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San Sebastian Boosts Biz

Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum ups fest’s industry heft

SAN SEBASTIAN – “20 Feet From Stardom,” “To Kill a Man” and “Such Is Life in the Tropics” looked like commercial standouts at Spain’s San Sebastian Festival, which has rapidly grown in industry heft.

Its largest merit this year and last: Rapid consolidation as a must-attend event for a broad base of players in the Latin American and European arthouse and crossover business.

Beyond that, San Sebastian was also being praised as a festival that, in telling contrast with Toronto, enables its new movies to not be lost in a several-hundred title crush.

Other San Sebastian buzz titles include Brazilian Fernando Coimbra’s Horizontes Latinos players “A Wolf at the Door,” sold by Mundial and judged a standout debut by many, FiGa-sold competition player “Bad Hair” and Funny Balloons’ “Club Sandwich,” which both played well in competition, and Alex de la Iglesia’s “Witching & Bitching,” sold widely by Film Factory.

Sold by Elle Driver, Sundance hit “Stardom” was acquired by Adolfo Blanco’s A Contracorriente Films, the Spanish distributor of “The Intouchables” and these days one of its key buyers.

Chilean revenge thriller “To Kill,” a mainstream move by director Alejandro Fernandez Almendras, drew several offers from sales agents with Vicente Canales Film Factory scoring world sales rights in the biggest deal and San Sebastian’s 2nd Europe-Latin America Forum.

Meanwhile, Ecuatorian producer Arturo Yepez revealed at the Forum that he was in advanced negotiations with a

European sales agent to handle international sales on Sebastian Cordero’s project “Tropics.”

Early fest, France’s Pyramide International revealed Samuel Goldwyn’s U.S. pick up of Lucia Puenzo’s “The German Doctor (aka “Wakolda”), plus multiple new foreign sales deals on the chilling portrait of Auschwitz Angel of Death Josef Mengele.

It is no coincidence, perhaps, that “To Kill,” “Tropics” and “Doctor” are all to varying degrees, thrillers made by Latin American directors with two or more films under their belt, who have stepped up in scale, throwing mainstream or genre elements into the mix or, in Cordero’s case, just returned from a U.S. sci-fi movie, “Europa Report,” which has caught Hollywood’s attention.

One of San Sebastian’s most active players, Loic Magneron’s Wide Management, sold Brazilian distribution rights of the critically acclaimed dark comedy “The Priest’s Children” to Pandora Filmes.

Wide also announced its acquisition of “Tres Minutos,” by Valentin Alvarez, a documentary film about boxing trainer Antonio Fernandez “Moustache”, who, for over 30 years, has been turning round kids´ lives through the sport of boxing.

Meanwhile, sales to Spain proved more spirited than in recent years as its distribution sector despite or because of the crisis.

The international market is finally accepting – it has little alternative – the emergence of a humbler league of distributors in Spain working at far lower price points and profit margins.

At San Sebastian, Madrid-based producer-distributor Luis Angel Bellaba bought German drama “Measuring The World” from The Match Factory and Daniel Patrick Carbone’s “Hide Your Smiling Faces” plus Brazil’s “Artificial Paradise,” the latter two titles from Wide. Both “Faces” and “Paradises” are part of the Eye on Film label.

Vet film and TV executive Ramon Colom at Barcelona distribbery Casa de Peliculas negotiated at San Sebastian Spanish distribution rights to competition player “Bad Hair” with sales company Figa Films, Jim Taihuttu’s “Wolf,” a New Directors entry, and Rithy Panh’s Pears-player “The Missing Picture,” sold by France’s Films Distribution.

“There is a market in Spain for this kind of productions. Returns, basically, come from theatrical and VOD windows,” Colom commented.

“The key is to adapt budgets to market realities,” he added, arguing that, after two years as a distributor, Casa de Peliculas had recovered its investment in films acquisitions, having released titles such as Miguel Gomes’ “Tabu” and Celine Sciamma’s “Tomboy” and co-distributed “The Women on The Sixth Floor.”

Meanwhile, producer Arturo Diaz’s Sangre Films revealed it had options rights from FilmSharks to a Spanish remake of Mexican smash hit “We are the Nobles.”

The subject – rich slacker kids suddenly being forced to get gainful employment after their father’s apparent bankruptcy – “is highly relevant to Spain: People will be able to relate to it,” Diaz told Variety.

At San Sebastian’s Co-production Forum, Milagros Mumenthaler’s “Pozo de aire” and its eventual Forum Prize winner “The Companion” also sparked buzz.

Buenos Aires-based Gema Films’ producer Gema Juarez told Variety she was in advanced talks with a French co-producer for Francisco Varone’s “Road to La Paz.”

In further dealings, Horacio Urban’s Urban Films announced it had acquired international rights on Sitges player “The Lobito.”

Cinema Republic’s David Castellanos announced the sale to Cine Global of German and Austrian rights to TV star Paco Leon’s debut “Carmina o Revienta” and Guatemalan comedy “The Dumbass.” It also closed Mexican thriller “Morenita The Scandal” to Japan’s Only Hearts.

With TV coin and Spanish tax breaks, international sales now rep one of the only secure sources of financing in Spain. Once rather marginal figures, its sales agents are increasingly sought-after by local producers.

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