Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions have set a March 10 release of psychological thriller “The Wall,” directed by Doug Liman and starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena.

“The Wall” follows two soldiers pinned down by an Iraqi sniper, with nothing but a crumbling wall between them. Their fight becomes as much a battle of will and wits as marksmanship.

Liman directed from a script by first-time screenwriter Dwain Worrell. Production companies are Amazon Studios, Big Indie Pictures and Picrow.

The film is produced by David Bartis with Ray Angelic as exec producer and Alison Winter as associate producer. FilmNation is handling international sales.

Roadside and Amazon have been partnered on the release of Kenneth Lonergan’s awards season contender “Manchester By The Sea,” which grossed a strong $1.6 million at 48 North American locations during last weekend. “Manchester By The Sea” was named Best Picture on Tuesday by the National Board of Review and Roadside and Amazon will expand its run to 150 sites this weekend.

Roadside and Amazon have previously teamed on Whit Stillman’s “Love & Friendship” and Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq.”

Liman’s credits include “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “The Bourne Identity” and “Edge of Tomorrow.” Taylor-Johnson stars in Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Cena is a WWE star who’s appeared in “Trainwreck” and “Daddy’s Home.”


Bradley Cooper has signed on to star in the World War II drama “Atlantic Wall” as an American paratrooper operating behind enemy lines.

Gavin O’Connor will direct from a Black List script by Zach Dean. Producers are Imperative Entertainment’s Dan Friedkin and Bradley Thomas, along with Madhouse Entertainment’s Adam Kolbrenner.

The movie will center on a paratrooper, stranded behind enemy lines hours before D-Day and tasked with delivering intelligence critical to the outcome of the war. He’s also compelled to fulfill a promise to protect the young son of a murdered ally.



Lady Gaga-Bradley Cooper’s ‘A Star Is Born’ Gets 2018 Release Date


“We’re thrilled Imperative is bringing ‘Atlantic Wall’ to life on screen with a talented filmmaker like Gavin,” Friedkin said. “Bradley’s phenomenal track record speaks for itself. He’s perfect to portray our complicated, often reluctant hero. We can’t imagine better creative partners.”

Cooper starred as a marksman in “American Sniper,” and is toplining and directing the remake of “A Star Is Born” with Lady Gaga. That project is set for a 2018 release.

Cooper is currently producing and developing, “Black Flags, The Rise of ISIS” with HBO. He will reprise his role as Rocket Raccoon in Disney-Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy 2,” to be released in May.

O’Connor directed Ben Affleck in the thriller “The Accountant” for Warner Bros. Previous credits include “Warrior” and “Jane Got a Gun.”

Cooper will exec produce “Atlantic Wall” with Joint Effort producing partner Todd Phillips. Joint Effort is based at Warner Bros.

Imperative said it plans to co-finance the film. It also plans to shoot on location in Normandy.

Cooper is represented by CAA, and O’Connor is repped by WME. Dean is repped by WME, Madhouse, and attorney Andrew Hurwitz. The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.


In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by, Twentieth Century Fox claims the top spot in TV ad spending with “Assassin’s Creed.”

Ads placed for the action adventure film had an estimated media value of $5.02 million through Sunday for 791 national ad airings across 31 networks. Behind it in second place: Lucasfilm’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” which saw 301 national ad airings across 27 networks, with an estimated media value of $4.83 million.

TV ad placements for Walt Disney Animation’s “Moana” (EMV: $4.63 million), Warner Bros.’ “Collateral Beauty” ($4.59 million) and Paramount Pictures’ “Office Christmas Party” ($4.31 million) round out the chart.


Top Movie Commercials by Weekly TV Spend

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$5.02M – Assassin’s Creed

$4.83M – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

$4.63M – Moana

$4.59M – Collateral Beauty

$4.31M – Office Christmas Party


Joaquin Phoenix and director Gus Van Sant are eyeing a reunion on a new film. The two may reteam on “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,” the long-in-development biopic on quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan.

Iconoclast and Anonymous Content are producing the pic, which is based on Callahan’s autobiography of the same name. Callahan became a paralyzed in a car accident at age 21, and turned to drawing as a form of therapy. For decades Callahan’s work raised eyebrows for its taboo topics leading to numerous boycotts in his hometown of Portland.

His work was published in the New Yorker, Penthouse, and Playboy before his death in 2010.

Charles-Marie Anthonioz, Mourad Belkeddar, and Nicolas Lhermitte will produce the movie for Iconoclast, and Steve Golin will produce for Anonymous Content.

Hollywood had been trying to adapt the book since its publication in 1989, with the late Robin Williams circling the role of Callahan for years.

Phoenix and Van Sant have tried to work together for years after the director helped the young thesp break out as a leading man in his 1995 black comedy “To Die For.” The pair has come close to collaborating again over the years, most recently with Van Sant’s “Sea of Trees,” which eventually starred Matthew McConaughey.

Phoenix will also play Jesus in the Weinstein Co.’s “Mary Magdalene.” Both are repped by WME.


Although “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is breaking records before it has even hit theaters, a sequel will not happen, LucasFilm President Kathleen Kennedy confirmed.

