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22 June 2001

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  • $17m Hero to bring together top Asian talent

    Of all the film projects floated at last week's Shanghai International Film Festival, the most mouthwatering had to be Zhang Yimou's $17m Hero, a 'wuxia'-inspired historical adventure that is set to bring together many of Asia's top talents, both in front and behind the camera when shooting starts as early as next month.In its casting alone, Zhang's epic suggests an Asian equivalent of Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven, which is crammed full of Hollywood box office super
  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence

    Dir: Steven Spielberg.US. 2001. 144 minAlways captivating towatch, and often emotionally touching, Steven Spielberg's A.I.: ArtificialIntelligence is one of hismost ambitious, intelligent, and problematic films, and not only due to itsvaliant effort to blend two disparate cinematic sensibilities. Easily thissummer's most eagerly awaited movie, A.I. qualifies as a media event par excellence: Aproject begun decades ago by the late Stanley Kubrick,
  • ABC Africa

    Dir: Abbas Kiarostami. Iran. 2001. 83 mins. Commissioned to raise international awareness of the work being done by the Uganda Women's Effort To Save Orphans (UWESO), ABC Africa is a surprisingly straightforward return to the documentary form from Palme D'Or winner Abbas Kiarostami. Largely eschewing the heartache and misery of the country's recent history and global image, his film celebrates the joyful resilience of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming odds. Kiarostami's re
  • Apocalypse Now takes centre stage at Taormina

    Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now Redux will screen at the Taormina Film Festival on July 4 in the Sicilian town's spectacular 7,000 seater Greek amphitheatre. Other high-profile titles at the non-competitive festival, which runs June 29-July 7, include Ivan Reitman's Evolution and Michael Apted's Enigma. On July 4, the festival will also screen another Vietnam movie, Joel Schumacher's Tigerland, about the fierce training of young US troops before deplo
  • Bob Levin named MGM distribution & marketing chief

    Bob Levin, the former head of marketing at both Sony Pictures and The Walt Disney Co, has been named president, worldwide theatrical marketing and distribution, at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Distribution Co, uniting into a single job the posts currently held by Larry Gleason, head of worldwide distribution, and Gerry Rich, head of worldwide marketing.Gleason and Rich, whose contracts are up for renewal this year, have not yet left the studio despite reports to the contrary and might st
  • Canadians embracing satellite as cable subs slip

    Canadians are embracing satellite delivery of television services, with the sector growing by more than 500% over the past five years, according to figures released by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). There are just under 1m customers with satellite dishes or multipoint distribution systems, up from just over 500,000 in 1999. The Canadian market is dominated by Bell Expressvu, which is controlled by the nation's telephony giant BCE, and two others
  • Cinar goes straight, agrees final restitution

    Cinar Corp., the troubled Canadian production company, has taken a further step in its return to legitimacy. Beset by scandals involving fraudulent credits and missing millions, the Montreal-based company has agreed to pay more than $1.7m in restitution to Telefilm Canada in order that its productions may once again qualify as official coproductions. The money represents the sum of Telefilm investment and subsidy procured by Cinar for productions later deemed to have been misrepresented as qu
  • CQ

    Dir: Roman Coppola. US. 2001. 95 mins. There is a curious paradox in the idea of basing one's hero, a filmmaker trying to find himself and his own voice (the title refers to the morse code for "seek you"), on the early career of the one's own father and other members of that movie brat generation. Whereas Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides - which made its debut in Cannes last year - was an intimate drama with an idiosyncratic vision, her brother Roman's own debut is a more ambitious
  • Creative Light buys international rights to Summer

    LA-based sales company Creative Light Worldwide has picked up international rights to Wet Hot American Summer, the summer camp comedy which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year. USA Films has domestic rights and will release the film in New York on July 27.The film stars Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Paul Rudd and Molly Shannon as a group of counselors in a teen camp dealing with pent-up sexual frustrations while trying to save the camp from a renegade chunk
  • De Laurentiis to give keynote address at Montreal

