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U digs ‘Gardener’ guy

Studio also building slate of German pics over next year

Universal Pictures and Focus Features have inked a three-year first-look production pact with helmer Fernando Meirelles to bring Portuguese- and English-language pics by Brazilian helmers to the studio.

Meirelles (“The Constant Gardener,” “City of God”) heads O2 Filmes, Brazil’s largest indie studio.

Also bolstering U’s global distribution biz: Studio said Wednesday that it will build a slate of six local German pics over the next year, following its release of “Seven Dwarfs,” Sven Unterwaldt’s hit fairy-tale sendup.

Pics produced under the deal with O2 would be handled domestically by Focus. U’s international arm would release any pics in Brazil and Latin America, while the rest of the world would be handled by either Universal Pictures Intl. or Focus Intl.

“Movies around the world are taking up a bigger piece of the pie than they have in the past,” Universal co-chair and former Focus co-head David Linde told Daily Variety. “The goal is to distribute these films as broadly as possible. We’ll have a solid relationship with a filmmaker we’re close to and a brand to derive more filmmakers in a region that’s coming up and has a lot of dynamic talent.”

O2’s current slate includes a number of features from first-time helmers. Banner’s credits include Meirelles’ “City of God,” which Miramax handled domestically.

Pact was jointly announced by Linde, Focus head James Schamus and David Kosse, U’s prexy of international theatrical marketing.

Universal’s new German slate will include a sequel to “Dwarfs,” as well as “One Way” (aka “Blaze”). Both are co-productions.

U also has distributed Jin-ho Hur’s “April Snow” in Japan, while Focus’ overseas slate includes Pedro Almodovar’s “Volver” and Zhang Yimou’s “Curse of the Golden Flower,” starring Chow Yun-Fat and Gong Li.

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