'Padre' enters U.S. through IFC Ent.


NEW YORK -- Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winner "Padre Nuestro" has been snapped up for North American distribution by IFC Entertainment.

Writer-director Christopher Zalla's thriller centers on Juan (Armando Hernandez), a man running from Mexican mobsters who hops a van smuggling illegal aliens to New York and meets innocent fellow traveler Pedro (Jorge Adrian Espindola). Pedro is searching for his father (Jesus Ochoa) in hopes of handing over an unopened letter from his dead mother but awakens one day to find his belongings -- and his identity -- stolen by Juan.

Zalla's feature debut is the first Spanish-language film to win the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. IFC plans a day-and-date theatrical/VOD release in the spring through its First Take program.

"We saw with Ken Loach's Palm D'Or winner 'The Wind That Shakes the Barley' that the collapsed window with VOD doesn't have to affect the per-screen average on a smartly executed platform release," producer Benjamin Odell said. "There are audiences that go to movies and others that stay home. IFC is reviving a market that had begun to lose its grip. It's a smart model."

Odell also hopes the film's stars will boost its upcoming wide Mexican release and jump-start its domestic debut.

"To Mexicans, 'Padre' is a blockbuster with A-list actors," he said. "All of the Mexican films that have performed well in the U.S., from 'Amores Perros' to 'Y tu Mama Tambien,' began with strong releases there. While 'Padre' was written, directed and produced by Americans, its a very Mexican movie."

IFC vp acquisitions Arianna Bocco, who negotiated the deal this summer with the filmmakers, called the New York-based Zalla "a very talented up-and-coming director."

"Padre" was produced by Odell of Panamax Films and Per Melita of Cinergy Films. James M. McNamara of Panamax, Daniel Carey and James Shifren of Two Lane Pictures and actress-singer Gloria Reuben ("ER") executive produced the film. Celluloid Dreams is handling international sales.