The Berlin Film Festival is just getting underway in the German capital, but buyers and sellers are already on the ground with most arriving late Wednesday to adjust to the freezing temperatures and, hopefully, warm up to deals. The weather can be counted on to be icy — the heat of the deals is another matter. As we reported earlier today, the independent sector is in uncharted waters as big new players muscle in, ready to splash out on worldwide rights from their very deep streaming-fueled pockets.
The newly ubiquitous Netflix and Amazon, who led the business flurry in Sundance last month, are here on the ground as are the studio specialty divisions and the domestic indies. Berlin isn’t typically the hottest of markets for major acquisitions activity, but we have seen some big deals in recent years and this year there are any number of attractive proposals, from competition to pre-buys, on offer. (There also seem to be recurring themes of pugilism, politics, prison drama and song…)
Sundance, Berlin & New York Film Festival Chiefs Debate How Fests Will Look Post-COVID
Here’s a selection of titles that have folks buzzing here in Potsdamer Platz:
ADRIFT – Director: Baltasar Kormakur; Cast: Shailene Woodley. The true survival-at-sea story of Tami Oldham who must race against the clock to save herself and the only man she’s ever loved after a massive hurricane leaves her boat in ruins and her fiancé badly injured. STX International selling offshore.
LIFE ITSELF – Director: Dan Fogelman; Cast: Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Samuel L Jackson, Olivia Cooke. The This Is Us creator’s Black List script is a multi-generational relationship drama whose characters are connected by a tragic event. WME and FilmNation are repping.
LOVE CHILD – Director: Todd Solondz; Cast: Penelope Cruz, Edgar Ramirez. Described as a dark and hilarious twist on the classic Oedipal theme. Sales are with CAA and IMR International.
THE SEA CHANGE – Director: Kristin Scott Thomas; Cast: Scott Thomas, Mark Strong. A successful couple’s marriage is in crisis, a crisis which is overcome by the arrival of a curious and outspoken young girl. Rocket Science selling.
SERENITY – Director: Steven Knight; Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway. Sexy thriller about a fishing boat captain whose past crashes up against his life on a small island in the Caribbean, ensnaring him in a new reality that might not be all it seems. CAA has domestic, IM Global overseas.
EXTINCTION – Director: Ben Young; Cast: Michael Pena. Co-written by Arrival Oscar-nominee Eric Heisserer, sci-fi thriller follows a man who has a recurring dream of losing his family and finds the nightmare turns into reality when the planet is invaded by a force bent on brutality and destruction; he comes to realize an unknown strength to keep his family safe from harm. Good Universe has sales.
SWEETNESS IN THE BELLY– Director: Zeresanay “Zee” Berhane Mehari; Cast: Saoirse Ronan. A woman is caught between two places: one of her birth parents and the other, where she was adopted, raised and fell in love. Hanway selling.
CLIVE DAVIS: THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES – Director: Chris Perkel. Documentary about the legendary music impresario. WME and IM Global are handling.
THE CHOCOLATE MONEY – Director: Adam Shankman; Cast: Kate Beckinsale. Study of the relationship between billionaire chocolate heiress, Babs Ballentyne, and her daughter set in 1980s New York. UTA and Cornerstone are repping.
DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE – Director: S. Craig Zahler; Cast: Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughan. An old-guard cop and his volatile partner descend into the criminal underworld. Bloom and WME selling.
DJANGO – Director: Etienne Comar; Cast: Reda Kateb, Cecile de France. Opening night film is a biopic of jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and his flight from German-occupied Paris in 1943. Pathé is selling.
FINAL PORTRAIT – Director: Stanley Tucci; Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer. A look at the touching and offbeat friendship between Alberto Giacometti and James Lord which CAA and Hanway are selling the official selection.
THE FLORIDA PROJECT – Director: Sean Baker. Cast: Willem Dafoe, Bria Vinaite, Caleb Landry Jones. Story follows a precocious six-year old and group of friends whose summer break is filled with adventure while the adults around them struggle with hard times. Protagonist is selling with exclusive footage.
VITA & VIRGINIA – Director: Chanya Button. Cast: Eva Green, Gemma Arterton. Movie tracks the friendship and love affair between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sacksville West. Protagonist selling.
THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST – Director: Desiree Akhavan; Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane. A young girl is forced into a gay conversion therapy center. Elle Driver reps.
ANNETTE – Director: Leos Carax; Cast: Adam Driver, Rooney Mara, Rihanna. Music drama about a widowed stand-up comedian and his 2-year-old daughter who has a surprising gift. Sold by Kinology.
HARD POWDER – Director: Hans Petter Moland; Cast: Liam Neeson. A snowplow driver seeks to avenge his son’s death. From Studiocanal.
