The Berlin Film Festival kicked off Wednesday evening as the European Film Market also began to roll. Some execs are cautiously optimistic that there is business to be done following a frenzied Sundance and a ho-hum AFM. Although we heard the usual complaints in the pre-fest weeks that packages are hard to pull together in the wake of the holidays and the party in Park City, there are indeed some prime offerings on the table here in Potsdamer Platz. They come amid intense competition as studio divisions and streaming giants cast a growing shadow on the indie biz.
Berlin isn’t generally a hotbed of major acquisitions activity, but there have been some splashy deals in recent years. Sales companies are increasingly using it as a place to show extended footage to convince buyers that they’re selling a theatrical proposition. At the same time, a major question on folks’ minds here is how the likes of Netflix and Amazon will position themselves on the pre-sales market where they are not yet routinely snapping up worldwide rights. One exec opines, “they may go that way as their appetite gets bigger and pockets get deeper.”
Here’s a look at some of the buzziest titles in Berlin, from finished pics to projects screening footage and brand new early-stage offerings:
SUBURBICON – Director: George Clooney; Cast: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Josh Brolin. From a script by the Coen brothers. Set in a quiet family town where a home invasion turns deadly and a picture-perfect family turns to blackmail, revenge, and betrayal. CAA has domestic, Bloom is on international sales.
LOVING – Director: Jeff Nichols; Cast: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Michael Shannon. Based on the true story of an interracial couple sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married. (Nichols is in competition here with Midnight Special.) CAA and Insiders are repping with a promo.
A UNITED KINGDOM – Director: Amma Asante; Cast: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Jack Lowden. True story of Prince Seretse Khama of Botswana, who caused an international stir when he married Ruth Williams, a white woman from London in the 1940s. Pathé has high hopes for this one here and is screening footage.
THE DEATH AND LIFE OF JOHN F. DONOVAN – Director: Xavier Dolan; Cast: Kit Harington, Jessica Chastain, Natalie Portman, Nicholas Hoult, Susan Sarandon. This is the Québecois helmer’s first Hollywood pic and follows an American TV star in his late 20s, and his correspondence with a young aspiring actor in England. Their lives take dramatic turns when the pen-pal relationship is publicly exposed. CAA reps domestic, Seville has international.
LOGAN LUCKY – Director: Steven Soderbergh; Cast: Channing Tatum, Michael Shannon. Soderbergh comes out of retirement with the hillbilly heist caper. FilmNation is selling.
OUR HOUSE – Director: Anthony Scott Burns; Cast: Thomas Mann. Based on Matt Osterman’s 2010 sci-fi pic Ghost From The Machine. A man suffering enormous guilt after his parents are killed in a car accident uses a revolutionary experiment to try and connect with them one last time, but brings something else back instead. WME and XYZ Films are brokering.
RITA HAYWORTH WITH A HAND GRENADE – Director: Sloane U’Ren; Cast: Elizabeth Banks. One of the first female war photographers is shot down and stranded on a South Pacific island during WWII. The only other inhabitant is a marooned Japanese soldier. The two evolve from sworn enemies to reluctant allies over the course of 30 years. UTA and Radiant are selling.
SUBMERGENCE – Director: Wim Wenders; Cast: Alicia Vikander, James McAvoy. Romantic thriller based on the book by JM Ledgard about a man who has survived captivity by jihadist fighters in Somalia, and the woman he loves who is exploring the depths of the ocean. UTA and Embankment are repping.
THE COMMUNE – Driector: Thomas Vinterberg; Cast: Trine Dyrholm, Ulrich Thomsen, Fares Fares. The competition title looks at the clash between personal desires, solidarity and tolerance in a Danish commune in the 70s. Co-scripted by Foreign Language Oscar nominee Tobias Lindholm. TrustNordisk handles.
WOMAN WALKS AHEAD – Director: Susannah White; Cast: Jessica Chastain. Based on the true story of Catherine Weldon, a widowed Brooklyn artist who traveled to the Standing Rock Reservation to help Sitting Bull hold onto land that the government was trying to wrest from his people. IM Global has international, CAA domestic.
RALLY CAR – Director: Harald Zwart; Cast: Keanu Reeves. A hot-shot former NASCAR driver’s professional and personal life begin to spiral out of control, and he’s forced to take part in a high stakes international rally race across China. IM Global is handling international, CAA is on domestic.
