Locarno: ‘Tikkun,’ ‘Schneider,’ ‘Wonderland’ Make Running in Fest Biz (EXCLUSIVE)

Industry presence up as Locarno Industry Days launch or consolidate four new events

LOCARNO – “Tikkun,” “Schneider vs. Bax,” “Wonderful” lead early business announcements at an ever busier Locarno Fest Industry Days, now packed with a full roster of events, where Philippe Le Guay’s “Floride” and Catherine Corsini’s “Summertime” both gleaned positive reviews, boding well for sales off what one sales agent called the “Locarno-Toronto express.”

Energized by a rising presence of Hollywood stars – Edward Norton, Andy Garcia and Amy Schumer, in town to tubthump “Trainwreck” – Locarno’s industry presence shows no signs of curbing growth hitting 1,200 attendees for its Aug. 8-10 Industry Days, 14% up on 2014.

In a banner industry deal at Switzerland’s Locarno Festival, L.A-based Bleiberg Entertainment will represent U.S. and world sales rights on “Tikkun,” from Israel’s Avishai Sivan, one of the outstanding titles – it swept top honors at July’s ever-more relevant Jerusalem Fest – to hit Locarno without an international sales agent.

Marking another key deal, this time as a festival, in an early export move for Europe’s biggest high-summer fest, Locarno is teaming with Mexico’s Morelia Festival to launch the Locarno Industry Academy in Morelia.

Sales agents and buyers often hold off on deals and offers until the full spread of late summer titles is revealed at Toronto. Execution is all on art films, and buyers want to see reviews and whether titles will grab kudos at Locarno, which closes Saturday. A clutch of titles still have to play at Locarno – notably Korean Hong Sangsoo’s relationship comedy “Right Now, Wrong Then,” from Finecut, and Brazilian Sergio Machado’s Locarno closer “The Violin Teacher,” sold by Films Boutique. Other titles still await reviews, for instance, The Films Distribution-handled “My Internship in Canada,” from “Monsieur Lazhar’s” Philippe Falardeau.

So any business wrap to Locarno’s Industry Days, which ran Aug. 8-10, remains at least through Tuesday as ever mostly prognostication rather than a drill-down on done deals.

But deals did go down, led by Bleiberg Ent., also a production company (“The Iceman”), closing on world sales rights to black-and-white drama “Tikkun,” Sivan’s third feature. Eagerly discussed at a lively press conference at Locarno, where it plays international competition, it offers a take on an ultra-Orthodox man who brings his son back to life. At Jerusalem, ever more closely tracked as Israeli cinema comes ever more on the international radar, “Tikkun” won best film and screenplay for Sivan, cinematography for Shai Goldman and actor for Khalifa Natour. “We hope to close North America soon since we have some offers,” producer Ronen Ben-Tal told Variety at Locarno.

A comedic thriller about two hitmen-for-hire, played by director Alex van Warmerdam himself and Tom Dewispelaere, with a contract on each other’s head, “Schneider vs. Bax” has closed France (Potemkine) and Russia (Russian Report TV Agency) in pre-sales, said Fortissimo’s Neilike Driessen.

Described by Variety’s Peter Debruge as “almost certainly the most accessible title in competition” in an upbeat review. Thriller has proved maybe the most consistently liked title at Locarno and Dutch director Van Warmerdam, definitely a helmer with theatrical clout after 2013 Cannes competition hit “Borgman.”

Screening to a strong turnout at Industry Days, and again initiating sales at Locarno, international competition title “Wonderland,” an omnibus feature from 10 up-and-coming Swiss directors about a modern-day Switzerland threatened by natural catastrophe, has an offer on the table for French territories, Wide’s Georgia Poivre said at Locarno.

Also sold by Wide, Lionel Baier’s euthanasia comedy “Vanity,” another high-profile home title at Locarno, playing Piazza Grande on Thursday, closed Canada with Axia Films. Happiness Distribution distributes in France. Italy and Spain are under negotiation, Poivre added.

In further dealings, fans of the director, Mexico City-based Interior XIII has closed Mexico and Colombia on legendary Andrzej Zulawski’s “Cosmos,” sold by Paulo Branco’s Paris-based Alfama Films. Alfama itself will release “Cosmos” in France Dec. 9. “Cosmos”’ sales campaign kicks off in earnest at Locarno, said Branco. Portugal is also licensed; Latin America is in negotiations, Branco added. One of the most awaited titles at Locarno, marking Zulawski’s first movie in 15 years, gleaned some upbeat early critical reaction.