In an interview with Empire Magazine (according to Slash Film), Kennedy joked that they will not be making a “Rogue Two.” Visual effects artist John Knoll said that “Rogue One” was always meant to be a self-contained film, although it’s a prequel to “A New Hope.”

In the issue, director Gareth Edwards also said if there were to be a second installment for “Rogue One,” “that sequel will be directed by George Lucas,” referencing “Star Wars: Episode IV.”

Despite the lack of a “Rogue Two,” “Rogue One” is already off to a powerful start. According to pre-release tracking, the film is expected to open to more than $130 million, which comes after “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” ruled the box office last December.

The first of the “Star Wars” standalone films, “Rogue One” will track the Rebel Alliance, which recruits Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) to work with a crew that includes Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s crucial weapon of destruction.

“Rogue One” opens in theaters on Dec. 16.


Variety has selected its 10 Directors to Watch for 2016, marking the 20th anniversary of a talent-spotlighting effort that identified such directors as Christopher Nolan, Wes Anderson, Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu, and Taika Waititi long before they were household names.

This year’s list brings together up-and-coming feature helmers from all corners of the industry: domestic and international, narrative and documentary, directing everything from heartwarming to horror fare. The directors range from breakthrough indie voice Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”) to Indian director Ritesh Batra (who makes his English-language debut with “The Sense of an Ending”). What all 10 have in common (technically 11, as the list includes a pair of siblings) is a clear vision, distinct voice, and thrilling potential to revolutionize the business in his or her own way.

The lineup includes six debut features, including a couple that have yet to make their festival debuts: Geremy Jasper’s “Patti Cake$” and “The Tribes of Palos Verdes,” from brothers and accomplished commercials directors Emmett and Brendan Malloy. Julia Ducournau’s shocking “Raw” made its mind-blowing bow in Cannes, while stage veteran William Oldroyd premiered his “Lady Macbeth” in Toronto.

The 10 Directors to Watch are:

  • Maren Ade (“Toni Erdmann”)
  • Ritesh Batra (“The Sense of an Ending”)
  • Otto Bell (“The Eagle Huntress”)
  • Julia Ducournau (“Raw”)
  • Geremy Jasper (“Patti Cake$”)
  • Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”)
  • Emmett & Brendan Malloy (“The Tribes of Palos Verdes”)
  • Kleber Mendonça Filho (“Aquarius”)
  • William Oldroyd (“Lady Macbeth”)
  • David Sandberg (“Lights Out”)

The directors will be profiled in a special standalone issue of Variety on Jan. 3, the same day they will be honored in person at the Palm Springs Film Festival.

Variety’s 10 to Watch series spotlights emerging writers, actors, producers, directors, comics and cinematographers. The honorees are selected by a team of Variety editors, critics, and reporters.


Ye of little faith likely won’t warm to “Believe,” an aggressively sincere but off-puttingly saccharine drama about a small-town businessman who regains his faith with a little help from an angel named Clarence. And before you ask: No, this isn’t a remake of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Actually, the Clarence here isn’t really an angel — rather, he’s a precocious youngster who wants to portray the Archangel Gabriel in a Christmas pageant — and the businessman owns and operates an auto-parts plant, not a savings and loan, although writer-director Billy Dickson edges him almost as close to financial ruin as George Bailey found himself in Bedford Falls. Aimed primarily at evangelical audiences seeking holiday-appropriate entertainment, “Believe” is lukewarm Capracorn more shamelessly sentimental than any film Frank Capra himself ever made.

Ryan O’Quinn plays Matthew Peyton, the stressed-out proprietor of Peyton Automotive Works, the last major business standing in an economically depressed Virginia community. Unfortunately, the auto plant is on the verge of bankruptcy, for reasons Peyton doesn’t quite understand. (Could he be the victim of in-house betrayal? Maybe.) Even more unfortunately, due to financial setbacks and a strike by workers, Peyton may be unable to provide his customary funding for the town’s Christmas pageant, a prospect that appears to anger the local citizenry more than the possibility of the plant’s closing.

After Peyton is badly beaten and abandoned on the poor side of town by hooligans eager to protect their paychecks or preserve the pageant, or both, he is nursed back to health by Sharon (Danielle Nicolet), a single mom whose background as a bookkeeper proves to be, well, providential. Also providing aid and comfort — her son Clarence (Isaac Ryan Brown), an indefatigably spirited youngster whose hyperactive manner suggests overindulgence in sugary sweets and caffeinated products.

Peyton insists that he is a hard-nosed capitalist who supports the Christmas pageant only because his beneficence is a contractual obligation to the town. Right from the start, however, it’s clear that his heart is located somewhere in the vicinity of the right place. (Whenever anyone describes the event as a holiday pageant, he quickly reminds them that it’s a Christmas pageant.) So it’s something far short of surprising when, during a winter freeze, he invites Sharon, Clarence, and all their poverty-stricken neighbors to leave their unheated slum dwellings and seek shelter at his factory.

And when some meanie — with, of course, a not-so-hidden agenda — maintains that zoning regulations prohibit the use of a factory as a homeless shelter, Peyton skirts the law by hiring his “guests” as replacements for the aforementioned striking workers. (We’re clearly not supposed to pay too much attention when someone indelicately describes these new employees as scabs.)

