Fortissimo Sells ‘Sunset Song’ as San Sebastian Sees Biz Traction (EXCLUSIVE)

Telefonica/Disney, Films Boutique, Latido, energize biz announcements at San Sebastian

Sunset Song
Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival

SAN SEBASTIAN – Following up pre-TIFF deals to the U.K. (Metrodome) and Spain (Festival Films) and a Magnolia Pictures U.S. pick-up at Toronto, Fortissimo Films has clinched further sales at San Sebastian on Terence Davies’ pre-World War I Scotland-set “Sunset Song.”

Russian Report has closed Russia/CIS, Denk Cinema Turkey, One From the Heart Greece and Continental Film former-Yugoslavia.

“Sunset Song’s” latest distrib pacts added zest to good-to-steady business at San Sebastian, In other key deals and announcements at the highest-profile fest in the Spanish-speaking world, Films Boutique revealed it had sold some of the last remaining territories on Ciro Guerra’s “Embrace of the Serpent,” a San Sebastian Horizontes Latinos contender, and continued to roll out Sergio Machado’s Locarno closer “The Violin Teacher.”

Karma Film closed Spanish rights on “Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans,” a chronicle of McQueen’s attempt to take control of his career by making the definitive racing film.

Meanwhile, by Friday afternoon Macarena Lopez was fielding a bevy of offers for Films in Progress hit “Rara,” in what looked like a mini bidding war.

Starring model-turned-actress Agyness Deyn (“Clash of the Titans”) as a farm-lass torn between her obligation to the family farm and love of books, “Sunset Song” ranked No. 2 on “El Diario Vasco’s” Spanish critics’ poll of San Sebastian competition contenders, only bested by Cesc Gay’s “Truman.” San Sebastian’s prize ceremony takes place Saturday night.

Fortissimo’s San Sebastian slate runs a broad gamut, taking in Spaniard Paula Ortiz’s “The Bride,” a big-screen transplant of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Andalusia-set stage play, “Blood Wedding,” to the white desert of Turkey’s Capadocia; and two titles in San Sebastian Culinary Zinema: Mirai Konishi’s “Kampai! For the Love of Sake” and Willemiek Kluijfhout’s “Sergio Herman, Fucking Perfect.”

“We are thrilled to present such a varied line-up of titles at San Sebastian,” said Fortissimo Films’ Nelleke Driessen. That variety, indeed, characterized the festival 2015 line-up and deals and negotiations as a whole. San Sebastian attendance stats still have to be made public. Anecdotally, however, there was a real sense of anticipation at some of this year’s Films in Progress screenings. At least, two factors may be at work.

In 2015, Latin American cinema has won two out of the three big prizes at Berlin and Venice, with “The Club” and “Ixcanul” and “From Afar” and “The Clan”; and two out of Cannes’ four sections, with “The Embrace of the Serpent” (Directors’ Fortnight) and “Paulina” (Critics’ Week). Another title, “Land and Shade,” won Cannes best first feature Camera’ d’Or.

Also, of late a series of Latin American pics have broken out to worldwide sales (“Ixcanul,” sold out) and even significant B.O. abroad (“Wild Tales,” which grossed $3.6 million for Warner Bros in France, for example).

“Fest awards do make people take notice of the films of course – but it still comes down to the distributor feeling they can make money. In Toronto, the screening for ‘From Afar’ was packed and many people were turned away from it – but no one bought it yet in the U.S.,” said Paul Hudson, at U.S. distributor-sales agent Outsider Pics.

“I would not say that this year’s prizes are impacting distributors: rather, over the last years we have seen as global change in the way distributors perceive Latin American Films,” added Jean-Christophe Simon, at Films Boutique.

“After being a niche for Latin friendly distributors for a while, we can now see that most buyers consider Latin American films to be an active part of the arthouse world with films that can perform well theatrically following their festivals successes.”
So San Sebastian biz – deals and dealing – was solid-to-strong and noticeable for being across a broad board:

* Abordar (Spain), MFA (Germany), Raven Banner (Canada) have bought Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight winner “Embrace of the Serpent” from Films Boutique, which has closed Turkey (Filmarti) and Italy (Academy Two) on “The Violin Teacher,” following sales to Japan’s Gaga, Germany’s SquareOne, France’s Jour2Fete, Switzerland’s Xenix, and Spain’s Caramel, of major territories.

*Chile-based producer Fabula, whose films – think “No,” “Gloria” – have had a theatrical impact abroad, was considering multiple offers on Marialy Rivas’ “Princess,” one of the most awaited Films in Progress titles.