    Actress Sophia Loren and producer Dino De Laurentiis will be feted at this year's Montreal World Film Festival as part of the event's 25th anniversary celebration.Loren will receive a Special Grand Prix of the Americas for her exceptional achievement in cinema. Loren's most recent film, Francesca E Nunziata, directed by Italian director Lina Wertmueller, will have its world premiere. Loren is currently shooting Between Strangers, directed by her son Eduardo Ponti, in
  • EM.TV sells Internet interests, Victory takes over

    EM.TV & Merchandising has exited from the Internet activities it has concentrated in EM interactive, amidst a restructuring and re-focusing on core businesses.German media fund specialist Victory Media will now increase its stake in EM interactive from 25.1% to 100%. The firm will continue operating as under the new management of Claus Clausen, who also serves as managing director of Victory Film Productions. Junior-Web, in which EM interactive had a 98% interest, wil
  • European bodies unite to form digital forum

    Pulling together a swathe of public and private European film bodies, the nucleus for a single agency representing the Continent's interests in the digital era was formed last week under the banner of the European Digital Cinema Forum.The forum is to act as a consultative body for governments and the European Commission, liasing with parties around the world in establishing global standards for digital cinema. Part of its mandate will be to help establish European user requirements for
  • European exhibition sector heads for firm ground

    The western European exhibition sector may at last be starting to reach an even keel, according to a new report by film industry analyst Dodona Research. While screen growth in the region is set to slow to a trickle over the next four years, cinema admissions will continue to rise apace, which means rising box office for exhibitors with healthy circuits.The forthcoming Cinemagoing Western Europe report forecasts that admissions will grow by over 13% during the next four y
  • Father and son pull off Bollywood double whammy

    The second annual Indian Film Awards, held this year at Sun City, South Africa, saw father and son duo Hrithik and Rakesh Roshan pulling off a remarkable double act. Bollywood heart-throb Hrithik Roshan was named best actor for his role in Tell Me You Love Me (Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai), while the film earned his father Rakesh best director honours. The film also won best picture, best music and best choreography.Best actress went to Karisma Kapoor for Fiza and best suppo
  • final

    Mumbai-based film production company Numero Uno and leading Indian film distribution company Shringar Films, have tied up with New York-based Rossellini Associates to distribute low-budget foreign films in India.The company aims initially to attract a small, specialised audience. Numero Uno is owned by Indian film producer Sanjay Khan. Rossellini Associates is headed by Gil Rossellini son of Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini. Mumbai's Shringar films, owned by veteran distributor Shy
  • Finder's Fee wins top audience prize at Seattle

    The Seattle Film Festival concluded its 27th event yesterday with a ceremony at which awards determined by local audiences were handed out. Prizes - dubbed the Golden Space Needle Awards - were determined from the 200 feature films screened over the epic 25-day running time of the festival.Jeff Probst's US independent Finder's Fee was named Best Film with Joint Security Area from South Korea, Mortal Transfer from France, Ghost World from the US and The C
  • France's Le Sabre readies English-language slate

    French high-end TV production outfit Le Sabre is preparing four English-language film projects, including Cheri, to star Jessica Lange, and a $16m ice age epic The Mammoth Hunters. The company is part of the Expand group, which has just been taken over by StudioCanal (see Screendaily, June 18).Lange herself initiated Cheri, based on French writer Colette's classic story of the love affair between a 40-year-old woman and an 18-year-old boy. The project is cur
  • German companies team to produce Ramones pic

    German production outfits Red Beat Pictures and Indigo Filmproduktion have teamed up to acquire the rights to produce Too Tough To Die, a biopic of punk band The Ramones and its late lead singer Joey Ramone, with LA-based Capture Film Inc.Co-written and to be co-directed by German film-makers Peter Thorwarth (Bang Boom Bang) and Ali Eckert, Too Tough To Die will be produced by Eckert, Michael Helfrich from Berlin-based Red Beat and Christian Becker from Munich-based Indi
  • Germany's Brainpool expands overseas web