Philippe Le Guay’s “Floride” was a “late-career blessing” for Jean Rochefort, offering him a role “as juicy as a sun-ripened orange,” said Variety’s Debruge. Sold by Gaumont, it has elicited initial major territory interest, led by the U.S. and Japan, said Gaumont sources.

Catherine Corsini’s period lesbian romance “La Belle Saison” (“Summerime”), sold by Pyramide Intl., is a “beatifully realized tearjerker,” Debruge wrote. An out-there love story between two male skateboarders in Mexico City, “Te Prometo Anarquia,” sold by Latido Films, also had fans who saw it as director Julio Hernandez Cordon’s most confident work to date, with a large dose of style.

Of other business, U.K. sales company Film Republic inked at Locarno world sales rights on “They Chased Me Through Arizona,” from Mathias Huser, which played the Swiss Fest last year.

In a deal first announced by Screen Daily, Film Republic also acquired Brazilian Jose Pedro Goulart’s youth drama “Point Zero,” from the Porto Alegre-based Minima and Okna Producoes, which featured in Locarno’s 2014 First Look pix-in-post showcase. Film Republic head Xavier Henry-Rashid told Variety he expected to sign “one or two” films at Locarno “but they may take a few weeks to discuss.”

At Locarno, Film Movement announced its North America pick-up on the HanWay Select-sold “Hockney,” a vision of the man and painter, which are inseparable, from Randall Wright.

Just before the Swiss Fest, Germany’s Camino Filmverleih closed aging rockers-on-the-road comedy “I’m Dead But I Have Friends,” sold by Be For Films and helmed by Guillaume and Stephane Maladrin. “This naughtier black humor fills a huge gap in the market,” said Camino’s Kamran Sardar Khan. Camino also has all rights save theatrical in Switzerland and Austria. Camino Felix von Grunnegen

From Spain, producer-distributor Luis Angel Bellaba is circling several possible Locarno titles, to distribute via Madrid’s Film Bureau.

Sales agents moved before Locarno to tie down at least six titles: “Our Loved Ones” and “Wonderland” (both Wide, very active at Locarno), “Jack,” (Picture Tree Intl.), “The Violin Teacher” (Films Boutique), “Te Prometo Anarquia” (Latido) and “Olmo and the Seagull” (Taskovski Films).

Strongly attended – and one of many industry execs’ favorite festivals – Locarno offered multiple reasons for attendance. “Industry presence is very strong with over 1,000 attendees. There are more and more activities: Training, co-production forums and training. It’s a good place to discover good talents, in the main sections or First Look,” said Jean-Christophe Simon, at Films Boutique.

He added: “It’s one place where you can really sit and spend more time, talk really to your clients, without thinking you have to run to 25 meetings afterwards. All of this is in an informal atmosphere which actually means business is good.”

Set in spectacular Swiss Alps, in all, Locarno launched three new events, all enthusiastically received, at its 2015’s Industry Days: Bridging the Dragon, a China-Europe co-pro forum; Match Me! a pitching initiative for young producers/directors from Chile, Brazil, Mexico and Colombia; and Alliance For Development, a co-production meet between France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. After 2014’s pilot edition, the Locarno Industry Academy, saw its first full year at the Swiss fest. It encourages young professionals, and its speakers, to not just think out of the box as broaden and reshape their industry expertise. “I am absolutely delighted of the experience, to come back to a kind of school, I am moved; and with such an interesting group of professionals. The level of discussions that we have had has been really amazing,” said Leo Cordero, head of distribution at Mantarraya, one of Mexico’s top arthouse distributors.

He added: “Hopefully, we are going to apply many of the ideas discussed here in our market of Mexico. I think that there’s going to be a growth, in cooperation, between territories and between experts.”

In a classy keynote, delivered at StepIn, Locarno Industry Day’s main discussion forum, Monique Simard, CEO of Quebec investment fund SODEC, sounded what is likely to become a clarion call of Europe’s production sector over the next months: The demand for Internet Service Providers as they replace cable and satellite as content provides, to contribute financially to content creation.

Digital – new distribution possibilities and the need for regulation – is now very much on Europe’s film industry radar.

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