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Banijay Group Ramps Up Scripted Output with Drama Projects From Tom Fontana, Radu Mihaileanu (Exclusive)

3 hours ago

One year after joining Banijay Group to spearhead the expansion of the company into international scripted programming, TV industry veteran Takis Candilis has launched joint ventures in key European markets and has put in motion several high-profile series with helmers such as Tom Fontana and Radu Mihaileanu.

Speaking to Variety at Mipcom, Candilis spoke about the highlights of the company’s scripted development slate, including Radu Mihaileanu’s “Farewell Shanghai” and Tom Fontana’s untitled series about Joann of Arc.

“Farewell Shanghai” is being developed by David Kodsi’s Kien Productions and is based on Angel Wagenstein’s 2007 book by the same name. Taking place on the eve of WWII, “Farewell Shanghai” follows the true-life journey of European jews who fled Nazi Germany and found refuge in Shanghai. These refugees, many of whom were accomplished artists and intellectuals, lived in Shanghai slums and worked in menial jobs.

“Not many people know that China delivered about 30,000 visas to Jews »


- Elsa Keslassy

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‘Angels Wear White’ to Open Singapore Film Festival

3 hours ago

Chinese drama, “Angels Wear White” has been set as the opening title of the Singapore International Film Festival.

The film kicks off with an apparent assault on two school girls by a public official in a hotel. What follows is a tale of corruption, collusion and compromise, set in a decaying seaside town.

“Angels” is the second film directed by Vivian Qu, who previously shot “Trap Street.” It had its premiere in Venice earlier this year, and has since played in Toronto and London festivals. It has since been nominated for three prizes at the upcoming Golden Horse Awards.

Vivian Qu has made a name for herself as one of the few female filmmakers and producers in China and has been a strong advocate for independent cinema. ‘Angels Wear White’ showcases her prolific cinematic style in telling a hard-hitting story of the society’s marginalized through the camera lens and brings to fore a rare female perspective »


- Patrick Frater

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Mipcom: New Ricardo Darin Production Co Teams with Patagonik, Disney, FilmSharks on Juan Vera’s ‘Love at Last Sight’ (Exclusive)

3 hours ago

Cannes — Ricardo Darin and Mercedes Moran  (“Neruda,” “La Cienaga”) are attached to star in “Amor a ultima Vista” (Love at Last Sight”), directed by Patagonik producer-screenwriter Juan Vera’s (“Dos más Dos,” “Just Like Me”), a near institution in Argentina’s film industry.

The last-chance love story marks the debut of Kenya Film, Ricardo Darín’s new production label, which will produce with Disney co-owned Patagonik, which has backed Pablo Trapero’s “Carancho” and “White Elephant” and Lucrecia Martel’s “Zama,” selected this year for Venice and Toronto.

Set to shoot in first half 2018, “Love at Last Sight” will be released by Disney/Bvi in Argentina and South America during the third quarter of 2018, bidding fare to be one of the biggest opening of next year. FilmSharks Intl. has acquired international sales rights.

“Love At Last Sight” turns on Marcos (Darín)  and Ana (Moran) , who have been married for twenty-five years. One day, the »


- John Hopewell

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Busan: Director Chowdhury Sets ‘Rickshaw Girl’ for March Shoot

3 hours ago

Bangladeshi filmmaker Amitabh Reza Chowdhury (“Aynabaji”) will go into production on Bengali-language film “Rickshaw Girl” in March.

Chowdhury is part of the Bangladeshi contingent attending the Busan Platform program.

The film is based on Mitali Perkins’ bestselling 2007 young adult novel that was chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the 100 great children’s books of the last 100 years.

Rickshaw Girl” is a female empowerment story about Naima, a young Bangladeshi girl who tries to help her struggling family by disguising herself as a boy and operating her ailing father’s prized rickshaw for much-needed extra money. When she crashes the rickshaw, Naima uses her ingenuity and determination to find a way to repair the damage.

