‘Missing Picture’ Catches Sales Fire

Films Distribution sells on ‘Salvo,’ ‘Castle,’ ‘Suzanne’

MADRID — Deeply personal, tragic recollections from a former teen-victim of Pol Pot’s genocide hardly seem the feel-good fare that arthouse distributors worldwide are held now to crave.

So, coming after other companies’ sales announcements late last week, the half-dozen-or-so international deals secured by Films Distribution on Cambodian Rithy Panh’s “The Missing Picture,” even before it won Cannes Un Certain Regard on Saturday night, are a further sign of an encouraging resilience in overseas arthouse pic markets.

Standout titles among films selected for the Cannes festival saw an often impressive volume of initial territory deals. Taking in Cannes Critics’ Week winner “Salvo,” Cannes licensing deals for Films Distribution, a Paris-based doyen of the arthouse/crossover sales biz, also highlight other trends. Among them: Japan is back at the table.

On the downside, after a decade or more slide, prices paid for art pics have yet to recover.

World preeming on Cannes’ first Sunday, “Missing Picture” closed weighty territories pre-prize: Japan (Astaire), the U.K. (New Wave), Australia (Natalie Miller), Taiwan (Pomi) and Portugal (Atalanta).

“Having a documentary entry in a star-driven festival like Cannes is very difficult but we felt so strongly about ‘Missing Picture,’ a movie that is very different and in many ways extraordinary, that we begged our buyers to give us their trust and make time in their agenda,” said Films Distribution partner Nicolas Brigaud-Robert.

Films Distribution is now in discussions for the U.S.

Delivered in voiceover by actor Randal Douc, Panh’s first-person narration allows for local-language dubs, Brigaud-Robert added.

Building on upbeat reviews, including from mainstream media, “Salvo’s” Critics’ Week Grand Prix and France 4 Revelation Prize proved a game-changer for the feature debut of Italy’s Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza, a love story-come-mafia thriller.

In the 48 hours after the prize announcements, Fernando Meirelles H20 Films closed Brazil, Palace Australia, Demiurg ex-Yugoslavia and Peccadillo Films the U.K. There is “strong interest” from Japan and Taiwan, Brigaud-Robert reported.

“What’s happening in Japan has happened elsewhere: it’s a capitalization of business models. Two years ago, distributors weren’t sure how to amortize their investments,” Brigaud-Robert submitted.

“Today DVD, which had dropped drastically, has leveled off, VOD is starting to lift. Companies are getting a little more visibility on what’s going on in the market and feel more secure.”

Cannes Critics’ Week opener, Katel Quillevere’s “Suzanne,” the Gallic director’s follow-up to “Love Like Poison,” scenes of a woman’s passage from happy youth to troubled adulthood, licensed Greece (Strada), Australia (Palace), Germany (Arsenal) and the U.K. (Studiocanal).

“It’s very exciting for us that Studiocanal is moving into more director-driven movies,” Brigaud-Robert enthused.

Despite mixed reviews, Valeria Bruni-Tedeshi’s Cannes Competition player “A Castle in Italy,” a much larger film, closed eight territories: Provzglyad bought CIS, CDI Latin America, Cinema Mondo Finland, Greece Feelgood and Agora Switzerland.

In already reported deals, top Brazilian arthouse buyer Imovision took Brazil on “Castle,” Teodora Italy and Atalanta Portugal.

Screening in Un Certain Regard, “My Sweet Pepper Land” also closed seven territories.

“There is a big appetite for movies, a need for product worldwide, we achieved multiple sales,” Brigaud-Robert concluded. The main challenge, he admits, is that “prices remain low.”

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