Toronto Recap: No Drunken Spending A Good Sign For Indie Film Resurgence

Mike Fleming

Was the 2011 Toronto Film Festival a good one for dealmaking? Even after organizers announced a 20% uptick in film deals last Friday (the festival includes foreign territories in its count), the sales kept coming. A long-expected deal with Lionsgate on the Jennifer Westfeldt-directed comedy Friends With Kids finally got done (in partnership with Roadside Attractions, which will actually release the film), and Music Box announced overnight it had acquired the Rachel Weisz-starrer The Deep  Blue Sea. Lionsgate was hotly pursuing another film, the Midnight Madness sensation You’re Next, which of all the festival films seems to have the best chance of approaching the box office turned in by Toronto 2010’s breakout Insidious. There have been about 20 acquisitions so far and that many more could come in the next few weeks.

Still, can you call the Toronto acquisitions marketplace “solid” when no films have been bought so far by The Weinstein Company, Sony Pictures Classics, Focus Features, or Fox Searchlight (yeah, I revealed that they bought Shame during Toronto, but it was a deal all but sealed in Venice), or for that matter FilmDistrict, Open Road or Relativity Media, each of which jumped into the distribution business to release films that can play on upwards of 2000 screens? Buyers and sellers said it was a pretty good festival at least. One filled with mostly small deals and a show of distributor discipline that is a positive sign for an indie film sector that just started pulling out of a nosedive this time last year. Read More »

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Toronto: ‘Where Do We Go Now?’ Wins Audience Award, ‘The Raid’ Gets Midnight Madness, ‘Island President’ Wins Docu Prize

Mike Fleming

The 2011 Toronto Film Festival is drawing to a close, and the festival just handed out its prizes. The winners:

Cadillac People’s Choice Award
Nadine Labaki-directed Where Do We Go Now?

Cadillac People’s Choice Award For Documentary
Jon Shenk-directed The Island President

Cadillac People’s Choice Read More »

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Toronto: ATO Pictures Plucks ‘The Oranges’

By | Friday September 16, 2011 @ 4:35pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Toronto, CANADA (September 16, 2011) – NY based ATO PICTURES proudly announced today that it has acquired all North American rights to THE ORANGES, one of the most buzzed about Toronto titles directed by Julian Farino making his feature film debut.

Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Allison Janney, Alia Shawkat, Adam Brody and Leighton Meester star.

David and Paige Ostroff (Laurie and Keener) and Terry and Cathy Walling (Platt and Janney) are best friends and neighbors living on Orange Drive in suburban New Jersey. Their comfortable existence goes awry when prodigal daughter Nina Ostroff (Meester), newly broken up with her fiancé Ethan (Sam Rosen), returns home for

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Toronto: Festival Says Dealmaking Up 20%

By | Friday September 16, 2011 @ 2:45pm PDT
Mike Fleming

I have my own thoughts about the acquisition activity that took place over the past week at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival, and will provide it Monday. For now, festival organizers are banging the gong and claiming victory.

TORONTO –

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Toronto: Woody Allen Documentary Sneaks

By | Sunday September 11, 2011 @ 4:52pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Woody Allen isn’t here at Toronto, but a documentary about him will screen here. An invite has gone out for buyers to take in a “sneak peek screening” of an unfinished version of the documentary about Allen’s creative process that … Read More »

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Toronto TOLDJA!: CBS Films Closes U.S. Deal On ‘Salmon Fishing In The Yemen’

Mike Fleming

UPDATE 2, 7:03PM: CBS Films has just issued a press release confirming the acquisition:

TORONTO (September 12) – CBS Films announced today that they have acquired the U.S.distribution rights to SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN which made its world premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival this week. The announcement was made jointly today by CBS Films’ COO Wolfgang Hammer and EV Pof Acquisitions Scott Shooman.
Directed by Oscar©-nominee Lasse Hallström (Chocolat), SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN is an extraordinary, beguiling tale of fly-fishing and politicalspinning, of unexpected heroism and late-blooming love and of an attempt toprove the impossible, possible. Ewan McGregor (Beginners) and Emily Blunt (The Adjustment Bureau) star in the feature film alongside Oscar©-nominee Kristen ScottThomas (I’ve Loved You So Long).

