Who’s really who in Cannes

A look at players likely to do high-profile dealmaking on Croisette

With thousands of wannabes and couldbes swirling around the Riviera during the festival and market, how does a self-respecting Cannes-goer determine what business cards to hang on to, which meetings to fight for?

This year, Variety comes to your rescue, with who’s really who in Cannes.

Our focus is on the international players, with an emphasis on those who look most likely to do some of the highest-profile dealmaking on the Croisette this year: bizzers who will be actively buying, selling or setting up important films while in Cannes. In some cases, we’ve highlighted execs in newly configured companies or positions, on whom we expect there to be increased attention. In all cases, these are players whose PDAs will be bulging with appointments. Your challenge: lassoing them for face time.

Pedro & Agustin Almodovar, director & producer, El Deseo: Cannes will mark a first for a title from the Spanish brothers — competish entry “Volver” preems May 19 day-and-date in France, Italy and Switzerland. The fest visit also means forwarding upcoming projects. “Pedro uses promotion trips to advance and re-write screenplays,” says Agustin. Among the candidates: the long-mooted “Tarantula,” teaming Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, and “Dreamt Storm.”

Stefan Arndt, producer, X Filme: As head of Germany’s edgiest outfits X Filme Creative Pool, Arndt has overseen the Berlin-based shingle’s transformation from a local outfit into an increasingly international player eager to take on border-crossing projects such as “Love Life” and “Mongol.” Company continues to define modern German cinema with productions such as “Good Bye, Lenin!,” “Agnes and His Brothers,” “Summer in Berlin” and the upcoming “My Fuhrer — The Absolute Truth About Adolf Hitler.”

Jane Barclay: All eyes will be on Barclay to see what, if anything, has changed since premium sales outfit Capitol was sold to L.A.-based entrepreneur David Bergstein, who remains an object of suspicion in some quarters. With co-founder Sharon Harel bowing out to focus on producing, it falls to Barclay and legal eagle Hannah Leader to maintain Capitol’s solidgold reputation. Among her Cannes agenda items: Screening “Stormbreakers” to buyers for the first time.

Michael Barker & Tom Bernard, co-prexies, Sony Pictures Classics: “We find Cannes to be a very successful place for us,” says Barker, who’s a familiar presence on the Croisette along with his SPC partner-in-crime Bernard. The longtime duo was one of the few U.S. distribs at last year’s fest to actually acquire titles out of the official selection, including Palme d’Or winner “The Child,” French hit “Cache” and Oscar nominee “Merry Christmas.” This year, they unveil Pedro Almodovar’s latest, “Volver,” and a big new production to be announced May 23.

Daniel Battsek, president, Miramax: Less blustery and more cautious than his predecessors, the level-headed new leader of Miramax is looking to add movies to his slate. With no pics launching in Cannes, the slimmed-down Disney subsidiary could walk away with another potential crowdpleaser or critical fave, as it did in Toronto and Sundance. But if Battsek doesn’t like what he sees, you can bet he won’t plunge into a deal just to make the headlines.

Clare Binns: There’s not much point buying U.K. rights to a specialized movie if Clare Binns doesn’t like it. She’s the sole booker for most of Blighty’s key arthouses, across the City Screen and Curzon circuits, and she’s no soft touch. U.K. distribs (and foreign sales agents) at Cannes should be lining up to buy her drinks, dinner and whatever she fancies from the boutiques on rue d’Antibes.

Choi Geon-yong, exec director, Lotte Entertainment: Choi oversees film investment, production, distribution, acquisition and marketing at Lotte Entertainment, a division of South Korea’s massive Lotte conglom. Company has deep pockets and local clout thanks to its powerful exhibition arm, Lotte Cinema. Having recently launched an international sales arm, Choi is poised to emerge as a player on the international front.

Will Clarke, managing director, Optimum Releasing

Already considered the sharpest of Blighty’s niche distribs, Clarke has parlayed his wunderkind reputation into a rich-looking deal to sell his company to Gallic major Studio Canal. Suddenly he’ll have the pockets to compete for bigger Hollywood pics as well as his usual high-end auteur fare and edgy DVD fodder.

