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Toronto 2010: Buyers line up to enter Werner Herzog's 'Cave'

September 15, 2010 |  2:27 am


EXCLUSIVE: A quiet Toronto sales landscape received a jolt and a noise Tuesday night as buyers assembled to bid on "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," the Werner Herzog 3-D documentary that's galvanizing pretty much every indie in town.

IFC Films is the lead and likely buyer for the visual feat that is Herzog's "Cave." As of the post-midnight hour, several other distributors were also still in the mix, according to sources: Roadside Attractions, Samuel Goldwyn Films, Magnolia Pictures and Sony Pictures Classics. All were said to be interested in the film and lining up to make their case at Toronto's Fairmont Royal York hotel.

Representing rights to the picture is Submarine Entertainment, the indie boutique previously known for handling doc breakouts such as "Spellbound." Those interested in "Cave" see this movie holding similar crossover potential.

The frenzy over the film, which in the last few days has screened to press and the public, signals a departure from the recent festival climate, in which deals have been worked out quietly over days or even weeks with little fanfare.

"Cave" has been a lightning rod for attention in part because of the visual images on offer and in part because of the bona fides of its director. In the last decade, Herzog has been behind documentaries such as "Grizzly Man," which caught the media's attention and grossed more than $3 million in the U.S., as well as conversation-pieces-turned-cult-favorites such as "Bad Lieutenant."

The movie tells the story of France's Chauvet Cave, which, through the art on its walls, depicts the life of those who lived there more than 30,000 years ago. It's described as the oldest known pictorial creations of humankind. Herzog gained unique access to the space and then portrayed, in 3-D, the multilayered images contained within. He also narrates the film in a tone that reflects his trademark mix of all-knowing outside and earnest philosophical inquirer.

Writing earlier in the week about Herzog's exploration, my colleague Patrick Goldstein noted that cave images seem strikingly contemporary even as they offer a glimpse into a long-forgotten world. "The cave drawings, made largely with charcoal and some ochre, are sleek, supple and surprisingly modern," he wrote after watching footage of the new film. "The drawings of bison hug the contours of the cave, a bulge in the rock serving as the animal's hump. Woolly mammoths are depicted in eight different phases, as if they were frames in an animated film."

Elsewhere at Toronto,  a group of indie films continues to attract attention and looks likely to land deals over the coming days. "Beginners," the story of a man who simultaneously discovers that his father has cancer and has taken a young male lover, has attracted as interest, as has James Wan's evil-spirits chiller "Insidious."

Also drawing distributors is the mordantly witty British coming-of-age movie "Submarine" and Michael Winterbottom's comedic distillation of the U.K. television series "The Trip."

The Weinstein Co. is said to be keenly interested in acquiring at least one more title. Don't be surprised, too, if IFC, Magnolia and Sony Pictures Classics -- and perhaps even Fox Searchlight -- walk away with an acquisition as well. Toronto, you seem quiet, but your voice is loud.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Documentarian Werner Herzog, right, in "Caves of Forgotten Dreams." Credit: Werner Herzog Filmproduktion

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