Hot 2018 Berlin Titles: What Buyers Are Buzzing About At The EFM
by Peter White
and Nancy Tartaglione
February 15, 2018 8:19am
The European Film Market kicked off today at the Berlin Film Festival under cold, cloudy skies and some confusion over whether to be cautious or optimistic or both. There are certainly a number of prestige projects that came together ahead of the market, more than we can recall in the past few years — and at a more easily-digestible pace with an extra week between Sundance and Berlin.
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Buyers from all corners and distribution methods are here in force, although it remains to be seen how active the streaming giants will be after a relatively quiet Sundance. They have pipelines to fill, as do other hungry buyers who have not had much action at the past few markets.
There is plenty of action on offer on film, however, particularly from kick-ass women including Alicia Vikander in survivalist thriller The Marsh King’s Daughter, Jodie Foster in Hotel Artemis, Milla Jovovich in Hummingbird and Bai Ling’s The Fatal Contract.
Elsewhere, there are also plenty of stories that feature women in Noomi Rapace’s Angel Of Mine, Daisy Ridley and Naomi Watts in Ophelia and Hilary Swank in I Am Mother, as well as an unusually high amount of biopics including Bloom and Endeavor Content’s Hugh Jackman-starrer The Frontrunner, whose footage we hear is terrific; and Mister Smith/Endeavor’s A Letter From Rosemary Kennedy with market it-girl Elisabeth Moss.
Gabrielle Stewart, managing director of HanWay Films, says, “Finally people are realizing the importance of the female audience.”
Here’s a selection of titles that will be looking to cut through the buzz in Potsdamer Platz:
THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER – Director: Morten Tyldum; Cast: Alicia Vikander. Adaptation of Karen Dionne’s novel, which tells the story of Helena Petterier, the product of a relationship between her mother and her mother’s kidnapper, and her battle with her father after he escapes prison. Penned by Elle Smith and The Revenant scribe Mark L. Smith, STXinternational has global sales.
THE FRONTRUNNER – Director: Jason Reitman; Cast: Hugh Jackman. Story of the rise and fall of Gary Hart, who nearly became President until media reports surfaced of womanizing and an alleged affair. Bloom, which is handling international, and Endeavor Content, which has U.S. rights, will be showing a promo in Berlin.
A LETTER FROM ROSEMARY KENNEDY – Director: Ritesh Batra; Writer: Nick Yarborough; Cast: Elisabeth Moss. From the 2016 Black List script, explores the story of JFK’s older sister who spent a lifetime hidden from public view by her politically ambitious father. Mister Smith will present the film in Berlin. Endeavor Content selling North America.
KUNG FURY – Director: David Sandberg; Cast: Sandberg, Michael Fassbender, David Hasselhoff. Remake of the 2015 Swedish martial arts action comedy short about the best damn cop in the world defending Miami from a despicable villain. Bloom is selling internationally with Endeavor Content holding U.S. rights.
ASSASSINATION NATION – Director: Sam Levinson; Cast: Suki Waterhouse, Bill Skårsgard, Bella Thorne. High school senior finds herself in the middle of a “rampaging murder posse” after private, digital conversations start to appear in public. Bloom selling David Goyer-produced feature internationally; NEON/AGBO has U.S.
THE TALE OF THE ALLERGIST’S WIFE – Director: Andy Fickman; Cast: Bette Midler, Sharon Stone. Odd couple comedy about an upper-middle-class, Upper-West-Sider in the midst of a volcanic later-life crisis and her globe-trotting friend. IMR to sell globally, CAA is repping U.S. and Canadian rights.
LORDS OF CHAOS – Director: Jonas Åkerlund; Cast: Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen, Jack Kilmer. Drama about Norwegian black metal band Mayhem, which featured 17-year-old Norwegian Euronymous who commits arson and murder as the line between show and reality starts to blur. Protagonist Pictures is turning up the volume internationally.