    German comedy powerhouse Brainpool TV has taken another step in its strategy of establishing an international network of companies, acquiring 50% of French light entertainment outfit Show Devant Productions (SDP).Together with its Swiss subsidiary Gregoire Furrer Productions (GFP), Brainpool paid $2.6m for the stake in SDP. Half of this is being invested as part of a capital increase in the financing of joint projects. The remaining $1.3m is going to SDP's Jimmy Levy, who discovered su
  • Gershon, Nielsen, Sevigny to star in Demonlover

    Gladiator's Connie Nielsen, American indie muse Chloe Sevigny and Showgirls star Gina Gershon are to join the cast of Demonlover, a French-produced thriller to be directed by festival favourite Olivier Assayas.Producer Edouard Weil, co-founder of up-and-coming production company Elisabeth Films, confirmed that the trio of US actresses will begin shooting this summer. The French and English-language story about international industrial espionage is being sold intern
  • Gong Li climbs aboard Sun Zhou's Train

    Chinese superstar actress Gong Li is to star in the new film by Sun Zhou, re-uniting her with the director of Berlin 2000 competitor Breaking The Silence. That film just won her the runner-up prize for Best Actress at the recently completed Seattle Film Festival.Production of Sun's new film, The Train Of Zho Zhu, is due to start in July with Gong starring as a woman in love with two different men. The production is likely to be set up as a Chinese-Hong Kong co-production.
  • Hannover Leasing to raise $465m for Fox, New Line

    Munich-based leasing company Hannover Leasing (HL) has launched seven separate production funds to raise over $465m (Euros540m) in finance for feature projects from 20th Century Fox and New Line Cinema. HL's collaboration with New Line Cinema follows on from last year when the German fund specialist raised a total of $258m (Euros300m) for two instalments of Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings trilogy.Individual private German investors are being invited to invest a minimum of $21,
  • Indie Get Over It takes on studio heavyweights

    Although still led by seasonal behemoths Pearl Harbor and The Mummy Returns the UK box office is coming under attack from strong releases from independent distributors such as Momentum's Get Over It. Taking advantage of audiences looking for an alternative to the summer blockbusters, both major and independent distributors are putting out a swath of titles. Last week's releases included Get Over It, UIP's Chris Rock starrer Down To Earth, Artificial Eye's
  • Karlovy Vary fills final gaps in festival line-up

    The Karlovy Vary Film Festival has announced the full line-up of 17 films competing in the Czech festival's main competition, including five world premieres.The five films debuting at the festival, which opens in the Czech spa town July 5, are Firefly Dreams, a Japanese film directed by John Williams; Hi, Tereska, from Poland's Robert Glinski; the Hungarian-German-Croatian-Chilean co-production Chico, directed by Ibolya Fekete; Luna's Game, directed b
  • Kerry Packer pulls plug on Indian TV joint venture

    The HFCL-Kerry Packer joint venture (HFCL Nine Broadcasting India) has announced that it is shutting its television business in India and that the company's programmes on the government-owned DD-Metro channel will be taken off the air from September 10. This follows a decision by the company not to bid for DD-Metro's primetime slots due to what it called the "unrealistic non-financial terms" proposed by DD. Nine Broadcasting's current staff of around 60 has been given notice tha
  • Kinowelt finally secures German TV deal with ZDF

    Beleaguered German mini-studio Kinowelt Medien has finally found a TV home for the Wachowski brothers' Warner Bros. action blockbuster The Matrix.The title is among 15 German free-TV premieres - including the animation feature Pokemon - The Film and Amos Kollek's Fast Food, Fast Women - sold as part of a 40-film package by Kinowelt to German public broadcaster ZDF (which had bought 21 films - including 19 Warner titles - from Kinowelt last November). The sto
  • Kinowelt shares go into freefall on Neuer Markt

    No end seems to be in sight for the downward slide of troubled German media concern Kinowelt Medien's shares, which went into freefall yesterday (June 19) on Frankfurt's Neuer Markt. By the close of business, shares in the company stood 25.37% down on the previous day at Euros2.50.The business news service vwd quoted one trader as saying that "the high turnover suggests that some institutional [investors] are taking their leave here". In his opinion, the pressure on Kinowelt could beco
  • Laura Rooney leaves ShoWest, joins AFM