HOTEL ARTEMIS – Director: Drew Pearce; Cast: Jodie Foster. Foster play a nurse who runs an underground hospital for Los Angeles’ most sinister criminals and finds that one of her patients is actually there to assassinate another. WME, Lionsgate International have sales.
HUMMINGBIRD – Directors: Marcus Kryler, Fredrik Åkerström; Cast: Zoe Saldana. Saldana is a black-ops assassin whose latest mark forces her to confront her true. CAA, UTA and Good Universe repping
LOST IN LONDON – Director: Woody Harrelson. Cast: Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson, Willie Nelson. Loosely based on a crazy night full of real-life events, story follows Harrelson playing himself as he struggles to get home to his family. Bloom selling international. CAA repping domestic.
LAST FLAG FLYING – Director: Richard Linklater. Cast: Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne. The story follows two former Naval officers who agree to help an ex-con by bringing home the body of his son who was killed in Iraq. FilmNation handling international, Amazon holds U.S. rights
FREAK SHOW – Director: Trudie Styler; Cast: Abigail Breslin, AnnaSophia Robb. A high school student runs for homecoming queen at a super conservative establishment in this Generation14plus selection. CAA selling.
LIGHT OF MY LIFE – Director: Casey Affleck; Cast: Casey Affleck. A father and daughter live on the outskirts of society a decade after a deadly pandemic. Sierra/Affinity is on sales.
TEEN SPIRIT – Director: Max Minghella. Story follows a shy teen in Eastern Europe who dreams of pop stardom as an escape from her small town and shattered family life. Mister Smith repping international. CAA repping domestic.
SIBERIA – Director: Matthew Ross; Cast: Keanu Reeves. An American diamond merchant travels to Russia to sell rare blue diamonds of questionable origin and falls into an obsessive relationship with a cafe owner in a small Siberian town, but he is unable to extricate himself from the treacherous world of the diamond trade. WME and IM Global are selling.
STOCKHOLM – Director Robert Budreau; Cast: Ethan Hawke, Noomi Rapace. Jason Blum exec produces the Heist thriller based on the true story of a 1973 robbery and hostage crisis in Stockholm which gave rise to the psychological phenomenon “Stockholm syndrome.” Sierra/Affinity is proffering.
VOX LUX – Director: Brady Corbett; Cast: Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Stacy Martin. The follow-up to Corbet’s The Childhood Of A Leader centers on Celeste who becomes one of the world’s pop superstars after surviving a life-changing event. Sierra/Affinity and WME are selling.
MARCH OF THE PENGUINS 2: THE CALL – Director: Luc Jacquet. Follow up doc about a young penguin who answers a mysterious call. CAA and Wild Bunch are selling.
ATTACH – Director: Chris Gorak. Cast: Alex Russell. Star athlete undergoes experimental surgery that permanently attaches a bionic leg and arm to his body but he quickly realises the advanced intelligent prosthetics have a destructive mind of their own. Highland Film Group repping international. UTA repping domestic.
THE PARTY – Director: Sally Potter; Cast: Patricia Clarkson, Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy, Kristin Scott Thomas. Tragicomedy that starts with a party and ends up with blood on the floor. Sales on the competition title are with ICM and Great Point Media.
ROCK ‘N ROLL – Director: Guillaume Canet; Cast: Canet, Marion Cotillard. The real-life couple play an actor out to prove himself and his girlfriend. Pathé is screening in the market.
ERIC CLAPTON: A LIFE IN 12 BARS – Director: Lili Fini Zanuck. Documentary about Eric Clapton with his participation and interviews of those close to him. Altitude is on international sales.
BURDEN – Director: Andrew Heckler; Cast: Garrett Hedlund, Andrea Riseborough, Forest Whittaker, Tom Wilkinson. An orphan raised within the Klu Klux Klan attempts to break away at the urging of his girlfriend, but as the Klan seeks vengeance, a reverend takes the pair in. WME and Good Universe are handling.
C’EST LA VIE – Directors: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano; Cast: Jean-Pierre Bacri, Gilles Lellouche; French comedy set at a wedding celebration from the helmers of The Intouchables. They are reteamed with Gaumont for sales.
THE CHILDREN ACT – Director: Richard Eyre; Cast: Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci. A British High Court judge must oversee the case of a boy who is suffering from leukemia and refuses possible life-saving treatment because it goes against his religion. FilmNation is selling.
THE CLAPPER – Director: Dito Montiel; Cast: Ed Helms, Amanda Seyfried. A professional infomercial clapper gets him his 15 minutes of fame but the notoriety ends up costing him his job as well as a budding relationship. UTA, WME and Fortitude are on sales.
THE DEATH OF STALIN – Director: Armando Iannuci; Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Rupert Friend, Paddy Considine, Olga Kurylenko. Political satire of Stalin’s last days; Gaumont is on international, CAA on domestic rights.