WHAT IS LIFE WORTH – Director: David Frankel. Cast: Michael Keaton. The Birdman star is in talks to star in the adaptation of Kenneth Feinberg’s memoir, recounting the inside story of the 9/11 Fund and its effort to compensate victims, based on a script from Max Borenstein. IMR is launching in Berlin.
HER SMELL – Director: Alex Ross Perry; Cast: Elisabeth Moss. The Handmaid’s Tale stars as Becky Something, a maniacally destructive punk rock star who pushes her relationships to the limit as she wages a years-long war against sobriety and attempting to re-engage her creativity. Endeavor Content is repping sales along with Bow and Arrow.
LATE NIGHT – Director: Nisha Ganatra; Writer: Mindy Kaling; Cast: Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling. The Office star’s script about a host at risk of losing her long-running show when she hires her first female writer, who revitalizes the show and her life. CAA, 30WEST on domestic; FilmNation holds international.
BUTTERFINGERS – Director: Barnaby Southcombe; Cast: Russell Brand. The Get Him To The Greek star plays a lonely hitman competing against his arch rival before kidnapping two children and being chased across Europe. Highland Film Group holds global rights.
THE NIGHT CLERK – Director/Writer: Michael Cristofer; Cast: Tye Sheridan. The Ready Player One star plays a hotel night clerk caught in the middle of a murder investigation. Highland Film Group is chatting up buyers in Berlin and co-reps domestic with Gersh.
THE DEVIL HAS A NAME – Director: Edward James Olmos; Cast: Kate Bosworth, Alfred Molina, David Strathairn. Dark comedy, inspired by true events, about an unhinged oil baron who gets into a bruising stand-off with a stubborn farmer after the water on his farm was poisoned by her company. Storyboard Media selling international and ICM is repping U.S. rights.
THE STAND IN – Director: Jamie Babbit; Cast: Drew Barrymore. Follows a disaffected comedy actress and her ambitious stand-in trading places, both played by the Never Been Kissed star. Written by Four Lions and Peep Show’s Sam Bain. The Exchange is repping international.
HUMMINGBIRD – Directors: Marcus Kryler and Fredrik Akerström. Cast: Milla Jovovich. Based on a Black List script by John McClain, a sci-fi action thriller about a female assassin whose latest mark catapults her on a journey of shocking self-discovery. Lionsgate holds global rights. UTA Independent Film Group and CAA are co-repping U.S.
THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD – Director: Armando Iannucci; Cast: Dev Patel. Based on the novel by Charles Dickens. Billed as a modern take on Dickens’ semi-autobiographical chronicle of the life of the iconic title character. FilmNation has international and will co-rep U.S. with UTA Independent Film Group.
DESTROYER – Director: Karyn Kusama; Writers: Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi; Cast: Nicole Kidman, Tatiana Maslany, Sebastian Stan. The story of LAPD detective Erin Bell who, as a young cop, was placed undercover with a gang in the California desert with tragic results. Rocket Science is handling international sales with Bliss Media handling China and ICM Partners and CAA are representing the North American rights.
BEN IS BACK – Director: Peter Hedges; Cast: Julia Roberts, Courtney B. Vance, Lucas Hedges. The story follows Ben Burns, who returns home to his unsuspecting family one fateful Christmas Eve and is welcomed by his wary mother, Holly Burns, who learns that he is still very much in harm’s way and must prevent the family’s downfall. CAA is overseeing U.S. distribution sales, while Sierra/Affinity is handling international rights.
BREAKING HABITS – Director: Rob Ryan. Feature doc following Christine Meeusen, a corporate exec-turned-cannabis-farmer who found her calling in medicinal marijuana. Film Constellation co-financing and handling global sales of the Salon Pictures film.
LIFE AFTER FLASH – Director: Lisa Downs. Doc chronicling the making of 1980 cult sci-fi pic Flash Gordon and exploring the life of Sam J. Jones and the legacy of the superhero movie. AMP International has boarded global sales.
SEMPER FI – Director: Henry-Alex Rubin; Cast: Jai Courtney, Nat Wolff, Leighton Meester. Crime thriller about a by-the-book police officer who tries to encourage his younger brother to face the music after accidentally killing a guy in a bar fight. Cornerstone Films is handling international sales.