    Laura Rooney has been appointed director, AFM operations, by the American Film Marketing Association.Rooney comes to the AFMA from exhibitors association NATO of California, most recently as director of annual film trade event ShoWest. She will oversee all operational aspects of AFM and, as the primary contact with the Loews Hotel and Santa Monica business community, she will bring together the hotels, city agencies and suppliers which service the eight-day film market.AFM 200
  • Liberty ties up German cable for Euros 5.5bn

    Liberty Media Group has reached agreement with Germany's Deutsche Telekom (DT) to acquire its last remaining six cable television operations - covering 10m connected households - for a reported Euros5.5bn. In addition to 100% of the DT cable companies, Liberty will take over DT's service companies Deutsche Telekom Kabel-Services and Media Services. Liberty already controls Europe's largest cable network operator, UPC, and has stakes in such multinational companies as AOL Time Warner, S
  • Martha... Martha

    Dir: Sandrine Veysset. France. 2001. 97 mins.Martha... Martha resumes many of the themes of Sandrine Veysset's previous work, in particular her first feature, Will It Snow At Christmas': deeply damaged families living on the poverty line, a mother with suicidal tendencies and, more generally, the pervasive undercurrent of emotional violence coursing through mundane everyday lives. While forcefully staged and distinguished by several superb performances, the movie is unlikely to achieve
  • Midaq Alley to kick off Mexico's local DVD market

    Jorge Fons' multi award-winning Midaq Alley (El Callejon De Los Milagros), starring Salma Hayek, and Ernesto Gomez Cruz, will be the first Mexican film to be released domestically on DVD when it hits the shops on July 15. The release is being handled by Alameda Films, director Arturo Ripstein's family-run production/distribution company. According to Alameda manager Daniel Burman Ripstein, Midaq Alley will be released via an exclusive deal with Blockbuster. At pres
  • No Such Thing

    Dir: Hal Hartley. US 2001. 101 mins.Instead of arresting a downward spiralling career, No Such Thing, Hal Hartley's new film and latest folly, demonstrates what happens to an iconoclastic film-maker when he neglects his instinctive talent for small, quirky, offbeat films and decides to go uproariously big. Indeed, a name cast that includes Julie Christie, Helen Mirren and Sarah Polley, and a larger budget that allows for landscape shooting and special effects, prove of no help in thi
  • Norway appoints outsider to head up new Film Fund

    The Norwegian Ministry of Culture has taken the local film community by surprise with its decision to appoint Stein Slyngstad, an economist with next to no experience of working in the industry, as director of the new Norwegian Film Fund, which comes into being on July 1.The 40-year-old economist has no experience of film production, and very little knowledge of the local film industry. In fact, his only industry experience comes from four years working as a financial adviser for Oslo
  • Overseas cinema triumphs at Newport festival

    Foreign-language features dominated the prize-giving ceremony at the Newport International Film Festival, with the best feature award going to Japanese director Masato Harada's haunting horror-romance, Inugami.Together, by Swedish director Lukas Moodyson, took the runner-up jury award in the feature competition. A special mention went to the French film Girls Can't Swim (Les Filles Ne Savent Pas Nager), by Anne-Sophie Birot. Apart from Toget
  • PACT, Equity draw lines in payment negotiations

    UK producers body PACT yesterday appeared to be sticking to its line that it would not agree to profit sharing for actors, despite claims from performer's union Equity that it had "dropped its objections in principle" to additional payments for its members.The assertion was made by Andy Prodger, Equity's assistant general secretary for Film, Television and Radio, as the two bodies agreed to enter negotiations over a new version of the PACT/Equity Cinema Films Agreement. Under the curre
  • Pauline & Paulette