Given the film’s sidelong swipes at corrupt union bosses and intrusive business regulations, and its none-too-subtle message that faith-based charitable assistance is preferable to government handouts, “Believe” seems driven as much by conservative politics as Christian teachings. But that hardly qualifies as a mortal sin. What’s really difficult to forgive is the glacial pacing, the heavy-handed storytelling, and the gee-whiz sermonizing. (You could organize a drinking game in which players down a shot every time a character asserts, “Everything happens for a reason.”) Despite a few notable performances — O’Quinn and Nicolet are standouts — and respectable production values, “Believe” is little more than the cinematic equivalent of a good intention. And we all know what they are used to pave, right?

Film Review: 'Believe'

Reviewed online, Houston, Nov. 29, 2016. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 117 MIN.


A Smith Global Media release of a Power of 3 production. Producers: Nelson Diaz, Jacob Patrick, Ben Holmes, Kevin Sizemore. Executive producers: Chuck Hobbs, Kevin Nicewonder, Tim Popadic, Mark Popadic, Billy Dickson, Ryan Quinn.


With: Ryan O’Quinn, Shawnee Smith, Danielle Nicolet, Kevin Sizemore, David DeLuise, Isaac Ryan Brown.


Ryan O’Quinn, Shawnee Smith, Danielle Nicolet, Kevin Sizemore, David DeLuise, Isaac Ryan Brown.

Although Argentina is one of Latin America’s production powers which has most openly embraced genres of late in both film and television, Juan Pablo Laplace’s Intl. Emmy-nominated TV series “La Casa del Mar” stands apart. A missing girl thriller set at a village resort on the Argentine coast, on one hand, it taps into recent currents in contemporary European thrillers. On the other, set in modern-day Argentina, it finds a tone all of its own. That gives rise to a series that stands as a business and artistic model of one way that far more Latin American series are likely to go in the near future. Co-produced by Buenos Aires-based Cisne, founded by Laplace and Rocío Scenna, the series was not only nominated for an Emmy in Best Drama but currently vies for five Tato Awards including best fiction program, actress and cinematography.  Bidding fair for quality TV production in Argentina, “La Casa del Mar” was financed by a combination of private sector producers and state coin from Argentina’s Incaa Film Institute. The show was created, produced and directed by Juan Pablo Laplace who tragically died on July 8, having made one of the most successful series on OnDirecTV. Variety talked to Scenna about “La Casa del Mar.”

What TV references did you start working with on “La Casa del Mar”? And how did you develop its themes moving into Season 2?

“Twin Peaks,” “True Detective,” “The Killing,” among others. It’s not that “La Casa del Mar” has any particular link with these series, but they were important references. Especially “Twin Peaks,” a unique classic. And the other two were important to us because of how they treated tone, plot and acting in the context of a crime thriller, creating a language of their own, which was Juan Laplace’s main goal. The second season continues the story of Laura Ramos, her family and the investigation of police inspector Pelazas. We wanted to underscore the factor of politics and power that are linked to police work, which is a very Latin American take. Juan Laplace worked alongside [Argentine dramatist] Lautaro Vilo for the second season. It was a very enriching experience.

One prominent element in the series is the music and how it adds to this thriller a completely different tone. What were you looking for with it? 

The music is from Noroeste, we worked with them on our previous series, “Perfidia.” For us, the music had to complement this particular language that we were working on. Juan worked with Pedro Gómez and Martín Chebli Murad trying to generate with the music moments of transition, tension and plenitude.

Many actors worked both on “La Casa del Mar” as well as “Perfidia,” also directed by Juan Laplace. What were the reasons for using the same actors? 

Mainly because they did an excellent job on “Perfidia” and Juan was very comfortable working with them. Actors need to work with their emotions and to do that they need to feel comfortable in order to give their best. Juan always rehearsed a lot with them before beginning shooting. Working with actors that you already  know and feel are part of the team is a great advantage for a series. In that sense, new actors are always a great challenge and we had a great experience in the second season of “La Casa del Mar” where many new talents joined the team like Soledad Villamil (who was recently nominated for best actress for the Tato Awards), Federico Olivera, Luis Luque and Norman Briski, among others.

”La Casa del Mar” has great production values in every department including the participation of renowned actors such as Dario Grandinetti, and a mix of public and private sector finance. When you set out to make these series, were you conscious that you were helping to create new, groundbreaking models for Argentine TV, seen in the thriller format and the series’ far shorter length? 

With the first season, we won funding from Argentina’s Incaa Institute, via its federal fiction series contest. We knew we had a great opportunity and a huge challenge. We had premiered on public TV our previous series “Perfidia.” It had seen local and international success. But the money from the prize wasn’t enough so we looked for partners to really make the series we dreamt about and we found StoryLab and DirecTV. We also had support from the city of Necochea. We knew we were doing something different that no one had done combining a state contest with private sector moneys. It wasn’t easy to open up that route but it was  a great experience.

What is Cisne currently working on?

