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UDI boards Fuentes-Leon’s ‘Elephant’

Vibrant San Sebastian gets industry thumbs-up

SAN SEBASTIAN — France’s Urban Distribution Intl. will produce and sell Javier Fuentes-Leon’s “The Vanished Elephant,” a standout at San Sebastian’s first Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum.

Reteaming Peru’s El Calvo Films and Colombia’s Dynamo Prods., “Elephant” is Fuentes-Leon’s follow-up to debut “Undertow,” a Sundance 2010 Audience Award winner.

Urban Factory, UDI’s Paris-based production house, will co-produce “Elephant,” a Lima-set “psychological thriller with film noir touches,” as Fuentes-Leon defined it at the Forum. UDI will handle worldwide sales rights outside producers’ territories.

“We are attracted by Javier Fuentes-Leon’s talent; the film is like ‘L.A. Confidential’ shot in Lima,” said UDI’s Eric Schnedecker.

” ‘The Vanished Elephant’ takes film noir characteristics, a genre all cinephiles love — the sharp dialogues, the lonely anti-hero, the femme fatale, the chiaroscuro lighting, the fog — to a bustling city like Lima,” agreed Dynamo’s Michel Ruben.

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Fuentes-Leon aims to shoot “Elephant” mid-2013 in Lima, during its foggy grey winter.

“Elephant’s” UDI pact was one of multiple deals announced, clinched or in the making at a 60th San Sebastian festival that saw the event, already the biggest in the Spanish-speaking world, step up a significant notch in industry presence.

“We sensed as soon as we arrived at San Sebastian that a lot more buyers were there: Not just Latinos and the Spanish and French industry, but from other territories as well,” said Vincent Maraval at Wild Bunch, which had four films in Competition.

“For Wild Bunch, the ideal option is (to show films at) Toronto then San Sebastian,” Maraval added.

Maraval highlighted “the very good selection, the organization, the good buzz on San Sebastian, the good food, the quality of relationships,” as reasons for more industry presence.

Also, buyers can access potential breakouts. Rezo, for instance, acquired from Gallic co-producer Noodles French distribution rights to helmer Pablo Berger’s black and while, silent cinema homage “Blancanieves.” The riff on the Snow White tale was a Toronto hit, a San Seb competition favorite and is Spain’s entry for foreign language Oscar consideration.

A Paris screening Friday to press and exhibitors was “triumphant,” Rezo’s Laurent Danielou told Variety.

“Blancanieves'” sales agent Dreamcatchers was on Friday “closing the U.S. distribution as we speak, with many distribution companies in the running, plus Germany, U.K. Japan and Italy,” said topper Marina Fuentes.

Films in Progress winners — Chilean Sebastian Lelio’s comedy “Gloria,” and Uruguayan family drama “Too Much Water,” from Ana Guevara and Leticia Jorge — will also see sales traction.

Prominent European sales agents were lining up to make a play for “Gloria” at FIP’s prize ceremony Wednesday night.

On “Water,” producer Control Z is negotiating with several sales agents and has received distribution offers, “including from a significant territory,” producer Agustina Chiarino said Friday. Lap TV acquired all Latin American pay TV rights outside Brazil just before San Sebastian.

Beyond a second Dynamo title (Carlos Moreno’s “On With the Music!”), buzzed-up projects at San Sebastian’s two-day Co-production Forum, which closed Friday, included pics from talented Argentine distaff helmers: Ana Katz (“My Park Friend”), Victoria Galardi (“I Thought It Was a Party”) and Anahi Berneri (“Open Air”).

Spanish pubcaster RTVE has pre-bought TV rights to Alejo Flah’s “Easy Sex & Sad Movies.” Mexico’s Arte Mecanica will co-produce the Cuba-set mutant monster movie “Claria,” producer Luis Angel Ramirez’s directorial debut.

Two first feature projects provoked lively post-pitch discussions: Guatemalan Jayro Bustamante’s Maja Zimmermann-produced “El escuadron de la muerte,” a village-set black comedy, and Bolivian Arancibia Flores’ hilariously dysfunctional “Poorly Fucked.”

The Co-production Forum goosed San Sebastian’s industry presence, and drew praise.

“Films in Progress has been an industry meeting point for many years,” said M-Appeal’s Maren Kroymann.

“But Co-production Forum projects range far wider from radical arthouse to more commercial with cast, attracting a wider selection of producers, sales agents and distributors,” she added.

For Wanda Films’ Jose Maria Morales, the Forum was “an interesting alternative highlighting one current Latin American production trend: Films that can do well at festivals and the box office.”

As ever, San Sebastian sparked a swathe of Spanish deals and announcements: Rogelio Delgado’s Cada Films acquired Spanish distribution rights to Brazilian director-actor Selton Mello’s “The Clown,” Brazil’s Oscar entry, in a deal closed by David Castellanos’ Cinema Republic; Imagina Intl. Sales took international rights to Basque actors Patxo Telleria and Aitor Mazo’s romantic comedy “Bypass,” playing San Sebastian’s Zabaltegi Specials sidebar.

Elena Manrique, a former Telecinco Cinema producer, unveiled new film-TV shingle Film Fatal. One early project is “Delirio,” a romantic comedy co-produced with Colombia’s 64 A-Films, helmed by Spain’s Chus Gutierrez.

Teaming with Valencia’s Malvarrosa Media, Film Fatal is co-producing “En la casa,” which Manrique described as “Paranormal Activity” meets “Big Brother.”

Emilio Mayorga contributed to this article.

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