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Latido Films Proves There’s Still Life in the Arthouse Market (EXCLUSIVE)

Seven titles, including Spain and Brazil’sOscar submissions, kick in or continue sales

SAN SEBASTIAN — Everybody agrees: World markets for arthouse films have contracted, first in prices paid, now in number of territories sold.

But that doesn’t mean there’s no arthouse market at all. A case in point: Latido Films. Headed by Antonio Saura, the Madrid-based sales house heads into this year’s San Sebastian Festival reporting 23 higher profile deals across seven titles struck from Cannes through  Venice, Toronto and multiple festivals in between.

Only one of these titles, only Javier Fesser’s “Champions,” can be said to be anywhere near selling out. But, with foreign-language movies so dependent these days on scoring berths at big fests, and sales cycles lengthening given ever-more cautious buyers, none of the films are anywhere near the end of their sales cycle. Among deals:

*Caca Diegues’s Cannes Special Screening “The Great Mystical Circus,” a five-generation circus saga, has closed three major markets: the U.S. (Kino Lorber), Russia (Cinema Prestige) and China (Huashi);

*”Champions,” a blockbuster success in Spain, grossing $21.9 million through early September, continues to secure major territories abroad, with sales to Latin America (Focus/Universal) Taiwan (Bee Factory), Korea (Big Films), Puerto Rico (Alucine), and Israel (Shoval Films), adding to previously reported banner deals with prestige partners such as Jean Labadie’s Le Pacte for France. Latido is very near to closing Japan, which will complete sales to Asia, Saura said.

“My Masterpiece,” the first solo outing for Argentina’s Gaston Duprat, has clinched France (Eurozoom), Switzerland (Xenix), Italy (Movies Inspired), Russia (Provzglyad), China (Blue Share) and Taiwan (Swallow Wings).

*Depicting a taboo love affair between two gypsy girls, Cannes Directors’ Fortnight player “Carmen & Lola” sold to Scandinavia (Scanbox), France (Eurozoom) and Benelux (Cherry Pickers).

*Soon to world premiere at the Los Angeles Gkids-Annecy Animation is Film festival, the awaited “Buñuel in the Labyrinth of Turtles” has pre-sold to Russia (Russian Report), France (Eurozoom) and Scandinavia (Angel Films).

*Pablo Solarz’s “The Last Suit,” an audience award winner at the Miami and Philadelphia Jewish Film Festivals, has struck deals for Germany (Kairos) and Korea (Psycomad).

*Alvaro Brechner’s “A Twelve-Year-Night” is closing a string of world sales, one to Italy (Movies Inspired), said Saura, who added that “The Realm” is set to close sales in Asia and European and Latin American  countries in San Sebastian.

As a diagnosis of the health of the arthouse sales sector, Latido’s current curriculum should carry a caveat: Latido’s titles are hardly run-of-the mill for the sector. “The Great Mystical Circus” co-stars Vincent Cassel, is directed by the last still-jobbing cineast from Brazil’s Cinema Novo, for instance.

Maintaining its faith in Spanish-language art films, Latido has grown its relations with more crossover players such as Duprat and Mariano Cohn (whose “4 x 4” it also represents). The films it handles come from not only powerful parent Tornasol (“The Realm,” “A Twelve-Year Night,” Oscar winner Juan José Campanella’s upcoming “Weasels”) but Morena Films (“Campeones”) and Mediapro (Duprat and Cohn’s movies). While Brazil and Spain produce 150-250 movies a year. Latido is representing both countries’ Oscar submissions: “The Great Mystical Circus” and “Champions.” “A Twelve-Year Night” has a sporting change of becoming Uruguay’s candidate next week.

Latido, more than many, has also taken on board the exacting logic of the arthouse scene: If the market is tougher, companies have to work harder, which means more people working.

Beyond Saura, Latido has five other sales executives, lead by sales head Juan Torres, head of festivals Oscar Alonso and marketing head Paola Botran. Beyond Venice and Toronto, Latido visited territories a disparate as Colombia and Romania.

“It’s not enough these days to just have the momentum of Cannes. Companies have to be on for the long haul,” Torres said. For all the talk of leveraging online, a sales agent’s job still very much depends on hitting the road, spending quality time with distributors and explaining the virtues of films, or with producers, explaining the company’s passionate interest in one of its upcoming titles.

“If your minimum guarantee meets other offers, you might just get the film,” Torres said.

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