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Santa Barbara Festival Reveals Full Lineup

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival this morning announced its full lineup of movies including 16 world premieres and 37 U.S. debuts for the 27th annual event. The fest runs January 26 through February 5. The centerpiece gala movie will be the U.S. premiere of the documentary Samsara directed by Ron Fricke (Baraka, Chronos). Closing night feature is director Nadine Labaki’s comedy Where Do We Go Now? about a group of Lebanese women who go to extraordinary lengths to keep peace between Christians and Muslims in their village. The previously announced opening-night feature is Lawrence Kasdan’s Darling Companion. Virtuosos Awards will be presented to Demián Bichir (A Better Life), Rooney Mara (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids), Patton Oswalt (Young Adult), Andy Serkis (Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes) and Shailene Woodley (The Descendants). In addition, the festival will pay special tribute to Viola Davis along with previously announced honorees Christopher Plummer and Martin Scorsese.

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OSCAR: Analyzing Foreign Language Race

This season, 63 countries have submitted films for consideration in the Foreign Language Film category for the 84th Academy Awards. The 2011 submissions are vying to be among the 9 long-listed by the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences before the 5 finalists are announced with Oscar nominations on January 24. Here are the films that AwardsLine London Contributor Tim Adler believes will make the semifinal round:

Declaration Of War (France)
Sundance Selects, U.S. release date: January 27
Valérie Donzelli’s Declaration Of War has been a huge hit with critics and the public alike. The movie, which opened Cannes Critics’ Week this  year, has sold to more than 30 territories and has already generated over 810,000 admissions in France for distributor-sales agent Wild Bunch. Declaration Of War is based on Donzelli’s own life story. She and her former partner Jérémie Elkaïm play themselves in the film, which charts their fight to save the baby they had together after he is diagnosed with a brain tumor. The film’s success with audiences is largely attributed to its happy ending: the baby survives. Donzelli tells me, “The audience is confronted with the worst thing you can imagine, and yet they see people overcoming the situation. It’s not about the anguish of death but passion for life.”

The Flowers Of War (China)
Wrekin Hill, U.S. Release: 2012

Flowers marks a return to high drama for China’s favorite director Zhang Yimou and represents his fourth attempt at an Academy Award,
following defeats for Hero (2003), Raise the Red Lantern (1992) and Ju Dou (1991). With a budget of nearly $100 million, The Flowers of War – starring Christian Bale – is Zhang’s most expensive film ever. Zhang’s problem: Judges of the Best Foreign-Language Film category don’t really go for blockbusters. The film is based on events in the former Chinese capital of Nanjing when the Japanese occupied it during the Second World War. Bale plays a mortician who goes to collect the body of an American priest from Nanjing Cathedral, where he discovers local schoolgirls hiding from the carnage outside. Pledging to protect them, he dresses up as a priest and also shelters a group of prostitutes who have arrived at the cathedral. The Flowers of War ran for seven days in a 22-seat Beijing cinema to meet entry standards for the Oscars, which requires films to be  shown in domestic theatres for at least a week. (It’s reportedly 40% English-language and 60% Mandarin, which lets it squeak by one of the Academy’s rules.) Despite little promotion and tickets costing 200 yuan ($30), double the normal price, Zhang’s latest sold out within 40 minutes of its box office opening. Chinese producer New Pictures Films  handled U.S. rights with exec producers Chaoying Deng and David Linde and Stephen Saltzman of Loeb & Loeb. Wrekin Hill has acquired for U.S. distribution and releases on December 23.
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Global Showbiz Briefs: UK, Qatar

James Murdoch’s Role At News Corp, BSkyB Questioned
An influential shareholder group has urged News Corp investors to drop James Murdoch from its board. Murdoch has been eyed as his father Rupert Murdoch’s successor as chairman and CEO. But the group questions whether he is a suitable replacement considering his handling of the News of the World phone hacking scandal. Labour Party activists also have demanded that James Murdoch step down as chairman of BSkyB. The Labour delegates unanimously backed the call for his resignation, a motion from MP Tom Watson. The extra scrutiny and calls for his departure come after a recent report that contradicted his claim that he was unaware of a second reporter involved in the hacks in 2008.

Doha Festival Lines Up Contemporary World Cinema Program
The Doha Tribeca Film Festival has picked Luc Besson’s The Lady as its closing-night film and also unveiled its Contemporary World Cinema program, whose entries compete for audience awards in narrative and documentary categories. Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist will screen in the world cinema program, along with Yasemin Samdereli’s Almanya — Welcome To Germany and Takashi Shimizu’s Tormented. The other narrative films in the program are Michael R. Roskam’s Bullhead, Sebastian Borensztein’s Chinese Take Away, Valerie Donzelli’s Declaration of War, Morten Tyldum’s Headhunters, Daniel Nettheim’s The Hunter, Nadine Labaki’s Where Do We Go Now?, and Paweł Pawlikowski’s The Woman in the Fifth. … Read More »

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Sony Pictures Classics Acquires Toronto Favorite ‘Where Do We Go Now?’

NEW YORK (September 28, 2011) – Sony Pictures Classics announced today that they have acquired all US rights to Nadine Labaki’s WHERE DO WE GO NOW? from Pathé International. Produced by Anne-Dominque Toussaint of Les Films des Tournelles, WHERE DO WE GO NOW? won the Cadillac People’s Choice Award at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, Best European Film at the 2011 San Sebastian Film Festival, and is Lebanon’s entry in the Best Foreign Language Film Category for the 2012 Academy Awards.

The acquisition of WHERE DO WE GO NOW? continues a longstanding relationship between Sony Pictures Classics and Pathé International.

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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 Award For Midnight Madness
Gareth Evans-directed The Raid

City of Toronto and Astral Media’s The Movie Network Award For Best Canadian Feature
Philippe Falardeau-directed Monsieur Lazhar

Skyy Vodka Award For Best Canadian First Feature Film
Nathan Morlando-directed Edwin Boyd

FIPRESCI Prize For Special Presentations Section
Gianni Amelio-directed The First Man

FIPRESCI Prize For Discovery Programme
Axel Petersen-directed Avalon (Sweden)

Best Canadian Short Film
Ian Harnarine-directed Doubles With Slight Pepper

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