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Sony takes to flight

SPC picks up rights to French hit 'Winged Migration'

Sony Pictures Classics has picked up North America and a number of international territories on the French box-office hit “Winged Migration” (aka “Travelling Birds”) from President Films.

Directed by “Microcosmos” producer Jacques Perrin with Jacques Cluzaud and Michel Debats as co-directors, the documentary details the global migration of wild birds.

It follows birds such as geese, pelicans, ducks, eagles, storks and condors that fly thousands of miles, switching climates to survive and, after a season, fly back to their place of origin.

The filmmakers devised ingenious ways to fly alongside their subjects, from ultra-light aircraft to hot-air balloons, with camera rigs modified to deal with air pockets and other occupational hazards.

Filming spanned some 40 countries, including Nepal, Peru, Kenya, Vietnam, India and Libya. Production kicked off in July 1998 in Iceland and wrapped in June 2001.

“Migration” screened out of competition at the Berlin Film Festival and unspooled in the market here.

SPC will also handle the pic in Latin America, Scandinavia, U.K. and South Africa. Pic has totaled 3 million admissions in France for distributor Bac Films since its release last December. It’s also been a hit in Belgium, Switzerland, French-speaking Canada, Germany and Greece.”The phenomenon of the migration of these wild birds is of interest to people all around the world,” Perrin told Daily Variety. “We were trying to express the humanity of man being near the birds and to say with the film, we were there with them.”

Sony Pictures Classics co-prexy Michael Barker, with President founder-turned-consultant Jacques Eric Strauss and prexy Hugo Bergson-Vuillaume, brokered the deal. President also concluded sales in all major territories worldwide on pic, with only Malaysia and Indonesia remaining.

“Migration” editor Marie-Josephe Yoyotte won a French Cesar for the pic this year.

Said Barker, “To us at Sony Pictures Classics, Jacques Perrin is an icon. From his producing and acting days in great movies like ‘Z’ to his current phase starting with spectacular ‘Winged Migration,’ this man is a combination of Jack London and Jacques Cousteau. We are proud to be finally involved with his work and to be part of a continuing relationship with Jacques Eric Strauss and President Films.”

Pic marks fourth acquisition for SPC at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The distrib also picked up U.S. rights on Alliance Atlantis’ “Owning Mahowny,” North American on “Respiro” and worldwide rights to the Hector Babenco pic “Carandiru.”