Locarno: The Match Factory Rolls Out First ‘Paula’ Sales (EXCLUSIVE)

Portrait of Paula Modersohn-Becker shows a great woman artist battling prejudice and convention, as she helps revolutionize modern art

Paula, Locarno Festival, 2016
copyright: Pandora Film/Martin Menke

Germany’s The Match Factory, the sales agent on some of the world’s most prominent arthouse titles such as Cannes favourite “Toni Erdmann,” has closed early sales on “Paula,” its biggest 2016 Locarno Festival title which world-premiered to an upbeat reception at Locarno’s Piazza Grande, its venue for bigger more audience-friendly arthouse offerings.

Starring Swiss actress Carla Juri – soon to been in the untitled “Blade Runner” sequel – “Paula” offers a portrait of the most fertile final years of iconoclast German painter Paula Modersohn-Becker, a painter of large ambition whose naif expressionist portraits – some painted in Paris in 1905 and 1906 with Picasso only a few blocks away – formed part of the revolution which brought down the flag on modernism. “I’m doing it, I’m doing what nobody else has done. I’m seeing it. I’ve got it,” she wrote in her diary after painting her nude self-portraits in 1906.

Directed by Christian Schwochow (“November Child,” “Cracks in the Shell,” “West”) and produced by Pandora Film Produktion and Grown Up Films, both based in Germany, and France’s Alcatraz Films, “Paula” will be released in Germany just before Christmas by Pandora’s distribution arm, Pandora Film Verleih. In The Match Factory’s first sales, Jane & U Films has acquired Korean rights, Polyfilm has Austria, Filmcoopi Switzerland. Cine Colombia will release “Paula” in Colombia.

A French distribution deal will be announced shortly. There is firm interest from other territories, including Spain, The Match Factory said Friday.

Set over a century ago,”Paula” chronicles the painter’s battle against male prejudice and convention, her belated sexual awakening and nude self-portraits – some of the first in history for a woman painter –  as well as her complicated love story with Otto Modersohn-Becker.

A distinguished painter in his own right, Otto Modersohn-Becker, played by Albrecht Abraham Schuch, senses but maybe never quite fully comprehends the scale of game-changing genius of his wife, who became the first woman painter to have a museum dedicated entirely to her work.

A portrait of an iconoclast, “Paula” is none too conventional as a as an artist’s biopic either, Variety’s Guy Lodge noted in his Locarno review.

“Pioneering female painter Paula Modersohn-Becker is portrayed in loving, colorful strokes in this engaging German biopic,” he wrote.

But he added: “It’s a film that daubs an unexpected range of tones, from the tragically romantic to the jauntily comic, onto the canvas with free abandon,” predicting that “Paula” should engage mainstream arthouse audiences at home and abroad.

“Paula” will now be on The Match Factory’s sales books at Venice and Toronto.