Int’l distrib unmoved by ‘Fahrenheit’ flap

Wild Bunch has completed 95% of its business on pic

PARIS — The Disney-Miramax spat over Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 911” was dismissed with a Gallic shrug by international sales outfit Wild Bunch on Wednesday.

Paris-based company, mandated by Miramax to handle worldwide sales, said it had completed 95% of its business on the film, which has sold to major and minor territories all over the world. The only sizable territories still up for grabs are South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

“Usually, when they are paying a high price for an American film, distributors will ask for a guarantee that it gets a U.S. release, but in this case no one bothered,” Wild Bunch chief operating officer Brahim Chioua said, “because it’s Michael Moore, because of the success of ‘Bowling for Columbine,’ and because of the subject matter.

“If the film isn’t released in America, it will be important for Michael Moore and America, not for the rest of the world. But I don’t doubt for a moment that it will be released in the U.S.”

Chioua was equally nonchalant about the worldwide marketing implications of a Miramax withdrawal.

“Miramax will pilot the film’s presentation at Cannes but Michael Moore has the pivotal role in selling the film via what he says about it during press conferences and interviews with journalists. A film like this is not about posters and merchandizing.”

Chioua’s partner Vincent Maraval saw an early version of “Fahrenheit 911” in New York six weeks ago, but both Wild Bunch and the foreign distribs will see the finished film for the first time when it is shown at Cannes. Pic gets its gala screening on May 17.

At this stage most foreign distribs will not have fixed a release date, but because of the film’s topicality it will probably bow in most territories between July and October, Chioua said. Distributors include StudioCanal subsid Mars in France, BIM in Italy, Optimum in the U.K. and Falcom Media in Germany.