DISOBEDIENCE – Director: Sebastian Lelio; Cast: Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola. A woman’s return to her Orthodox Jewish home after years of self-imposed exile creates upheaval. WME and FilmNation selling.
KINGS – Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven; Cast: Halle Berry, Daniel Craig. Centers on a foster family in South Central LA just before the Rodney King trial verdict. CAA and IMR International are selling.
ON CHESIL BEACH – Director: Dominic Cooke; Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howle, Emily Watson. The 1960S-set drama is based on Ian McEwan’s novel about a young couple on honeymoon whose decisions haunt them. Rocket Science is selling with a promo for buyers.
PAPILLON – Director: Michael Noer; Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Rami Malek. Remake of the classic prison escape drama that starred Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen. CAA and Red Granite are repping.
PERMISSION – Director: Brian Crano; Cast: Rebecca Hall, Cast: Dan Stevens, Jason Sudeikis. A couple decides to sleep with other people for the sake of their relationship. WME and Film Constellation rep.
REDOUBTABLE – Director: Michel Hazanavicius; Cast: Louis Garrel, Stacy Martin, Berenice Bejo. Romantic drama about Jean-Luc Godard’s love affair with a 17-year old actress. Wild Bunch has sales.
WERK OHNE AUTOR – Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck; Cast: Tom Schilling, Paula Beer, Sebastian Koch. The Lives Of Others helmer tells the story of an artist who is haunted by is childhood during the Nazi regime. Germany’s Beta is selling
BARRAGE – Director: Laura Schroeder; Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Lolita Chammah. A young woman returns to Luxembourg to spend time with her estranged child. Luxbox is handling sales.
A FANTASTIC WOMAN – Director: Sebastián Lelio; Cast: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco. A waitress moonlights as a nightclub singer when her boyfriend dies suddenly. Participant and Funny Balloons selling.
THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE – Director: Aki Kaurismäki; Cast: Sakari Kuosmanen, Sherwan Haji. A poker-playing restaurateur befriends a group of refugees just in from Finland. The Match Factory repping.
SPOOR – Director: Agnieszka Holland; Cast: Agnieszka Mandat, Wiktor Zborowski. An elderly woman believes she knows who is committing a series of mysterious crimes, but no one believes her. Beta selling.
THE TRIAL: THE STATE OF RUSSIA VS OLEG SENTSOV – Director: Askold Kurov. Documentary about the Ukraine filmmaker who was sentenced to 20 years in a Siberian prison despite the absence of convincing evidence and one of the witnesses recanting his testimony. Rise and Shine is selling.
3 THINGS – Director: Jens Dahl; Cast: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen. Before entering the witness protection program, a bank robber demands three things from the police. TrustNordisk has sales.
THE BOOKSHOP – DIrector: Isabel Coixet; Cast: Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Bill Nighy. Period story of a woman who opens a bookshop against the opposition of the community and creates a political minefield. Celsius reps.
THE HAPPY PRINCE – Diector: Rupert Everett; Cast: Colin Firth, Miranda Richardson. The last days of Oscar Wilde. Beta selling with promo.
LA LLAMADA – Directors: Javier Calvo, Javier Ambrossi; Cast: Belén Cuesta, Macarena Garcia. Musical based on cult the Latin American stage show. Film Factory selling.
A PRAYER BEFORE DAWN – Director: Jean-Stephane Sauvaire; Cast: Joe Cole. James Schamus exec produces the story of Billy Moore who survived in a Thai prison ordeal by becoming a boxing champ. CAA has a promo. Hanway selling international.
THE TALE – Director: Jennifer Fox; Cast: Laura Dern, Ellen Burstyn, Elizabeth Debicki. Oren Moverman is producing the story of a globetrotting journalist whose life turns upside down when her mother uncovers a story from her teen years that describes a ménage à trois. Mongrel is screening a promo.
DILILI IN PARIS – Director: Michel Ocelot. Veteran Ocelot’s 2D animation centers on an investigation into a series of mysterious kidnappings of young girls in Belle Epoque Paris. Wild Bunch selling with footage.
WOMAN WALKS AHEAD – Director: Susanna White; Cast: Jessica Chastain, Sam Rockwell, Ciaran Hinds. 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.
DEPARTURES – Director: Peter Hutchings; Cast: Asa Butterfield, Maisie Williams, Nina Dobrev. A hypochondriac baggage handler must confront his fears when a terminally ill teen enlists him to help realize her bucket list. Voltage selling.
FIRST REFORMED – Director: Paul Schrader; Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Ethan Hawke. A troubled clergyman takes on a dangerous mission against a corrupt group of big business interests. Arclight is selling.
THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT – Director: Lars von Trier; Cast: Matt Dillon, Bruno Ganz. The Danish bad boy tracks a serial killer over 12 years. TrustNordisk has sales.
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