A Cannes competition hopeful by Barbet Schroeder and two European pictures with $20m-$30m budgets are among half a dozen new additions to the Berlin and AFM sales slate of French production powerhouse Le Studio Canal Plus.
Set in Medellin, Colombia, Schroeder's picture La Virgen De Los Sicarios has been cloaked in secrecy since its origins, but is now in post-production and seems a virtual certainty for official selection at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
Filmed in Spanish and English, Virgen is based on a novel by Fernando Vallejo that tells the tale of a man who returns to his native Colombia to find that his lover is a killer and that the country is going to the dogs. It was made on a budget of less than $5m and produced by Les Films Du Losange, Le Studio Canal Plus and Tucan Producciones Cinematograficas.
Shroeder's film has already been pre-sold to Bim for Italy, Kinowelt for Germany, Vertigo for Spain, PrenoH for Japan, Alliance Atlantis for Canada and the UK, and to Bac for France.
In addition, Le Studio is financing and selling Axis, a $23m animated adventure picture which is set to be Europe's first entirely three-dimensional computer-generated feature. It is co-produced with French CGI house Chaman productions and Canada's Motion International.
Axis, which is in production and set to be delivered in the first quarter of 2002 will be accompanied by a video game and heavyweight merchandising efforts. Le Studio has already sold the film to Gaga for Japan, Lauren for Spain and Bac, with whom Le Studio shares a distribution partnership, for France.
Christophe Gans, the comic-book author and director, has been granted a $30m budget to direct Brotherhood Of The Wolf (Le Pacte Des Loups), a sci-fi mystery set in the 18th century and based on the true story of the beast of Gevaudan. Principal photography starts this week (Feb 14) with a cast that includes the re-pairing of Doberman duo Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel, Rosetta star Emilie Dequenne, and sci-fi superstar Marc Dacascos, who headed Gans' previous effort, Crying Freeman in 1995.
Gans' beast is being animated by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. Producers are Samuel Hadida of Davis Film and Richard Grandpierre of Le Studio development offshoot Eskwad. The film is fully financed by Le Studio.
Le Studio has high hopes for Chasing Sleep, a $5m English-language psychological horror picture starring Jeff Daniels and Emily Bergl that was directed late last year by newcomer Michael Walker in Daniels' home town of of Chelsea, Michigan. The film, which tells the tale of a college writing professor who wakes up one night to find that his wife hasn't returned home, is in post-production and will be ready for delivery by Cannes. It is produced by France's Glaski Productions and New York's Forensic Films, whose credits include Harmony Korine'sJulien Donkey-Boy and Tom Noonan's Sundance-winner What Happened Was.
At Berlin Le Studio introduced to foreign buyers its previously announced Nicole Kidman-starrer The Others, by Alejandro Amenabar, director of Open Your Eyes. The cast of the World War Two-set drama, which shoots later this year, now also includes Fionnula Flanagan, James Bentley, Renee Asherton and Alex Vince. Possibly joining them, although their names have yet to be confirmed, are both Eric Sykes and Elaine Cassidy (Felicia's Journey).
The Others is produced by Cruise/Wagner Productions, Sogetel and Las Producciones Del Escorpion. Miramax has rights in North America and English-speaking territories.
Also new to Le Studio's line-up are two smaller French productions. One of these, Le Prof, is the second film by Alexandre Jardin, the novelist behind Sophie Marceau hit Fanfan. A comedy about two teachers, Le Prof stars Jean-Hughes Anglade, Yvan Attal and Helene de Fougerolles and goes on French release in April. It is produced by Alter Films, Le Studio and France 2 Cinema.
The other French production, Please Spare A Coin (Merci Pour Le Geste) is a drama about a tramp, that is directed by Claude Faraldo and stars Jacques Hansen, Marie Rousseau and Agathe De La Boulaye.
Earlier at the Berlin Film Festival, Le Studio confirmed that it will handling sales on yet another Cannes competition hopeful Tom Tykwer's The Princess And The Warrior.