We are of course at a stage of many changes and harvesting the the results from work well done. The International Emmy Awards nomination was very important. It opened many doors and is a great window for the international industry and a great opportunity for growth. There’s a lot of interest in the remake of “La Casa del Mar” for the English-speaking market. “Perfidia” will be made in the U.K. by the production company DLT. Juan Laplace was my partner in and outside the company so I want to continue what we built together. With our team we are developing film and TV projects. We do high-quality fiction, that’s our specialty. The gameplay is to continue with a new TV project called “Angels in Buenos Aires” and a feature film that we are developing. We would love to keep working on future projects with both StoryLab and DirecTV with whom we had an excellent  experience.

What are the key factors conditioning your work and key trends now driving Argentine TV production? 

Over the last years, TV production in Argentina has changed radically. The market has opened up to new players like us, small production companies that with the help of subsidies have been able to gain a foothold in the market. INCAA funding is going very much in the right direction since it combines private and the public finance from the get-go. In Argentina, audience consumption of series is on the upswing and will continue to grow. Our challenge is to continue to pursue standards of international quality. “La Casa del Mar” aired in Latin America on  the channel OnDirecTV that also programs series like “Fargo”  the original “The Killing,” “Deutschland ’83” and we have to rise to that challenge.

How do you think “La Casa del Mar” could help change the future Argentine TV? 

Series transcend frontiers, we consume series all around the world. And we achieve that with local product. The way audiences consume TV is changing incredibly fast. Regarding fiction series, quality will be increasingly important because now the spectator is the one who decides. There’s less chance to impose content like happened and continues to happen in free-to-air and cable TV. Audience have more and more power. Once again we have to rise to the challenge.


Depicting the underbelly of a Japanese town dominated by a U.S. airbase, “Yamato” is like a kick in the butt to the apolitical and inward-looking attitudes of Japan’s film industry and domestic market. Evoking the economic and psychological burdens of America’s military presence on a rudderless female wannabe-rapper, writer-director Daisuke Miyazaki asks whether his compatriots are colonized within their own country. Gleefully abrasive and opinionated about Japanese and Americans alike, Miyazaki dissects his generation’s cultural angst as few of his contemporaries have done. So despite a disappointingly ending, the film deserves a release in the U.S. to represent the Japanese civilian view in the ongoing debate of American foreign policy.

Yamato, a town in Kanagawa, near Tokyo, is home to Atsugi Airbase, the largest U.S. naval base in the Pacific Ocean. Although Yamato is the ancient, but still widely used name for Japan, it has an ironic ring considering how the local residents regard their own soil as a “special zone” of California. This being Miyazaki’s hometown, nothing escapes his intense scrutiny, beginning with a long take of a giant junkyard, and closing in on high school dropout Sakura (Hanae Kan) rapping to herself inside. Though the actress’ performance is pedestrian, her lyrics (“living in a radioactive, contaminated country, dodging the brainwashing…”) strip away Japan’s Olympic publicity image.

When she goes home, it’s just another dump: Only a curtain divides her bedroom from her geeky brother Kenzo’s space, while garbage and used appliances pile up in the backyard. These snippets of suburban life may recall Yu Irie’s “8000 Miles” trilogy about rappers stuck in the drab town of Saitama. However, while Irie’s works are harmless, offbeat slacker comedies, there’s more indignation to Yamato’s sense of squalor, as the town’s residents seem enervated by the sense of dependency reinforced by the foreign presence.

Sakura’s single mom, Kiko (Reiko Kataoka), is dating an American G.I. named Abby Goldman, whose daughter, Rei (Nina Endo), is visiting from America. Since Kiko has to work, she asks Sakura and Kenzo to take good care of Rei.

Although Rei hails from San Francisco, she’s cheerful, courteous, and speaks perfect Japanese. Her host family’s insistence on treating her like a foreigner, Kiko’s desperation to please, and Kenzo’s euphoria over rare female company are both funny and pathetic. At first, Sakura is downright hostile, but it doesn’t take long for her icy pose to dissolve, after discovering Rei knows a thing or two about hip-hop.

A lively, unpredictable dynamic develops as they hang out at a cheap general-goods chain called Don Quixote, a comic cafe, and a local mall — all dives Sakura takes for granted as sad proof of her downscale existence. Nonetheless, they’re novelties to Rei. Still, there are limits to their superficial cultural exchange, so it’s not surprising that their ad hoc friendship could easily turn sour. When Sakura is uneasy about rapping for Sakura, the latter, in a drunken fit, accuses her new friends of being copying America, with no original modern culture of their own.

Since Miyazaki spent his childhood in Chicago but later returned to Yamato, Sakura and Rei could be viewed as two sides of his own self-image, which in turn reflects the post-war identity crisis many Japanese experience. Sakura’s description of the elusive Abby, who never appears onscreen, as “like a friend or father” who taught her about hip hop — but who also uses her family, and even dumps his own daughter on them — symbolizes Japan’s ambivalent feelings towards America as a protector and freeloader.

The plot could have packed a more provocative punch when it added a Korean girl gang and a homeless community into the mix, but instead, it ties things up in a neat, heartwarming bow that proves out-of-character and out-of-tune with it’s general edginess.