Based on Paul Torday’s acclaimed novel, SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN is written by Oscar©-winner Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and produced by Paul Webster (The Motorcycle Diaries) and executive produced by Jamie Laurenson, Stephen Garrett, Paula Jalfon, Zygi Kamasa and Guy Avshalom.
“I am so happy to have the support of the team at CBS Films for the distribution of our labor of love, ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. ’I had the best of times working on it with producer Paul Webster, writer Simon Beaufoy and the cast, Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Amr Waked and Kristin Scott Thomas,” said Hallström.

“Lasse Hallström has done it again with this beautiful, heartwarming, and elegant picture. The performances are amazing from top to bottom,” commented Shooman who continued, “We are honored to have the opportunity to bring this extraordinary film to American audiences.”

UTA Independent Film Group set up the film’s financing and brokered the dealwith CBS Films.

 

UPDATE, 6:11PM: The deal has closed, and CBS Films has acquired U.S. rights to Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Sources close to the buyer say it’s the $4 million that the sellers asked for, while sources close to the seller say it’s $5 million. Summit got the deal to that level. What’s clear is this is a healthy deal.

EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, 12:26 PM: CBS Films is in advanced negotiations to reel in U.S. distribution rights to Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, the Lasse Hallstrom-directed film that premiered last night at the Princess of Wales Theater. Fox Searchlight, Summit, Focus and Miramax have been circling, but CBS appears to be tying down the property for a low-seven-figure deal. Adapted by Simon Beaufoy from the Paul Torday novel, the film stars Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas and Amr Waked, the latter playing a wealthy sheik who pays a fisheries scientist to stock a stream with trout. The sheik believes that fishing brings him closer to God, an experience he wants to share with his countrymen, despite the dangerous fact that some local leaders oppose it; there is a burgeoning love story between his British legal rep (Blunt) and the stuffy fisheries scientist (McGregor) who is locked in a dull marriage. Read More »

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Toronto: Myriad Takes On ‘Knife Fight’

By | Sunday September 11, 2011 @ 3:00pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Sunday, September 11, 2011, Toronto….. Myriad Pictures will handle sales outside North America for Academy® Award-winner Bill Guttentag’s political drama Knife Fight, starring Rob Lowe (“The West Wing”, “Parks & Recreation”, Breakaway), Julie Bowen (“Modern Family”, Horrible Bosses, “Boston Legal”), Jamie Chung (Sucker Punch, The Hangover, Part II), Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix trilogy, Disturbia, Chocolat), Eric McCormack (“Will & Grace”, Textuality, “The New Adventures of Old Christine”) and Richard Schiff (“The West Wing”, Solitary Man, The Lost World: Jurassic Park). The screenplay was written by Guttentag and prominent political consultant Chris Lehane who as a White House advisor to President Bill Clinton earned the reputation as “Master of Disaster” and later served as Al Gore’s Press Secretary. This is Lehane’s first feature film script.

The film follows three political candidates running for public office. Rob Lowe plays a hard-ball political crisis manager in the middle of the dirty campaigns whose clients are hip-deep in scandals involving drugs, sex, money and lies. Chung plays his smart administrative aid, and Bowen plays a hot shot reporter who sleeps her way to major news stories.

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Toronto: Crime Scene, Nick Wechsler Team For ‘Man With A Gun’

By | Sunday September 11, 2011 @ 12:18pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Crime Scene Pictures partners Adam Ripp and Rob Paris will partner with Nick Wechsler on Man With a Gun, a Robert Hewitt Wolfe-scripted action thriller. They’ve just set up the picture for Crime Scene to fully finance, and they’ll talk it … Read More »

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Toronto: Paramount Sets October 2012 Awards-Season Debut For ‘Sopranos’ Creator David Chase’s First Movie

Pete Hammond

EXCLUSIVE: Although Paramount is represented in Toronto this year by its Sundance pickup and awards hopeful Like Crazy (10/28), which will have its premiere here Tuesday night, and also by Steven Spielberg’s motion capture animated film The Adventures of TinTin (12/23), for Read More »

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Toronto: Where Are The Film Deals?

