First Cannes selection, ‘Story,’ sells into U.S.

Fortissimo pacts with Samuel Goldwyn

Samuel Goldwyn Films has gained North American distribution rights to “Japanese Story” — the first U.S. acquisition on the Croisette for a film in the official Cannes selection, eight days into the festival.

Fortissimo Film Sales closed the deal for the Aussie drama, which stars Toni Collette.

The pickup was finalized late Wednesday after a final packed market screening; Goldwyn reportedly beat out other offers from unnamed rival bidders.

Deal was brokered by John Sloss of Cinetic Media on behalf of Fortissimo, with Goldwyn’s Meyer Gottlieb in Los Angeles, and Tom Quinn and Peter Goldwyn in Cannes.

U.S. acquisition execs have been circling Un Certain Regard entry “Young Adam,” with Ewan McGregor, while Lars von Trier’s “Dogville” is expected to sell. But the fact that Goldwyn’s deal on “Japanese Story” figures as the sole U.S. pickup closed to date as the fest winds down reflects on the poor yield for distribs from Cannes’ official selection this year.

Produced by Sue Maslin for Gecko Films and directed by Sue Brooks, “Japanese” premiered Monday in Un Certain Regard. Collette stars in the love story about an Australian geologist and a married Japanese businessman (Gotaro Tsunashima).

“I am overjoyed that we have ‘Japanese Story’ for North America,” says Samuel Goldwyn Jr., who indicated he will be mounting an Oscar campaign for Collette. “It is a beautiful and haunting film.”

“Samuel Goldwyn Jr. understands the audience we were always trying to reach,” adds Maslin. “Sue Brooks has put together a unique film; the reaction has been so strong in Cannes and we look forward to ‘Japanese Story’ reaching U.S. audiences.”

The U.S. deal follows sales in several territories, including Filmauro in Italy, Lolafilms in Spain, A-Film for Benelux, Lusomundo in Portugal and Audiovisual for Greece. Both Goldwyn’s U.S. release and the film’s Australian opening through Palace Films are being planned for later this year.

A minority co-financier on “Japanese Story,” Fortissimo has become increasingly active in Oz features in recent years, handling sales on such titles as Clara Law’s “The Goddess of 1967,” Paul Middleditch’s “Terra Nova,” Tony Ayres’ “Walking on Water” and Steve Jacobs’ “La Spagnola.”

Upcoming Oz projects from Fortissimo include Cate Shortland’s “Scarlet” and Ayres’ “Semi-Detached.”

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