Kan, a 26-year-old Japanese-Korean who made her debut in Seijun Suzuki’s “Pistol Opera,” was once accused of being anti-Japanese because she played an ethnic Korean terrorist in “Pure Asia.” This controversial past combined with her aloof image makes her an ideal choice for the cranky, neurotic misfit. Rising British-Irish-Japanese actress-model Endo laces her cuteness with just the right dose of spite.

Best known for her cinematography in Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s films, Akiko Ashizawa refrains from a stylized, polished approach to convey a warts-and-all realism. Sound designers Hwang Yong-chang and Yasuhiro Morinaga’s live recordings of deafening sounds of fighter jets hover over almost every outdoor scene, and form a vexing whir even when the characters are indoors, echoing longtime complaints of noise disturbances by residents near airbases all over the country.

Film Review: 'Yamato (California)'

Reviewed online, Singapore. (Also at Singapore Film Festival) Nov. 28, 2016. Running time: 119 MIN.


(Japan) A Deep End Pictures production. Producers: Kotaro Date, Daisuke Miyazaki. Executive producers: Jacob Yocum-Piatt, Hideki Matsui, Tomoya Narita. Co-producers: Patavee Viranuvat, Andria Sun Chih-shi, Christian Pazzaglia.


Director, writer: Daisuke Miyazaki. Camera (color, HD): Akiko Ashizawa. Editor: Takuma Hirata.


Hanae Kan, Nina Endo, Reiko Kataoka. (Japanese, English dialogue)

BUENOS AIRES — Somewhere on a high Andes plateau, a pregnant Quechua girl’s father dies. She determines to leave with her young husband. So begins an odyssey which takes the couple across a benighted landscape, as dry as the moon, a Bolivia Altiplano laid waste by industrial exploitation and bloody militia, heading to Chile and the sea. They meet Ruiz, a 50-year-old, war-scarred photographer who seeks to save them from the war zone, salvaging what remains of his humanity. Written by Nicolas and Lucia Puenzo, and helmed by Nicolas, a co-director of TV series “Cromo,” survival thriller “Los Ultimos” (The Unseen) is set in a future which seems ever more part of the present. Luis, Lucia, Esteban and Nicolas Puenzo produce; Lucero Garzon associate produces. Sneak peeked at Los Cabos,”The Unseen” now plays at Ventana Sur’s Primer Corte pix-in-post showcase, curated by Cannes Cinefondation’s Georges Goldenstern. Variety talked to Nicolas and Luis Puenzo and Peru’s Juana Burga, in her debut film role, about an allegory for the present which is in danger of becoming quite simply the present.

“The Unseen” is like a post-Apocalypse film without an Apocalypse and a film which is in part futuristic, in part a near contemporary portrait of what happening in the world. I wonder if you could comment?

Luis Puenzo: You are right. Your definition is accurate. Outside the picture however, the Apocalypse is happening before our eyes. We see its symptoms in refugees seeking a place in the world, in the emergency that Bolivia has just declared because of the most brutal drought in decades, or in political retrogression in Latin America and Europe. The Future of “The Unseen” is almost here.

The central performances from Peter Lanzani and Juana Burga are tremendously physical: Their motivation is reduced to the bare necessity of survival. Would you agree Nicolas?

Nicolas Puenzo: The concept that struck us so deeply was “intoxicated beauty.” That is what we see happening to our region, both the territory and the populations, because of the bestial exploitation of natural and human resources. Our characters are the excluded: the refugees, the deceived, the survivors. They are beings hardened by the injustice of the system and the harshness of the territory. We constructed them looking for a great intensity and at the same time simplicity in their survival.

How did you find Juana Burga to play the female lead? 

Nicolas Puenzo: On Google! We needed a beautiful young Quechuan, but couldn’t find one, we’re in Peru, Bolivia, Argentina. So Dad went onto the Internet. I’m not sure what magical words he wrote but there was Juana.

Juana Burga: I’m better known as a model in Peru. One day, somebody said: “There’s someone called Nicolas Puenzo who wants to make a film with you.” I called my agent, sent a link to Historias Cinematograficas, and my agency was very, very enthusiastic. Then Nicolas interviewed me.

When it comes to describing the film, I feel, rather like “The German Doctor” or “Cromo,” that it mixes some genres and indeed narratives, from the Quechua figure of the serpent that eats its tail to the “Mad Max” tale of desert-set futuristic survival, to the Western, in the figure of Ruiz, a grizzled veteran of violence whose role is to allow the couple a future in which he will not participate. Again, Nicolas, would you agree?

Nicolas Puenzo: Yes, the film exhibits elements of different genres without the story installed in any one specific genre. There are elements of the Western, undoubtedly, as the characters walk and experience the savagery of war and the exploitation of their territory. Here, unlike the classic Western, it is not the state that advances over wild territory but the other way round, a territory abandoned after a cycle of brutal exploitation that has left it unviable for human life.

Ruiz is a character from a Western, with the melancholy of someone who inhabits a territory that has changed and which he no longer understands. A man who meets the end of his era. I would also say that the documentary and the look of photo journalism are the main references of the film, filmed as if it were the vision of a war photographer.

