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Wild Bunch, Miyazaki Re-Team on ‘The Wind Rises’ (EXCLUSIVE)

'Rises' will have its North-American premiere at Toronto

In the run-up to the late summer fest season, European powerhouse Wild Bunch has boarded Japanese auteur Hayao Miyazaki’s epic “The Wind Rises,” continuing its long-term relationships with both Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli.  

Wild Bunch has taken international sales rights to “Rises.”

“Rises,” which according to Wild Bunch co-founder Vincent Maraval “marks a  major change in Miyazaki’s career,” bowed in Japan on July 20 and has been a local B.O. hit, grossing an estimated $57 million through Aug.15. It’s now set to roll out at Venice and Toronto, where it will have its North American premiere. It will also play at San Sebastian and New York. 

Miyazaki’s follow-up to “Ponyo,” “Rises” is loosely based on the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the engineer and designer of the Zero fighter plane, which was used by the Japanese army during World War II.

In spite of its commercial success in Japan, “Rises,” which sheds light on aggressions perpetrated during WWII, has reportedly stirred a controversy among local conservatives who have denounced the film’s pacifist stance as un-partiotic.  The polemic was also fueled by a recent essay penned by Miyazaki (published in the monthly mag Neppu in July), criticizing prime minister Shinzo Abe’s push to amend Japan’s “peace constitution” and rebuild Japan’s military force.

Although Wild Bunch only handles very select toon titles, it has built a strong relationship with Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli from 2002’s “Spirited Away,” not only repping sales rights on new titles – “Spirited,” then “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Ponyo” – but also selling and engineering theatrical releases over the world for Miyasaki’s now revered earlier classics.     

Wild Bunch is also collaborating with Studio Ghibli and France’s Why Not Prods. on Michael Dudok de Wit’s project “Red Turtle.”

Though Wild Bunch is best known for bringing on a new generation of French and often foreign helmers, it has built part of its fortunes and company philosophy around support for the careers of established directors who in its eyes deserved wider audiences: Ken Loach, Jean-Luc Godard and, indeed, Miyazaki.

Establishing relationships with a key nucleus of directors and producers in and outside France, Wild Bunch boasts a festival presence second-to-none among sales agents at this month’s Locarno and the upcoming Venice Festival, where it also has three titles, selling as well Philippe Garrel’s “Jealousy” and Patrice Leconte’s English-language debut, “A Promise,” starring Rebecca Hall. A romantic period drama, “A Promise” is based Stefan Zweig’s novella “Journey into the Past.” Maraval said he expects “‘A Promise’ will tap into the audiences of such pics as Dustin Hoffman’s ‘Quartet,’ Christian Vincent’s ‘Haute Cuisine’ and Gilles Bourdos’ ‘Renoir.'”

At Toronto, in another pick-up, Wild Bunch will sell Nicole Garcia’s “Going Away” (“Un beau dimanche”), a drama toplining  Pierre Rochefort (Farewell, My Queen”) as  a loner who falls for a troubled mother played Louise Bourgoin (“Adele Blanc-Sec”).

Wild Bunch will also present at Toronto an edited version of Guillaume Canet’s “Blood Ties,” which Lionsgate will release in the U.S., in the Gala section, along with the company’s other Cannes players, Palme d’Or-winning “La Vie d’Adele: Chapter 1 & 2,” “Young and Beautiful,” “Jimmy P.,” “The Bastards” and “Like Father, Like Son;” and its three Locarno-selected titles: “Tonnerre,” “On the Way To School” and “Evening Falls On Bucharest  Or Metabolism.”

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