Magazine article Screen International

Spotlight Shifts to Berlin

Magazine article Screen International

Spotlight Shifts to Berlin

Article excerpt

Netflix has been a topic of much discussion for the industry at the past several markets, not least last year's EFM, when the streaming giant made a splashy buy with its all-rights deal for the Jamie Dornan-starring war drama Jadotville.

This year will be the same, particularly with Netflix going into Berlin having lost out in the tug of war for Nate Parker's Sundance sensation The Birth Of A Nation, which went to Fox Searchlight for $17.5m, even though - as US editor Jeremy Kay reports in his EFM preview - Netflix outbid its rival with a $20m offer of its own (and, according to some sources, was prepared to go up to $25m).

At first glance this looks like a significant and substantial win for the independent film sector, with the producers opting against Netflix's flat-fee all-rights buyout in favour of the offer with potential for back-end profit sharing, from a studio with a proven track record of delivering awards-season success.

There are two points to consider here. One, that Netflix may have forced Fox Searchlight into paying an artificially high price, a Sundance record, in fact, for the slave-revolt drama. And two, producers and sales agents who want to try their chances in the annual awards derby have had their biases confirmed: until proven otherwise, it's going to be smarter to rely on a traditional theatrical route to get you there.

On the first point, headline-grabbing Sundance deals don't tend to pay offthese days the way they once might have, with buyer hands scorched last year on Dope and Me And Earl And The Dying Girl. The latter marched out of Sundance 2015 with 'surefire Oscar contender' written all over it, only to fizzle at the US box office and fade swiftly from contention.

Coming in the wake of Oscar's diversity crisis, The Birth Of A Nation has been proclaimed an even stronger best-picture contender - but we won't know until voters cast their ballots next January whether it's hype and hyperbole. …

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