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Berlin: Shingle Strengthens Indian-German Connection

43 minutes ago

Indian-German shingle Bombay Berlin Film Production is set to continue its collaboration with director Sudhanshu Saria following the success of the helmer’s debut feature, “Loev.”

The Indian film, a gay love story about two longtime friends who discover their mutual desire over a weekend trip, premiered at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival late last year and is making its international market debut at Berlin’s Efm; it then heads to the Guadalajara Film Festival and SXSW in Austin.

While “Loev” is Saria’s first joint effort with Katharina Suckale and Arfi Lamba’s Bombay Berlin, the helmer had initially hoped to make another film with them first — “I Am Here,” about a young American man in India trying to get closure from an unresolved relationship. Saria describes it as a character study that follows “the journey of someone coming to terms with himself and his desperate need for companionship. »


- Ed Meza

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Rachel Nichols Stars in ‘Inside’ (Exclusive)

1 hour ago

Rachel Nichols, who starred in “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” and 2011’s “Conan the Barbarian,” is attached to topline psychological thriller “Inside,” from director  Miguel Angel Vivas, and Spain’s latest English-language genre movie teaming talents behind the “[Rec]” franchise, one of Spain’s biggest genre exports, “Buried” and “Kidnapped,” the first feature from Vivas.

London-based financing-sales agency Embankment, headed by Tim Haslam and Hugo Grumbar, is selling “Inside” at the European Film Market.

Produced by Adrian Guerra and Nuria Valls at Spain’s Nostromo Pictures, whose credits include “Buried,” “Red Lights,” with Robert De Niro and Sigourney Weaver, and “Palm Trees in the Snow,” which has grossed $18 million-plus and counting for Warner Bros. in Spain, “Inside” is written by Manu Diez and “[Rec]” creator/co-director Jaume Balaguero, helmer of “Darkness,” which grossed $22.2 million for Dimension. Balaguero also serves as exec producer.

“Inside” turns on pregnant woman, left partially deaf from »


- John Hopewell

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Russell Simmons’ All Def Digital to Host First Awards Show

1 hour ago

All Def Digital (Add), a multi-platform hip-hop and youth culture brand, will hold its first ever All Def Digital Awards.

The new media network — which was created by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons — will hold its inaugural event Feb. 24 at Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre. Tony Rock, the actor-comedian brother of 2016 Oscars host Chris Rock, will host the show.

Beasts of No Nation,” “Chi-Raq,” “Creed,” “Dope” and “Straight Outta Compton” are among the All Def Digital Awards nominees for best picture, which members of the public can vote for online through midnight on Feb. 23. The winner of the most quoted movie category will also be determined by online votes. Remaining categories include best actor, best actress and best director as well as non-traditional categories like best bad muh f–ka, best helpful white person and best black survivor in a movie.

The awards ceremony will feature a black carpet, a special music »


- Alyssa Sage

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Berlin: Japan’s Village Brings Geki Cine to World Market (Exclusive)

1 hour ago

Veteran Japanese theater company Village Inc. is in Berlin to make its first move into the international movie business. With 14 feature films under the belt of its Geki Cine subsidiary, however, Village is hardly a newcomer to filmmaking.

Village and Geki Cine are seeking to introduce European audiences to their particular brand of stage (“geki”) film.

Berlin buyers get a chance to see for themselves Feb. 13 with the Efm screening of “Legacy of Soma-Aonoran,” a romance-action-drama about a female former warrior and a bungling, but well-intentioned samurai.

For over 35 years, the company’s core business has been the production of elaborate stage plays that use the Village stable of artists and tour big city venues in Japan for limited runs that each earn tens of millions of dollars.

In order to take the shows to audiences further afield, the company started filming the plays. After roughly a decade, Geki Cine »


- Patrick Frater

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Indonesia to Abolish Foreign Investment Restrictions on Film Business

1 hour ago

Indonesia is set to abolish the multiple restrictions on foreign investment that have hindered development of its film industry.