    Dir: Lieven Debrauwer. Belgium/France/Netherlands. 2001. 78minsA bittersweet little heart-warmer on the ties that bind four sisters, Pauline & Paulette marks a promising feature debut from writer-director Lieven Debrauwer who won the Prize Du Jury at Cannes in 1997 for his short film Leonie. Lightly humorous and quietly perceptive as it explores the boundaries of family obligations, it is a gentle crowd-pleaser that should register with older audiences who can most particularly relate
  • 'R-Xmas

    Dir: Abel Ferrara. US/France. 2000. 85 mins. It is almost as curious to find this director making a Christmas movie (though it's hardly Abel Ferrara's It's A Wonderful Life) as to see him come up with as a tale about drug dealers with an understated but undeniable Just Say No subtext. However 'R Xmas is Ferrara's most controlled and, perhaps for that reason, most compelling film since his best work of the early Nineties (King of New York; Bad Lieutenant). Co
  • Schneider quits as Disney studio chairman

    Peter Schneider has stepped down as chairman of Walt Disney Studios less than one week after Atlantis:The Lost Empire suffered the lowestsummer opening box office gross in the US of any Disney cartoon feature since GreatMouse Detective, which came out justa year after he first joined the studio's animation division in 1985.The timing ofSchneider's resignation yesterday will not have been lost on Hollywoodcoming as it did on the very same day that Shrek, a feature a
  • Slogans

    Dir. Gjergj Xhuvani. France-Albania 2001. 90 mins.The last of the Balkan countries to rid itself of communist bliss, Albania has very good reasons to celebrate its new-found freedom of expression, as it is does here with this satire on enforced political indoctrination. Verging somewhere between realism of the kind that will be sadly familiar to anyone who has had the doubtful pleasure of living under totalitarian rule, and the inevitable sarcasm generated in the perspective of today,
  • Sobibor

    Dir. Claude Lanzmann, France 2001, 95 mins.A companion piece for his celebrated 1985 masterpiece Shoah, this new documentary combines material shot in 1979 but never incorporated in Claude Lanzmann's major opus, with some additional footage taken in Poland recently. Dealing with the uprising that took place at the date and the time specified by the film's title in the infamous Sobibor extermination camp, it features one single interview only, with one of protagonists of that event, Yeh
  • StudioCanal to take over TV powerhouse Expand

    As expected, Vivendi Universal's StudioCanal is to take over Expand, the television production powerhouse born in February 2000 of the merger Canal Plus' television production and distribution affiliate Ellipse Programmes and French television production group Expand.After exercising an option on the 20.4% owned by the FinExpand financial holding in Expand, StudioCanal will hold a 52% stake in the publicly-quoted group and 59% of the voting shares.The deal values Expand - which
  • Telefonica weathers stock market buffeting

    Spanish giant Telefonica looks set to emerge from a rocky week on the stock exchange with solid new plans for future media and telecoms growth in Latin America and Spain.Mirroring telecoms companies' performances across Europe, shares in Telefonica dipped dramatically over the last week in response to concerns that its multifarious Latin American interests could suffer from economic instability in the region, particularly in Argentina and Brazil.Recent moves suggest anything but
  • Tender Years best of poor Russian line-up at Sochi

    Sergei Soloviev's Tender Years won the main prize at the Sochi International Film Festival, traditionally a weather vane for Russian cinema as it screens virtually all the year's films to an audience of local professionals.This year's edition brought the usual array of Russian stars and international critics for parties, sun and sand at the Black Sea resort. But the screenings were judged a disappointment by most participants.The jury for the Russian competition, which wa
  • Terry Sanders buys film rights to Tokyo Rose story

    Acclaimed documentary film-maker Terry Sanders has acquired film rights to the screenplay Tokyo Rose by Pat Fielder and Richard Bluel based on the book They Call Her Tokyo Rose by Rex Gunn. He will produce and direct through his company The American Film Foundation; It will mark his first fictional feature.Tokyo Rose focuses on the arrest, trial, conviction and ultimate pardon by President Gerald Ford of Japanese UCLA graduate Iva Toguri who, during World War II,
  • The Cave opens Utrecht on young, local note