As a film from a cinematographer-turned-director, Luis, what were the main choices made both a DP and also a director?

Luis Puenzo: This question should be answered by Nicolas, who in “The Unseen” performed the simultaneous roles of director, director of photography and cameraman, as well as producer and before, screenwriter. Exercising multiple roles is not just a habit, for us it is a necessity. This is how we learned and how films are made in countries like ours.

Nicolas Puenzo: My starting point was to forget the differences between the work of the director and the director of photography. I shot the film as if it were a photo journalist shooting, intervening in the terrain and among people, in search of real emotions. I talked with the actors and filmed them at the same time, so as to get a sense of vertigo in the performances and camerawork. I was always thinking of the concept I mentioned before, Intoxicated Beauty, and I was always looking at how to process that idea into the performances and  image.

 “The Unseen” was shot in the Salar de Uyuni, where Herzog lensed “Salt and Fire.” As one of the producers on the film, Luis, what were the major production challenges in what could not have been the easiest of shoots.

Luis Puenzo: In these locations it is not easy to film, but neither is reaching them, nor any other aspect of logistics. Even less with an austere budget, a small team and actors living with all the difficulties, but those demands were faced by Nico. It was my job to stay in the rearguard, taking care of “financial engineering,” which on a project like this is not easy either.

Ventana Sur will show a rough-cut version of “The Unseen” in its Primer Corte showcase. When will the film be ready for delivery?

Luis Puenzo: We are working on the final adjustments, without stopping for Ventana Sur. Our plan is to complete post within the remainder of the year and arrive at copy in the first week of January.


BUENOS AIRES — In the first deal to go down at Ventana Sur, FilmSharks Intl. has secured world sales rights to adventure thriller “Los Buscadores,” Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schembori’s follow-up to 2012’s box office, sales and festival breakout hit, action thriller “7 Cajas” which Breaking Glass Pictures picked up for the U.S., among multiple deals cut around the world.

Producers Maneglia-Schembori Producciones have also made available a first image from “Los Buscadores” (pictured).

Made on three-times the budget of  ‘7 Cajas,’ incorporating more comedy and thriller elements but, said Schembori, the same spirit, “Los Buscadores” turns on a 21-year-old newspaper boy, Manu, who accidentally happens upon a map and old photo in a book given him by his grandfather, a former treasure hunter of “Plata Yvyguy,” gold and jewels buried by families in Paraguay’s 1864-70 War of the Triple Alliance and never retrieved as they fled the country.

Identifying one treasure site with the help of another paperboy, he discovers the site is now an embassy and sets out to inveigle himself into its household, despite the suspicions of its staff, enamouring one of its maids.

Written like “7 Cajas” by Maneglia, here with Mario González Marti and with script consultancy by “Son of the Bride” scribe Fernando Castets, “Los Buscadores” went into production from May 2, shooting largely in Asunción, especially in the neighbourhood of Chacarita, a picturesque, vibrant community, right next to downtown Asuncion.

“The Buscadores” is produced by the directors’ Asuncion-based outfit Maneglia Schembori Realizadores in partnership with Christian Chena. Associate producers are Richard Careaga, Gabriela Sabate and Mariana Pineda. René Ruíz Díaz heads up executive production.

Licensed by Shoreline Entertainment, “7 Cajas” proved one of the company’s bestselling titles ever. It also garnered some rave reviews, charmed audiences and won a slew of prizes, including San Sebastian’s Film in Progress Industry Award in 2011 and New Directors Euskaltel Youth Award in 2012 plus Miami Fest’s Audience Award and a jury mention at the Palm Springs Intl. Film Festival in 2013.  It went on to play at 101 festivals by early September 2014.

As with “7 Cajas,” however, part of the fascination of “Los Buscadores” is likely to be the window it opens up onto Paraguay itself, its landmarks, people, customs and society.

“Los Buscadores” “represents much more than a second film: the commitment to go on showing Paraguay to the world, one way to bear witness to a little piece of our world, our vision, our way of being,” Maneglia and Schembori said in a statement announcing the movie’s shoot.


The British Film Institute unveiled its five-year strategy Tuesday with objectives that include increased spending outside of London, a drive to encourage 16-30 year olds to watch more British independent and specialty movies, and a looser definition of “film” so that the government-funded organization can back more innovative work.

BFI chair, Josh Berger, who launched the 2017-2022 strategy alongside the BFI’s CEO, Amanda Nevill, at an event in Birmingham, England, said the film business contributed £4.3 billion ($5.37 billion) a year to the U.K.’s gross domestic product. He said between 2009-2013 employment in the core U.K. film sector grew by 21.6% compared with a 3% rise in jobs in the British economy as a whole in that period. The BFI’s budget for 2017-2022 is projected to total £489 million ($610 million).

Recent British film successes have included Ken Loach’s “I, Daniel Blake,” which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and Andrea Arnold’s “American Honey,” which won the festival’s Jury Prize.

Berger said in a statement: “The BFI’s job is to champion the future success of film in the U.K. and this plan is designed to do that — we want to back the brave, the new and the experimental.”