SPIDER IN THE WEB – Director: Eran Riklis; Cast: Ben Kingsley, Monica Bellucci, Itay Tiran. Contemporary spy thriller about a once highly-lauded secret agent, who discovers a lead on the sale of chemical weapons to a Middle Eastern dictatorship. Film Constellation putting together international.
AFTER THE WEDDING – Director: Bart Freundlich; Cast: Julianne Moore. Remake of Susanne Bier’s Danish film about Isabel, who runs a dilapidated orphanage outside Calcutta, and travels to NY to meet the millionaire who has provided funding. Following the latter’s wedding, a mystery unravels. Cornerstone selling globally.
ANGEL OF MINE – Director: Kim Farrant; Writers: Luke Davies & David Regal; Cast: Noomi Rapace. Based on the 2008 French film L’Empreinte De L’Ange about a mother who, still struggling to cope with the loss of her daughter, becomes convinced that a stranger’s daughter is her own. Fortitude International selling globally.
A MILLION LITTLE PIECES – Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson; Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Charlie Hunnam, Giovanni Ribisi. Adaptation of the James Frey book with Thornton as Leonard, a mysterious tough guy who became the guardian angel at a rehab facility for the protagonist and tried to end his addiction problems before they killed him. Sierra/Affinity is handling international.
PAPI CHULO – Director: John Butler; Cast: Matt Bomer, Alejandro Patino. Black comedy about a lonely TV weatherman who strikes up an unusual friendship with a middle-aged Latino migrant worker. Bankside selling in Berlin.
GARETH JONES – Director: Agnieska Holland; Cast: James Norton, Vanessa Kirby. Politically charged drama which sees the McMafia star Norton play a Welsh journalist in the 1930s who travels to Russia to interview Joseph Stalin. West End Films is seeking international sales in Berlin.
CHARLIE SAYS – Director: Mary Harron; Cast: Matt Smith, Suki Waterhouse. The American Psycho helmer’s take on Charles Manson’s murder spree from the view of three women who helped the serial killer. Fortitude International holds global rights.
THE CORRUPTED – Director: Ron Scalpello; Cast: Sam Claflin, Timothy Spall, Hugh Bonneville. Contemporary crime drama about an ex-con determined to win back the love and trust of his family. The Exchange is repping in Berlin.
TABALUGA – Director: Sven Unterwaldt. Remake of hit animated kids’ TV series telling the story of a brave little dragon who, with the help of a beautiful princess, saves the world from an evil snowman. Global Screen showing in Berlin.
MONSTRUM – Director: Huh Jong-Ho; Cast: Kim Myung-min, Choi Woo-shik, Lee Hye-ri. Big-budget Korean monster movie about a group, including a soldier, his daughter and a royal messenger, defending their city from a man-eating creature. Finecut showing footage in Berlin.
THE GLASS ROOM – Director: Julius Sevcik; Cast: Carice Van Houten. Adaptation of Simon Mawer’s novel about two women who live in a house in Czechoslovakia built by celebrity architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe. Celluloid Dreams is shopping the English Patient-esque feature.
THE GO-BETWEENS: RIGHT HERE – Director: Kriv Stenders. Documentary about the rise and fall of one of the most influential Australian bands of the last 40 years. Moviehouse Entertainment selling in Berlin.
GREEN BOOK – Director: Peter Farrelly; Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini. A virtuoso African American jazz pianist forges an unlikely friendship with his blue-collar Italian American chauffeur during a 1962 tour of the racially segregated South. Lionsgate repping.
THE CHINESE WIDOW – Director: Bille August; Cast: Emile Hirsch, Crystal Liu. Hirsch plays a WWII Air Force pilot who emergency lands in China’s Zhejiang Province after a bombing run on Tokyo and is rescued by a young widow. VMI Worldwide to sell internationally.
