Roadside attracts 'Bella' for trip around the States

First pickup after Lionsgate deal

In its first acquisition since a recent partnership with Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions has acquired all U.S. rights to "Bella," winner of the People's Choice Award at last year's Toronto International Film Festival.

Alejandro Gomez Monteverde's romantic drama stars Emmy winner Tammy Blanchard as a young single waitress fired from her job right after discovering that she is pregnant. The restaurant's empathetic chef (Mexican star Eduardo Verastegui) follows her around New York for a day, developing a bond that helps each discover truths about themselves and each other.

Lionsgate, which purchased a minority stake in Roadside in July, will handle all domestic ancillary distribution.

"The film is a crowd-pleaser about humanity, family, friendship and the unique magic of New York City," Roadside co-president Eric d'Arbeloff said. " 'Bella' will win the hearts and minds of Latino and mainstream audiences alike, and we hope it finds the same success as previous Toronto People's Choice Award winners 'Life Is Beautiful,' 'Whale Rider,' 'Hotel Rwanda,' 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' and 'American Beauty.' "

Added Roadside co-president Howard Cohen, "Eduardo Verastegui gives a star-making turn that has gotten the attention of a whole new audience."

The filmmakers plan to promote the film in part on the "Chasing Papi" star's good looks and fame as a Mexican pop singer and telenovela star.

"Bella" was produced by Sean Wolfington, Verastegui, Leo Severino, Monteverde and Denise Pinckley and executive produced by J. Eustace Wolfington, Marcy Wolfington, Ana Wolfington and Stephen McEveety. Sean and Eustace Wolfington financed the film with their company, the One Media Group.

Monteverde, Patrick Million and Severino wrote the original screenplay. The cast also includes Manny Perez, Angelica Aragon, Jaime Tirelli and Ali Landry.

The English-language Metanoia Films project marks Mexican director Monteverde's feature debut. It won the prestigious Legacy Award from the Latino arm of the Smithsonian Institution, and Monteverde was honored at the White House with the American by Choice Award for his contributions to Latino arts and culture.

The filmmakers are promoting "Bella" with a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign, including national TV ads for mainstream and Latino outlets. The grass-roots part of the campaign, already in full swing, is targeting leaders of Latino, adoption and faith-based organizations with free screenings, where they're encouraged to help promote the film or "adopt" (prebook) a theater for members of their community. Sean Wolfington said many leaders already have agreed to prepurchase seats in hundreds of theaters, and others have pledged to help promote the film.

Metanoia Films was founded by Verastegui, Monteverde and financiers Sean and Eustace Wolfington. The company is raising a $100 million film fund with a mission to "make movies that matter and have the potential to make a meaningful difference in people's lives."

Roadside, the indie distributor of the Oscar-nominated documentary "Super Size Me," "Amazing Grace" and "Ladies in Lavender," will release the upcoming dramas "Trade," "Starting Out in the Evening" and "Caramel."

"Bella" will be released nationwide Oct. 26. The deal was negotiated for Roadside by attorney Ben Feldman and by John Logigian on behalf of Metanoia Films.