The BFI has committed itself to spending 25% of its production funding outside of London, and will set up a small number of BFI Regional Production Funds to support talent, skills and infrastructure around the country. The BFI will focus its resources on creating “creative screen clusters of international influence.”

With regard to its focus on 16-30 year olds, the BFI strategy states: “As screens proliferate and moving image becomes the predominant way that young people interact with the world and with each other, there is a clear need to encourage cultural curiosity and risk-taking among this group.”

Online platforms, such as the streaming service BFI Player, will play a central part in the organization’s efforts to engage with young people and encourage them to watch more British independent and specialty movies.

Addressing the overall rise in online viewing, the BFI will adopt a more flexible approach to its definition of film, which “will mean anything that tells a story, expresses an idea or evokes an emotion through the art of the moving image.”

The BFI will make its funding criteria more flexible to allow it “to support certain non-theatrical, episodic, hour-long or other non-feature-length work, a greater variety of animation and digital work, and narrative filmmaking on other platforms, including immersive and interactive work.”

Other measures include the digitization of up to 100,000 British television shows, which are currently stored on video, and the creation of fresh film and digital prints of at least 100 of the “great classics” of British and international cinema, which will then be given a theatrical release.

The BFI will seek also to create a more diverse workforce in the film business by working with producers to “create the right conditions so that all U.K. productions can voluntarily adopt the BFI Diversity Standards.” These standards aim to address under-representation of people based on disability, gender, race, age, and sexual orientation.

As Britain begins its negotiations with the European Union to leave the political and economic community, the BFI will beef up its in-house expertise in international trade, it said, “in order to advise effectively government and support industry in the development of future trade deals.”

The BFI sets out its intention to maintain strong links with Europe. It said it would “sustain strong partnership working within Europe to benefit the U.K. screen sector through working with our European film agency counterparts on active E.U. policy negotiations, and making the case for the U.K.’s continued membership of Creative Europe” [the E.U.’s funding body for film and other creative activity].


Lionsgate has signed a new long-term output deal with China’s online platform iQiyi covering “Patriots Day,” “Robin Hood,” “The Glass Castle,” “American Assassin,” and “Wonder.”

The agreement covers subscription (SVOD), transactional (TVOD), and advertising video-on-demand rights for films streaming on iQiyi’s platform in China, which includes over half a billion unique users.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. It calls for iQIYI to have exclusive streaming rights in China to Lionsgate theatrical titles covered by the agreement along with enabling broadcasting of the titles with a major promotional commitment to them on its platform.

iQiyi, which has been streaming Lionsgate titles in China since last fall, served as Lionsgate’s promotional partner earlier this year on “Now You See Me 2,” the highest-grossing Lionsgate film ever released at the Chinese box office. The companies announced the original streaming deal on Oct. 9, 2015.

“Patriots Day,” from Lionsgate and CBS Films, stars Mark Wahlberg as a Boston police officer in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. The dramatic thriller closed the AFI Fest on Nov. 17.

Otto Bathurst is directing “Robin Hood,” starring Jamie Foxx and Taron Egerton. “The Glass Castle” stars Brie Larson, Naomi Watts, and Woody Harrelson. Lionsgate/CBS Films’ “American Assassin” stars Michael Keaton and Dylan O’Brien in a counter-terrorism thriller. “Wonder” stars Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, and Jacob Tremblay.

“We’re delighted to expand our relationship with iQIYI, a world-class platform at the cutting edge of delivering premium quality films to online Chinese audiences,” said Lionsgate executive VP of international sales Wendy Reeds. “We have collaborated with iQIYI on the promotion and distribution of some of our biggest releases in China, and our new agreement represents a great opportunity to bring a slate of blockbuster films and a deep portfolio of library titles to one of the largest and fastest-growing markets in the world.”

The initial agreement covered both subscription and transactional VOD for Lionsgate titles including: “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2”; “Allegiant”; “Now You See Me 2”; action film “Deepwater Horizon”; “Sicario”; the teen thriller “Nerve”; “The Shack,” starring Sam Worthington and Octavia Spencer; and the Emma Stone-Ryan Gosling musical “La La Land.”

“Lionsgate has emerged as a major creative force in the global marketplace, and we’re proud to continue adding their incredible pipeline of star-driven movies to our platform,” said Yang Xianghua, senior VP of iQiyi. “iQIYI already has the largest online movie library in China, and this agreement with one of Hollywood’s major studios significantly expands the selection of premium quality movies we will bring to our audiences.”

The agreement was negotiated for Lionsgate by Christian Perala based in the company’s London office.

iQiyi is a subsidiary of Chinese search engine Baidu and describes itself as having grown into China’s largest Internet and mobile video service provider.


BUENOS AIRES — Argentine Tomas Espinoza’s “Harpoon,” Brazilian Davi Pretto’s “Rifle” and Mexican Sergio Flores Thorija’s “3 Zene or (Waking Up From My Bosnian Dream)” play Copia Cero, a new section at this year’s Ventana Sur Latin American market focusing on more open arthouse or mainstream titles still apt for festival play.

“Accesible, theme-driven films from writer-directors with strong stories and something to say,” said Jose Maria Riba, who curates the section with Eva Morsch,  the titles were selected for their chances of snagging a sales agent’s pick-up, he added.