The resource-rich, predominantly Muslim country is one of the largest in Asia, and has huge potential for development in many sectors.

In a bid to restart the stalling economy, President Joko Widodo on Thursday announced the partial or full removal of some 20 industries from the so-called “negative list.”

He specified the complete removal of foreign investment restrictions in film production, film distribution and cinema operation.

“Today’s revisions represent our largest opening to international investment in 10 years,” Trade Minister Tom Lembong told Reuters. “More international investment will bring more capital, more world-class expertise, more technologies to Indonesia. Domestic players must seize those opportunities.”

Hollywood and other foreign media companies have been unable to set up their own film distribution companies in the country due to the government-mandated restrictions, which may have »

- Patrick Frater

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John Hurt Faces Death in ‘That Good Night’ (Exclusive)

1 hour ago

John Hurt is attached to star in bittersweet drama “That Good Night,” in which he plays a once-famous screenwriter facing death. The film, which Gsp Studios Intl. is selling in Berlin, is based on N.J. Crisp’s 1996 stage play of the same name.

Hurt’s character has two final wishes in life: to be reconciled with his long-lost son, and to ensure he doesn’t become a burden on his wife by hiring a mysterious “visitor” to help him pass painlessly into “that good night,” to quote Dylan Thomas’ poem. However, his wishes do not go to plan.

Eric Styles (“Dreaming of Joseph Lees,” “Relative Values”) will direct from a script by Charles Savage. It will be produced by Savage and Gsp StudiosAlan Latham, who was the producer of the original play.

The film starts to shoot in March across locations on the Algarve coastline of Portugal as well »


- Leo Barraclough

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Berlin: Nicolas Cage’s ‘Dog Eat Dog’ Fetches Strong Sales (Exclusive)

1 hour ago

Arclight Films and Pure Dopamine have closed multiple sales for the Nicolas Cage-Willem Dafoe crime thriller “Dog Eat Dog.”

Dog Eat Dog” is directed by Paul Schrader.

Louisa Krause (“Martha Marcy May Marlene”), Reynaldo Gallegos (“Sons of Anarcy”) and Omar J. Dorsey (“Selma”) also star. The film is currently in post-production and Arclight Films is showing footage to distributors for the first time at the Efm in Berlin.

Recently closed deals include France (Metropolitan); Germany (Ksm); Spain (Inopia); Turkey (Aqua Pinema); U.K. (Signature); Cis (Top Film); Eastern Europe (Freeman Film Trade); India (Viswaas); and Latin America (Imagem).

Dog Eat Dog” is based on the book of the same name by Eddie Bunker. Matt Wilder and Schrader adapted the script about a trio of  ex-cons, deep in the underbelly of Los Angeles, who are hired for a kidnapping. When the botched abduction goes awry and gets completely out of control, »


- Dave McNary

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Studiocanal Targets European Franchises, Production in China (Exclusive)

1 hour ago

Taking a leaf out of Hollywood’s book, and following “Paddington’s” $265 million worldwide take, Studiocanal will dive into some of the biggest IP franchises in Europe, said Didier Lupfer, Studiocanal’s new chairman-ceo, at Berlin. In a first and exclusive interview with Variety, he laid out his vision for very possibly the most powerful film-tv production-distribution-sales company in Europe.

Dressed in Parisian informal chic – a blue striped shirt, brown jacket – Lupfer, appointed in late September, also revealed the three big pillars of Studiocanal’s movie production growth: Family/animation entertainment, in the vein of “Paddington”; big director-driven fare; and “action-orientated movies” like “Unknown,” “Non-Stop,” which grossed $213 million worldwide for Studiocanal, or the upcoming “The Commuter,” re-teaming Liam Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra.

