A quartet of diverse independent films from around the world is traversing the globe and finding new audiences after bowing at SXSW this past March
Dominic Bridges’ feature debut, Two Pigeons (U.K.), which centers around an amoral estate agent who is preyed upon by one of his victims, had its world premiere at the festival’s Midnighter strand.
“Having our world premiere at SXSW was massive for us,” says producer Matt Hichens. “Our little film suddenly had international credibility. Going into a festival of that size gave us belief. It was brilliant for us.”
Clockwise from top: Bad Lucky Goat, Game of Death, Satan Said Dance, Two Pigeons (renamed Freehold after SXSW)
One of the SXSW programmers tipped off the Overlook Film Festival in Oregon. “Overlook were quite keen to take us on, and we were told by a number of people that it was a cool festival getting a lot of traction within the genre scene,” says Hichens. Since then, Two Pigeons has played a number of festivals including Grimmfest in Manchester and Frightfest in London, where it played to a full house on an IMAX screen and delighted the film’s home audience.
“Once we got into SXSW, we were able to talk to everybody we’ve talked to now,” says Hichens. One of the companies that the team talked to was U.S.-based sales outfit TriCoast Studios. It represented the film at the Cannes Marché du Film and signed a deal with Signature Entertainment for U.K. distribution. Signature subsequently advised the team to change the title from Two Pigeons to Freehold.
“They wanted us to be less ambiguous and off the wall. They were concerned it was a bit comedic. We discussed it for a long time – it was a hard decision, but we decided to agree with their advice,” Hichens says.
After a limited U.K. theatrical release, Freehold is currently on Sky Box Office and Amazon Prime.
Kasia Rosłaniec’s Satan Said Dance(Poland/Netherlands) is an energetic reflection on egotism and loneliness. It had its world premiere at the Festival International du Film Indépendant de Bordeaux, France, and its North American premiere in SXSW’s Global strand, where the director was nominated for the Gamechanger Award.
Since then, it has had a stellar festival run, including Crossing Europe Film Festival in Linz, Austria; Netia Off Camera Film Festival in Krakow, Poland, where Magdalena Berus won best actress; the Edinburgh International Film Festival in the U.K; Cinema Jove in Valencia, Spain; Gdynia Film Festival in Poland; Utrecht Film Festival in the Netherlands; Filmfest Hamburg in Germany, where it scored a jury special mention; the São Paulo International Film Festival in Brazil; the Geneva International Film Festival in Switzerland; Filmfestival Cottbus in Germany; and the Cork Film Festival in Ireland.
Kino Swiat is the film’s Polish distributor. “We had the deal before, but the fact that film was shown at SXSW was crucial for distribution potential,” says Ewelina Mazurkiewicz-Mąka, the film’s production manager. “We signed our Amazon release after SXSW. We received the proposal because the film was at SXSW, so it was very useful in that way.”
The team found the SXSW exposure rewarding. “Our SXSW experience was great. It was a great place to present our film,” says Mazurkiewicz-Mąka. “As a matter of fact, all festivals should be like this one, to combine different fields of art, especially in case of independent art.”
Feature debutant Samir Oliveros’ Bad Lucky Goat (Colombia), where incompatible sibling teens embark on a journey of reconciliation, had its world premiere in SXSW’s Global strand. It has been on an unstoppable festival journey since then, playing at 21 of them including London, Stockholm, Montreal, Mumbai, Philadelphia and Curaçao.
“So many other programmers from the world’s festivals keep an eye out on SXSW’s programming to see what’s coming out in independent cinema,” says Oliveros. “I’ve spoken to several programmers that said they started to track the film after its SXSW appearance.”
Thanks to its rapturous reception at SXSW, Amazon Prime snapped up VOD rights and Film Movement North American theatrical rights. The film is currently on a nine-city U.S. and Canadian release. Time-In-Portrait Entertainment has acquired China rights.
Oliveros describes his SXSW experience as “incredibly useful” and “overwhelmingly satisfying.” “It was my first festival experience, and it couldn’t have been better,” he says. “Cinema during the day, live music and parties by night … what more can you ask? The response to the film was amazing. We even got a buzz screening, because the cinemas kept filling up.”
Laurence Morais and Sebastien Landry’s Game of Death (Canada/France/U.S.), where seven millennials go on a killing spree, had its world premiere as part of SXSW’s Midnighter strand. The film is unusual in the sense that it was made under license from French production company Blackpills as a series and also edited together as a film.
Game of Death has travelled to more than 30 international festivals since. Highlights include the Fantaspoa International Fantastic Film Festival in Brazil, where it won best film, and its screenings to packed audiences in festivals as diverse as Sitges, Phoenix, Lisbon, Sydney and Strasbourg.
“Playing at SXSW was extremely useful and memorable. It triggered international interest and helped open doors to the filmmakers, leading to opportunities in the U.S. and abroad,” says co-writer and producer Philip Kalin-Hajdu. “The film and the filmmakers were given the chance to travel the world, and SXSW’s initial positive reaction to the film is what started it all. The SXSW experience was exciting, well planned and executed. We hope to get back with future films.”
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