French sales agent Wild Bunch has kicked off the Berlin market in lively fashion with an early sale of Andre Techine's Strayed to Gaga Communications for Japan.
The film, a WWII story of impossible love, is one of many on Wild Bunch's slate that the firm strongly fancies for a prominent position at Cannes.
Other opening day sales include licensing Rolf De Heer's competition film Alexandra's Project to Shapira for Israel, Audiovisual for Greece and Film Plus.
Korean distributor Apex has also acquired Purple Butterfly, an epic Shanghai-set drama about love and resistance movements in Japanese-occupied China. The film, which marks one of Wild Bunch's biggest forays into production, stars Zhang Ziyi (currently in Berlin with Hero) and is directed by Lou Ye, who previously made the acclaimed underground film Suzhou River.
A few further Berlin sales seem a possibility, although Wild Bunch is convinced that it the film is Cannes bound and believes it can hold back from further sales until Cannes itself. Wild Bunch co-chief Vincent Maraval, who recently returned from Shanghai, reports that he is holding several firm offers from Japanese distributors - all above his initial asking price. Separately, Miramax's Beijing office is known to have been closely watching the production.
Alexandra's Project was brought to Wild Bunch by Juliette Renaud who has been tracking the film for many months and only recently joined Wild Bunch to take responsibility for co-productions.Her appointment is one of a number of moves which underline Wild Bunch's new 'morphology' since separation from Canal Plus' StudioCanal division. The team are busily explaining that Wild Bunch is not about to change its name and that Exception, the company formed after the break-away, is now effectively the holding company that replaced StudioCanal as Wild Bunch's owner and financial guarantor.
Just as Wild Bunch is moving upstream in the production cycle, parent company Exception is expected to diversify within the film sector. The first example of this was the recent move to take over French distributor Mars Films. Together Exception and Wild Bunch are taking a greater grip on their destiny, controlling distribution in France through Mars, in Benelux through a quasi-output deal with Paradiso and a similar deal to be hatched imminently with Frenetic Films of Switzerland.