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When Are Films Political? When They Involve Lebanon and Israel

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by Sydney Levine
April 22, 2013 1:30 PM
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One of the most interesting U.S. Distributors these days is Cohen Media Group.  Its films are daring and interesting, ranging from documentaries like Chasing Madoff and Frozen River to multi-award winning Spanish film Blancanieves. Later this month it will release the daring film The Attack based on the best selling novel L'Attentat by renowned Algerian writer Yasmina Khadra.

The Attack, directed by Ziad Doueiri and written by Ziad Doueiri and Joelle Touma won three honors at the recently concluded COL*COA, the second largest French Film Festival in the world after Cannes.  The COL*COA Audience Award, the Critics Special Prize and the new Coming Soon Award, a prize given in association with KPCC 89.3, to a film presented with an attached U.S. distributor. 


“Stunning.... a film of intelligence and emotional power. Quite apart from its social importance, THE ATTACK is a damn good, pulse-pounding mystery.”
Victoria Ellison, LA Weekly

“Chilling, brilliantly filmed and inherently fascinating. The film unfolds masterfully, without a single false step. It’s hard to imagine any audience remaining unmoved by this mournful tale. -- Stephen Farber, The Hollywood Reporter

Cohen Media Group's principals are stellar and yet not flamboyantly "Hollywood".  Charles Cohen, Chairman and CEO has developed the spectacular Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood as one of his real estate projects.  I love how its red glass hull looms over my own neighborhood in West Hollywood and how I can write every day at the beautiful West Hollywood Library whose glass wall compasses the entire PCD as the view from my seat.

Partner Edmondo Schwartz personifies the modern hybrid of both entrepreneur and financer. His interests encompass the real estate, entertainment, restaurant and financing fields. He is currently President of EMS Enterprises, a full service real estate firm; General Partner of The Saike Group, an investment-banking firm; and President of Burritos International, a restaurant concept development company, which owns, operates, and develops fast food restaurants. In the past, Schwartz has also served as President of Empire Pictures, a distributor of foreign and independent films in the theatrical, DVD and television markets throughout the United States. Mr. Schwartz currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Bergen Performing Arts Center. He is a former board member of the Make a Wish foundation of Metro New York and was involved with City Meals on Wheels.

On the filmic side of this company, partner Steve Scheffer served over twenty-five years as a senior executive at Home Box Office (HBO) primarily as President of Film Programming responsible for overseeing the acquisition of all motion pictures for HBO as well as HBO’s investments in and production of theatrical films.  Prior to HBO, Scheffer held executive positions at Time Life Films, Allied Artists, Polydor Records, MGM and Columbia Pictures.

President Daniel Battsek most recently was President of National Geographic Films, where he acquired projects for development/production, operated a boutique theatrical domestic distribution arm for art-house titles and documentaries including the Oscar-nominated Restrepo, and oversaw National Geographic large-screen and IMAX projects. Prior to joining National Geographic, Mr. Battsek served at Miramax Films, where as head of international he established a very positive image and reputation for himself.  He was instrumental in acquiring, green-lighting or distributing such renowned and award winning films as Tsotsi (Best Foreign Language Oscar), The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The Queen, Happy-Go-Lucky, No Country for Old Men (Best Feature Film Oscar) and There Will Be Blood.

And worker bee, Gary Ruben, Executive Vice President at the Cohen Media Group, has headed his own company and began his career in the first days of video, working with Media Home Entertainment as head of acquisitions so many years ago.  Over 25 years of experience in the motion picture and television business, he formed and ran First Independent Pictures, a specialty distribution company, was Executive Vice President, Sales and Acquisitions for Artisan Entertainment, was at October Films, where he held the position of VP, Ancillary Distribution and Library Acquisitions. 

A new addition is John Kochman who is helping CMG with French films.  He is also Unifrance's long-time New York-based director.

Cohen Media Group has Blancanieves now in U.S. release and coming soon are The Artist and the Model by Fernando Trueba and sold to them by 6 Sales, The Attack, In the House by Francois Ozon and also screening at Col*Coa, Terraferma, You Will Be My Son.  Past films included The Other Son, The Thief of Bagdad, Tristana, Farewell, My Queen; The Lady, Delicacy, Chasing Madoff, Frozen River, My Afternoons with Margueritte, Oranges and Sunshine.

The Attack directed by Ziad Doueiri is a Lebanese feature, an intense drama about an Israeli-Palestinian man whose life is shattered after discovering the secrets his wife has kept from him.  Co-written by Joelle Touma and the film's director Ziad Doueiri, the film stars Ali Sulliman (Paradise Now) and Reymonde Amsellem.  It was in the Official Selection:  2012 Telluride Film Festival, Official Selection  2012 Toronto International Film Festival and received Special Mention of the Jury at the 2012 San Sebastian Film Festival and was the Winner of the Golden Star (Best Film) at the 2012 Marrakech International Film Festival.

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