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industry buzz by holly martin | from Vienna |contact:

23rd March 2000
BFI Production unveils new slate
BFI Production - the UK funding operation that supported early work from such film-makers as Ratcatcher’s Lynne Ramsay, 24/7’s Shane Meadows and The Full Monty writer Simon Beaufoy - has unveiled a new feature slate as it moves under the control of newly-created film super body The Film Council.
Wonderland writer Laurence Coriat, Turner-prize winning artist Steve McQueen and leading documentary maker Philippa Lowthorpe are amongst the film-makers on the seven projects. BFI Production is developing the slate with FilmFour Lab, the low-budget unit of the UK’s FilmFour. Roger Shannon, head of BFI Production, is finalising a second feature slate that will be developed with BBC Films, the feature arm of public broadcaster the BBC.
BFI Production, which has traditionally supported innovative, art-house fare from such film-makers as Terence Davies, Sally Potter and Peter Greenaway, recently had some commercial success with titles such as Love Is The Devil, Under The Skin and Beautiful People, which sold well overseas.

UK attacks EU video tax
Britain's consumer affairs minister has vowed to oppose a tax on blank videocassettes being proposed by the European Union as a means to curtail piracy. In Britain, where a large segment of the population tapes soap operas in order to watch them later, the levy is being called a "soap tax." In an interview with the London Sunday Express, consumer affairs minister Kim Howells said, "We do not consider that a levy or other form of payment would be justified. We are concerned that the overall approach is too prescriptive."

China begins to make exhibition of itself
A 32-year-old woman has become the first person in China to be allowed to distribute and exhibit motion pictures in the country since the beginning of Communist rule in 1950. According to the South China Morning Post, the woman, Sun Shuyan, received permission to show films in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, where she will presumably take a traveling theatre into villages populated primarily by herdsmen. Last month, the government announced new measures to encourage entrepreneurs to enter the movie distribution market, including a 50-percent discount on film rentals.

Cannes opener announced
Roland Joffe's $29m (FFr199m) historical epic Vatel, produced by Gaumont and starring Gerard Depardieu, Uma Thurman and Tim Roth, will open this year's Cannes Film Festival on May 10.
As is usual with the opening night film, Vatel will screen out of competition. French actress Virginie Ledoyen, who starred in The Beach alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, will host the opening ceremony.
Three further French period pieces - Olivier Assayas' $10m (FFr70m) Les Destinees Sentimentales, starring Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Beart and Charles Berling; Arnaud Desplechin's $10m (FFr70m) Esther Khan and Benoit Jacquot's $8m (FFr56m) Sade, starring Daniel Auteuil, are also being rumoured as potential Cannes titles.
The Cannes opening night ceremony will start with a performance by Jose Montalvo's dance company, followed by a "filmed essay" by Jean-Luc Godard, L'Origine Du 21eme Siecle, in which the film-maker reflects on the events of the 20th Century. The 12-minute documentary was backed by Canal Plus, which will air it on the same night.

MGM takes legal action against Cecchi Gori
MGM is taking Italian film and TV giant Cecchi Gori Communications to court over non-payment on an output deal covering 200 films and television programmes currently being broadcast on Cecchi Gori-owned TV channel TeleMonteCarlo (TMC).
MGM is claiming that it is still owed $10m (L20bn) from a $20m (L40bn) deal with Cecchi Gori, according to Italian press reports. The Italian company had obtained a $233m (L470bn) loan from US bank Merrill Lynch for film and TV programming acquisitions before entering into the deal. However, according to MGM, repayments from Cecchi Gori to the studio stopped in September 1999 leaving L20bn of its debt unpaid.

UK distribution heats up
In an increasingly aggressive UK distribution sector, Metrodome Distribution has finalised its acquisition of Eye Of The Beholder and Pathe Distribution has picked up Memento, Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to the acclaimed Following.
Metrodome, which recently secured a $15m acquisition, fund through a joint venture with UK financier Future Film Group, picked up Beholder from US-based Behaviour Worldwide. The $18m thriller stars Ewan McGregor and Ashley Judd.
Pathe acquired Memento from the US’ Summit Entertainment. The thriller, about a man who loses his short-term memory, stars Carrie-Anne Moss and Guy Pearce.
Other recent UK deals saw Metrodome taking The Body, starring Antonio Banderas, through its Future Film Group venture. Redbus Film Distribution has picked up a raft of titles - including The Gift with Keanu Reeves and Play It To The Bone - along with striking an output deal with BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC.

Oliver Stone to chair Cognac jury
Oliver Stone - whose latest title, Any Given Sunday, opens in France on April 12 - will chair the jury of the 18th Festival of Cognac (April 6-9), which focuses on thrillers and crime stories.
Stone was involved, through his production company Illusion Entertainment, in 1997 Cognac grand prize-winner Freeway, directed by Matthew Bright, for which Reese Witherspoon also received the best actress award.
John Frankenheimer's Ben Affleck-starrer Reindeer Games will open the event which is expected to welcome Christopher Walken - for Myles Connell's The Opportunist - and Linda Fiorentino, who stars in two competition titles, Thaddeus O'Sullivan's Ordinary Decent Criminal and Marek Kanievska's Where The Money Is.