JACKIE – Director: Pablo Larrain; Cast: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig. Oscar nominee Larrain takes on the story of the movements of Jacqueline Kennedy after her husband’s assassination. Footage is screening. CAA is selling domesticallly; Insiders has international.
ANON: Director: Andrew Niccol; Cast: Clive Owen. Owen, a jury member here, is a detective in a world with no privacy, ignorance and anonymity. It’s the end of crime. However, when he stumbles on a young woman who doesn’t exist, he discovers it may be just the beginning. CAA reps domestic; K5 is selling international.
COLETTE – Director: Wash Westmoreland; Cast: Keira Knightely. Biopic about the French novelist who wrote Gigi and Cheri; from the producing team behind Carol. Sales are with Hanway.
REBEL IN THE RYE – Director: Danny Strong; Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Kevin Spacey. Hoult plays JD Salinger in a drama about the life of the reclusive Catcher In The Rye author. Bloom began selling foreign in Toronto and CAA has domestic.
THE SILENT WIFE – Director: Adrian Lyne; Cast: Nicole Kidman. The suspense thriller is about a dedicated wife who, despite her husband’s frequent indiscretions, continues to play the part with immaculate precision. Billy Ray scripted and FilmNation has international sales.
LBJ – Director: Rob Reiner; Cast: Woody Harrelson, Jennifer Jason Leigh. A biodrama about 36th U.S. President, Lyndon Baines Johnson. A promo is being screened with sales handled by Voltage and CAA.
OFFICIAL SECRETS – Director: Justin Chadwick; Cast: Natalie Dormer, Paul Bettany, Harrison Ford, Anthony Hopkins. A young British intelligence officer reveals an illegal NSA spy operation against the UN Security Council to a reporter. The officer is arrested and the journalist unearths a shocking plot that puts both of their lives in jeopardy. UTA and The Solution have this one.
NEWS FROM PLANET MARS – Director: Dominik Moll; Cast: Francois Damiens, Veerle Baetens. Official selection about a reasonable man whose world spins out of orbit as everyone around him starts to behave more and more erratically. Memento Films International has sales.
ALONE IN BERLIN – Director: Vincent Perez; Cast: Emma Thompson, Daniel Bruhl, Brendan Gleeson. Competition fact-based WWII story about German parents who, after their son is killed on the front lines, begin anti-Hitler postcards hammering his evil regime. Cornerstone is repping.
MARJORIE PRIME – Director: Michael Almereyda; Cast: Geena Davis, Jon Hamm, Tim Robbins. An aging violinist uses a service that provides holographic recreations of deceased loved ones as their survivors would like them remembered. Fortitude International is handling sales and has footage.
CATEGORY 5 – Director: Rob Cohen. A team of tech hackers infiltrates a U.S. Mint facility in a small coastal town to steal $100M in cash, just as a disastrous hurricane is about to strike and level it to the ground. Foresight selling.
COLOSSAL – Director: Nacho Vigalongo; Cast: Anne Hathaway, Dan Stevens, Jason Sudeikis. Hathaway stars as a woman who moves back to her hometown after losing her job and boyfriend — only to discover that she is somehow strangely connected to a giant lizard-like monster that materialized over Tokyo and is wreaking havoc on that city. CAA and Voltage have sales and a promo.
WHILE THE WOMEN ARE SLEEPING – Director: Wayne Wang; Cast: Takeshi Kitano. While on holiday with his wife, a writer finds inspiration for his new novel from a strange couple. Toei is selling the Panorama Special entry.
ZERO DAYS – Director: Alex Gibney. Cybercrime investigation documentary about self-replicating malware Stuxnet. Running in the Berlin competition. FilmNation just boarded international with Submarine on domestic.
THE BLEEDER – Director: Philippe Falardeau; Cast: Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts, Elisabeth Moss. Based on the true life tale of the New Jersey liquor salesman and heavyweight boxer who went 15 rounds against Muhammed Ali in 1975, and inspired Rocky. Sales are with Hyde Park.
A SERIOUS GAME – Director: Pernilla August; Cast: Michael Nyqvist, Mikke Boe Folsgaard. An epic love story based on Hjalmar Söderberg’s classic Swedish novel. TrustNordisk is handling rights on the official selection pic.
FROM THE LAND OF THE MOON – Director: Nicole Garcia; Cast: Marion Cotillard Louis Garrel. Based on Milena Agus’ novel about a free-spirited woman fighting for passionate dreams of true love against all odds. Studiocanal is selling and has footage.
