NZ company secures world representation of high profile documentaries
New Zealand based film sales agency Smiley World Sales has recently acquired the world representation rights to two high profile documentaries set in the East. Recently banned in Indonesia, Promised Paradise, directed by Leonard Retel Helmrich and produced by Scarabee Films, and The Blood of Yingzhou District (pictured), by noted Chinese-American director Ruby Yang and Academy Award nominated Producer Thomas Lennon.New Zealand based film sales agency Smiley World Sales has recently acquired the world representation rights to two high profile documentaries set in the East. Recently banned in Indonesia, Promised Paradise, directed by Leonard Retel Helmrich and produced by Scarabee Films, and The Blood of Yingzhou District (pictured), by noted Chinese-American director Ruby Yang and Academy Award nominated Producer Thomas Lennon.One of the Dutch highlights at this year's IDFA Promised Paradise is an expose of the intolerance and chaos that pervaded segments of Indonesia after the infamous 2002 Bali bombings. Promised Paradise made international news recently when its remaining screenings were banned at the Jakarta International Film Festival.
Smiley Managing Director, Ewa Bigio who was a guest of Holland Film to IDFA wasted no time in signing up Promised Paradise. "Promised Paradise is one of the most significant stories to have emerged from Asia that deals with the issue of strained East-West relationships post 9/11. It has been told from the perspective of a Muslim protagonist who also becomes the harshest critic of the terrorists and the individuals who carried out the bombings in the name of Jihad - stereotypes will tumble".
Helmrich is one of the Netherlands' most widely respected and acclaimed documentary film-makers, whose previous film, Shape of the Moon, won both the 2005 World Cinema Award at Sundance and the Joris Ivens award at IDFA in 2004. Troubadour and traditional Indonesian puppeteer Agus provide the dynamic linchpin for this high profile documentary. Controversy has stemmed from the use of footage from illegally circulated DVDs containing inflammatory statements made by one of the Bali bombers currently on deathrow, Imam Samudra. Helmrich's masterful intercutting of footage of Samudra discussing why he participated in the bombings offers the illusion of Agus conducting the interviews with Samudra, whilst in prison. In so doing, Helmrich has captured a provocative and contemporary picture of Indonesian society that walks the fine line between illusion and reality, life and art. The film will have its Australasian premiere at the Adelaide International Film Festival in February in conjunction with the Australasian Documentary film Conference; Australasia's largest annual gathering of documentary film-makers and buyers.
Smiley has also acquired the prestigious The Blood of Yingzhou District, by noted Chinese-American director Ruby Yang and Academy Award nominated Producer Thomas Lennon. The Blood of Yingzhou District was filmed in the rural Chinese village of Anhui. Following the fate of two AIDS orphans over a period of 14 months, the intimate yet cinematic sequences in The Blood of Yingzhou District were filmed by gifted Beijing cinematographer Qu Jiang Tao using mostly small handheld cameras. The film reveals how traditional obligations of kinship and village life collide over the terror of the disease, and how these forces ultimately influenced the fates and lives of the two orphans.
According to Ewa, The Blood of Yingzhou District is an intimate look at the implications of a deadly disease on a quiet and cloistered community. The artistic and emotional integrity of the production will allow viewers to absorb the impact of the story in clear and simple terms.
This documentary was the Silverdocs Grand Jury Award winner in Washington DC earlier this year. Since its appearance at the IDA screenings, where it was nominated for both the Best Short Documentary Award as well as the Para Lorentz award, along with other distinguished nominees such as An Inconvenient Truth and Black Gold, Smiley has been inundated with requests from festivals all around the world but has been selective about confirmations. The film has been acquired by HBO USA and will premiere in its 2007 season.
Smiley World Sales is an innovative sales agency that features a select and award winning catalogue of thought-provoking documentary films. Its Chinese Malaysian born founder Ewa Bigio is a former lawyer and sits on the board of directors of DOCNZ Festival, the largest and only dedicated documentary film festival in Australasia. Smiley's acquisitions policy is underpinned by Ewa's belief in the potent power of cinema as a catalyst for positive change.
Other diverse films represented include Mardi Gras: Made in China; A Sundance Grand Jury nominated film regarding globalisation; The Angelmakers, a documentary which has inspired a Hollywood dramatic makeover starring Helen Mirren and the Boston International Film Festival Special Recognition Award Winner Hand of God, a brave and honest portrait of an Italian Catholic family attempting to deal with the revelations of sexual abuse by the local clergy.