UTOYA 22 JULI – Director: Erik Poppe; Cast: Andrea Berntzen, Aleksander Holmen, Brede Fristad. Drama set on the day of the 2011 Norway attacks which left 77 dead in Oslo and at a summer camp on the island of Utoya. The film follows a young girl and her friends as they try to survive minute-by-minute. TrustNordisk is handling sales.
MARY – Director: Michael Goi; Cast: Emily Mortimer, Gary Oldman. Supernatural thriller about a couple facing financial struggles who buy an old ship at auction with the hope of starting a charter business, only to discover her horrifying secrets on the isolated open waters. eOne and Sierra/Affinity have international.
THE OPERATIVE – Director: Yuval Adler. Cast: Diane Kruger, Eric Bana. A woman recruited by the Mossad to go undercover in Tehran becomes entangled in a complex triangle with her handler and her subject. Endeavor Content handling U.S., Bloom on international.
TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG – Director: Justin Kurzel; Writer: Shaun Grant; Cast: Russell Crowe, Nicholas Hoult, George Mackay. Traces notorious bushranger Ned Kelly and the colonial badlands from which he rose. Rocket Science on international with CAA handling U.S.
SONGWRITER – Director: Murray Cummings. Documentary about Ed Sheeran, helmed by his cousin. Follows the pop star as he creates his latest album. Out of competition world premiere.
THE FINEST KIND – Director: Brian Helgeland; Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ansel Elgort. Crime drama about brothers who strike a deal with a crime syndicate that draws them into the Boston underworld. STXinternational will launch at Berlin; Endeavor Content and CAA will handle U.S. sales.
ZAPPA – Director: Alex Winter. Documentary about the Uncle Meat rock star with unprecedented access to a vault of archive material preserved by his family. Great Point Media will launch in Berlin.
THE SILENCE OF OTHERS – Directosr: Almudena Carracedo, Robert Bahar. Pedro Almodovar-exec produced documentary about the struggles of victims of the 40-year rule of General Franco in Spain. Israeli distributor Cinephil will launch in Berlin.
MONSTERS AND MEN – Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green; Cast: John David Washington, Anthony Ramos, Kelvin Harrison Jr. Sundance breakout set in the aftermath of a police shooting, told through the eyes of the bystander who filmed the act, a black police officer and a high school baseball star inspired to take a stand. Hanway has international; NEON picked up U.S. in Park City.
CUBAN FOOD STORIES – Director: Asori Soto. Doc about food, society and culture in Cuba through the eyes of a road trip adventure. Produced by Jiro Dreams of Sushi indie Sundial Pictures with Submarine Entertainment selling globally.
PROFILE – Director: Timur Bekmambetov; Cast: Valene Kane, Shazad Latif. Terror thriller about a young investigative journalist who puts herself in grave danger after reporting on online ISIS recruitment techniques. Based on Anna Érelle’s In The Skin of a Jihadist and written by Brittany Poulton, Olga Kharina and Bekmambetov. Endeavor Content to handle international.
THE ASPERN PAPERS – Director: Julien Landais; Cast: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson. A young writer tries to obtain romance letters a poet sent to his mistress. Based on Henry James’ novel, it is written by Hannah Bhuiya, Julien Landais and Jean Pavans. ARRI Media taking internationally.
THE GAME CHANGERS – Director: Louie Psihoyos. James Cameron- and Pamela Anderson-exec produced documentary about plant-based diets and society’s addiction to meat, starring UFC star James Wilks. Cinetic has international.
THE FATAL CONTRACT – Director: Tan Bing; Cast: Bai Ling. Entourage and Lost star Ling’s first Chinese movie in over 20 years since she was banned from the country. Crime drama about the story of a dead painter. TriCoast Worldwide to launch at EFM.
OFFICIAL SECRETS – Director: Gavin Hood; Cast: Matt Smith, Kiera Knightley. Spy thriller remake of Marcia and Thomas Mitchell’s The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion. eOne and Sierra/Affinity handling international.