They also deliver a telling portrait of  “the preoccupations of adolescents or just twenty somethings” in Latin America and beyond, said Riba, pointing out that two productions are set in secondary schools.

Five of the six feature projects indeed offer visions of youth, their highly-challenged or dead-end futures (“Rifle”), struggles for education (one part of “3 Zene”), confrontation with the laws of their land (“7 Semanas”), need to emigrate (“3 Zene”), nihilist mind-sets (“Minezota,” “Harpoon”) and worldview aeons from their parents’ generation (“Harpoon”).

“It’s not easy to own anything, there’s only one owner here,’ laments a near-to-death rebel farm labourer who has been evicted from his land by big landowners. The idea of getting good education, a job, owning a home and raising a family, seems a pipe-dream or at best a huge battle. Families, if they appear at all, are often broken, or their possibility of staying together fast receeding.

“Harpoon” may surprise. It comes to Copia Cero with a good buzz but little track record, having just been seen as a project at Produire Au Sud, a workshop at Nantes’ 3 Continents Festival in France. The first feature of Argentina-bred Espinoza, it enters on a school director (German de Silva, star of Cannes Camera d’Or winner “Las Acacias”) who steadily goes off the rails as he struggles with rebellious students and his own conscience when the prostitute he frequents floats the idea of his selling one of his students into prostitution. In Argentina, around 13 kids a day are victims of prostitution rings, exploitation and slavery, Espinoza has commented. Martin Aliaga, who helped develop Pablo Fendrik “Blood Appears” and Adrian Caetano’s “Francia” while at Magma, produces this “harsh film which makes no concessions,” said Riba,

“Rifle,” from Brazil’s Davi Pretto, his awaited follow-up to Berlinale Forum player “Castanha,” is a Western, but centres not on how the West was won, but how Brazil’s countryside is being lost to large landowners buying up penniless farmers’ lands to plant vast plains of soya and rice as the dream of social advance and immigration to a big city breaks down.

Set up at Porto Alegre-based Tokyo Filmes, run by Paola Wink and one of the standard bearers of Brazilian regional cinema, “Rifle” builds towards violence as a young, half-witted sheep-hand takes up his rifle, feeling that a landowner is trying to run the family he works for off their land, and begins to shoot at vehicles hurtling down the country dirt tracks.

“Something between a road movie, Western and suspenser,” Pretto has said, “Rifle” won critics’ awards for best film, screenplay and sound at September’s Brasilia Film Festival. Produced by Bela Tarr’s Sarajevo’s Film Factory and Mexico’s Lucia Films, run by director Michel Franco (“After Lucia,” “Chronic”), “3 Zene” expands on Sergio Flores Thorija’s “Bosnian Dream,” which won best fiction short at 2015’s Morelia Festival. It takes in three young women in Sarajevo and their life dreams which chafe with the hide-bound city. All turn implicitly on immigration: A Brazilian girl working in a bar at night to pay her studies; a Bosnian student in love with her best g.f.; a kitchen help who cares for her sick mother while dreaming of emigrating to the U.S

Shot largely in b/w, a working class tale of a conflicted couple in Mexico’s Ciudad Nesa, the music-drenched “Minezota” proved the biggest winner at Mexico’s Impulso Morelia last year, where it screened in rough-cut. World premiering in competition in October, once more at Morelia, the second movie from Carlos Enderle (“Chalango Chronicles”) turns on Ismael who wants to front his nihilist techno-pop band, a Mexican answer to Depeche Mode, and Violeta. his girl friend, who dreams of starting a family and enrolls a mormon for the purpose.

Chilean Constanza Figari’s debut, and inspired by real events, “7 Semanas” (pictured) turns on a 23-year-old university student which decides to abort. A graduation feature from a new all-woman team at Universidad del Desarrollo in Chile, where abortion is illegal and opposed by many Chileans, “7 Semanas” focuses on “a subject which can interest in a lot of countries, the decision of having or not a child,” said Riba.

‘The most mainstream of all the section’s propositions,” said Riba, “Carpinteros” presents a love story between the inmates of a men and women’s penitentiary. It is helmed by the Dominican Republic’s Jose Maria Cabral who spent nine months in jails developing the movie.


Tony Leung Chiu-wai, star of “in The Mood for Love” and “Infernal Affairs,” has joined the cast of “Monster Hunt 2.” The film is the sequel to “Monster Hunt,” the second most successful Chinese film of all time.

Leung will play one of the lead characters who changes the course of monster king Wuba’s journey. Others joining the cast include Chinese pop icon Li Yuchun (“Bodyguards and Assassins”) and Taiwanese actor Yo Yang (“Cold War 2”).

Principal shooting is currently underway in Beijing, with director Raman Hui and the original cast, including Bai Baihui and Jing Boran. The completed film is set for release in 2018.

Released in summer 2015, “Monster Hunt” grossed RMB2.43 billion ($352 million at current rates of exchange) at the Chinese box office. That was the highest of all time, but has since been overtaken by “The Mermaid.”

“Monster Hunt” went on to win best new director, best costume & make up design and best art direction at the Hong Kong Film Awards.