“She is also a painter, so she tries rickshaw painting,” says Chowdhury. “I will explore rickshaw painting in Dhaka and the idea of rickshaw painting in general. I will also include some animation, so it will be fun. »


- Naman Ramachandran

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Mipcom: Wings Media Signs 10-Film Deal With Shellhut, Tiny Island

4 hours ago

Thailand’s Shellhut and Singapore’s Tiny Island Pictures have signed a co-production agreement with China’s Wings Media, to produce 10 animated feature films, intended for theatrical release.

The companies say that the deal is valued at $250 million, making it the biggest animation film cooperation in Asia, and the first ever China-Singapore-Thailand animation co-production.

Wings Media is part of Oriental Pearl Group and a wholly owned subsidiary of China’s 2nd largest media group, Shanghai Media Group.

Despite insistence that the films are intended for theatrical release, the announcement was made at the Mipcom TV market in Cannes. The partners have not yet decided international distribution strategies or channels. “Shellhut and Tiny Island Pictures’ next step will be to talk with American and European partners,” said David Kwok, Tiny Island CEO.

Dream Defenders,” the first film produced by the joint venture will integrate Wings Media’s sci-fi centric hit reality TV series Starship Mz: 2049 with Tiny Island »


- Patrick Frater

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Jeffrey Katzenberg: Harvey Weinstein Is a Monster, But Didn’t Act Alone

6 hours ago

Former Dreamworks chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg repudiated his former colleague Harvey Weinstein at Wall Street Journal’s WSJ.D Live conference in Laguna Beach, Calif. Monday evening, but also said that Weinstein couldn‘t have acted alone — and that it was time for Hollywood to change key policies.

“Make no mistake about it: He is a monster,” Katzenberg said. However, Weinstein had not been a lone actor, but had instead been protected by other men around him. “There is a pack of wolves.”

He went on to say that abuse of power and sexual exploitation had been part of Hollywood for a long time — but that there may be a fundamental shift ahead. “You are gonna see in the coming weeks and months real action,” he said. “We cannot go on this way.”

Katzenberg said that he had spent a long time in a mode of introspection ever since the Weinstein story broke. “I do a lot »


- Janko Roettgers

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Jack Gao Departs Wanda Group, Legendary Entertainment

6 hours ago

Jack Gao, senior vice president of Dalian Wanda Group and interim CEO of Legendary Entertainment, has departed the Chinese conglomerate, Variety has confirmed.

The move comes after Wanda has been rebuffed by the Chinese government for its aggressive overseas expansion moves. Gao had been instrumental in many of those moves — some successful, others that were aborted.

Zeng Maojun, president of Wanda Film, will take the reins as Legendary’s interim leader. Founder, Thomas Tull departed the studio in January, leaving it without top leadership, while in June Peter Loehr, head of China-based Legendary East, also departed. Mary Parent, Legendary’s head of production, is said to be staying with the Burbank-based studio.

Dalian Wanda has its roots in property development, but has expanded massively into entertainment, and latterly sports. It is controlled by billionaire Wang Jianlin, and operated through a web of listed and privately owned companies.

Wang recently made it clear that Wanda will, in the near »


- Patrick Frater and Erin Nyren

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African American Film Critics Assn. Proclaims 2017 ‘Year of the Woman’

9 hours ago

For its ninth annual awards program, the African American Film Critics Association has proclaimed 2017 the “year of the woman in cinema.”

“There is no argument that women have made a bold step forward this year in Hollywood,” said Aafca president Gil Robertson. “The evidence demonstrated during the past year speaks for itself both in terms of box office and critical recognition by women, and we predict that there will be continued momentum going forward. We are also pleased that African American women are a part of this progress and are taking advantage of increased opportunities to make their cinematic imprint.”

Filmmakers like Dee Rees and Ava DuVernay have already made considerable waves this year. Netflix acquired Rees’ “Mudbound” out of Sundance for $12.5 million and set it on a crash course for Oscar season, while DuVernay’s “13th” (also a Netflix title) picked up an Oscar nomination and an Emmy this year.