JUDY – Director: Rupert Goold; Cast: Renée Zellweger, Finn Wittrock, Jessie Buckley. The story of Judy Garland and her final concerts in London and relationship with fifth husband Mickey Deans, written by The Crown’s Tom Edge. Pathé to sell internationally.
ELEPHANT AND THE BUTTERFLY – Director: Amélie Van Elmbt; Cast: Thomas Blanchard, Judith Chemla, Lina Doillon. French-language drama, exec produced by Martin Scorsese, about a man who suddenly has to take care of his daughter that he has never met. Blue Fox Entertainment has world rights.
AN EVENING WITH BEVERLY LUFF LINN – Director: Jim Hosking; Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Emile Hirsch, Jermaine Clement. Lulu Danger’s unsatisfying marriage takes a turn for the worse when a mysterious man from her past comes to town to perform an event called ‘An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn; For One Magical Night Only.’ Protagonist Pictures selling the pic internationally.
THE DELINQUENT SEASON – Director: Mark O’Rowe; Cast: Cillian Murphy; Catherine Walker; Andrew Scott. Two seemingly-fine couples are forced to re-evaluate how well they really know each other.
OPHELIA – Director: Claire McCarthy; Writers: Semi Chellas and Lisa Klein; Cast: Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, Clive Owen. Remake of Hamlet, focusing on the untold story of Ophelia’s tragic romance with the prince and her relationship with his mother Queen Gertrude. Covert Media opening internationally.
DEN OF THIEVES 2 – Director: Christian Gudegast; Cast: Gerard Butler, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. A sequel to the hit crime thriller, which sees a hunt in the streets of Europe involving the Panther mafia, as they plot a massive heist of the world’s biggest diamond exchange. STXinternational selling worldwide.
VOX LUX – Director: Brady Corbet; Cast: Jude Law, Raffey Cassidy, Natalie Portman. Long-gestating project following a young women who rises from the ashes of a national tragedy to become a pop star. Sierra/Affinity will represent international with Endeavor Content and CAA shopping U.S. rights.
JOHN MCENROE: IN THE REALM OF PERFECTION – Director: Julien Faraut. Documentary following the U.S. tennis player at the height of his career as well as analysing some of his losses, such as his defeat to Ivan Lendl in the 1984 French Open. Film Constellation serving up in Berlin.
EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE – Director: Joe Berlinger; Writer: Michael Werwie; Cast: Zac Efron, John Malkovich, James Hetfield. Ted Bundy flick starring Efron as the notorious serial killer. Voltage Pictures is shopping globally.
EVA – Director: Benoit Jacquot; Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Gaspard Ulleil, Julia Roy. Luc Besson-produced adaptation of James Hadley Chase’s book about a young man who accidentally witnesses an elderly writer’s death and passes off his last manuscript as his own before falling for a prostitute. EuropaCorp selling the film, which plays in competition at Berlin, internationally.
TESLA – Director: Michael Almereyda; Cast: Ethan Hawke. Biopic of the electricity pioneer Nikola Tesla, reuniting Hawke with Hamlet writer-director Almereyda and chronicling Tesla’s inventions and fierce rivalry with Thomas Edison. Millennium Media introducing at EFM.
THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST – Director: Desiree Akhavan; Cast: Forrest Goodluck, Chloë Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane. Story following Cameron Post, a high school girl who, after being caught with another girl in the back seat of a car on prom night, is shipped off to a conversion therapy center. The film, which won the top prize at Sundance, is being repped by Elle Driver.
ETERNAL BEAUTY – Director: Craig Roberts; Cast: Sally Hawkins, Alice Lowe, David Thewlis. The film centers on a woman who creates her own reality and deals with her own nightmare. Bankside Films is repping internationally, while Bankside and Endeavor are shopping U.S.
TRANSIT – Director: Christian Petzold; Cast: Franz Rogowski, Paula Beer, Godehard Giese. German film, set in Marseille and based on Anna Seghers’ eponymous novel, is a tale of identity and love, following the march of German troops into Paris at the start of World War II. The Match Factory kicking off international sales at EFM.
