Int’l Sellers, Buyers Talk Oscars in Dresden
It’s only July, but international film sales companies and distributors are already talking Oscars.
At the recent German Films Previews, a week of buyers-only screenings of films repped by German sales agents, the consensus seemed to be that Beta Cinema’s “Oh Boy” — Jan Ole Gerster’s Berlin-set slacker comedy — is the front runner to be Germany’s official entry in the Academy Awards’ foreign-language film category.
Germany has a stellar track record in the category, with its entries picking up five Oscar nominations in the past 10 years, which is matched by only one other country, Canada.
Another pic being touted as a hot Oscar contender at the German Films Previews in Dresden, which was attended by 75 international distributors, was Beta Cinema’s “Le Grand Cahier” (The Notebook), which won top prize at the recent Karlovy Vary Film Festival. Janos Szasz’s pic, which transposes the Brothers Grimm’s fairytale “Hansel and Gretel” to Nazi-occupied Hungary, was backed by co-production partners in Hungary and Germany, and was mostly shot in Germany, so it could qualify as either country’s submission, but it is more likely to be selected by Hungary as it is the flagship production of the fledgling Hungarian National Film Fund.
Variety asked a cross-section of the buyers who were in Dresden whether any of the films they saw stood out. Most were happy to go on the record, although many wished to remain anonymous.
One North American buyer described “Le Grand Cahier” as “a difficult film to watch, but I felt it was very well lensed and acted.” Although he said it wouldn’t be a “huge hit,” he felt it had a good chance in the awards season. “With the proper U.S. distributor behind it, I believe it has a decent chance to get an Oscar nom. The film has stayed with me. It is reminiscent of ‘Europa Europa’ and ‘In Darkness,’ two films that were both critically and commercially successful.”
The same buyer had mixed feelings about “Oh Boy,” which he described as “the German ‘Frances Ha’.” “The question is: Is the English-language ‘real’ ‘Frances Ha’ enough, so the German comp — about a man — might attract enough of an audience? Not so sure about it.” After getting his theatrical team to check it out, he concluded, “I did like this, and felt it resonated with honesty and insight.”
A U.K. buyer said, “ ‘La Grand Cahier’ did stand out as something that could win prizes and appeal to art-house audiences. ‘Exit Marrakech’ (which is repped by Arri) could do some business outside of (Germany) as the story felt quite universal, and both the performances and direction were to a high standard.”
A Hong Kong buyer agreed that “La Grand Cahier” and “Exit Marrakech” stood out, and added The Match Factory’s “Adieu Paris” to that list of star performers.
“I saw nine films in two days this year; two were exceptional,” he said. “They both present huge marketing challenges for the U.S. though. That said, I look forward to acquiring one or both, and relish the challenge, that’s how good they are. Even if one or the other were to be submitted by Germany as its official best foreign-language film Academy Award entry, as we learned last year with Christian Petzold’s masterpiece ‘Barbara,’ rough seas would still lie ahead.”