Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi’s No One Knows About Persian Cats was the opening night film of the Cannes Un Certain Regard sidebar in 2009. A hot title at the time, it was plagued with political controversy when Ghobadi’s girlfriend and co-screenwriter was arrested in Tehran a month before the festival. An American-Iranian journalist, Roxana Saberi was convicted of espionage after a one-day trial and given an eight-year prison sentence. The news made headlines when then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for Saberi’s release. Ultimately, there was a happy ending when her conviction was overturned on appeal and the film about underground musicians trying to escape censorship in Tehran went on to win the UCR Special Jury prize. It later landed in several international festivals, and IFC Films released it in the U.S. Fast-forward to this week, and life has imitated art for the movie that itself ends on a note of tragedy. The Yellow Dogs, a band that was featured in the film, lost two of its members on Monday in a shooting in Brooklyn. Brothers Soroush and Arash Farazmand were killed at their home in East Williamsburg along with another man who toured with the band this year. The suspected killer, a musician who was not part of the Yellow Dogs, is then beleived to have turned a high-powered assault rifle on himself. The band had attended Cannes in 2009, and after earning notoriety there, fled Iran for asylum in the U.S. The four-person group went on to play at SXSW and various New York clubs. Band manager Ali Salehezadeh told the Associated Press the band wanted to be known for its music. “I guess now we have a gun story,” he said. For her part, Saberi wrote in a blog post, “Such tragic news. I’m so very sorry for them and their families.”
Global Showbiz Briefs: Dominique Lavant Set For ‘Le Petit Nicolas’ Sequel, JK Rowling Prevails In ‘Cuckoo’s Calling’ Case, Heightened Police Presence In Cannes
Dominique Lavanant Takes Over Role Following Lafont Death
Dominique Lavanant has replaced the late Bernadette Lafont in Les Vacances Du Petit Nicolas, Laurent Tirard’s sequel to his 2009 French hit comedy Le Petit Nicolas. Lafont, a veteran of some 120 films, passed away last week. She was to have played the grandmother of the titular tyke. Lavanant, Le Parisien reports, is taking over the role for the film which is currently shooting. Lavanant and Lafont previously starred together in Paulette in 2012. Lavanant is also known for her role in Patrice Leconte’s classic comedy franchise Les Bronzés, Jean-Marie Poiré’s 1983 comedy Papy Fait De La Resistance and for Agent Trouble, which won her a César in 1998. Les Vacances Du Petit Nicolas releases in France in July next year.
This is the first in a planned series of reports on the people, projects and polemics that have folks buzzing in various overseas territories.
Each year following the Cannes Film Festival the French film industry falls into semi-hibernation as execs recover from months of build-up, the box office gives way to Hollywood tentpoles and attention turns to tennis and weeks-long vacations. Some years, it seems like the industry doesn’t even really wake up again until the fall festivals hit. But in this past month since Cannes ended, there’s been quite a bit keeping the industry buzzing. Among the issues are what France’s Oscar entry will be, vagaries at the local ratings board, a renewed push to allow film advertising on television and the fight to preserve the Cultural Exception. France led the charge on the latter, winning in its bid on June 14 to keep the audiovisual business out of a negotiation mandate for trade talks between the U.S. and Europe. This was a fight that got a lot of traction in Cannes with even Harvey Weinstein and Steven Spielberg coming out in favor of the Cultural Exception as a means to maintain the diversity of European cinema.
Meanwhile, the jury that Spielberg chaired in Cannes gave its top honor to a coming-of-age love story between two women, Blue Is The Warmest Color. Many people have posited that Blue will be France’s Oscar entry this year, but I’m told that it will not. It’s generally accepted that films that win the Palme d’Or end up representing their country — the last time a French film won, The Class, it indeed was the submission.
Despite the difficulties of trying to woo some Academy voters with a lesbian love story with explicit sex scenes like Blue, the main reason I’m told it won’t make the cut is because French distributor, Wild Bunch, is not releasing it in time. The Oscar rep selection committee at French film body the CNC requires that a film go out nationally in France before September 30 and Wild Bunch has set an October release. Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval calls the rule “stupid” but tells me they believe October is best for the picture. It’s my understanding that Sundance Selects will release Blue unrated later this year in the U.S. Blue is expected to get a French rating that bars only kids under 12 because, Maraval says, “There are only positive values and love in the film, no violence or drugs.” When I asked him if he thought drugs were regarded more damaging than sex by the ratings board at the CNC, he said “Well, I hope sex is less serious than drugs, no?”