Stefano Dammicco, CEO, Eagle Pictures: Since entering Italy’s theatrical distribution arena five years ago, Dammicco’s Eagle has become a powerhouse with an 8% market share and $120 million in revenues. Now, as it flies higher, the bird has developed a taste for top-drawer fare including Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto,” along with genre pics. So look for Dammicco to be circling this market’s hot titles as he celebrates his company’s 20th anniversary.

Catherine Demier, managing director, Festival de Cannes: The friendly new face you’ll be seeing at the top of the red carpet this year is that of Cannes’ chief administrator. Hired in October to replace Veronique Cayla, Demier is a power player in French culture circles — she was former Culture Minister Catherine Tasca’s right-hand woman — as well as a top-ranking career civil servant who has been known to make captains of industry quake. Before joining the fest, she was managing director of Cour des Comptes, France’s equivalent of the General Accounting Office. “We haven’t been preparing one festival this year, we’ve been preparing two,” Demier says, referring to Cannes’ 60th-anni bash next year.

Bernd Eichinger, producer, Constantin Film: The most prolific Teutonic filmmaker around, Eichinger enjoys taking on challenging, even seemingly unfilmable, projects, like “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer,” one of Germany’s most popular novels of the past 20 years, and Oscar-nommed Hitler project “Downfall.” His next pic, a look at the Red Army Faction based on a book about the Baader Meinhof terrorist org, will surely prove equally complex. Eichinger’s vision and tenacity, not to mention an adolescent’s love for popcorn fare such as the “Fantastic Four” and “Resident Evil,” has cemented his status as a truly international producer.

Cassian Elwes & Rena Ronson, co-heads, WMI: The William Morris Agency’s indie unit toppers have helped finance, produce and/or sell some 150 films over the past decade. Expect to see the duo continue to work on their latest swath of pic projects in Cannes. They’ll also announce a new bridge financing fund, with projects to benefit from it including “If I’d Known I Was a Genius” and “Chlorine.”

Cissi Elwin, CEO, Swedish Film Institute: Nobody expected journalist and TV celebrity Elwin to be tapped the new CEO of the Swedish Film Institute. But with her attitude (“Success doesn’t come by chance”), business acumen (she recently turned Sweden’s biggest weekly into a cash cow) and plenty of social skills, she seems just right for representing the Swedish film biz and making valuable contacts on the Riviera. With state subsidies for local pics increasing by 30% to $40 million annually in the next few years, chances are good for her to become popular among Sweden’s hard-pressed filmmakers, too.

Wilson Feitosa, partner, Europa Filmes: A co-founder of Brazil’s No. 1 indie distrib, Feitosa has a great eye for kudos bait (“The English Patient,” “The Pianist,” “Traffic”). “About 90% of the films we’ve released theatrically were bought at the script stage in Cannes,” he notes. He’ll again be on a mission to pre-buy prestige pics on the Riviera. A video pioneer in the ’80s, Europa also recently ventured into pic production by investing in two commercial local projects with media giant Globo.

David Groenewold, financier, producer, GFP Medienfonds: One of the few film fund managers still active in the local industry, Groenewold was quick to turn adversity into opportunity after the German government cracked down on tax shelter funds by
using investors’ capital to take over Odeon Film, one of Germany’s leading film and TV production companies. Groenewold has long championed local German productions, most recently the crowd-pleasing soccer romantic comedy “FC Venus,” and has worked with most of the country’s producers — something he hopes to continue with Odeon.

Andres Vicente Gomez, CEO, Lolafilms: The cigar-chomping producer of pics by Orson Welles (“Fake”) and Carlos Saura (“Goya”) will be donning his senior-industry-figure cap as prexy of fest-regulating FIAPF to host its general assembly and to present material from his latest production, Menno Meyjes’ Adrien Brody-Penelope Cruz romancer “Manolete.” But Gomez is a producer of big pics (for Spain) and big pronouncements on big occasions. Don’t be surprised if he wields a Montecristo to make one on the Croisette. Like Gomez, it’s a tradition at Cannes.

