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TIFF Deal Update: Magnolia Buys 'No Place on Earth,' IFC Nabs Nair's 'Reluctant Fundamentalist'

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by Anne Thompson
September 13, 2012 5:33 PM
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'The Reluctant Fundamentalist'

There's usually a deal in the offing when you see a street huddle after a screening of a Toronto title with advance buzz. Yesterday I saw Eamonn Bowles and his Magnolia team in a circle, heads bowed, intensely debating the merits of something they were thinking of buying. Lo and behold, the next day they announce the acquisition of U.S. rights to "60 Minutes" producer-turned-filmmaker Janet Tobias' intense survival documentary "No Place on Earth" (History Films has stateside TV rights). 

And Ryan Werner, IFC's ace marketing chief, was leading a street corner discussion after a fest screening of yet another excellent Danish film, "A Hijacking." IFC has already racked up a few buys, from MIra Nair's controversial Venice-opener "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" to Neil Jordan's vampire thriller "Byzantium.

IFC Films bought all North American rights to "The Reluctant Fundamentalist," which Bill Wheeler adapted from Mohsin Hamid's novel. The drama stars Liev Schreiber, Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland and Riz Ahmed as a young Pakistani chasing Wall Street success. IFC financed Nair's 2001 film "Monsoon Wedding." She also directed "Salaam Bombay," "Mississippi Masala" and "The Namesake."

Produced by Lydia Dean Pilcher's Cine Mosaic with financing from the Doha Film Institute, "The Reluctant Fndamentalist" is a Mirabai Films and Cine Mosaic production. Reviews are mixed so far:

TOH: Nair’s storytelling here is much like her film’s protagonist: often muscularly charismatic, intriguing and appealing, but sometimes blunt, exasperating or mystifying. It’s adapted from a novel by Moshin Hamid about one man’s post-9/11 identity crisis and benefits from an exceptional turn by Riz Ahmed, a handsome evocation of modern-day Lahore and thought-provoking insights into cross-cultural misperception.

The Guardian: It's a sweeping and heartfelt tale of divided loyalties and reversion to type, in a world where the complacent ideas of globalised capitalism were shattered by 9/11. This is bold and muscular storytelling with a plausible performance from Riz Ahmed in the lead role – though there is something flabby and evasive in the inevitable equivalence it winds up proposing between Islamic fundamentalism and aggressive American capitalism.

THR: The tense dialogue between East and Post post-9/11 is turned into a tense, often gripping duet between a young Muslim professor and American reporter.

"No Place on Earth," which earned a standing ovation at its world premiere Monday night, recounts the untold story of a true holocaust survival experience: 38 Ukrainian Jews who took refuge in caves for 511 days in order to escape the Nazis. It was the longest sustained underground survival on record.

Cave enthusiast Chris Nicola unearthed the story nack in 1993 as he was spelunking in a 77 mile-long Ukrainian cave where he found clothing and scattered evidence of people living there. He was told by locals that maybe some Jews had lived there. Years later he was led to a Bronx man who had lived with his family in those caves in 1942 and 1943. He also uncovered the diary of another cave survivor.  Tobias found other cave dwellers to tell their stories and shoots inside the caves, creating reenactments.

Reviews are strong:

Variety:  "a substantial contribution to holocaust cinema that defies the notion that the era has been exhausted of its stories, or the ways they can be told."

THR:

"No Place on Earth" was produced by Rafael Marmor along with Tobias, Paul Laikin, Nadav Schirman, Susan Barnett and Zita Kisgergely. Magnolia plans a 2013 release.

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