Mike Fleming

Just as it did last year, the 2011 Toronto Film Festival has gotten off to a slow start on the acquisitions front. I spoke with many buyers after last night’s onslaught of acquisition title premieres, and the common feeling was these distributors need to fill slots in their schedules and they want to fall in love, but haven’t quite gotten there yet with most of these films. They had some reservations on just about all of the films they saw. These films will clearly find distribution homes, but the reaction means that deals will drag out because those distributors aren’t going to be posting large minimum guarantees, the way they did in Cannes.

Even the big sale of the festival so far, the Steve McQueen-directed NC-17 sex drama Shame, wasn’t a huge commitment for all the press hoopla that followed Deadline’s reveal that the film had sold to Fox Searchlight. I am hearing the deal was a mid-six figure minimum guarantee around $400,000, and a P&A commitment around $1.5 million. That sounds about right, because the filmmakers were most concerned with entering this year’s Oscar race to capitalize on the performances by Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, and ensuring that not a frame of the picture was changed. But it doesn’t sound like a wide release picture.

As for the wide release titles, they are going to sell, but it will be a struggle for sellers to get the dollars they want. I saw one of those titles that sit atop buyer lists last night. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was scripted by Simon Beaufoy, directed by Lasse Hallstrom and stars Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas and Amr Waked, the latter playing a wealthy sheik who pays a fisheries scientist to stock a stream with trout. The film is sophisticated, funny, timely and utterly charming, and I would be surprised if it isn’t snapped up by Monday or sooner. That film got the best reaction from the buyers I spoke with. The pace of auctioning has been complicated by the volume of premieres last night, including Rampart, Take This Waltz, The Oranges, the hockey comedy Goon and the Morgan Spurlock-directed documentary Comic-Con: A Fan’s Hope. Buyers had to make choices, and some were seeing films like Salmon this morning. I expect a flurry of deals toward the end of the festival, which is how it played out last year.

Since there’s little going on so far, you have time to notice things. Here are a few things I’ve noticed: Read More »

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Toronto: ‘Descendants’ Premiere Gets Big Reaction, Searchlight Has No Shame About Pickup Of Controversial ‘Shame’

Pete Hammond

Fox Seachlight’s annual party at the Thompson Hotel for the Toronto International Film Festival seemed especially ebullient Saturday after its growing Oscar contender, The Descendants, premiered to a standing ovation. Exactly a week earlier, the film received a similar enthusiastic response in Telluride. On top of that, Searchlight’s co-presidents Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula had just won rights over The Weinstein Company and Sony Pictures Classics to the controversial Steve McQueen-directed Shame, which missed out Saturday on the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival but did nab star Michael Fassbender the Best Actor prize for his raw, let-it-all-hang-out performance as a sexually addicted man in freefall.

Shame Michael Fassbender Carey MulliganUtley confirmed that Searchlight will release Shame this year in time for the Oscar race, possibly December. Although they have not dated it, they do want enough time to put a campaign together. She was thrilled that Fassbender got the Venice prize for the film, which premieres in Toronto tomorrow night, after Read More »

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Toronto: Fox Searchlight Acquires ‘Shame’

Mike Fleming

UPDATE: Fox Searchlight toppers Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula have confirmed the acquisition of Shame at Toronto. Searchlight’s official release is after the jump.