Among the director-driven movies, Studiocanal is partnering with “Narcos” director Jose Padilha to develop “Entebbe,” about the 1976 Air France flight hijacking and dramatic Entebbe Airport rescue of 103 hostages. »


- John Hopewell and Elsa Keslassy

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WestEnd Nabs Stephan Elliott’s ‘Flammable Children,’ Starring Guy Pearce (Exclusive)

1 hour ago

WestEnd Films has acquired worldwide rights to “Flammable Children,” a comedy written and to be directed by Stephan Elliott, who was BAFTA nominated for “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” WestEnd starts sales at the European Film Market at Berlin.

The cast is led by Guy Pearce, who starred in “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” and Radha Mitchell. Additional cast will be announced soon.

The film is set in an Australian beach suburb, Dee Why, in the mid-1970s. Fourteen-year-old Jeff tries to find his feet in a world changing faster than his hormones, and deal with his crush on shy and sensitive girl-next-door Melly. When the town suddenly hits the spotlight after the body of a 200-ton whale is washed ashore, Jeff and Melly think it’s the biggest thing that ever happened in their lives.

Meanwhile, their eccentric parents are catching up with the sexual revolution »


- Leo Barraclough

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Berlin: Ablaze Pulls Ahead With ‘The Tag Along’

1 hour ago

Ablaze Image has picked up sales rights to “The Tag Along,” a Taiwanese horror thriller that will screen in Berlin’s European Film Market.

Based on an urban legend about the girl in red, the story follows mysterious disappearances and equally mysterious reappearances by a woman and her grandson.

The film is directed by Cheng Wei-hao and has a cast including River Huang, Hsu Wei-Ning and Yumi Wong.

Representative of a new generation of more commercial filmmaking in Taiwan, “Tag Along” was released theatrically in Taiwan and Singapore in October last year.

Ablaze was formed three years ago by former Edko Films executive June Wu to handle Taiwanese cinema’s outreach.

The company has contributed to building the territory’s younger generation of stars, including Eddie Peng (in Ablaze’s “The Last Women Standing”) and Mark Chao (in Ablaze’s “Black And White: The Dawn of Justice”). Its »


- Patrick Frater

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‘Francisco’ Sells Out in Australia, Scandinavia (Exclusive)

1 hour ago

A Buena Vista Intl. pick-up for Latin America, “Francisco,” the Argentine papal portrait starring Dario Grandinetti (“Talk to Her,” “Wild Tales”), has closed Australia/New Zealand (Vendetta Films), and Scandinavia (Angel Scandinavia).

Vendetta will release “Francisco” theatrically in March, Angel Scandinavia will release the film in the  second quarter of 2016. In further new deals, Cirko Films has taken all Hungarian rights and 21Fim those to former Yugoslavia.

Deals add to a slew of sales for Guido Rud’s FilmSharks Intl. taking in, of other major territories, Metropolitan Filmexport, which has acquired French-speaking Europe, 2M Pictures for Italy, Korea (Must See Movie Releasing) and Spain (Wanda Vision). Beverly Hills Entertainment has clinched a pan-Latin America deal for TV/VOD.

Silvia Abascal (“El Lobo”) and Leticia Bredice (“Nine Queens”) co-star in the Argentina-Spain co-production between Argentina’s Pablo Bossi and Spain’s Gloriamundi.

A fiction feature, “Francisco” is based on “Francisco: Life and Revolution, »


- John Hopewell

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SquareOne Nabs ‘Billionaire Boys Club,’ ‘The Blob,’ ‘Journey of the Fakir’ (Exclusive)

1 hour ago

Independent German distributor SquareOne Entertainment has acquired all German-speaking rights to five high-profile independent movies, including “The Billionaire Boys Club,” starring Taron Egerton, Ansel Elgort and Kevin Spacey, “The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir,” featuring Uma Thurman and Gemma Arterton, and the Simon West-directed “The Blob” with Samuel L. Jackson.

SquareOne also picked up French box office comedy hits “Le Grand Partage” and “All Gone South.”

James Cox’s “The Billionaire Boys Club,” which was acquired from Good Universe, is based on the true story of a group of wealthy young men in Los Angeles during the early 1980s who established a get-rich quick scam that turned deadly.

