since its release on Aug. 28, it has grossed $1.2 million in Spain on a limited release.

Canal Plus’ sales division Le Studio Canal Plus received concrete offers for the film following a select buyers’ screening at Venice, and the film’s official screening in competition there three days later.

New agreement

Fine Line actually secured rights to “Lovers” in the closing stages of the Toronto International Film Festival, where the film screened in the Contemporary World Cinema Section. Under the terms of the new arrangement between Canal Plus and Sogecable, which has been in the works for some time, Canal will co-finance certain bigger-budget or prestigious projects with Sogetel, Sogecable’s film production division.

In what Sogetel CEO Fernando Bovaira described as an “ongoing relationship,” the team from Le Studio will then rep those pics in the international market.

Canal Plus, which has a 25% stake in Sogecable, previously co-produced Sogetel’s “Open Your Eyes” and its English lingo “Perdita Durango”

However, “Lovers” is the first pic that Canal has co-produced with Sogetel and sold outside Spain. Sogecable’s own international sales arm, Sogepaq Intl., looks set to refocus its activities largely on Sogetel’s lower-profile pics as well as library and TV sales.

Distrib dividends

The increasing cooperation between the two congloms appears to be paying dividends in terms of U.S. distribution.

Preceding Fine Line’s deal for “Lovers,” Artisan Entertainment acquired “Eyes” at this year’s Sundance film fest, subsequently selling remake rights of the pic to Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner’s C/W Prods., while Trimark has U.S. rights to “Perdita” and another Sogetel pic, “The Day of the Beast.”

In a further move, Le Studio has committed to handle overseas sales on “Neighborhood,” a co-production between Elias Querejeta P.C. and Sogetel. Pic is screening in competition at San Sebastian.

Gifted director

Medem is one of the most critically acclaimed young directors in Spain. Although his last pic, “Earth,” was something of a misstep, his first two films, “Cows” and “The Red Squirrel,” were fest faves in Europe.

Fine Line prexy Mark Ordesky, who credited VP Paul Federbush and senior VP Rachel Horovitz with discovering “Lovers,” described the pic as “the perfect example of the gems that exist in the foreign film arena. We look forward to bringing a picture of such clear quality and vision to American audiences.”

It’s the first foreign-language film that Fine Line has acquired since Ordesky became president of the New Line specialty house at the beginning of this year.

“Fine Line distributes relatively few foreign-language films, but it handles them with great care,” Bovaira said.

“Lovers” is not the only Spanish-language pic on Fine Line’s slate: The distrib has U.S. rights to Mexican director Jaime Umberto Hermosillo’s “Esmeralda Comes By Night,” which it released last Friday. (“Esmeralda” grossed $6,104 on three screens.)

Bovaira and Sogetel’s Enrique Lopez Lavigne produced “Lovers.” Fine Line reportedly paid around $300,000 for the rights to the pic.

John Kochman, director of theatrical sales, repped Le Studio in the negotiations. Federbush and Horovitz repped Fine Line.

(Monica Roman in New York contributed to this story.)

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