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Mideast films secure record prices in U.S.

Sony Classics nabs 'Band,' Roadside takes 'Caramel'

“The Band’s Visit” and “Caramel,” the two Mideast pics that sparked bidding wars among U.S. distribs, have inked deals that could well be the richest ever for films from their respective countries.

Israel’s “Band’s,” playing in Un Certain Regard, has been picked up by Sony Pictures Classics in a deal reputedly in the low six figures. Those familiar with the bidding say it eclipsed the previous high for an Israeli pic, which was “Walk on Water,” released Stateside through Samuel Goldwyn in 2005.

“We had the same feeling watching this movie that we did last year watching ‘The Lives of Others.’ Here’s a 32-year-old director and the birth of a major international filmmaker,” said Michael Barker, co-topper of Sony Pictures Classics, about helmer Eran Kolirin. “The film is rich, entertaining, humorous and fresh.”

Lebanon’s “Caramel,” playing in Directors’ Fortnight, has been picked up by Roadside Attractions. U.S. distrib held off big interest from IFC.

“Caramel” has drawn a lot of market buzz following a rapturous reception. A seven-minute ovation following its official screening had distribs salivating.

Deals have been inked with A La Mode films in Germany and Austria, Switzerland’s Frenetic Films, Canada’s Seville Films, Australia’s Hopscotch, Turkey’s Chantier Film and Brazil’s Lumiere.

Pic will also be released across Scandinavia by Atlantic, Holland’s Gutek, Spain’s Alpa Classics, Portugal’s Atalanta and Greece’s Rosebud. Bac Films is handling Gaul release and Sabbah Media will open the pic across the Middle East.

“It’s rare to sell a film to such a diversified range of people and territories. It shows the film’s universal message,” said sales agent Roissy Films’ CEO Raphael Berdugo, who handled pic’s international sales.

Both Kolirin and “Caramel” helmer Nadine Labaki are up for the Camera D’Or.

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