CARRIE PILBY – Director: Susan Johnson; Cast: Bel Powley, Nathan Lane, Gabriel Byrne. A person of high intelligence struggles to make sense of the world as it relates to morality, relationships, sex and leaving her apartment. ICM and Radiant are repping and screening a promo.
COLD SKIN – Director: Xavier Gens. Based on Albert Sanchez Pinol’s novel set on the edge of the Arctic Circle where a young man sent to assume the post of weather observer finds no trace of the person he is supposed to replace, just a deranged castaway. Sales are with Kinology.
THEIR FINEST HOUR AND A HALF – Director: Lone Scherfig; Cast: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston. A screwball battle of the sexes that follows the misadventures of a British movie crew trying to make a patriotic film to boost morale during the Blitz. Hanway has international sales.
CHOCOLAT – Director: Roschdy Zem; Cast: Omar Sy. Based on the true story of Cuban immigrant Rafael Padilla who worked as a clown and became the toast of Paris. Gaumont recently released to solid box office in France. CAA and Gaumont are handling.
SALT AND FIRE – Director: Werner Herzog, Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Michael Shannon. A scientist blames the head of a large company for an ecological disaster in South America. But when a volcano begins to show signs of erupting, they must unite to avoid a disaster. Sales with International Film Trust.
SHEPHERDS AND BUTCHERS – Director: Oliver Schmitz; Cast: Steve Coogan, Andrea Riseborough. Set in South Africa and follows a jaded lawyer who takes on a seemingly hopeless multiple murder case, uncovering scandalous shortcomings the capital punishment system. WestEnd is handling rights.
BRIMSTONE – Director: Martin Koolhoven; Cast: Dakota Fanning, Kit Harington, Guy Pearce. A heroine is on the run from her past and hunted by Pearce’s diabolical Preacher. CAA has domestic, Embankment is proffering international — and there’s footage being shown.
CEZANNE ET MOI – Director: Danièle Thompson; Cast: Guillaume Canet, Guillaume Galienne. A look at the relationship between artist Paul Cezanne and writer Emile Zola that intrigued folks at the recent Paris Rendez-Vous. Pathé is handling.
THE HEADHUNTER’S CALLING – Director: Mark Williams; Cast: Gerard Butler, Alison Brie, Alfred Molina. A ruthless headhunter is pursuing a lifetime career ambition when his young son is suddenly taken ill. CAA is brokering domestic with Voltage on international.
A KIND OF MURDER – Director: Andy Goddard; Cast: Jessica Biel, Hayley Bennett, Patrick Wilson. A successful 1960s New York architect seemingly leads a perfect life, but his fascination with an unsolved murder leads him into a spiral of chaos as he is forced to play cat-and-mouse with a clever killer. CAA reps domestic and Sierra/Affinity handles international.
THE LIMEHOUSE GOLEM – Director: Juan Carlos Medina; Cast: Douglas Booth, Olivia Cooke. The adaptation of Peter Ackroyd’s best-selling gothic mystery novel set in 1880 London. A series of murders has shaken the community to the point where people believe that only a legendary creature from dark times could be responsible. Hanway has this one with footage to show and Lionsgate UK already aboard.
PLANETARIUM – Director: Rebecca Zlotowski; Cast: Natalie Portman, Lily Rose Depp. Sisters believed to possess the supernatural ability to connect with ghosts cross paths with a visionary French producer while performing in Paris. Kinology is screening footage.
THE DINNER – Director: Oren Moverman; Cast: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall. Psychological thriller based on the 2009 Herman Koch novel that explores just how far some parents might go to protect their children. Protagonist is selling.
THE MODERN OCEAN – Director: Shane Carruth; Cast: Anne Hathaway, Keanu Reeves, Daniel Radcliffe, Chloe Moretz. The competition for valuable shipping routes, the search for a hidden cache of priceless material and the powerful need for vengeance converge in a battle on the rolling decks of behemoth cargo ships. FilmNation has sales.
BERLIN SYNDROME – Director: Cate Shortland; Cast: Teresa Palmer, Max Riemelt. While holidaying in Berlin, Australian photojournalist Clare meets Andi, a charismatic local man. But what initially appears to be the start of a romance suddenly takes an unexpected and sinister turn when Clare wakes up locked in his apartment. Memento Films International repping.