Women wrote, produced, »


- Taryn Nobil

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Academy’s Third Annual Careers in Film Summit Inspires Young Creatives

9 hours ago

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences hosted its third annual careers in film summit on Saturday in Beverly Hills in an effort to inspire and educate the next generation of filmmakers.

“It is the beginning for a lot of dreams and clarity for students; today is both a reality check and a day of inspiration,” Randy Haberkamp, the managing director of preservation and foundation programs for the Academy, told Variety.

“The important part is seeing audience reactions and hearing the buzz of their ideas in the hall,” he went on, smiling. “To see people sitting all day with stars in their eyes it makes you stop thinking about bad news and start thinking about possibilities.”

Haberkamp acknowledged the current tension in Hollywood regarding Harvey Weinstein and said that in times like these, stories are necessary “to measure whether we feel we’re being true to ourselves or whether we’re challenging ourselves.” He continued, »


- Taryn Nobil

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David Lynch’s Festival of Disruption Unites ‘Peaks’ Cultists in Meditation Talk and Musical Mayhem

10 hours ago

“It’s a world out there that is horribly stressed,” said Bob Roth, the well-known transcendental meditation (Tm) teacher, providing some remarks at a two-day festival designed to raise money for David Lynch’s Tm-promoting charitable foundation. And then, as part of their effort to bring tranquility to the world, they showed “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me,” verifiably the most stressful movie ever made.

This was not your grandfather’s Tm festival. Lynch’s second annual Festival of Disruption, held over two days at the Theatre at Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, drew some in solidarity with the higher-consciousness cause, others were there just for the musical acts — which also included Bon Iver, TV on the Radio, Sharon Von Etten, and Laura Marling — and more had traveled from around the globe just to get their “Twin Peaks” fandom on with Lynch, who was greeted at least as warmly as a Buddha in a Sunday afternoon Q&A.

Other »


- Chris Willman

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Selma Blair’s Production Company to Adapt Novel ‘The Lost’ Into Movie (Exclusive)

10 hours ago

Selma Blair and her production company, Sainted Productions, have purchased the rights to Sarah Beth Durst’s novel “The Lost.”

Durst’s book follows a woman running from her bleak life who finds herself trapped in a small town where all things lost — luggage, keys, and even people — are mysteriously deposited.

Blair is now looking for a writer to pen the movie and is undecided about whether she’ll also star in the pic. “The Lost” marks the first piece of IP that Sainted Productions has purchased.

It is also unknown at this time whether this will be adapted into a film or TV series.

Durst is an award-winning author who was honored with the Mythopoeic Award and Alex Award from the American Library Association.

Blair is best known for her roles in “Cruel Intentions,” “Legally Blonde,” and “Hellboy.” Most recently, her film “Mom and Dad,” co-starring Nicolas Cage, premiered at Midnight Madness at the Toronto Film Festival »


- Justin Kroll

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Film News Roundup: Christopher Nolan to Discuss Film Preservation at Library of Congress

10 hours ago

In today’s film news roundup, Christopher Nolan will hold a public discussion about film preservation with the Librarian of Congress, Grasshopper Film buys Sadaf Foroughi’s “Ava,” and Orion Pictures hires distribution vet Kevin Wilson.

Film Preservation

The Library of Congress is hosting filmmaker Christopher Nolan in a rare public conversation next month with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden to discuss film preservation.

“Throughout its history, film has been a powerful force in the human experience,” Nolan said. “Protecting our film heritage goes far beyond the scope of a single institution. Our collective challenge is to safeguard our cinematic legacy for the study and enjoyment of future generations.”