Samuel Hadida: France’s most active co-financier and co-producer of big-ticket fare had a hand in “Silent Hill,” which hauled in a boffo $31 million in its U.S. opening weekend in April. Other recent credits include Argentine Oscar entry “El Aura” and “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

Gary Hamilton, CEO, Arclight: In a nod to Asia’s burgeoning film-export potential, Hamilton has added banner Easternlight to his 4-year-old shingle, which includes horror division Darclight. The Aussie recently moved to Los Angeles and will be touting a hefty 25 new titles in Cannes. “Buyers are very, very hungry,” he says. “It’s going to be a good market.” Topping his list is Emilio Estevez’s “Bobby” and Richard Roxburgh’s directorial debut “Romulus, My Father,” with Eric Bana and Franka Potente.

Carlos Hansen, founder/general manager, Bazuca Films: Hansen has steered his pic distribbery to capture an 8% share of the Chilean market in 2005 — his indie rivals managed a combined share of just 5% the prior year. Hansen, who studied for six months at Georgia Tech, attributes the success to marketing alliances with diverse partners such as gas stations and drugstore chains. He plans to buy at least 15 titles in Cannes to meet his company mandate of 36 releases a year.

Alfredo Harp Calderoni, head, Santo Domingo Films: Repping a new Mexican face in Cannes this year, Harp Calderoni and his Santo Domingo shingle have made a big splash over the last year, co-financing “Innocent Voices,” “Mezcal,” upcoming Altavista pics “Morirse en Domingo” and “Malos Habitos,” Lemon Films’ “Km. 31” and Miravista’s “Cansado de besar ranas.” Son of Mexican banking tycoon Alfredo Harp Helu, whom Forbes values at $1.4 billion, Harp Calderoni is VP of his pop’s philanthropic foundation. With a reputation to build, scion will be looking for worthy cases in Cannes.

Rick Hess: In the wake of the recent departure of longtime international/finance honcho John Ptak, Hess becomes head of CAA’s indie department. Expect him, along with five other agents from the unit, to be at Cannes in full force. With clients including Jeff Skoll’s Participant and Bill Pohlad’s River Road, which financed “Brokeback Mountain,” these dealmakers will be busy setting up new projects.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu & Guillermo del Toro, Mexican helmers: These old pals from Mexico will compete against each other in Cannes for the first time. Gonzalez Inarritu (“Babel”) kickstarted his career in Cannes with his Camera d’Or-winning “Amores Perros,” while del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) has made the horror/fantasy genre his own. Like their friend Alfonso Cuaron, they have straddled both Spanish- and English-language markets and are supporting a younger generation of Latin American/Spanish filmmakers by producing or simply lending their name to films.

Mathieu Kassovitz, actor-helmer: The multihyphenate of “La Haine” and “Munich” fame has added another string to his bow by producing B&W, surrealist-inspired “Avida,” an official selection at Cannes. Kassovitz will be in Cannes for its debut and to trumpet his long-gestating “Babylon A.D.,” his big-budget, English-language adaptation of the French novel by Maurice Dantec, with Vin Diesel slated to topline. (Fox has worldwide rights outside Europe, with Studio Canal selling Europe.) Kassovitz’s shingle MNP produces along with Alain Goldman’s Legende Films. “I love Cannes,” says Kassovitz. “I don’t go out very much, and there you can do it all in a week. You can see everyone. I’ve been as a director, I’ve been as an actor and it’s great to be going as a producer.”

