Berlin Grand Jury Prize winner “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy,” Japanese writer-director Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s deft three-story reflection on chance, the legacy of love and the contrariness of erotic desire, has clinched further key territory sales for its sales agent M-Appeal World Sales.
The new deal unveil comes as the feature has just been selected for this year’s Bafici festival in Argentina, one of the most important in Latin America.
Fast on the footsteps of clinching the top Berlinale 2021 Silver Bear in March 5’s Berlin prize announcement, “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy” this week closed Spain with Enrique González-Kuhn’s Caramel Films, Brazil, with the Belas Artes Group, China with Jetsen Huashi Wangju (Changzhou) Cultural Media Co, and Hong Kong, for theatrical distribution, with Edko Films.
The deals add to strong first sales to France (Diaphana), Korea (GreenNarae Media), Portugal (Leopardo Filmes), Taiwan (Andrews Films), Benelux (September Film) and StraDa Films (Greece).
Spain, Brazil and China saw bidding wars, M-Appeal reported, which looks like the tonic for further sales: The Berlin-based M-Appeal is in the process of negotiating and closing further deals, including U.S./North America (with six offers on the table from U.S. distributors and three expressions of interest from Canadian companies), Scandinavia, Italy, Baltic states and Eastern Europe; by which time it will have sold over half the world in terms of key territories.
The robust sales are in line with results for other Berlinale competition winners – “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn” and “I’m Your Man,” for example – which combine festival trophies with upbeat reviews and more accessible entry points.
In “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy,” Hamaguchi returns to the female-centric tales of Locarno-selected “Happy Hour,” another anthology, and 2018 Cannes competition entry “Asako I & II,” to narrate three separate stories linked by the crucial role of coincidence. This acts as both theme and plot device, to expose the sudden, unexpected emotions of its women protagonists.
In Episode One, “Magic (or Something Less Assuring)” Meiko, a young model, realizes that her best friend is beginning to harbor feelings for her ex, which makes her question whether she still carries a candle for him too.
In the second, “Doors Wide Open,” flunked by his professor Segawa, the callous young Sasawa persuades his lover, mature student Nao, to set what he calls a “honey-trap” for Segawa. But, talking to Segawa, having reading out aloud an erotically-charged section of his latest novel in his presence, she begins to feel attracted to the author himself.
In “Once Again,” two 30something women mistake each other for ex-high school fellow students. The misunderstanding still allows them to talk openly about their emotions.
“ ‘Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy’ marks the film which every distributor’s looking for at a big market like the EFM,” said González Kuhn at Caramel, whose past pickups include Ladj Ly’s “Les Miserables,” “Cold War” and “Capernaum.”
It gives “the immediate sensation of watching a film which is deeply relevant, absolutely universal and will stand the test of time,” he added, saying that Caramel would release fall 2021 or early 2022 on 40 prints, a considerable copy spread for a foreign-language title in Spain.
“In spite of the difficulties, we need to keep positive and hope for better days. It was great seeing at EFM such great new productions,” said André Sturm, president of the Belas Artes Group, which comprises cinema theater Petra Belas Artes, veteran indie Providence Films and streaming platform A La Carte.
Sturm went on: “I had the opportunity to screen ‘Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy’ in one of the festival screenings held in São Paulo and I was amazed. Can’t wait to release the film in cinemas and remind Brazilians of the power of cinema.”