*Enthusiastically received at San Sebastian, where it played Fest’s Pearls section, Pablo Trapero’s “The Clan” has practically sold out the world, Film Factory confirmed.

*Filmax revealed that, having licensed near all Western Europe and Latin America on critics’ San Sebastian competition fave “Truman” off Toronto, that it is now in talks to close U.S., U.K. and Scandinavia.

*In San Sebastian’s biggest announcement, Telefonica’s revealed Sept. 19 at San Sebastian that it is teaming with Disney to launch a dedicated Star Wars channel for Spain on its Movistar Plus pay TV platform.

*In another significant deal, Madrid-based Latido Films, revealed it has pacted to sell internationally movies produced or distributed in Spain A Contracorriente Films; Partnership kicks in with new movies from Carlos Saura, Benito Zambrano, Eduard Cortes and Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat, among others.

* Todo Cine Latino, Outsider Pics’ speciality label, inked U.S. rights at San Sebastian to Colombian Cesar Acevedo’s “Land and Shade,” produced by Burning Blue, in a deal struck Monday with France’s Pyramide.

*Also at San Sebastian, Latido took world sales rights on Alvaro Brechner’s “Memorias del calabozo,” a Tornasol, Salado co-production and Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum special mention winner.

*Edgard Tenembaum, co-producer of Guatemalan Oscar entry “Ixcanul,” and Brazilian Eliane Caffé’s “The Cambridge Squatter,” which won the main Industry Award at San Sebastian’s pix-in-post showcase Films in Progress, said Aurora Filmes has received “several important sales propositions” and would decide on a sales agent shortly.

*In fest’s run-up, Wide swooped on Hans Christian Berger’s debut “After Eden,” an analysis of gonzo pornography.

*Canada’s 1976 and Uruguay’s Cordon Films agreed in San Sebastian to co-produce “Roads in February,” Katherine Jerkovic’s debut, a migration/coming-of-age drama.

*Brazil’s Oficina de Criacao closed at San Sebastian with production partners Oh My Gomez! Films in Aegentina and Canada’s Morag Loves Company to co-produce docu-feature “I Am the Other One.”

*Alex de la Iglesia, whose “My Big Night” received its European premiere Sunday at San Sebastian, is producing “Pieles” (“Skins”), Spanish actor Eduardo Casanova’s feature helming debut.

* CMG and eOne’s Les Films Seville are boarding animated feature project “Mission Yeti,” set up at top Canadian studio 10th Ave Productions, its producer-director Nancy Savard said at San Sebastian.

*M-Appeal confirmed sales on San Sebastian New Directors’ player “Barash” (JIFF Distribution, Australia/New Zealand), “Holiday” (TLA Ent, U.K.; Optimale, France), “How To Win Enemies” (Cine Global, Germany;  Deltamac, Taiwan) and “The Project of the Century” (New Horizons Assn., Poland).

* Abordar has taken Spanish rights to not only “Embrace of the Serpent” but also Thomas Bidegain’s “Les Cowboys.”

*At San Sebastian’s Europe-Latin America co-production forum, Gilles Duffaut, topper of Axxon Films (“Alias Maria”), an France-Belgium artfilm distrib-producer-international sales house, sais he was in talks to co-produce José Mendez’s Peruvian project “Ronnie Monroy Loves Them All.”

*Making its market debut at San Sebastian, Feelsales confirmed sales to Brazil (Bretz Filmes) and Benelux (September Film Distribution) on fest’s Culinary Zinema closer, “Cooking Up a Tribute.”

*  Per Sydney Borjas,’ Scenic Rights’ Showrunners Buyers Club, Spain’s pioneering literary-audiovisual agents, is now representing film-TV rights on over 1,000 Spanish works, including some of the country’s greatest of modern literary figures.

*As a distributor, Duffaut announced the acquisition of French rights to Yvan Le Moine’s period drama “Rossen,” toplining Rupert Everett, scheduled for a 25-30 prints year-end release. Axxon will distribute in France this year Manu Bonmarriage’s euthanasia docu “Living his Death,” as an event release, and in Belgium Freddy Mouchard’s documentary “Compostelle, le chemin de la vie,” a Gallic niche B.O. hit.

*Trapecio Cine’s Melanie Schapiro, producer of Argentine project “The Omission,” which won San Sebastian’s Co-production Forum Best Project Award, announced to Variety that Titus Kreyenberg at Germany’s Unafilm and Denis Vaslim of France’s Mandra Films are co-producing.