EXCLUSIVE: In the first major deal of the Toronto Film Festival, Fox Searchlight has acquired Shame, the Steve McQueen-directed NC-17 drama that was the talk of Telluride. Bidding came down to Searchlight and The Weinstein Company. The film is said to showcase a tour de force performance by Michael Fassbender, who plays a New Yorker unable to manage his sex life when his wayward younger sister (Carey Mulligan) moves into his apartment, and his world spirals out of control. Searchlight had been the frontrunner in the bidding. The film is a provocative purchase for a number of reasons: It is unabashedly NC-17, features graphic sex scenes and nudity — one source said “think dungeon sex” — and McQueen has final cut and will not change a frame. It will be a controversial release for Searchlight, whose parent company has already weathered plenty of scandal lately. Also, the deal calls for a late-year release and Best Actor campaign for Fassbender; Searchlight will already be waging a campaign in the same category for George Clooney in the Alexander Payne-directed The Descendants. Hanway brokered the Shame deal. Read More »

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2011 Toronto: ‘Shame’ Will Start Dealmaking Flurry, But Buyers Wait To Be Blown Away

Mike Fleming

Last year’s Toronto Film Festival started slow for acquisitions, but finished with a flurry of modest distribution deals that served notice the specialty film business had finally pulled out of its nosedive. This year’s festival hasn’t started and … Read More »

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Toronto Taps David Hare’s ‘Page Eight’ As Closer, Bulks Up Slate With Gala Starpower

Mike Fleming

The 2011 Toronto Film Festival has selected David Hare’s spy drama Page Eight, starring Bill Nighy, Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, as its closing-night film and added a slew of Gala premieres and Special Presentations that boost the star wattage with the likes of Robert De Niro, Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Nicole Kidman, James Gandolfini and Gerard Butler. The additions to the previously announced film slate includes a Future Projects lineup that features James Franco and Gus Van Sant reminiscing about My Own Private Idaho, a documentary about Exit through the Gift Shop‘s Mr. Brainwash (Thierry Guetta), and Peter Lynch’s Buffalo Days; and a Wavelengths program of international experimental films. Here is the release about the additional Galas and Special Presentations:

Toronto – The Toronto International Film Festival® announces the addition of 8 Galas and 17 Special Presentations to the high-calibre selection of crowd-pleasers premiering in September. Today’s announcement includes 14 World Premieres and reveals that Festival-goers will be treated to a programming lineup featuring world premieres from directors including Nick Murphy, Gary McKendry, Joel Schumacher, Gianni Amelio, Agnieszka Holland, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Pankaj Kapur, Anne Fontaine, Mathieu Kassovitz and Geoffrey Fletcher. The films unveiled today feature onscreen appearances by Jason Statham, Robert De Niro, Clive Owen, Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz, Gerard Butler, Ralph Fiennes, Imelda Staunton, Nicolas Cage, Nicole Kidman, Catherine Deneuve, Shahid Kapur, Isabelle Huppert, Saoirse Ronan, Alexis Bledel and James Gandolfini, among others.

This announcement brings the final number of Galas to 20, and the final number of Special Presentations to 67.

GALAS
Closing Night Film
Page Eight
David Hare, United Kingdom International Premiere
Johnny Worricker (Bill Nighy) is a long-serving M15 officer. His boss and best friend Benedict Baron (Michael Gambon) dies suddenly, leaving behind him an inexplicable file, threatening the stability of the organization. Meanwhile, a seemingly chance encounter with Johnny’s striking next-door neighbour and political activist Nancy Pierpan (Rachel Weisz) seems too good to be true. Set in London and Cambridge, Page Eight is a contemporary spy film which addresses intelligence issues and moral dilemmas peculiar to the new century. Also stars Ralph Fiennes and Judy Davis.

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Toronto Fest Fills Out Slate With Genre And Documentary Films

By | Wednesday August 3, 2011 @ 8:15am PDT
Mike Fleming

The 2011 Toronto Film Festival has filled out its fest slate with the genre fare of its Midnight Madness program, and foreign, kidfare and documentary offerings. Among the highlights: the Masters program will unveil the Wim Wenders-directed Pina; the Jafar … Read More »

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2011 Toronto Film Festival: Brad Pitt’s ‘Moneyball,’ Madonna’s ‘W.E.’, George Clooney’s ‘The Ides Of March’ Make Cut