Chihiro Kameyama, producer, Fuji TV: The power behind Japan’s production powerhouse Fuji TV, Kameyama is a quick-talking, quick-thinking dynamo whose TV-derived, market-driven approach has yielded hit after blockbuster hit in the past decade. His biggest franchise to date — the four “Bayside Shakedown” pics– has grossed more than $300 million in Japan alone, but has had less success abroad. Kameyama aims to change that with “Suite Dreams,” the Koki Mitani ensemble comedy based on MGM classic “Grand Hotel,” about a wild New Year’s Eve at a ritzy hotel. Coming to Cannes, the film, with a $40 million-plus B.O., is this year’s biggest domestic hit to date. It’s being sold by Fuji TV and Pony Canyon.

Bill Kong, producer: Mild-mannered Kong deflects personal publicity at all costs, but is unquestionably Asia’s top producer. Near-invisibility, sharp instincts and superb political connections in China allow him to get the biggest Chinese films of the new century produced — and profitably distributed. With the new Zhang Yimou epic “City of Golden Armour,” the Hong Kong-based producer already has the Christmas season sewn up. He’s simultaneously expanding exhibition interests with AMC.

Oscar Kramer, producer, Kramer & Sigman Films: Kramer is on a roll, producing pics with Europe that are drawing crowds in his native Argentina and abroad, such as Carlos Sorin’s “El Perro.” He has Adrian Caetano’s political thriller “Cronica de una fuga” in Cannes competition and is touting projects, including Sorin’s road pic “El camino de San Diego” and Hector Babenco’s “El pasado” — starring Gael Garcia Bernal — with an eye to bigger budgets and wider releases.

Peter Lam & John Chong, chairman & deputy chair/CEO, Media Asia: A textiles and real estate magnate with a massive yacht in Cannes, Lam will be unmissable. But the attitude and bling are more than skin-deep. He’s shaping his property, film and talent agency interests into something more cohesive, not least as a leader in the budding Macau gaming/entertainment sector. He has a controlling share in Hong Kong’s leading producer/distrib Media Asia, which clocks 30% of the local B.O. And with deputy Chong now solidly at the helm, Media Asia’s movie unit can also accelerate.

Alejandro Lebrija, head of acquisitions, Gussi: As buyer for Mexico’s biggest indie distrib, which had a very strong 2005 and will release more than 40 pics this year, he’s got the leverage to snag the titles he wants. He’ll be looking at the most commercial Cannes fare, aiming to repeat last year’s successes with pickups such as “The Grudge” and “Million Dollar Baby.” Gussi also is buying more Mexican films at the script stage and just launched a Spanish-language video label Stateside.

Lee Eun, CEO, MK Pictures: Lee heads the publicly listed South Korean production/distribution company MK Pictures together with his wife, uberproducer Shim Jae-myung, and director Kang Jae-gyu. In the past year, Lee has struck multiple deals across Asia, hooking up with Beijing Polybona and Eastern Dragon to build multiplexes and launch IPTV in China, and signing a deal to co-produce content with Gonzo in Japan.

John Lesher: Par’s busy new specialty chief will introduce his division to the international bizzers in Cannes with a soiree. The former Endeavor agency partner also has “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Babel,” helmed by former client Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, in the festival. And he’s likely to be making deals on future productions and acquisitions in Cannes, given his taste for arty foreign di
rectors.

David Linde, co-chairman, Universal Pictures: As U’s new co-chieftain with Marc Shmuger, the former Focus topper won’t be working on the nitty-gritty details of the specialty arm’s active overseas business anymore. But Linde vows he won’t abandon the relationships with filmmakers and international players he has cultivated over the years. He will be in Cannes supporting Pedro Almodovar’s “Volver,” on which Focus reps international rights, and to tout the global launch of U’s out-of-competition European premiere “United 93.”

Richard Linklater, director: If “Before Sunset” displayed the Texas auteur’s love for the French, the Cannes festival is returning the compliment. In his first trip to the Intl. Festival du Film, Linklater is breaking ground on the Cote d’Azur with two features, Un Certain Regard entry “A Scanner Darkly,” coming out in the U.S. this summer from WIP, and competition pic “Fast Food Nation,” which Fox Searchlight likely will launch this fall.