The event will take place on Nov. 2 at the Coolidge Auditorium and include discussion of Nolan’s experiences shooting “Dunkirk” and his other films; the importance of film preservation; the influence of film on history and culture; the concept of physical film as a medium and artifact; the value »


- Dave McNary

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Netflix Plans to Release 80 Original Films in 2018

10 hours ago

Netflix expects to release around 80 original films next year, as it looks to hit the kind of scale in movies that it’s achieved on the TV side, according to chief content officer Ted Sarandos.

“They range anywhere from the million-dollar Sundance hit, all the way up to something on a much larger scale,” like Will Smith-starrer “Bright,” Sarandos said in an investors’ interview Monday about Netflix’s third-quarter 2017 results.

Bright,” a cop action-thriller movie directed by David Ayer, had a reported production price tag of $90 million. It’s set to debut on Netflix worldwide on Dec. 22. Sarandos also cited as a forthcoming big-budget picture Martin Scorsese’s gangster movie “The Irishman,” starring Robert DeNiro, slated to be released on Netflix in early 2019. “The Irishman” has a budget of more $100 million.

Sarandos said with the release of “Bright” — a “big-budget, event movie” — “I think people will start seeing the potential for this original movie initiative, that it »


- Todd Spangler

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Busan: Helmer Farooki Sets December Shoot for ‘Saturday Afternoon’

11 hours ago

Eminent Bangladeshi filmmaker Mostofa Sarwar Farooki will commence production on Bengali- and English- language film “Saturday Afternoon” in December.

Farooki describes the film as “a thriller where the lives of several people collide on one fateful day.”

Farooki is a Busan Film Festival regular. His “Television” closed the festival in 2012, while his latest, “No Bed of Roses,” starring Irrfan Khan (“Inferno”), is playing in the 2017 A Window on Asian Cinema strand of the festival.

Bangladeshi actress Nusrat Imroze Tisha (“Holud Bani”) is confirmed as one of the leads of “Saturday Afternoon” while Palestinian actor Eyad Hourani is in advanced negotiations. “I read the script and like it. And I am happy that we are gradually going closer to be on board with this really interesting project. The script dissects the world order in a very balanced way,” says Hourani. Casting for the other roles is in progress.

The film is being jointly produced by Abdul Aziz for Jaaz »


- Naman Ramachandran

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Cult Thai Director Blends History With Whodunnit in ‘Francis Chit’

11 hours ago

Nonzee Nimibutr, director of cult Thai hits “Nang Nak” and “Jan Dara,” is at the Busan Asian Project Market with “Francis Chit of Siam.” Set in 1864 Siam, as Thailand was then known, the film traces the rivalry between Chit Chitrakanee, aka Francis Chit, the Asian pioneer of wet plate photography, and famous British photographer John Thomson. Photography was considered black magic in the region those days, and when a series of nobles begin dying after being photographed by Chit and Thomson, the pair are prime suspects in the deaths and must join forces to clear their names and find the real killer. “I saw an exhibition of pictures by John Thomson in Bangkok and was fascinated by them,” said Nimibutr. “I did some further research and found Chit. He was the most famous photographer of  that time but nobody in Thailand knows him now. That’s why I became interested in his history.” Nimibutr penned »


- Naman Ramachandran

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Busan: Kross Pictures Finds Fertile Ground in India-Korea Remakes

11 hours ago

For years, South Korea’s high-concept feature movies, including prominent titles such as “Oldboy,” have been ripped off, plagiarized and blatantly copied by some companies in India.

Now, Korean producer and packaging company Kross Pictures is busily turning Korean films and intellectual property into a viable business in India.

Headed by Thomas Kim Hyunwoo, a former investment banker and L.A.-based Disney executive, Kross last year produced Amitabh Bachchan-vehicle “Te3n” as an authorized remake of 2013 Korean crime drama “Montage.” It now has 10 other Korea-to-India projects at different stages of development.

“Our model is about obtaining and controlling established IP, with a view to packaging it for film and TV,” said Kim, speaking at the Busan Film Festival’s Asian Film Market. China and Vietnam are among the other markets Kross is targeting, though India is arguably the most promising. “We see many commonalities along with the cultural differences.”

