In a move which will be noted by art film distributors around the world, France’s Ad Vitam, a major force in Cannes Festival pre-buys and purchases, has acquired French rights to “The Dead and the Others,” this year’s Cannes Un Certain Regard special jury prize winner.
“The Dead and the Others” is sold by Paris-based Luxbox. Directed by Palme d’Or short film winner João Salaviza and Renée Nader Messora, it turns on 15-year-old Ihjãc, who is instructed by his dead father’s voice to celebrate the funerary feast allowing his father’s spirit to depart to the village of the dead and Ihjãc to get on with life. Reluctant to say goodbye to his father, also a first step to becoming a shaman, Ihjãc falls ill, and flees to the nearest town, to be cured by white people, They tell him, however, that he can only stay for a while in the town’s communal Krahô home.
“The Dead and the Others” is based on the experience of one of the students taught by Nader Messora who has worked with the Krahô people since 2009 in their Pedra Branca village.
Forming part of a “broader attempt by other Brazilian filmmakers to construct an alternative, different narrative of what it means to be a Brazilian nowadays,” Salaviza said before Cannes, “The Dead and the Others” portrays the Krahôs as “a self-sufficient society aware of the outside world yet choosing to remain true to its traditions and distinct rhythm of life,” Jay Weissberg noted in his Variety review.
They are threatened by the potential fate, however, of living like Ihjãc in a kind of cultural no-mans-land in between his indigenous culture and the Western world which rejects him.
While its non-pro actors struggle to improvise before the camera, “The Dead and the Others” is “an admirable, often fascinating fictionalized portrait of a tribal culture in Brazil,” Weissberg wrote.
“This film truly masters mise en scene, serving its characters and this community,” said Gregory Gajos, at Ad Vitam.
He added: “It tackles themes that interest a Western audience: the relation to Nature, to beliefs, to threatened civilizations. We feel that this couple of filmmakers, for their commitment, have a bright future in cinema.”
Bowing in the most competitive upscale film market in the world, the acquisition and performance of art films for and in France still act as a bellwether for such films’ potential around the globe – much as the U.S. remains a touchstone for more mainstream English-language movies’ potential.
A notable buyer of standout U.S. titles, nursing Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash” to 639,732 admissions in France – about $5 million in gross box office – Ad Vitam forms part of the Cannes Festival’s industrial ecology, pre-buying or acquiring a clutch of top, often more challenging titles from the Cannes competition and other sections.
Bulwarked by Cannes’ prestige movie marketing effect in France, Ad Vitam then releases them on a copy-run which is the envy of other markets: Christophe Honoré LGBT Palme d’Or contender “Sorry Angel” was put out by Ad Vitam on 202 screens on May 16, grossing about $1 million in its first two weeks in French cinemas.
“Working with one of the most established and passionate players on the French cinema distribution scene is a comforting sign for the film and its future audience,” said Luxbox’s Hédi Zardi.
“This film is generous for what it shares, humanly and artistically,” he went on, saying that “this beautiful collaboration can only encourage future human and artistic commitments to this film.”
Launched by Fiorella Moretti and Zardi in 2015, the Paris-based Luxbox has emerged as a go-to sales agent for high-profile Latin American festival films which lever critical plaudits and prizes into international sales. Its Cannes sales slate included Berlinale triple prize winner “The Heiresses,” and Karim Ainouz’s “Central Airport THF.” Both were chosen for Variety’s 10 best films of the 2018 Berlin Festival.