Sexy 'South' slowly sizzles - Variety
Rampling pic platforming through the fall - by Emilie Pons - Aug. 13, 2006
Even with a healthy dollop of publicity, releasing foreign films remains a delicate business. But Shadow Distribution, a tiny releasing outfit in Waterville, Maine, has found it's worth it to nurture a long, slow release for pic like "Heading South" -- even one that opens in the middle of summer blockbuster season.
Outlets like the New York Times jumped on the provocative combo of Charlotte Rampling in a racy pic about "sexual tourism" in 1970s Haiti. Although pic is only nearing the $500,000 mark after five weeks, Shadow's Ken Eisen is pleased with the results.
"We'll be opening new major markets in a slow rollout through the fall," he says.
Despite the occasional breakout hit like "Y tu mama tambien," most subtitled films continue to struggle in the U.S., even with good publicity and word-of-mouth. While a sexy theme certainly helps, breaking the 1 million mark is a rare occurrence -- in the past year, Michael Haneke's "Cache," with $3.6 million, was one of the few French films to break out.
Shadow Distribution, based in Waterville, picked up Laurent Cantet's "Heading South" at the Toronto Film Fest last year and closed a deal with sales agent Celluloid Dreams after the festival.
Released July 7, "Heading South" opened at the Lincoln Plaza and Angelika Theaters in Manhattan and has expanded to 20 screens in markets including California, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Oregon and Ohio.
While a half-million-dollar gross might not be enough to sustain larger distribs, for Shadow it's worth the effort. Eisen projects Shadow Distribution "will do extremely well with this movie."
Although the two lead actresses speak some English in the film, "this is clearly a French movie, from a French director and reflecting a French sensibility in many complex ways," says Eisen, who says the film has found an audience with gay and lesbian audiences, Haitians, French film lovers and arthouse fans in general.
"It deals seriously with very laden issues: race, gender, class, age and sex -- without telling you exactly how to feel about them," he says.
Shadow seeks out unusual specialized films for its compact operation, which includes running the Railroad Square Cinema and the Maine Film Festival. Theatrical releasing of foreign films remains a challenge, and Shadow relies on documentaries for most of its niche releases. Distrib got its start with "Waterwalker" in 1987 and drew more attention with successful 1994 Gypsy docu "Latcho drom."
The microdistrib went on to handle Oscar nominees "The Weather Underground" and "Under the Sun" and last year's docu hit, "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill," which grossed more than $3 million.
Next year's sked for Shadow will include Iraq-set fiction film "The Situation," from Philip Haas, and docu "Air Guitar Nation."