New Black Films rides into Tour de France docu

Helmer Eskine depicts tragic life of Italian cyclist Pantani

LONDON — As the U.K. basks in the success of Bradley Wiggins, the first Brit to win the Tour de France, one of the epic cycling race’s previous winners is the subject of a new feature documentary.

“The Accidental Death of a Cyclist” follows Italian Marco Pantani, who died of drug abuse at 34 in 2004. Pantani was a double winner of the Tour and the Giro d’Italia.

Docu reunites helmer James Erskine and London’s New Black Films. The combo made theatrical docus “One Night in Turin,” British soccer star Paul Gascoigne, and “From the Ashes,” about cricket.

“Cyclist” is slated for U.K. theatrical release in May, ahead of the 100th edition of the Tour.

Victoria Gregory, one of the producers of hit motor racing theatrical docu “Senna” and producer of “Man On a Wire,” will produce alongside Erskine.

Erskine said, “This is not just a film about cycling, but a psychological exploration of what drives athletes to compete; the masochistic pursuit of victory, to the point of self-destruction.”

He added, “It will look in detail at the nature of what it means to be a sporting champion and what great victories mean, in the controversial context of the doping allegations that continue to plague the sport.”

Film will use race archive and contemporary news footage, stylised dramatic reconstructions and interviews with Pantani’s friends, family, colleagues, and rivals.

4Rights, the rights exploitation arm of U.K. pubcaster Channel 4, will handle the home entertainment release of the film via its 4DVD label.

New Black Films has sold Australian and New Zealand rights to Madman Entertainment.

World sales will be handled by Goldcrest Films Intl.

Executive production duties are being handled by Robert Jolliffe at Goldcrest Capital and by Dominic Schreiber, rights development manager at 4Rights.

Schreiber said: “We’ve been big fans of James and Victoria’s work for some time.

“After the success of ‘Senna’, it’s clear there is a real demand for well-crafted films that combine stunning archive with brilliant storytelling.”