The Blob,” which was acquired from Goldcrest Films, is based on the 1958 sci-fi classic that starred Steve McQueen.

Marjane Satrapi’s comedy adventure tale “The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir,” which was acquired from producer Luc Bossi through TF1, is based on Romain Puertolas’ novel. »


- Leo Barraclough

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Film Review: ‘Wild’

4 hours ago

True as the description may be, “a thoughtful, toughly acted story of one woman’s escape from urban societal strictures” won’t help anyone distinguish the adult German fable “Wild” from the 2014 Reese Witherspoon vehicle of the same title. “The one with wolf cunnilingus” certainly will, but actor-turned-filmmaker Nicolette Krebitz’s thornily sensual third feature deserves to be sold on more than just its raciest novelties. Galvanized by Lilith Stangenberg’s high-risk performance as a young office drone lured inexorably from notional civilization following a chance encounter of the lupine kind, Krebitz’s film questions the behavioral standards we take as given with quiet daring and disquieting sangfroid. Sure to be a recurring conversation piece on the festival circuit following its Sundance debut, “Wild” nonetheless won’t be easily domesticated for arthouse release.

There’s a pleasing lack of emphatic moral definition to a film that a crass distributor could »


- Guy Lodge

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WGA Honors Scribes for Special Services, Lifetime Achievement

4 hours ago

Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award For Television Writing Achievement (Wgaw)

David Crane and Marta Kauffman

Longtime writing partners Kauffman and Crane created the hit television series “Friends,” which earned 63 Emmy nominations in its decade-long run, the Kirstie Alley starring “Veronica’s Closet”; “The Powers That Be”; and the HBO series “Dream On.” And they didn’t stop there. Outside their partnership, Crane has co-created several series with Jeffrey Klarik, including “Episodes” and “The Class.” Kauffman most recently co-created Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie,” which was nominated for an Emmy and Golden Globe this year.

Screen Laurel Award (Wgaw)

Elaine May

May is being honored by the Wgaw in recognition for her lifetime of work. May first hit the national stage with Mike Nichols in improv comedy “Nichols and May,” and their influence is still felt today. She’s earned recognition for penning “Heaven Can Wait,” “The Birdcage” and “Such Good Friends. »


- Variety Staff

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Berlin: Omar Sy Discusses Role as Black Circus Artist

4 hours ago

After appearing in U.S. blockbusters such as “X-Men” and “Jurassic World,” Omar Sy is back in France as the star of Roschdy Zem’s “Monsieur Chocolat,” a biopic of 19th century Cuban artist Rafael Padilla (aka Chocolat), who became the black circus artist in France. Sy became a star in the 2011 French blockbuster “The Intouchables.” Sy has been living in the U.S. with his family for the last three years, hoping to build his acting career on both sides of the Atlantic. Gaumont will host the market premiere of “Chocolat” at Berlin.

What’s the genesis of “Chocolat”?

It all started with the producers Eric and Nicolas Altmayer at Mandarin Cinema with whom I had worked with on the film “On the Other Side of the Tracks.” I was immediately drawn to this project because it offered me a role in an ambitious period drama and it’s set in a historical context, »


- Elsa Keslassy

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Berlin: Zoe Kazan Joins Kumail Nanjiani in ‘The Big Sick’

5 hours ago

Zoe Kazan will star in romantic comedy “The Big Sick”  opposite “Silicon Valley” star Kumail Nanjiani.

FilmNation is financing and selling the project to foreign buyers at the European Film Market at the Berlin Film Festival. UTA is handling domestic rights.

FilmNation came on board the project to fully finance and handle worldwide rights in December. Nanjiani wrote the script with his wife, Emily V. Gordon, based on their own relationship about the challenges faced by a Pakistan-born man (Nanjiani) and his American girlfriend (Kazan).

Michael Showalter, who directed “Hello, My Name Is Doris,” is attached to direct “The Big Sick.” Producers are Judd Apatow and Barry Mendel.