Victor Loewy & Patrice Theroux, Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture Distribution: Company chairman Loewy and CEO Theroux couldn’t be more different, but together this Canuck duo oversees one of the world’s leading independent film distribs. Alliance Atlantis now runs distribution operations in Canada, the U.K. and Spain. Loewy is the gruff tough-talker who’s been pals with the top indie players for three decades. Theroux works quietly behind the scenes, making the deals. They plan to acquire more than usual at Cannes this year because their Spanish company, Aurum, is set to double its theatrical output this year.

Troy Lum, prexy, Hopscotch Distribution: Lum is an astute Aussie buyer with a wad of cash to spend on the Croisette thanks to pickup “Mrs. Henderson Presents” minting A$6 million ($4.5 million) for the shingle. He has no significant Oz pics to handle this year, and Lum’s looking for titles across the budget spectrum. “Cannes is a very acquisitive market for us, usually,” he says.

Vincent Maraval, Wild Bunch: With six films in competition and another six dotted throughout other fest sections, the Paris-based international sales specialist owns Cannes this year. Maraval, who heads up sales efforts, is bracing himself for a busy market. “It would have been preferable to have had three films last year and three this year,” he quips. “It’s a lot to handle.” Company also will be busy flogging future projects, including Woody Allen’s next pic, lensing in London this summer. Wild Bunch also launched theatrical and video distribution operations in Gaul last year, and is bidding to do the same in other European territories.

Elba McAllister, prexy, Cineplex: A 13-year distribution vet, McAllister expects Colombia-based Cineplex to capture a 5% market share this year, up from its average 3% share, thanks to its release of successes such as “Brokeback Mountain.” She has informal deals with the likes of Ang Lee, Lars von Trier, Wong Kar Wai and Takeshi Kitano. Company will release eight to 12 pics this year. McAllister is looking to buy Colombian, Central American or Pan Latin rights to three or four major titles at Cannes.

Nick Meyer, president, Lionsgate Intl.: A sharp negotiator who can speak five languages, Meyer will bring his considerable diplomatic skills to five Marche premieres, ranging from potential horror smash “Saw III” to William Friedkin’s “Bug,” as well as closing deals on Jet Li starrer “Rogue” and thrillers “Devil to Pay” and Sundance acquisition “Right at Your Door.” With added clout in the marketplace due to recent hits “Crash” and “Hostel” and the purchase of U.K. distributor Redbus to form Lionsgate U.K., Meyer is expecting his most significant Cannes ever.

Agnieszka Odorowicz, Polish Film Institute: At age 31, Odorowicz has become the driving force behind the newly minted Polish Film Institute, which boasts an annual budget of more than $30 million. In her former post at the Polish Ministry of Culture, she helped to push legislation for the institute through parliament, creating Europe’s newest subsidy body. She’ll be in Cannes supporting two debut fest features from Polish helmers — Adam Guzinski’s “The Boy on the Galloping Horse” and Slawomir Fabicki’s “Retrieval” — and to promote Poland as destination for co-productions.

Simon Perry, chief exec, Irish Film Board: Hirsute, loquacious, Francophile, cerebral and conspiratorial — the new topper of the Irish funding body has all the qualities his fellow Brits mistrust but the Europeans adore. That should make him the ideal man to drag the Irish filmmaking community away from its dependence on U.K. co-production and into a more fertile relationship with the rest of the continent. If you spot him in Cannes, he’ll probably be plotting in corners with Slovaks, Hungarians, Danes and Belgians for an alliance of small countries to take on the big boys.

Domenico Procacci, producer, Fandango: Italy’s only producer with the motivation and the moolah to make movies that truly transcend national confines, Procacci comes to Cannes behind two hot titles in the official selection, Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Family Friend” and Rolf de Heer’s “Ten Canoes.” Last year, Fandango branched out into into book publishing, and Procacci holds a controlling stake in U.K.-based the Works Media Group. He’s currently shepherding his most ambitious pic to date, Keira Knightley starrer “Silk.”