Kross Pictures »


- Patrick Frater

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First-time Helmer Hirose Nanako at Asian Project Market With ‘Dawn’

11 hours ago

First-time director Hirose Nanako and producer Nishikawa Asako, both protégés of Japanese auteur Kore-eda Hirokazu, are at the Busan Asian Project Market with the drama “Dawn” (working title). Hirose was a crew member on Kore-eda’s “Like Father, Like Son” and assistant director on “Our Little Sister,” while Nishikawa was on the production team of several of his films including “Nobody Knows,” before going on to produce a number of films, with her most recent credit being “The Long Excuse.” “Dawn” follows Hikaru, young, unemployed graduate who is on the verge of suicide until he encounters Tetsuro, an elderly man who has lost his son who was the same age as Hikaru. The pair become close until it is revealed that one of them is hiding a secret. “The protagonist of the film has grown up after the Fukushima catastrophe happened, so that has an influence on how he behaves,” said Hirose. »


- Naman Ramachandran

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Korean Audiences Line Up for More Political Docs

11 hours ago

While the Busan festival is still feeling the political repercussions of its decision to screen “The Truth Shall Not Sink With the Sewol,” the controversial documentary about the capsizing of Sewol ferry in 2014 that was critical of the government, the general political climate and the impact on artistic freedom, however, has slowly changed.

South Korea has been battered with political upheavals stemming from scandals, and earlier this year President Park Geun-hye was removed from office, and a new government has taken over.

But three recent docs, “Moo-hyun, Tale of Two Cities (a.k.a Our President),” “Criminal Conspiracy” and “The Reservoir Game,” all take a strong stand on their subjects, and are finding receptive audiences. 

In the past, political documentaries rarely enjoyed box office success. “Moo-hyun,” about South Korea’s former president Roh Moo-hyun, however, has managed strong ticket sales. It earned $12.91 million from 1.85 million admissions.

“Conspiracy” and “Reservoir” either directly criticize or accuse the former President »


- Carole Horst

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‘Hall of Mirrors’: Edward Jay Epstein on the Trail of Edward Snowden

12 hours ago

From the Kennedy Assassination to Edward Snowden, Edward Jay Epstein has built a career out of challenging the conventional wisdom. The author of several seminal works of investigative journalism is the subject of an arresting new documentary, “Hall of Mirrors,” which premiered at the New York Film Festival this month. It is looking for distribution. The film marks the directing debut of sisters Ena and Ines Talakic, and serves as both a retrospective of Epstein’s fascinating career and a memorial to a type of reporting that has largely fallen out of favor in an era of clickbait headlines.

“He’s just someone who asks basic questions and gets full access to the most incredible people,” said Ines Talakic. “He takes his time and he digs deep.”

That’s been a hallmark of Epstein’s career. As an undergraduate at Cornell he managed to speak to nearly every member of the Warren Commission save for Chief Justice Earl Warren. His resulting »


- Brent Lang

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Cher Joins ‘Mamma Mia!’ Sequel ‘Here We Go Again’

12 hours ago

Cher has joined Universal’s “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!” The multi-hyphenate hinted at her appearance in the movie over the weekend in a tweet and Variety has confirmed that she has been cast in the film.

pic.twitter.com/CMqHKnLeAO

Cher (@cher) October 15, 2017

Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Amanda Seyfried, and Christine Baranski are returning, with Ol Parker writing and directing. The film goes back and forth in time to show how relationships forged in the past resonate in the present. Lily James will play the role of Young Donna. Young versions of Rosie and Tanya will be portrayed by Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn, respectively. Young Sam will be played by Jeremy Irvine, while Young Bill is Josh Dylan and Young Harry is Hugh Skinner.

The movie began shooting in September in the U.K. and Croatia. Littlestar’s Judy Craymer and Playtone’s Gary Goetzman, who produced the original, »


- Justin Kroll

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