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‘Joe,’ ‘Philomena,’ ‘Tracks’ Ignite Big Buzz at Venice Film Festival

Several competition titles sparks sales and bode well for international indie commerce

Philomena,” “Tracks” and “Joe” (pictured) looked like early standouts for buyers as a buoyant Venice festival, energized by a bullish reception for Warner Bros.’ opener “Gravity,” hits the midway mark.

While deals begun at Venice traditionally close at Toronto, the attendance of Harvey Weinstein, Glen Basner, Stuart Ford and Nicolas Chartier on the Lido underscores just how seriously some of the world’s top indie players still take the positioning of a film at the world’s oldest festival. Led by the Match Factory, Elle Driver and Films Distribution, three of the European arthouse-crossover sales agents with the most movies on the Lido, a clutch of U.S. and European companies had also begun to spark offers at the sophomore Venice Film Market.

Attendance is up 34% to 1,605 guests for the four-day market.

Stephen Frears’ “Philomena,” with Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, was widely pre-sold widely coming into the festival, most notably the Weinstein Co.’s North America buy at Cannes. Venice’s reaction, with reviews ranging from upbeat to ecstatic, should ensure “Philomena” sells out the few territories — the CIS, South Korea and China — still available at Toronto.

Tracks,” John Curran’s adventure story starring Mia Wasikowska, has received new major territory offers, said a source at sales agent HanWay.

David Gordon Green’s drama “Joe,” with Nicolas Cage’s performance garnering raves, is sparking wide buyer interest.

The Match Factory’s Brigitte Suarez told Variety it had opened negotiations in multiple territories on all its Venice movies: Kelly Reichardt’s “Night Moves” and “The Police Officer’s Wife,” both competition contenders, and Venice Days’ “The Good Life.” Deals will close at Venice or Toronto, she added.

Elle Driver nabbed Italian “The Art of Happiness,” an ambitious animated drama targeting adult auds. Rezo announced worldwide sales on “Traitors,” the directorial bow of “Pi” co-scribe Sean Gullette.

Acquired recently for France by Diaphana, the WestEnd-sold Israeli-Palestinian relationship drama “Bethlehem” was sparking buzz, as was “The Quispe Girls,” produced by Chilean shingle Fabula; Swipe Films picked up the Pinochet-era drama.

Going forward, Venice Film Market topper Pascal Diot reiterated that the Final Cut in Venice workshop, which supports African films in post-production, will be opened to other national and regional industries, certainly the Middle East, and that he is mulling a new co-production mart.

“I want Venice to become not just a place where you make deals on completed films shown here, but where deals are made on films to be made in the future,” he said.

Deals on the Lido, however, are just the opening shots in the late summer-early fall sales season.

“A well-received and well-executed Venice appearance builds buzz and anticipation among Toronto buyers, who tend not to go to Venice but watch the responses there closely,” said IM Global’s Stuart Ford.

“Venice is very prestigious and a great place to launch a film, gain some momentum and get some good reviews going into Toronto,” agreed Christopher Woodrow at Worldview Entertainment, which has “Joe” and “The Sacrament.”

(Leo Barraclough and Elsa Keslassy contributed to this report.)

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