    Martin Koolhoven's The Cave (De Grot) is to open this year's Dutch Film Festival in Utrecht.This is the second year running that the festival, this year celebrating its 21st edition, has chosen a film by a young local director to kick off proceedings. Last time out, the festival opened with Erik de Bruyn's feature debut Wild Mussels.Produced by Amsterdam outfit Get Reel - co-producers of this year's Belgian foreign language Oscar nomination Everybody
  • The Fast And The Furious

    Dir: Rob Cohen. US. 2001. 108 mins.From the first frame to the last, Rob Cohen's The Fast And The Furious is a B- movie, elevated by A-level stunt work and roaring cars that test the limit, but dragged down to C-level characterisation with a formulaic plot and schematic hero, anti-hero and villain. Superficially inspired by Rebel Without A Cause's mixed-up youth melodrama, but closer in spirit to Gone In 60 Seconds (the 1974 version, not last year's remake), the film features bland tee
  • Thomas Garry joins Lew Horwitz Organization

    Thomas Garry has been named vice president and entertainment banker at LA-based independent film lending outfit The Lewis Horwitz Organization. Garry, formerly with Union Bank Of California and Sumitomo Bank, joins after arranging financing at Union Bank for films including Three Kings, End Of Days, The Hurricane, Nurse Betty, Thirteen Days, The Wedding Planner and The Family Man.LHO, now a division of Southern Pacific Bank, has increas
  • Tiger scores second biggest US DVD launch

    Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has become the fastest selling DVD title in Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment's history since its release in North America on June 5. The title has sold an estimated 1.5 million units with a 60% sell-off in its first week. On its first day of release alone, 23% of shipped units were sold.The film was top seller and renter on DVD and home video for the week ending June 10 and trails only Gladiator as the biggest DVD launch in US
  • Trouble Every Day

    Dir: Claire Denis. France. 2000. 99 mins. Claire Denis tiptoes perilously close to Golden Turkey land with this ponderous study of insatiable desire and twisted eroticism, which will command initial interest from buffs on the strength of its director's previously impressive track record (Chocolat, I Can't Sleep, Beau Travail) and may lure the prurient with its lurid sex 'n' cannibalism agenda. But the lugubrious tone, combined with the lack of narrative logic and interesting character
  • UIP leads international summer race

    UIP's Shrek and Bridget Jones's Diary have entered the summer races in the international markets against early leaders, fellow UIP release The Mummy Returns and BVI's Pearl Harbor, although these two behemoths still hold many of the major territories.Shrek, the DreamWorks-produced animated hit, which became the first film to cross the $200m domestic box office mark on Tuesday, started its international roll-out in Italy on June 15. The film, which fea
  • UK's Downtown secures extra time to pay back debts

    Troubled UK distributor Downtown Pictures has won a stay of execution by securing a Creditors Voluntary Agreement (CVA), according to the company's financial head, Simon Clement-Davies.The distributor secured 93% approval from its creditors, who agreed that Downtown's debts would be paid back over a period of time. Clement-Davies declined to comment on the level of the company's debts."The company is now trading in a solvent position," he said.Clement-Davies confirmed tha
  • UK's Film Council hands out training awards

    UK support body the Film Council has allocated its first training grants for film-makers already working in the industry.The council's bursary programme will pay for three writers - Lorrie Sheehy, Phillippa Goslett and Michael Maynard - to attend this year's Moonstone International Screen Labs in Italy. The Moonstone scheme allows writers to work with experts from Europe and the US. Another three development executives or producers - Ynyr Williams, Fergal McGrath and Sunandan W
  • Y Tu Mama Tambien goes to IFC Films

    IFC Films, the theatrical distribution arm of Independent Film Channel, has acquired North American distribution rights to Y Tu Mama Tambien, the erotic Spanish-language Mexican film from director Alfonso Cuaron which last week opened in Mexico to the biggest three day opening of a Mexican film in history.Y Tu Mama is the first Mexican film to be directed by Cuaron since his film debut Love In The Time Of Hysteria in 1991. His subsequent Hollywood films - A Lit