Michael Ritto, CEO, Nordisk Film: The new CEO of Scandinavian powerhouse Nordisk Film brings a very vital 100-year-old to Cannes. With a well-lined wallet — revenue increased by $82 million to $426 million last year — Nordisk is set to beef up acquisitions and present new productions at the fest. And Ritto, known for combining creativity with business after 30 years in the Danish music biz, is guiding the company into an entirely new business area — the music industry.

Brian Rosen, CEO, Film Finance Corp.: As topper of the Australian government’s financing body, Rosen has $27 million per annum to invest in features. At Cannes, he’ll be stressing that, starting in July, funding will occur four times a year, not monthly, upping the competition for producers. To tap the loot, non-Aussies will need to co-produce with a local. FFC, meanwhile, has a stake in four films unspooling at Cannes: “Jindabyne,” “Ten Canoes,” “Suburban Mayhem” and “Look Both Ways.”

Yasushi Shiina, Asmik Ace prexy & CEO: An experienced acquisitions man with extensive contacts in Hollywood and elsewhere, the bluff, personable Shiina has built Japan’s Asmik Ace, in less than a decade, into a mini-major that both makes and distributes pics in every category, from arthouse gems to wide releases, including “The Ring” series of Japan horror hits. Up for 2006 are “Munich,” “Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” local dramedy “The Mamiya Brothers” and romantic comedy “Honey and Clover.” Shiina and his team will be talking up the latter two at Cannes.

Joni Sighvatsson, producer, Palomar Pictures: The Icelandic native who has spent years in Hollywood has turned his focus back to Europe of late. He now owns 75% of Scandi distrib Scanbox, which celebrates its 20th anni this year; and likely will be trolling the Croisette for more purchase propositions. He also has two arty pics he produced, “Districted” and “Zidane,” in the festival; and his sales company Katapult reps another fest entry, “The Hawk Is Dying,” in Directors Fortnight.

Jeff Skoll & Ricky Strauss, CEO & prexy, Participant Prods.: Besides championing the benefits of recycling and the presence of their new pics, “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Fast Food Nation,” in Cannes’ official selection, the progressive, passionate Participant duo (“Syriana,” “Good Night, and Good Luck”) will be working to raise their global profile. “It’s important to expand our brand and awareness in the international film community,” says Strauss. And if a strong project comes their way during the festival — as “Fast Food Nation” did last year — they’d be prepared “to m
ove quickly” says Strauss, and make a deal again.

Harry Sloan & Rick Sands, chairman and COO, MGM: The forward-thinking founder of Europe’s SBS web and the market-savvy former Miramaxer are building the old lion into a domestic distrib home for some of the most active U.S. independents, including the Weinstein Co., Sidney Kimmel Entertainment and the Yari Group. At their first Cannes together, expect them to be supporting these indies as well as re-establishing some foreign ties, particularly Sands, who ran Miramax’s international operations for years.

Jeremy Thomas, producer, Recorded Picture Co.: He hates being described as a veteran, but what else do you call the Oscar-winning producer who has been more successful and more original for longer than anyone else in Blighty? Back in competition this year with Richard Linklater’s polemic “Fast Food Nation,” he will be wheeling and dealing to set up Bernardo Bertolucci’s next project, “Bel Canto,” and trying to perform a miracle by resurrecting Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.”

Alison Thompson, prexy, Focus Intl.: This personable former Pathe exec had already started to take over from David Linde as the foreign face of Focus before Linde was spirited away to run the parent studio. Her mandate is make Focus even hotter by beefing up the international element of its sales and production slate, more than half of which already comes from outside North America.

David Thompson & Steve Jenkins: The BBC has announced a big budget increase for the production (Thompson) and acquisition (Jenkins) of British films. It doesn’t kick in until ’07, but smart producers will be starting to curry favor now — particularly with Jenkins, who will have so much new cash that he’ll struggle to spend it all, and whose pre-buy terms may be more attractive than Thompson’s production deals. Jenkins is also the first call for U.K. distribs wanting to know whether they can sell on the TV rights for possible Cannes pick-ups.

