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ND Mantarraya Acquires ‘Fire at Sea,’ ‘Youth,’ ‘Tomorrow,’ Among Seven Titles (EXCLUSIVE)

Mexican arthouse distributor mixes new talent, edgier fare and classic auteur in latest title trawl

GUADALAJARA – Confirming its status as Mexico’s major arthouse buyer, ND Mantarraya, a joint distribution venture of Carlos Reygadas’ Nodream Cinema and producer partner Jaime Romandia’s Mantarraya, has sealed Mexican rights on seven Berlin Fest titles, including “Fire at Sea,” “Hedi,” “Youth” and a Le Pacte-sourced duo, “Irreplaceable” and “Saint Amour.”

Acquisitions underscore Berlin and Cannes’ paramount importance as arthouse distributors’ favored hunting ground with companies often buying the lion’s share of their annual art title trawl at two events.

They also come as Mantarraya preps its first period drama at its commercial label Cadereyta, “Nahui Olin,” with Daniel Jimenez Cacho (“Bad Education,” “Zama”) in the role of the celebrated model-poet’s lover, Doctor Atl.

Mantarraya buys take in two big Berlin kudos hits: “Fire at Sea,” Gianfranco Rosi’s Golden Bear winner, and Mohamed Ben Attia’s “Hedi,” another competition entry which snagged best actor (Majd Mastoura) and the Berlinale’s First Feature Award.

Sold by Paris-based Doc & Film Intl., and set on the island of Lampedusa, Rosi’s refugee-crisis themed “Fire at Sea,” a Kino Lorber U.S. pick-up, is one of three recent ND Mantarraya docu purchases. Selected for 2016’s Sundance Festival, Belgian Pieter Jan De Pue’s “The Land of the Enlightened,” tapped from Films Boutique, turns on armed child gangs on Afghanistan’s high plains, mixing fantasy-spiced recreation and straightforward documentary depiction.

A third docu-feature purchase, the Elle Driver-sold eco-conscientious “Tomorrow,” directed by actress-helmer Melanie Laurent and Cyril Dion, presents best-practice solutions now in place – in food production, energy, alternative currency, education, direct democracy – to fight climate change.

A Mexican production-distribution company which looks firmly towards Europe for co-production partners, sales companies and big fest platforms for its newly minted movies, Mantarraya has also tapped two films from its longest standing of production partners, Jean Labadie’s Le Pacte. A buzz title at January’s UniFrance Rendez-Vous in Paris, Thomas Lilti’s “Irreplaceable” depicts an old school rural doctor, played by François Cluzet, who lives and breathes his work, and now faces replacement by a younger woman colleague. Starring Gerard Depardieu, “Saint Amour,” also acquired by Mantarraya, is the latest oddball road movie offering from offbeat French comedy duo Benoit Delepine and Gustave Kervern.

“We attempt to tie down some discoveries, like “Victoria,” also tap into classic auteurs, but also look for more risky, radical auteurs – Apichatpong Weerasethakul or Bela Tarr, for instance – which might not punch big numbers but give a distributor its personality,” Romandia told Variety.

True to his words, “The Land of Enlightened” and “Hedi,” about a man hesitantly stepping out of the shadow of his family and boss, are first features, but Mantarraya has also tied down theatrical on “Youth,” from Paolo Sorrentino, whose “The Great Beauty,” along with “Amour” and “Timbuktu” are among Mantarraya’s biggest money-earners.

A model, poet and painter, Nahui Olin was the most liberal of 1920s female artists who rocked Mexico’s art scene. Typically, her art was overshadowed by her beauty and supposedly scandalous behavior that caused to be written off as mad.

Currently casting key roles, “Nahui Olin” is for the moment a Mexican production. “But we’d like to internationalize the film, as Salma Hayek did with “Frida,” take it to another level so that it’s not just a Mexican project,” said Miguel Bonilla, Head of Cadereyta Films, Cadereuta is the comercial arm of Mantarraya.

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