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‘Tales’ may add to Mideast woes

Distrib rethinks recent 'Southland' acquisition

As if Mideast distribs don’t have enough problems with censorship and piracy, Cannes has thrown up another old-fashioned headache: what to do when you’ve acquired a turkey.

Lebanon’s Italia Films picked up local rights for “Southland Tales” before pic’s fest preem on the basis of its boffo cast, particularly Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who is wildly popular with Arab youths.

On paper, it seemed Italia had scored a hit — until pic got some of the fest’s most savage reviews.

“To be honest, I haven’t seen it but I’ve heard from people that it’s bad,” said Italia’s Hiyam Salibi.

Not that it spells the end of the line for the pic’s Mideast chances. Local distribs have a reputation for jazzy, sometimes bizarre, marketing ploys to convince reluctant auds.

The poster for “Lost in Translation,” for example, turned Sofia Coppola’s ambling love story into a full-blooded action adventure with an image of Scarlett Johannson and a giant dinosaur.

“Sometimes the marketing can be a bit lacking in the Mideast,” quipped Gianluca Chacra, managing director of distrib Front Row and Shooting Stars.

Italia also has picked up much-fancied “Volver”; Front Row has acquired rights for “Golden Compass,” “Rush Hour 3” and “Fast Food Nation”; and Jaguar Films has picked up Palme d’Or contender “Babel.”

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