|by:||Feb 5, 2007|
Park City, UT: For the second year in a row, a Latin flavor played well at the Sundance Film Festival, which on Jan. 28 handed its grand jury prize to the Spanish-language drama Padre Nuestro by U.S. writer/director Christopher Zalla. Last year, Quincanera by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland took the prize.
Another Latin film, the Brazil-set Manda Bala by Jason Kohn, won the grand jury prize for documentaries at this year's closing awards ceremonies.
On the Canadian front, Sundance handed a special jury prize for acting to Toronto-based singer and actor Tamara Podemski for her "fully realized physical and emotional turn" in the drama Four Sheets to the Wind, and another jury prize to the Israel/Canada copro doc Hot House.
This year's fest was one of the busiest yet for deal makers - 18 deals were reportedly closed during its 10 days - and Canadian titles including How She Move and Manufactured Landscapes saw some action. Sienna Films' How She Move went to Paramount Vantage in conjunction with MTV Films on Jan. 23, reportedly beating out Focus Features, Fox Searchlight and Warner Independent Pictures with a bid of US$3.5 million to US$4 million. The deal negotiated by sales agents Celluloid Dreams and United Talent Agency covers international and U.S. rights.
"Clearly the film was being tracked," says Ian Iqbal Rashid, the film's director. "Half the audience at the premiere was industry, and the moment the film was over, the buyers all left. Within an hour there were offers to buy the movie and within 12 hours we had a deal."
The urban dance drama was slated for release in Canada on March 9 but has been pushed back to sometime in 2008 so that domestic handler Mongrel Media can coordinate with Paramount.
Celluloid Dreams also represented the photography doc Manufactured Landscapes, which inspired some interest from other territories, according to rep Charlotte Mickie, although at press time, nothing was confirmed. The picture already has U.S. distribution through Zeitgeist Films.
"I think some of the films [sold at the festival this year] were not as obviously commercial than in previous years," says Mickie. "It may be related to the fact that people are getting tired of formulaic films made for teenagers... We've also seen an older audience emerge - there's a demand for more intelligent films."
Case in point, Sarah Polley's Alzheimer's drama Away from Her, which opened the festival's Salt Lake City screenings, came to Sundance with worldwide distribution in place, and received huge praise from audiences and critics.
"I loved the reception that our film received [at Sundance], and it was the icing on the cake that there was buyer interest in the films," says Dan Lyon of Telefilm Canada. "We had [a variety of titles] from low-budget to more significant budgets - an incredible breadth of subject matter, and all of the films were received with enthusiasm."