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New Yorker at home with ‘Distant’

Cannes honoree a difficult commercial proposition

In a deal closed quietly before the Cannes Film Festival awards were announced, New Yorker Films acquired Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Distant” (“Uzak”), representing the last of the Croisette’s principal honorees to find a U.S. distrib.

Generally considered one of the few critical high points of this year’s Cannes competition, though a difficult commercial proposition, iminimalist drama of the alienation and loneliness of two men drew comparisons with the early work of Michelangelo Antonioni and Theo Angelopoulos.

“Distant” won the Cannes Grand Jury Prize and the best actor award, shared by Muzaffer Ozdemir and the late Mehmet Emin Toprak, who was killed in an auto accident shortly after learning of the film’s acceptance at the fest, where he had planned to spend his honeymoon.

Surprise sale

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Taking his arthouse competitors by surprise at awards time, New Yorker president Dan Talbot closed the deal immediately after the competition screening with the writer-director-producer, who sold the film through his Istanbul-based company, NBC Film. New Yorker plans to release “Distant” either this fall or early 2004.

Other Cannes laureates picked up for the U.S. include Canadian Denys Arcand’s best screenplay and actress winner “The Barbarian Invasions,” which went to Miramax; and Fiprecsi international critics prize winner “Father and Son” from Russian helmer Alexander Sokurov, acquired by Wellspring.

Gus van Sant’s Palme d’Or winner “Elephant” is expected to go out through Fine Line as part of an overall domestic distribution agreement still being finalized between the company and producer HBO Films.