Nary a day went by at last month’s Cannes Film Festival without some sort of non-movie-related scandal erupting on the Croisette. Thieves who made off with millions in jewelry have yet to be apprehended, but a man now …
Cannes Film Fest chief Thierry Frémaux launched the Lumière Festival in his native Lyon, France five years ago with Lumière Institute president Bertrand Tavernier. The event, which is also open to the public, is a classic movie-lover’s dream with a vast lineup of retrospectives and restored vintage titles all screening in the birthplace of cinema. In a nod to Frémaux’s deep relationshps within the industry, the fest attracts big name talent each October. Following in the footsteps of previous recipients like Clint Eastwood and Milos Forman, Quentin Tarantino is being given the Prix Lumière this year. The fest said the honor is for his body of work, his love of cinema, “the tributes he pays inside his own films to the entire mythology of the 7th art” and for “the way he’s always saying ‘Vive le cinéma!’”
Alain Guiraudie was named best director in the Un Certain Regard sidebar at last month’s Cannes Film Festival for his roundly-lauded thriller L’Inconnu Du Lac (Stranger By The Lake). During the festival, the sexually explicit gay-themed tale of summer love and murder was picked up by Strand Releasing for a U.S. release later this year. But on the eve of its release in France, where expressions of sexuality are de rigueur and where gay marriage was recently legalized, the film’s advertising (left) proved too much for some. In the Parisian suburbs of Versailles and Saint-Cloud, a series of promotional posters was pulled at the request of the individual town halls, ad agency JC Decaux told AFP. The mayor’s office in Saint-Cloud said it had been “harassed” by phone calls and emails about the poster since it went up last week. Versailles says it did not contact JC Decaux, but a rep told French media it was understandable that the image “could shock people who find themselves disarmed by posters in the street that address sexuality.”
Chinese media entrepreneur Bruno Wu in his recent interview with me touts ”a next-generation entertainment company that’s lean and mean and scalable. Building an ecosystem for the …
Alison Thompson, co-president of Focus Features International (FFI), announced multi-territory sales on director Asif Kapadia’s (Senna, The Warrior) untitled documentary on five-time Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse. FFI also saw strong sales on seven-time Academy Award-nominated writer/director Mike Leigh’s (Another Year, Vera Drake, Secrets & Lies) J.M.W. Turner film, which stars Timothy Spall (Harry Potter, Secrets & Lies).
FFI has secured the following territories and respective distributors on behalf of Asif Kapadia’s Amy Winehouse documentary: France – Mars Films; Germany – Prokino; Benelux – Cineart; Greece – Odeon; Iceland – Sena; Israel – Lev Cinema; Middle East – Italia Film; Portugal – Lusomundo Audiovisuals; Turkey – D Productions; Hong Kong – Edko Films; India – PVR Limited; Singapore – Shaw Renters; Thailand – IPA Pacific; Australia/NZ – eOne; and South Africa – Ster-Kinekor. Focus Features International is currently fielding multiple offers for the UK, CIS, and Italy.
EXCLUSIVE: WME came back from Cannes with a trio of offshore directing talents, as the agency signed Jorge Dorado, Erik Skjoldbjaerg, and Mikkel Norgaard. Dorado made his feature directing debut with the psychological thriller Mindscape for Studio Canal starring Mark Strong, Brian Cox and Taissa Farmiga and produced by Jaume Collet-Sera. The film is slated for a fall 2013 release. Warner Bros is distributing foreign and domestic will be sold shortly. Dorado has directed many award-winning shorts including La Guerra, which won 47 awards at festivals around the world. He has also been assistant director on more than 20 films by the likes of Pedro Almodovar, Baz Luhrmann, and Guillermo del Toro. He is managed by Tom Drumm.
Norgaard is the director of Klown, the 2012 pic that became the highest-grossing Danish film of all time. He is currently in post on Keeper Of Lost Causes, a film that screened in Cannes for distributors. The film is based on the bestselling series of novels that Nik Arcel adapted as a trilogy. The movie will be released in October and the sequel, also written by Arcel for Norgaard to direct, will shoot in September.
Borgman was the first Dutch film in the Cannes Film Festival‘s competition lineup in almost 40 years when the Dutch thriller from director Alex van Warmerdam hit the Croisette earlier this month. Now Drafthouse Films has picked up North American rights in a deal with Fortissimo Films, with a U.S. theatrical and VOD/digital release planned for 2014. Films We Like will handle Canadian distribution.
Borgman is an allegorical tale exploring the nature of evil in unexpected places. A vagrant enters the lives of a typical but arrogant upper-class family, igniting a descent from darkly comic dream to maddening psychological nightmare. Annet Malherbe and Eva van de Wijdeven, two regulars in van Warmerdam’s films, stars along with Jan Bijvoet. Graniet Film (Netherlands) produced.
“Maybe once a year, I am deluged after a premiere with texts and emails to the effect of ‘this is such a Drafthouse movie,’” says Drafthouse Films founder and CEO Tim League, “Its strange, disturbing, hysterical and utterly unique. Borgman is the quintessential Drafthouse film of Cannes. We can’t wait to share it with audiences in North America.”