United Artists (UA), the specialised film division of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), has made its first acquisition at the Toronto International Film Festival, taking North American rights to Chen Kaige's heartwarmer Together. Ironically it was MGM which was scheduled to distribute Kaige's last film Killing Me Softly, his first English language effort which has been roundly panned by critics outside the US, and which still awaits a domestic release date almost a year after it was first screened.
Together marks the fourth acquisition by UA under its new president indie veteran Bingham Ray following All Or Nothing late last year, Personal Velocity at Sundance and Bowling For Columbine at Cannes. Ray's first production Nicholas Nickleby opens in December.
Together is based on a true story about a brilliant 13 year-old violinist who comes to Beijing with his father from their provincial city in search of a good music teacher. Once there, he encounters the corrupting power of money, friendship in the form of his teacher and a young gold-digger upstairs and renewed love for his father. It stars Tang Yun, Liu Peiqi, Chen Hong and Chen himself as a high-powered teacher who takes over the boy's musical education.
The deal was done by UA with Etchie Stroh of Moonstone Entertainment who picked up worldwide rights to the film before Toronto. It first screened on Tuesday night where buyer buzz was fierce. UA's aggressive play for the film beat out other bidders such as Fine Line Features and Focus Features.
As well as the Ray acquisitions, UA has several other completed films in the can from the previous UA regime including Matt Dillon's City Of Ghosts, Robert Duvall's Assassination Tango and Bruce Beresford's Evelyn, all of which world premiered at Toronto this week.