The Toronto trickle turned into a torrent of deals yesterday,headed up by new-look Miramax's first acquisition as Daniel Battsek's teambought all North American rights to Ward Serrill's girls basketball documentaryThe Heart Of The Game.
Elsewhere, THINKFilm took worldwide rights to Josh Gilbert'sdocumentary AKA Tommy Chong, and Bauer Martinez bought North American and selectinternational rights to David Ayer's hot drama Harsh Times.
In addition Roadside Attractions took North American and Hopscotchbought Australian and New Zealand rights to Richard E Grant's directorial debutWah-Wah.
A thrilled incoming Miramax president Battsek said The Heart OfThe Game, a documentaryabout a girl's struggle to play for a basketball team coached by a maverick taxprofessor, was "a great fit" for the company.
"The film is so inspirational," Battsek said. "It's extremelywell-made and it's an extraordinary story that happens to be true about triumphover adversity."
Battsek said he was eying a first quarter 2006 release and paidtribute to BVI UK vice president of production Kristin Jones for her role inthe acquisition.
Michael Luisi negotiated the deal for Miramax with Cinetic Media'sJohn Sloss and producer Liz Manne of Duopoly on behalf of the film.
THINKFilm's acquisition of AKA Tommy Chong, which Miramax had also been circling,bolsters its reputation as a champion of provocative documentary filmmakingfollowing releases this year of Murderball and The Aristocrats, and the upcoming launch of TheProtocols Of Zion.
THINKFilm president and chief executive officer Jeff Sackman saidthe documentary, which charts the arrest and imprisonment of stoner comedianChong for drug-related crimes and explores civil liberties in Bush-era America,would attract wide appeal from old and young alike. THINKFilm is aiming to takeAKA Tommy Chong toSundance before a 2006 North American release.
"We're very excited about this one," Sackman said. "We've shown anability to take films across a broad range of subject matters and elevate themto a level where they can enjoy bona fide theatrical success." Sackmannegotiated the deal with ICM, quipping that the price was "about 25 times whatit would cost to buy a pound of the best marijuana money can buy."
Chong, the co-star and co-writer of 1978's marijuana comedy UpIn Smoke, was equallyenthused. "THINKFilm are artists and they're the best possible people to havethis film. People are going to be enlightened: so many people don't go any furtherthan the headlines about my life, and the film shows that I'm a comedian andactor and the furthest thing from a drug addict. It's a great feel-good movie."
Bauer Martinez Distribution's (BMD) $4m acquisition of rights inNorth America, most of Asia and Germany to Harsh Times ends the race for one of the festival'smore hotly contested titles.
The distributor plans a 2006 release for the Los Angeles-set dramastarring Christian Bale and Freddy Rodriguez as troubled friends who fall foulof a gang lord. Eva Longoria also stars.
"Philippe [Martinez]'s enthusiasm for Harsh Times is what really sealed the deal for us," saidfirst-time director Ayer, whose writing credits include Training Day, DarkBlue and S.W.A.T.. 'Finding a distributor that wouldreally get behind the movie was our goal in Toronto and we've succeeded."
William Morris Independent and CAA negotiated the deal with thelaw firm of Sloane, Offer, Weber and Dern, and Endeavor.
Joy Wong, who heads up UK sales house The Works International,negotiated the Wah-Wahdeal with Roadside's Howard Cohen and Eric D'Arbeloff, and Troy Lum and SandieDon of Hopscotch.
"We are delighted to be working with both Roadside and Hopscotchon Wah-Wah." Wongsaid. "Following Roadside's successful release of Charles Dance's Ladies InLavender and Hopscotch'shandling of A Good Woman, we feel we have found the perfect fit for this gem in bothterritories."
Roadside plans amid-2006 domestic release on Wah-Wah, Grant's comical look at colonial life in Swaziland thatstars Gabriel Byrne, Julie Walters, Miranda Richardson and Nicholas Hoult.