By | Tuesday July 26, 2011 @ 7:43am PDT
Mike Fleming

The 2011 Toronto Film Festival has unveiled the first part of its slate, and announced that the Davis Guggenheim-directed U2 documentary From The Sky Down will open the festival, which will run from Sept. 8-18.  Aside from the promise of Bono and The Edge, there is plenty of starpower at the fest with its glitzy list of premieres. Not mentioned is Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I’ve heard this one might be the opening-night film of The New York Festival, which last year provided a strong Oscar-season launch platform for The Social Network. Might that be why it’s missing from the TIFF list? Here is the official announcement of the gala premieres that the festival has locked:

Toronto – Now in its 36th year, the Toronto International Film Festival® today unveiled a selection of films in the 2011 Galas and Special Presentations programmes. The selection comprises 10 Galas and 43 Special Presentations, including 31 World Premieres. Running from September 8 to 18, this year‟s Festival presents the world premieres of films from directors Bruce Beresford, Luc Besson, Rémi Bezancon, Cameron Crowe, Terence Davies, Mathieu Demy, Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass, Roland Emmerich, Julian Farino, Jim Field Smith, Francis Ford Coppola, Marc Foster, Rodrigo Garcia, Lasse Hallstrom, Huh Jong-ho, Cédric Khan, Jonathan Levine, Jamie Linden, Derick Martini, Fernando Meirelles, Bennett Miller, Oren Moverman, Daniel Nettheim, Pawel Pawlikowski, Alexander Payne, Sarah Polley, Malgoska Szumowska, Jonathan Teplitzky, Jennifer Westfeldt, Michael Winterbottom and Wang Xiaoshuai.

Galas
Albert Nobbs Rodrigo Garcia, Ireland World Premiere
A witty Irish-set period drama about the lives of staff at Dublin‟s most luxurious hotel: the illegitimate child of a maid, a beautiful couple‟s impossible love, and Albert…a woman who pretends to be a man to survive. Nineteenth century Ireland: for a woman to be independent and single, she must deceive everyone – by pretending to be a man. Albert, a shy butler who keeps to himself, has been hiding a deep secret for years – “he‟ is a woman who has had to behave as a man all her life in order to escape a life of poverty and loneliness. When a handsome painter Hubert Page arrives at the hotel, Albert is inspired to try and escape the false life she has created for herself. She gathers her nerve to court beautiful, saucy young maid Helen in whom she thinks she‟s found a companion – but Helen‟s eye is on a new arrival: handsome, bad-boy Joe, the new handy-man. As Albert dares to hope that she might one day live a normal life, we catch a glimpse of a free-spirited woman who is caught in the wrong time… Stars Glenn Close.

Butter Jim Field Smith, USA World Premiere
Set in the highly competitive world of championship butter carving, Butter blends social commentary, outrageous comedy and heartfelt drama in telling the story of the ambitious Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner), the self-anointed First Lady of Butter Carving. Refusing to accept that her husband (Ty Burrell) wants to step down after his 15-year run as the “Iowa State Butter Carving Champion,” and therefore end the Pickler family‟s reign in the spotlight, Laura takes a stab at the title herself. But her bid for glory is complicated when two unlikely contestants enter the race – one, her husband‟s hard-living mistress (Olivia Wilde), and the other a 10-year-old foster child named Destiny (Yara Shahidi). Enlisting the help of her high school sweetheart, Boyd (Hugh Jackman), Laura will stop at nothing to be crowned champion, even if it means resorting to sabotage. Part political satire, part Capra-esque comedy, Butter is a story about what it means to win at all costs and against all odds.

A Dangerous Method David Cronenberg, France/Ireland/United Kingdom/Germany/Canada North American Premiere
On the eve of World War I, Zurich and Vienna are the setting for a dark tale of sexual and intellectual discovery. Drawn from true-life events, A Dangerous Method takes a glimpse into the turbulent relationships between fledgling psychiatrist Carl Jung, his mentor Sigmund Freud and Sabina Spielrein, the troubled but beautiful young woman who comes between them. Into the mix comes Otto Gross, a debauched patient who is determined to push the boundaries. In this exploration of sensuality, ambition and deceit set the scene for the pivotal moment when Jung, Freud and Sabina come together and split apart, forever changing the face of modern thought. Starring Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen and Keira Knightley.

