BUENOS AIRES — Gkids, the U.S. distributor of ten Best Animated Feature Oscar nominations including this year’s “The Breadwinner,” has acquired North American rights to Spaniard Salvador Simó’s “Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles.” Gkids will release the film theatrically next year.
The animated feature is sold worldwide by Spain’s Latido Films; the all-rights deal was negotiated by Gkids’ CEO and founder Eric Beckman and Latido’s Antonio Saura.
The acquisition comes after “Buñuel” world premiered at this year’s Gkids co-run Animation Is Film Festival in Los Angeles, snagging a Special Jury Prize for its innovative handling of unexpected subject matter and positive reviews.
“Frankly, it was a brilliant choice on the part of director Salvador Simo to use such an expressionistic medium [as animation] to examine how surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel bent reality to his own ends in the making of 1933 documentary “Las Hurdes” (aka “Land Without Bread”),” Peter Debruge writes in his Variety review.
Co-written by Simó, and produced by Manuel Cristóbal, whose credits also include “Dragonkeeper,” an awaited big budget China-Spain co-production, “Buñuel” homes in on the forging of Buñuel’s own voice, one of the most original in the history of cinema. Made in Paris with Salvador Dalí, his first two movies, “Un churn andalou” and “L’Age d’Or,” were brilliant surrealist manifestos, made by two young artists who thought they would conquer the world. And they did. But by the early ‘30s, Buñuel was in danger of becoming an upper-class wastrel: his most memorable achievement in a brief stay in Hollywood was to cut down Charles Chaplin’s Christmas tree. Falling under the influence of surrealist Louis Aragon, when his friend Ramón Acín won the lottery, Buñuel and Acín traveled to Las Hurdes, one if the poorest parts of Western Europe, whose inhabitants he thought still lived in the Middle Ages, to make a social record of a region whose poverty was, by Buñuel’s way of thinking, socially surreal. Simo’s “Buñuel” chronicles the director’s discovery of his social voice, and humanity, his attempts to create a nightmarish reality when he couldn’t find it, with an animation which, as Debruge writes, often recalls a waking dream.
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The director who left Las Hurdes was very different from Buñuel of his Paris heydays. Buñuel’s portrait of Acín, a passionate anarchist, remains one of the most haunting parts of his memoir, “My Last Breath,” written two years before the grand master died.
“‘Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles presents a deeply affecting and humanistic portrait of an artist hunting for his purpose,” Gkids announced in a press statement on Thursday.
“Luis Buñuel constantly pushed the visual and storytelling boundaries of cinema,” said Gkids president David Jesteadt. “It’s only fitting that the story of such a unique and legendary artist would be told through animation, in a wonderful film that uses the medium to its full potential.”
Latido’s Antonio Saura added: “It is a great honor that Gkids, which has represented the best of animation in the world, has chosen our film. For us this is the confirmation of the impressive feature that producer Manuel Cristóbal and director Salvador Simó have created, a unique, funny, intelligent, entertaining movie about the real story of Buñuel and Asín.”
Cristóbal said: “For an independent film like ours to be able to have distribution in a market like United States is a huge achievement; if that distribution is done by Gkids it is a seal of quality that will greatly benefit our film in other markets and hopefully in coming awards.”