Local Release

(Variety) Horror Film ‘Smother’ Among PTI’s Diverse AFM Slate With Five Market Premieres (EXCLUSIVE)

By Leo Barraclough

Picture Tree Intl. has picked up the global sales rights to Austrian horror movie “Smother” by up-and-coming director Achmed Abdel-Salam. The Glitter and Doom production is tentatively set for a local theatrical release in early 2023.

After the sudden death of her estranged father, Michi, a young mother and former alcoholic, decides to stay in the inherited summer house for a few days with her small daughter Hanna, hoping to regain the motherly trust she lost.

During the first night, long repressed memories of her childhood overshadowed by her mother’s suicide start to haunt her. Trying to numb herself again with alcohol only drives her daughter Hanna further away and accelerates Michi’s paranoid state. When her demons also start to threaten her daughter, Michi must finally confront them to save her.

Picture Tree Intl.’s AFM slate features a variety of new international films, including a first visual pitch promo of “A Whole Life” by Hans Steinbichler (“The Diary of Anne Frank,” Sky TV series “Das Boot”), based on the best-selling novel by Robert Seethaler, and adapted for the screen by Ulrich Limmer, whose credits include Oscar nominee “Schtonk.”

The story of one humble man’s journey over eight decades of the last century marked by poverty, war and violence, and a few moments of love, first published in 2014, has been translated into more than 40 languages and is produced by Austria’s Epo-Film in co-production with Germany’s Tobis Film, which will also distribute the film locally in fall 2023.

Another highlight is the historical biopic “Alma & Oskar” by Dieter Berner (“Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden”), starring Emily Cox (“The Last Kingdom”), which explores the turbulent relationship between the Viennese society grand dame Alma Mahler, and the expressionist artist and enfant terrible Oskar Kokoschka. “Alma & Oskar” is co-produced by Film AG, (Austria), Wüste Film (Germany), Turnus Film (Switzerland), and Dawson Films (Czech Republic).

PTI is also presenting “The Chambermaid” by acclaimed writer-director Mariana Čengel Solčanská. The period drama, produced by Bright Sight Pictures in Slovakia, and Cinemart TV Prague in Czech Republic, captures a period of social and political disruption around World War I and the collapse of the Austria-Hungary empire in Eastern Europe. Ushering in a new era, these changes are paralleled by an unconventional love story of two girls born in the same year but into two different social worlds. “The Chambermaid” is anticipated for a festival premiere this fall and for domestic release in early 2023.

Also premiering in the market will be Iranian genre crossover “Without Her,” about a woman’s illusion of individual choice and the pressures to adapt or be replaced by the forces that choose for you. Directed by Arian Vazirdaftari, “Without Her” premiered at the Venice and Toronto film festivals, and is produced by Houman Seyedi of Fadak Films, who directed this year’s Iranian Oscar contender “World War III.”

Another market premiere is the Canadian feature “This Place” from Hometeam Films and Mutuals Pictures, featuring up-and-coming star Devery Jacobs, who was in the cast of “The Residents,” and is confirmed for Marvel’s upcoming film “Echo.”

“This Place” celebrated its festival world premiere in Toronto, and tells the story of two young women falling in love and both living in the liminal space between cultures, displaced both at home and abroad. “’This Place’ is a queer love story that goes beyond the palpable chemistry of its lead characters,” said the Toronto Star.

Also on PTI’s slate is the Constantin Film produced crime-comedy feature series “Bavarian Rhapsody,” with the eighth episode, “Guglhupf Squadron,” being on German release with almost 1.4 million theatrical admissions, and an overall local box office of more than $50 million.

Three other banner titles to be shown to buyers are “Schächten” by Thomas Roth, a film portraying the struggles of the post-war generation to obtain justice for Holocaust crimes, “A Stasi Comedy,” the third feature of Leander Haussmann’s GDR-themed trilogy about the infamous Eastern German secret police, and Jordan’s Oscar entry and Toronto world premiere “Farha” by writer-director Darin J. Sallam, a film inspired by true events telling the story of a 14-year-old girl in Palestine in 1948, locked in a storage space for her own protection, who witnesses catastrophic live-changing events through a hole in her shelter.


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