Academy urged to honour McCarthy’s blacklist
Victor Navasky, publisher and editorial director of The Nation, has proposed that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences pass "a simple resolution" honouring members of the film industry who were blacklisted during the McCarthy era. In an editorial appearing in the April 3 edition of the magazine, Navasky, author of Naming Names (1980), generally regarded as the definitive book about the blacklist, writes that a recent proposal by academy member Samuel Gelfman to devote a segment of the Oscar show to the blacklist was rejected by the organisation because, as its president, Robert Rehme, explained in a Dec. 1999 letter to Gelfman, "the Academy's policy is to remain totally non-political." In fact, under Academy rules that existed at the time, blacklisted members of the industry were barred from receiving Oscar recognition. Navasky suggests that a simple resolution should suffice. He concludes, "The question is not whether such a resolution may constitute a political statement. It's the decent thing to do."

New York Times attacks ‘racist’ Hollywood
A little more than two months after becoming the New York Times' film critic, Elvis Mitchell, also became the only African-American film critic for a major daily, has raised the issue of Hollywood's treatment of blacks. Writing in Sunday's edition, Mitchell noted that five of the eight Oscar nominations that black actors have received are for performances in which they played criminals (or, at any rate, convicts). However, Mitchell notes as if to anticipate applause from civil rights organisations who have long criticised the types of roles being assigned to black actors, "Why would anyone demand that black actors play only role models? It turns actors off, and would ring in a double standard for them: the challenge is not to find paragons to play but to find roles that offer complexity." Meanwhile, he noted, black actresses have been largely overlooked by the industry. No black woman, he observes, has ever won a best actress Oscar.

Ron Howard Wrestles With Vince McMahon
Imagine Entertainment principal Ron Howard has accused WWF chief Vince McMahon of barring advertisements for the documentary Beyond the Mat (1999) on WWF telecasts because "he wants to totally dominate and control anything that has anything to do with wrestling." In an interview with Monday’s New York Times Howard said that McMahon had originally attempted to invest in the film, and, when his offer was rejected, became intent on "trying to prove his point, to shut down the film." But Jim Byrne, a WWF exec, told the Times that the producer's objections amounted to a "publicity stunt" to draw attention to the film. He claimed that McMahon offered to invest in the film before it was completed, but that, once he saw it, he didn't like it. "Even though we were denied the opportunity to participate, we probably would have dropped the offer once we'd screened it, anyway," Byrne said. The film opened in limited release on Friday.

Hollywood supports greater links with China
Top Hollywood execs, including Disney's Michael Eisner, Viacom's Sumner Redstone, the MPAA's Jack Valenti, Time Warner's Gerald Levin, and Seagram's Edgar Bronfman Jr. have formed a "loose coalition" to lobby Congress to support membership of China in the World Trade Organization, the Dow Jones News Service reported Tuesday, citing the Washington watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics. Calling themselves the China Trade Relations Committee, the coalition hopes that by normalizing relations with China, the way will be opened for more U.S.-made films to enter the marketplace on the mainland.

TV Station Refuses To Air Killer's Plea
A Baltimore television station refused to broadcast a statement by murder suspect Joseph Palcyznki Sunday in which Palcyznki offered to release hostages and give himself up if he could talk to his girlfriend. The station, WJZ-TV, said that it withheld broadcasting the statement because of "safety concerns" for the three hostages. It finally aired the tape Tuesday night after Palcyznki was shot and killed by a Baltimore County Police SWAT team. In it, he said. "All I want to do is talk to Tracy Whitehead, my girlfriend. I love her dearly. I did not mean to kill those people. ... I've been begging for [authorities] to just allow me to talk to Tracy. I will surrender peacefully. I won't kill anybody else, I won't hurt anybody else. ... All I want is to talk to her and we can end this peacefully."

Insider's Wife Threatens To Sue
Lucretia Nimocks, the ex-wife of Jeffrey Wigand, the tobacco industry whistleblower who is the subject of The Insider, is threatening to sue Disney for the manner she was portrayed in the movie. Nimocks claims that she did not leave Wigand because of his feud with his employer, the R. J. Reynolds tobacco company, as the movie suggests, but because he abused her.

Gay-Rights Protesters March On Paramount
More than 200 gay-rights protesters staged a demonstration at the gates of Paramount Studios Tuesday to protest against the studio's plans to syndicate a TV talk show hosted by radio personality Laura Schlessinger. Participants in the protest, organised by GLAAD, demanded that the show be cancelled.

Murdoch Moves Closer To Establishing A German Foothold
The European Union has okayed News Corp-controlled BSkyB's deal with Germany's KirchGruppe for the British satellite provider to acquire a 24-percent stake in KirchPayTV. In a statement released at its headquarters in Brussels, the EC said that KirchPayTV is likely to benefit "from an influx of financial resources and access to BSkyB's marketing and distribution know-how."

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