Nanjiani stars on HBO’s “Silicon Valley” as programmer Dinesh Chugtai. He is also a writer, executive producer and co-host of Comedy Central’s “The Meltdown With Jonah and Kumail.”

He appeared in “The Five-Year Engagement,” “Hot Tub Time Machine 2” and »


- Dave McNary

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YouTube Fans See a Different Side of Lilly Singh in YouTube Red’s ‘A Trip to Unicorn Island’

5 hours ago

The first round of programming for YouTube Red’s original movies was released Wednesday, and includes projects from top creators like PewDiePie, Meg DeAngelis, Jake Paul, the Rooster Teeth team and Lilly Singh — whose documentary “A Trip to Unicorn Island” premiered at the Tcl Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

The original film follows YouTube personality Singh, who has over 1 billion views and 8 million subscribers, on her world tour. Through the 26-city trip, Singh aspires to spread happiness and show how discovering “Unicorn Island” (her metaphorical happy place) saved her life.

Though Singh is used to performing in front of the camera — the 27-year-old posted her first video in 2010, and now uploads new content every Monday and Thursday to her channel IISuperwomanII — she isn’t accustomed to having a director.

“I usually control when the camera goes on and off, so there were so many moments throughout this entire journey where I »


- Margaret Lenker

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MGM Developing Nascar Movie With ‘Empire’ Co-Exec Producer (Exclusive)

5 hours ago

MGM is revving its engines in the world of Nascar, tapping “Empire” co-executive producer Robert Munic to write an untitled movie set in the racing community.

Though they are not yet attached yet as producers, MGM TV president Mark Burnett and Roma Downey brought the project to the film division. The couple previously partnered on a television series revolving around the sport.

While they continue to develop the series, Burnett and Downey still had access to the rights, and brought the property to MGM chairman and CEO, Gary Barber, who who pushed a film project forward.

Nascar will continue to work with MGM and Munic in developing the project. Plot details are unknown at this time, other than the fact that it will be set in the world of Nascar.

Along with producing Fox drama “Empire,” Munic’s past credits including “Fighting” with Channing Tatum and “The Space Between.”

Munic »


- Justin Kroll

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Katie Holmes Talks Supporting First-Time Directors at ‘Touched With Fire’ Premiere

6 hours ago

The New York premiere of Roadside Attractions’ “Touched With Fire” was held at the Walter Reade Theatre at Lincoln Center on Wednesday night, with an after-party across the street at the Lincoln Ristorante. The film is a drama about two poets, Carla (Katie Holmes) and Marco (Luke Kirby), struggling with bipolar disorder and the painful truth that their romantic relationship fuels their mania. The director, first-time filmmaker Paul Dalio, told Variety that the subject was important to him because it was based on his own experience dealing with mental illness.

Touched With Fire” is based on the filmmaker’s “feeling of being misunderstood for a long time, and the rebirth of fully showing the world what this thing really is. It was cathartic,” Dalio said, adding that before he got healthy, he had been through a period of hospitalization and suicidal depression and “the shame of being a freak and »


- Michael Tedder

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WGA Girds for Contract Talks Amidst Awards Celebrations

6 hours ago

Eight years after a bitter writers’ strike over new media, the Writers Guild of America is quietly preparing for a new set of negotiations that could start before the end of the year — though no date has yet been set.

“We just want to be sure that writers are fairly compensated,” says WGA West president Howard A. Rodman. “There are 408 series on the air, which means the entertainment industry is very popular. So writers get upset by the industry pushing back against them in ways big and small.”

The WGA reached a historic deal in 2014 with minimum terms covering “high-budget new media made for subscription video-on-demand,” such as Netflix. The successor deal, which runs to May 2017, also modified the option and exclusivity requirements for TV writers amid seasons that have become shorter than the traditional 22 episodes.

Rodman, who won a two-year term in the September election over Joan Meyerson, notes »


- Dave McNary

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