Deauville positions fall U.S. titles

Sets season for film openings in France

The Deauville Festival of American Cinema sets up the season for U.S. product in France, if it can deliver stars. The low wattage on the red carpet this year gave docus and indies some space to shine.

You can’t buy TV spots for theatrical releases in France, so any air time to be had from a fest like Deauville is golden. Hollywood majors with pics coming out in the wake of the festival make all they can out of the media spotlight.

Newly open for business, Universal Pictures Intl. France has three of its first four releases here: “Changeling,” “Hell Boy II” and “Mamma Mia!” But there was no Stateside talent here to back them up.

In contrast, Sony had U.S. helmers in town for three of its fall openers, Ira Sachs’ “Married Life,” Errol Morris’ “Standard Operating Procedure” and Neil LaBute’s “Lakeview Terrace,” with “Lakeview” topliner Samuel L. Jackson hogging the limelight early on.

Local distributors aim for a similar effect, with TFM Distribution cashing in on the European preem of Spike Lee’s “Miracle at St. Anna” and Metropolitan Filmexport boosting Ed Harris’ “Appaloosa.” Both men were guests of honor at the fest.

Meanwhile, the attention for Jay Roach’s “Recount,” with Kevin Spacey refighting the 2000 election standoff in Florida, will pay back for broadcaster (and major fest sponsor) Orange. Under an output deal with producer HBO, the film will not see theaters but go directly to the new Orange Cinema Service, launching later this year.

The fest competition emphasizes independent cinema, giving the few with distribution a strong local launchpad. CTV Intl. unveiled a theatrical version of Antonio Campos’ “Afterschool” that’s 15 minutes shorter than the version that played at Cannes. It hits screens Oct. 1.

TFM, meanwhile, has three titles competing, all going out before year’s end: Noam Murro’s “Smart People,” Tom McCarthy’s “The Visitor” and Alan Ball’s “Towelhead.”

Deauville has also become a useful place to launch documentaries, with distributors using the fest to test audience, press and exhibitor reactions. “Deauville is where you start building your strategy,” explains Cyril Burkel, in charge of acquisitions at Metropolitan.

Its docu at the fest, Marina Zenovich’s “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” won press coverage when the helmer let slip she had French prexy Nicholas Sarkozy in her sights for a follow-up.

From the competition, early press attention went to Damian Harris’ child abuse drama “Gardens of the Night,” starring Tom Arnold. Pic currently has no distribution in Gaul.