Starting 2022 with another online-only film market will be “bittersweet”, says Tamara Nagahiro of sales group Grandave International. She is among hundreds of international filmmakers forced to swap hotel suites for Zoom meeting rooms after the Berlin European Film Market, which runs from February 10-17, went entirely virtual in response to a increase in COVID-19 infections in Germany. The health of the independent film market will be tested at EFM 2022, as sellers and distributors try to assess the impact of the pandemic on global trade.
“You see an increase in streamer business, in places like Latin America and other large territories, with the rise of HBO Max and other new platforms,” notes Nagahiro, whose EFM list includes the heist thriller. Shelter by Nuyorican director Anthony Nardolillo. “But it is increasingly difficult for a film to be released in theaters,” he adds. “It seems like there’s only superhero-style big-budget movies and your art house festival hits, and not much in between.”
All eyes will be on Lionsgate’s February 4 release of moon fall. Roland Emmerich’s $150 million sci-fi epic was the last major pre-pandemic presale for the international market. At Cannes 2019, Stuart Ford’s AGC Studios secured seven- and eight-figure deals with buyers in territories currently struggling with the rise of omicron. The film’s performance will be taken as a barometer of future market potential.
“At the moment we are waiting to see how things develop, what happens with omicron, to decide what projects we bring to Berlin, what we reserve for Cannes and what we will perhaps sell directly to streamers,” said said a veteran financier. two weeks before Berlin.
Such hesitation means that the biggest headlines in the market will likely not be confirmed until shortly before the EFM. But for specialist distributors around the world, the arthouse titles on offer could be the perfect fit. Here are five titles with strong pre-market buzz.
A man called Otto
DIRECTOR Marc Forster
STARS Tom Hanks, Mariana Trevino, Rachel Keller
BUZZ This long-running in-development adaptation (by Finding Neverland and Life of Pi, writer David Magee) of the Swedish cross-over hit A Man Called Ove, starring Hanks as a curmudgeonly widower who begins a reluctant friendship with his new neighbors, is certain to spark a bidding war among high-end independent distributors, if a global streamer doesn’t pick it up first.
SALES STX International/CAA Media Finance/Lichter Grossman Nichols Adler Feldman & Clark
DIRECTOR Justin Kurzel
STARS Laura Dern, Benedict Cumberbatch, Noah Jupe
BUZZ A high-concept gem for the arthouse crowd, this sci-fi drama, set in the near future where society has done away with the need for sleep, is certain to draw offers from streamers and traditional casts, especially given its cast of numerous awards from Dern and Cumberbatch (both executive producers).
SALES HanWay Films/CAA Media Finance/UTA Independent Film
DIRECTOR Daniel Kokotajlo
STARS Matt Smith, Morfydd Clark
BUZZ Horror remains one of the few surefire genres, and this spooky supernatural, set in rural 1970s England, could tap into the same global audience that made folk horror Midsummer a dormant hit.
SALES corner stone
DIRECTOR Nora Fingscheidt
STARS Saoirse Ronan
BUZZ Darker drama may be a tough sell for the indie market, but the star power of four-time Oscar nominee Ronan and director Fingscheidt’s track record, fresh off the 2019 double hit System Crasher and Netflix hit The Unforgivable, should make this project, an adaptation of Amy Liptrot’s bestselling memoir about a woman recovering from addiction, who returns to her childhood farm on Scotland’s Orkney Islands, a must-see for specialist buyers.
SALES Protagonist/CAA Media Finance
All entertainment and games
DIRECTORS Ari Costa and Eren Celeboglu
STARS Asa Butterfield, Natalia Dyer
BUZZ A youth-oriented horror title sure to be snagged by international buyers, this low-budget, high-concept AGBO feature from Joe and Anthony Russo and Greenland producer Anton sees Sex education stars Butterfield and stranger things‘ Dyer caught in a children’s game that turns to death.
DIRECTOR Maggie Peren
STARS Louis Hofmann, Luna Wedler
BUZZ Quality WWII dramas from Germany have a built-in international arthouse audience and this feature film, based on the memoirs of Samson “Cioma” Schönhaus, a Jew who hid in the sight of everyone in Berlin in the 1940s, forging identity documents for himself and others, provides a twist on the Holocaust story, with an optimistic and optimistic central character, played by Dark Hofman star.
SALES Beta Cinema
DIRECTOR Renny Harlin
STAR aaron eckart
BUZZ After teaming up with Millennium and Gerard Butler’s G-Base shingle on the Fell films, a global sales hit, Eckhart gets his own shot at an action-thriller franchise, playing a former CIA agent forced into retirement to take down an international conspiracy.
SALES Millennium Media
DIRECTOR Francois Ozon
STARS Denis Menochet, Isabelle Adjani, Hanna Schygulla
BUZZ French auteur Ozon is aiming for the arthouse market with this filmmaker’s delight: a loose, genre-bending adaptation of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1972 classic The bitter tears of Petra von Kant. Ozon takes the action from the world of fashion to the world of cinema with Ménochet as a director (looking a lot like Fassbinder) who falls in love with a handsome young man he takes in and promises to become a star.
Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush
DIRECTOR Andreas Dresen
BUZZ Berlin is still an important market for political films, and this new drama from Dresen (Stopped on track) – which tells the true story of a Turkish-German housewife who fought the US government for the release of her son, falsely imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay – has a special publication written everywhere.
SALES The match factory
Untitled Johnny Depp
STARS Johnny Depp
BUZZ Depp may be persona non grata in Hollywood right now, but the Pirates of the Caribbean is still a great success at the international box office, and this French project, in which he plays the King of France Louis XV, should have no trouble finding takers.
SALES Wild Bunch International
This story first appeared in the Jan. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.