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NDM Boards Berlin Panorama Special Opener ‘600 Miles’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Gabriel Ripstein’s directorial deb, a U.S.-Mexico thriller, stars Tim Roth

600 Miles
Courtesy of the Berlin Film Festival

Taking one of the most anticipated Berlin Fest first features off the table, NDM, the Mexico and Paris-based sales house, has secured world sales rights to Tim Roth starrer “600 Miles,” which co-opens Berlin Panorama Special showcase next week.

A cross-border drama-thriller-come-road movie, “600 Miles” marks the directorial debut of producer-turned director Gabriel Ripstein (“”No One Writes to the Colonel”); Michel Franco, best known as the director of “After Lucia” which won Cannes’ Un Certain Regard in 2012, produces for his go-ahead Mexico City-based shingle Lucia Films.

The “600 Miles” deal comes as NDM continues to roll out Bruno Dumont’s “Li’l Quinquin,” now licensed to the U.K. (New Wave), Italy (Movies Inspired), Spain (Aventura Audiovisual) and Turkey, where the International Festival of Instanbul has also acquired Lisandro Alonso’s “Jauja,” with Viggo Mortensen. ‘600 Miles’ adds to a second high-profile NDM title in Panorama: Ole Giaever’s “Out of Nature,” a hit at Toronto – Variety called it a “remarkable one-man-show” – now sold to Portugal’s Alambique, and making its European premiere in Berlin.

In further new sales, Luis Minarro’s “Falling Star” has closed the U.S. (Indiepix) and Germany (Salzberger).

Written by Ripstein and Issa Lopez, scribe of Mexican box office hit “Ladies Night,” “600 Miles” stars Roth as ATF agent Hank Harris, who is following Arnulfo Rubio, a young gun trafficker between the United States and Mexico. After a risky mistake by Harris, Rubio makes a desperate decision: He smuggles the agent into Mexico. While these two apparent enemies slowly connect, they reach a dangerous place. And the only way out will be by trusting each other.

“I didn’t want to tell a story about drugs, but guns, and the perverse relationship between Mexico and the U.S. We need each other and hate each other: Drugs flow North, money flows South, then guns flow South again,” Rispstein commented.

“The essential story,” however, he added, is “two characters in a desperate situation” and on the long road trip from Arizona to the border, Sonora and Culiacan. “That for me was a opportunity to force these two characters, both disposable middle-men but very different in a way, to interact and see what happens during that interaction.”

Franco, Ripstein and Moises Zonana, Franco’s Lucia Films partner, produced. In an unusual upscale play for Televisa’s Videocine, its film distribution operation, Videocine will release “600 Miles” in Mexico. Its parent’s marketing muscle looks set to ensure some B.O. impact on “600 Miles’” hometurf.

“600 Miles’” d.p. is Belgium’s Alain Marcoen, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne’s cinematographer. Said Ripstein: “I’m a fan of how their films are shot. I wanted a realistic, quasi-documentary approach, with a camera very close to the action and characters. The film is comprised of long takes. I reached out to Alain through LinkedIn, told him I was a big fan and wanted him to do my film. And he did.”

Meshing thriller traction with a relationship drama, Ripstein’s “600 Miles” typifies, like Franco’s “After Lucia,” new Latin American cinema’s aimed-for outreach to wider audiences.

“I think Michel believes in story telling and not in contemplation, in plots and things happening. Our basic rule is: We can’t bore the audience.”

Ripstein’s crossover ambition also reflects where he comes from. The son of legendary director Arturo Ripstein (“Deep Crimson,” “Such is Life”), Gabriel Ripsein first worked in the independent sector, heading up business and international affairs at AltaVista, before joining Sony, rising to s.v.p. production, Sony Pictures’ Intl. Motion Pictures Production Group, before ankling to write screenplays.

“Over the last five years, I’ve written many projects for hire, very commercial mainstream films. But when I decided to write something as a vehicle to direct, it was much closer to my personal sensibility. I wouldn’t say necessarily my worldview is bleak, but this is not a romantic comedy.”