A Happy Event Rémi Bezancon, France World Premiere
She turned my life upside-down, drove me into a corner, pushed me beyond my limits. She taught me about self-renouncement, tenderness and sacrifice in their most extreme forms.” “Why didn‟t my mother ever tell me? Why doesn’t anyone ever mention this?” A Happy Event breaks the taboo of pregnancy through the tragicomic diary of a young woman who becomes a mother. Stars Louise Bourgoin.

The Ides of March George Clooney, USA North American Premiere
The Ides of March takes place during the frantic last days before a heavily contested Ohio presidential primary, when an up-and-coming campaign press secretary (Ryan Gosling) finds himself involved in a political scandal that threatens to upend his candidate’s shot at the presidency. Also starring George Clooney, Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The Lady Luc Besson, France/United Kingdom World Premiere
The Lady is the extraordinary story of Aung San Suu Kyi and her husband, Michael Aris. It is also the story of the peaceful quest of the woman who is at the core of Burma‟s democracy movement. Despite distance, long separations, and a dangerously hostile regime, their love endures until the very end. It‟s a story of devotion and human understanding set against a backdrop of political turmoil that continues today. The Lady was written over a period of three years by Rebecca Frayn. Interviews with key figures in Aung San Suu Kyi‟s entourage enabled her to reconstruct for the first time the true story of Burma‟s national heroine. Stars Michelle Yeoh and David Thewlis.

Moneyball Bennett Miller, USA World Premiere
Based on a true story, Moneyball stars Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland As and the guy who assembles the team, who has an epiphany: all of baseball‟s conventional wisdom is wrong. Forced to reinvent his team on a tight budget, Beane will have to outsmart the richer clubs. The onetime jock teams with Ivy League grad Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) in an unlikely partnership, recruiting bargain players that the scouts call flawed, but all of whom have an ability to get on base, score runs, and win games. It‟s more than baseball, it‟s a revolution – one that challenges old school traditions and puts Beane in the crosshairs of those who say he‟s tearing out the heart and soul of the game.

Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding Bruce Beresford, USA World Premiere
Directed by two-time Academy Award nominated Bruce Beresford, Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding stars Academy Award-winning Jane Fonda, two-time Academy Award-nominated Catherine Keener, international heartthrob Chace Crawford, and Sundance’s breakout star Elizabeth Olsen. The film is a comedy about an uptight New York City lawyer who takes her two spirited teenagers to her hippie mother’s farmhouse in the countryside for a family vacation. What was meant to be a weekend getaway quickly turns into a summer adventure of romance, music, family secrets, and self-discovery.

Take this Waltz Sarah Polley, Canada World Premiere
Swelteringly hot, bright and colourful like a bowl of fruit, Take this Waltz leads us laughing through the familiar, but uncharted question of what long-term relationships do to love, sex, and our images of ourselves. Starring Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen and Luke Kirby.

W.E. Madonna, United Kingdom North American Premiere
W.E. is a romantic exploration of the mysterious connection across decades between two women confronting the consequences of desire. Caught in a loveless Manhattan marriage, abused and frustrated Wally (Abbie Cornish) obsesses over Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough), the stylish American divorcee who captured the heart of Edward the VIII (James D‟Arcy) who abdicated the throne as King of England. As the Duchess of Windsor, Wallis spends the rest of her life in the glare of celebrity exile. Inspired by the Duchess‟ determination to pursue love in the face of social exile, Wally escapes into the arms of another man (Oscar Isaac) whose love sets her free. Madonna and a world class team of collaborators present a passionate tale of the search for love and the meaning of happiness. W.E. (for Wallis and Edward, forever entwined in the love story of the 20th century) is a rich, cinematic portrayal of two strong women resolved to find romance.

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