HOTEL ARTEMIS – Director: Drew Pearce; Cast: Jodie Foster. The Iron Man 3 writer’s directorial debut is an action thriller with Lionsgate, which has international rights, and Endeavor Content, which is repping in the U.S., showing initial footage at EFM.
BEL CANTO – Director: Paul Weitz; Cast: Julianne Moore, Sebastian Koch, Christopher Lambert. The adaptation of Ann Patchett’s novel, which follows a soprano who travels to perform at a concert for a Japanese businessman in South America before being taken hostage by terrorists, gets a market screening in Berlin. Bloom is representing internationally with Endeavor Content handling U.S. rights.
I AM MOTHER – Director: Grant Sputore; Cast: Hilary Swank. Sci-fi feature with an interesting mother-daughter relationship following a new generation of humans. Based on a screenplay from Sputore and Michael Lloyd Green, Mister Smith Entertainment is handling international sales, with Endeavor Content overseeing U.S. sales and Studiocanal handling distribution in Australia and New Zealand.
BLACK 47 – Director: Lance Daly; Cast: James Frecheville, Hugo Weaving. Irish revenge story set during the Famine following an Irish Ranger fighting abroad for the British Army before deserting and returning home. The film, which gets its premiere in Berlin, is repped internationally by Altitude Film Sales.
DONNYBROOK – Director: Tim Sutton; Cast: Frank Grillo, Jamie Bell. No Country For Old Men meets Fight Club-style adaptation of Frank Bill’s noir novel. Backup Media selling internationally with UTA shopping U.S. rights.
WHO KILLED LADY WINSLEY? – Director: Hiner Saleem; Cast: Mehmet Kurtulus, Ezgi Mola, Senay Gürler. Story following a famous American writer, who is found dead on a remote Turkish island. Playtime is launching at EFM.
SUBMERGENCE – Director: Wim Wenders; Cast: Alicia Vikander, James McAvoy. A love story featuring an ocean explorer facing a terrifying, pioneering descent into the Arctic abyss and a spy interrogated by African jihadists. Wenders directs from Erin Dignam’s screenplay, based on J.M. Ledgard’s New York Times bestseller with Embankment Pictures floating in Berlin.
MRS LOWRY & SON – Director: Adrian Noble; Cast: Timothy Spall, Vanessa Redgrave. The story of the 20th century British painter L.S. Lowry and his mother, Elizabeth. The Little Film Company is representing in Berlin.
THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND – Director: Chiwetel Ejiofor; Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor. The British star’s directorial debut is an adaptation of William Kamkwamba’s autobiography, which tells the story of a how he helped save his village as a 13-year-old by constructing a wind turbine from bits of scrap metal, old bicycle parts and wood. Cornerstone Films, which has international rights, is showing footage in Berlin.
THE KILL TEAM – Director: Dan Krauss; Cast: Nat Wolff, Alexander Skarsgård. The story of a young American soldier trapped between his conscience and his survival when members of his platoon carry out a murderous scheme in the desolate wasteland of Southern Afghanistan. Cornerstone showing footage at EFM.
PETERLOO – Director: Mike Leigh; Cast: Rory Kinnear, Maxine Peake. The story of the infamous 1819 massacre at a peaceful pro-democracy rally at St. Peter’s Field in Manchester, England, when many working people were killed. Cornerstone, which has international rights, is showing footage of the Amazon-backed period drama.
SORRY TO BOTHER YOU – Director: Boots Riley; Cast: Lakeith Stanfield, Armie Hammer, Tessa Thompson. Absurdist dark comedy that tackles capitalism and race in Riley’s hometown of Oakland. Annapurna Pictures picked up international rights from Endeavor Content at Sundance and will rep in Berlin.
MAYA LORD – Director: Roland Emmerich. The Angela Workman-penned story, set against the Mayan culture and conquistador era of the early 1500s, that follows a soldier and a priest who who survive a violent shipwreck in the Yucatan Peninsula only to be captured by a fierce Mayan tribe. Voltage is also handling international sales in Berlin.