Patrick Wachsberger, CEO, Summit Entertainment: As one of the most high-profile product suppliers to overseas distribs, Wachsberger can be counted on to bring several new films to the Riviera confab. He recently snagged the foreign rights to one of the most buzzy projects headed for market, an adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Love in the Time of Cholera,” starring Javier Bardem.

Wang Zhongjun & Wang Zhonglei, prexy and COO, Huayi Brothers: As toppers of the most serious private sector producer/distrib in the mainland China biz, the Wangs will be delivering proof of their arrival on the international scene. The Beijing-based shingle’s sales arm will make its Cannes debut, where it will introduce several new projects (they’re the only mainland players to produce with budgets over $15 million) and the latest footage of jury member Ziyi Zhang starrer “The Banquet.” They’ll also throw a lavish Cannes banquet for “The Banquet.”

Bob & Harvey Weinstein, co-chairmen, the Weinstein Co.: The brothers know how to turn Cannes to their advantage (witness the launch of “Fahrenheit 9/11” and last year’s cash influx announcement). What surprises are in store for the brothers’ first fest as born-again true indies? Actively finalizing deals on films such as “Grindhouse,” “Killshot” and “Clerks II,” preparing the foreign distribution of finished product and lots of announcements, according to TWC’s new international topper Glen Basner. “We have benefits over a sales company,” he says. “We’re distributors, as well, and can help the films perform better.”

Francois Yon, CEO, Films Distribution: The Paris-based sales outfit Yon runs with partner Nicolas Brigaud-Robert has been around nearly a decade, but moved up several notches on the Cannes radar by last year repping “Merry Christmas” (later nominated for an Oscar) and Radu Mihaileanu’s “Go, See and Become.” This year, shingle has three pics in competition: “Days of Glory,” “Flanders” and “The Weakest Is Always Right.” “Our success today is the fruit of years of working alongside the same producers and talent,” says Yon, a U.S.-educated, fluent English speaker.

Yu Dong, CEO, Poly Bona: While China’s revenue-share quotas are largely reserved for the biggest Hollywood blockbuster imports, there is an alternative Chinese distribution option. Yu’s Beijing production-distribution outfit Poly Bona is making inroads with commercial films imported on a flat-fee basis. No arthouse butterfly, he’s paying decent money for U.S. and European pics, such as French hit “Brice de Nice.”

Tom Yoda & Yasuhide Uno, Gaga chairman & CEO: The new management team that’s shaking up Japan’s biggest independent distrib Gaga. Both come from outside the film industry: Yoda was the power behind Avex, one of Japan’s biggest record labels, while Uno has built Gaga parent Usen into a major supplier of broadband services. They bring fresh eyes to a 20-year-old Gaga — which was innovative, risk-taking and, when Usen acquired it in 2005, in serious financial trouble. They’ve since scored several B.O. winners, including “Phantom of the Opera,” while trimming a once-bloated release slate and venturing into film production, starting with “First Love,” a heist pic starring Aoi Miyazaki (“Nana”) that will have its market debut at Cannes.

Bernardo Zupnik, president, Distribution Co.: Topper of Argentina’s biggest indie, and his daughter Paula (head of acquisitions), will be in Cannes loading up on British, French and U.S. titles. Their biz is buoyed by a growing economy that’s tipped to drive up attendance by 5%-7% this year. Company did well with “Brokeback Mountain” and “Final Destination 3,” and with riskier local titles such as “Family Law” and “Enlightened by Fire” to hang on to its 10% local market share in 2005, outpacing majors including Columbia TriStar and Paramount as well as challenging leaders like Universal.

(Written by Michaela Boland, Marcelo Cajueiro, Adam Dawtrey, Patrick Frater, Anna Marie de la Fuente, Katja Hofmann, John Hopewell, Alison James, Anthony Kaufman, Brendan Kelly, Pia Lundberg, Ed Meza, Charles Newbery, Michael O’Boyle, Darcy Paquet, Mark Schilling, Sharon Swart and Nick Vivarelli.)

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