Campion’s ‘Star’ rises with Berney

Distribution outfit announces first buy

Bob Berney and Bill Polhad’s new, still-unnamed U.S. distribution outfit has made its first announced buy, acquiring all U.S. rights to director Jane Campion’s Cannes competish pic “Bright Star.”

Set in the early 19th century, “Star” is based on the true story of the passionate but ill-fated love affair between English Romantic poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne. While the relationship inspired some of Keats’ greatest poetry, the affair was condemned by English society.

“Bright Star,” which was also scripted by Campion, will be released by Pathe in France on July 22 and in the U.K. by Warner Bros., with whom Pathe inked a strategic distribution deal in March.

Pathe Intl. is handling international sales.

Deal underscores one of the festival’s main business interests: allowing competition players that haven’t already sold out worldwide to secure major territory deals.

Jan Chapman (“The Piano,” “Lantana”) and Caroline Hewitt (“Mr Bean’s Vacation”) produced thepic for Pathe, Screen Australia, BBC Films and the U.K. Film Council.

” ‘Bright Star’ is a tour-de-force from Jane Campion,” said Berney. “She has created a film that’s classic yet uniquely modern. The film captures the love and unbridled passion between Keats and Fanny in a way that transcends period and will connect with young audiences today.”

Francois Ivernel, exec VP of Pathe, added: “We are delighted to be involved with Bill and Bob’s new venture. We trust their impeccable taste and distribution acumen in bringing ‘Bright Star’ to American audiences.”

Elsa Keslassy contributed to this report.