Locarno Film Festival Sees Early Deals

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Character-driven films from around the world, such as 'The Pilgrim' from Brazil and 'Marie's Story' from France, find early distribution deals at the Swiss festival

The first days of the Locarno Film Festival have seen strong distributor pickup for a few choice indies hailing from Brazil, Argentina and France. Ranging from historical dramas to modern-day reinterpretations, the films are strong on characters defined by the settings around them.

The Pilgrim: The Best Story of Paulo Coelho, directed by Daniel Augusto, looks at the life of Brazil’s most celebrated living writer. The newly-formed Picture Tree International in Berlin has picked up global distribution rights for the film, which will be released in Brazil on Aug. 14. An inspirational tale, The Pilgrim reveals the tumultuous life of Paulo Coelho who overcame many obstacles to fulfill his dream of becoming a writer.

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Coelho, an active blogger, has sold more than 165 million books worldwide, making him one of the most widely read authors in the world today. His book The Alchemist has been translated into 80 languages. His household name is expected to be a big selling point in the film’s marketing campaign. The film stars brothers Ravel and Julio Andrade playing the younger and older Coelho, respectively, along with Fabiana Gugli, Lucci Ferreira and Paz Vega.

There’s a new young talent coming out of Argentina. Matias Pineiro has been much buzzed about lately with his low-budget, modern day reinterpretations of Shakespearean classics. Pineiro was influenced by recent translations of Shakespeare into Latin American Spanish, which he claims make the stories more easily relatable.

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His latest, The Princess of France takes place in hip Buenos Aires and continues his ongoing project of bringing Shakespeare’s best female characters into the spotlight. Cinema Guild has closed U.S. distribution rights to the film. The company also released his 2011 movie Viola stateside.

Another strong female vehicle is Marie’s Story. New York-based Film Movement has inked U.S. rights. The film, based on true events, follows a nun who teaches a deaf, blind girl, being hailed as the “French Helen Keller.”  Directed by Jean-Pierre Ameris, Marie’s Story stars Isabelle Carre and Ariana Rivoire. The film will be released in France on Nov. 12 and is expected to reach U.S. theaters in 2015.

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While the focus of the summertime film festival is always on the films themselves, Locarno is putting a stronger spotlight on industry events for its global attendees. The Industry Office has launched a Locarno Industry Academy for nine young European professionals to meet with established executives in the fields of distribution, exhibition, sales and marketing. As few European film schools offer industry programs, the hope is to offer a launchpad for participants to accelerate their careers.

Locarno Industry Days will take place from Aug. 9-11, when more dealmaking will be encouraged among specific networking events. Other upcoming industry highlights include a workshop on Aug. 9 from Europa Distribution on TV acquisitions for independent films. And on Aug. 10, Industry Days will host StepIn, a session of working groups where top industry players will brainstorm solutions for problems facing the distribution of indie flicks in Europe and beyond.

Twitter: @Aristonla