War Witch’ Actress Granted Visa For Oscars
Rachel Mwanza, who won best actress prizes in Berlin and Tribeca last year for her lead performance in War Witch, has been granted a visa to travel from Congo to North America in order to attend the Oscars on Sunday and other awards shows. War Witch is nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Mwanza was a non-pro when she was discovered living on the streets of Kinshasa and was cast in the movie about a 12-year-old girl who is kidnapped by African rebels, forced to kill her parents at gunpoint and then fight as a child soldier against the government. According to Tribeca Film, which acquired War Witch for North America, the filmmakers continue to provide her with a caregiver and oversee her education. The film is directed by Kim Nguyen is also nominated as Best International Film at Saturday’s Independent Spirit Awards, has 12 nominations for Canadian Screen Awards on March 3 and 9 nominations for Québec’s Jutras on March 17. Tribeca is platforming the film starting March 1 in New York, then March 8 in Los Angeles and in select cities thereafter. It will be available VOD from February 26.

Afghan ‘Buzkashi Boys’ Arrive In LA For Oscars
After an Internet campaign raised money for expenses and Turkish Air Lines donated tickets for them and a shaperone, the two teenage stars of the Oscar-nominated short film from Afghanistan arrived in Los Angeles today. The 28-minute film is the first to be produced by the Afghan Film Project, a non-profit that aims to train filmmakers in Afghanistan. It focuses on two children growing up in Kabul who dream of becoming Buzkashi riders, horsemen who compete in the dangerous Afghan national sport similar to polo in which riders try to carry a headless goat across a goal line. The film earned U.S. director Sam French a nomination for Best Live Action Short Film. Producers said they launched the campaign because they lacked a travel budget for Fawad Mohammadi and Jawanmard Paiz, who will attend the Oscars Sunday night. “I’m so happy and excited,” Mohammadi told Reuters at LAX. Some 237 people from 13 countries donated to raise $11,751, the website Rally.org said. Both teens said they wanted to see actors while they’re in Hollywood and they plan to visit Disneyland and Universal Studios. Specifically, Mohammadi said “I want to see Rambo, Sylvester Stallone.” Mohammadi and Paiz will fly to Washington for screenings of the film February 27 and begin their journey back to Kabul on March 1.

William Boyd To Pen New James Bond Novel
William BoydThe Ian Fleming estate has announced that William Boyd will pen the next James Bond novel, although the title and plot will remain under wraps for the time being. Jonathan Cape will publish the book September 26 in the UK. It will be available via HarperCollins in the U.S. and Canada in October. The book will be set in 1969 and feature a 45-year-old 007. Boyd is the third author in recent years to write an official Bond novel. Jeffrey Deaver wrote Carte Blanche in 2011 and Sebastian Faulks’ Devil May Care was published in 2008. Boyd’s previous work includes the Booker Prize-shortlisted An Ice-Cream War, 1990’s Brazzaville Beach, 2002’s Any Human Heart and 2006’s Restless.

Australia’s Foxtel Wraps Movie Deals With Disney, MGM
Foxtel’s strategy to buy movies direct from U.S. studios is complete today after confirmation that the Walt Disney Co. and MGM have signed licensing deals for the Foxtel Movies and Premium Drama service that launched January 1. They were the last two majors to come aboard. Last October Foxtel bought the Showtime channels from Paramount, Sony, Fox, NBCUniversal and Liberty Media. On December 31 the Movie Networks channels owned by Warner Bros., Disney, MGM and Village Roadshow went dark after Foxtel refused to extend the contract. WB and Village Roadshow signed up in late December. The paybox is still negotiating with the leading independents Transmission, eOne Hopscotch, Hoyts Studiocanal and Icon, whose deals with Showtime run until midyear. By buying direct, Foxtel has eliminated the competing movie platforms and reduced studio license feesby 20%-25%. – Don Groves

French Critics Fall For ‘Amour
The French Critics Union has named Michael Haneke’s Amour as the Best French Film of the year. The movie is nominated for four Oscars on Sunday including Best Actress and Picture, although it is on the Best Foreign Language Film list as the entry from Austria based on Haneke’s nationality. The critics’ Best Foreign Film prize went to Portugal’s Tabu by Miguel Gomes. The film premiered in Berlin last year where it won the Alfred Bauer and Critics Week prizes. The Best First Film trophy went to Louise Wimmer by Cyril Mennegun.

Summer In February’ Gets UK Release Date
Metrodome Distribution has set June 14 to release Summer In February, the Christopher Menaul-directed love story that’s based on Jonathan Smith’s 1995 novel. Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens stars with Dominic Cooper, Emily Browning and Harriet Morahan. The story is set at an Edwardian artists’ colony on the Cornish coast of England before the start of WWI. The film is also Stevens’ debut as an exec producer. CrossDay’s Pippa Cross and Janette Day and Apart Films’ Jeremy Cowdrey produce.

More Distributors Board ‘The Best Offer’
UMedia’s sales arm uConnect closed further deals on Giuseppe Tornatore’s love story The Best Offer during the EFM. The film is set against the backdrop of a wealthy family’s art collection and is written and directed by Cinema Paradiso’s Tornatore. It has taken in over $12M at the Italian box office and stars Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess, Donald Sutherland and Sylvia Hoeks. Previously acquired by Warner Bros. for Italy, Germany and Austria, Transmission for Australia, Gaga for Japan and Cascade for Russia, the film has added Spain (Filmax), Latin America (Swen), Greece (Feelgood), Israel (Forum) and Korea (Mirovision), among others. It’s produced by Isabella Cocuzza and Arturo Paglia of Paco Cinematografica in association with Warner Bros. Entertainment Italy.

Alt J On Soundtrack Duty For ‘Leave To Remain’
Indefinite Films has scored British indie rock band Alt J to compose the soundtrack to their upcoming Leave To Remain. The band’s 2012 debut album Awesome Wave was certified Gold in the UK and has sold 350,000 copies globally. The movie features Snow White And The Huntsman and The Girl‘s Toby Jones and tells the story of a group of teenagers from different countries who seek asylum in London. Documentary director Bruce Goodison makes his feature directing debut with the coming of age drama that blends professional actors and young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds. It’s currently in post-production. Financed by the Oak Foundation and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the film’s proceeds will be returned to the Leave to Remain Community Interest Company to fund future training academies that teach filmmaking to young people seeking sanctuary.