Greek Oscar contender “Magnetic Fields” has closed a raft of deals as it ramps up its campaign in the best international feature race, with HBO Max acquiring distribution rights in Europe and Chinese arthouse distributor Hugoeast planning a theatrical release in the world’s second-largest market.
The HBO Max deal includes Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Moldova, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Bulgaria. Spanish streamer Filmin, meanwhile, has acquired all rights for Spain and Portugal.
Ioanna Stais, head of sales and acquisitions at Athens-based Heretic, which brokered the deals, said: “We couldn’t be more proud to see a film so close to our hearts reaching a wider audience. The film’s success in the Greek box office proved that viewers feel the warmth and the beauty of the film. It’s so exciting to see that ‘Magnetic Fields’ crosses borders and touches the heart of audiences worldwide.”
Established in 2016, arthouse specialist Hugoeast, which recently launched an international sales arm, has acquired more than 200 international titles for the Chinese market, including Cannes prize winners “Corsage,” by Marie Kreutzer, and “The Worst Ones,” from directing duo Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret. The company’s acquisitions head Hanyang Song praised “Magnetic Fields” as “an unpredictable, tender, romantic tale.”
The feature debut of graphic artist-turned-director Yorgos Goussis, “Magnetic Fields” has been a surprise, feel-good story in Greece, where it was released by Cinobo and had more than 27,000 admissions — a respectable figure for the local arthouse market.
After premiering last year at the Thessaloniki Intl. Film Festival, where it scooped six prizes, the film — a scrappy, low-budget road movie about a man and woman who forge an unlikely bond after meeting on a ferry — went on to sweep the country’s Academy Awards and beat out contenders such as big-budget historical drama “Smyrna” to earn the Oscar nod. Pic is produced by miniFILMS, Naked Eye Productions and Heretic.
“Magnetic Fields” follows Elena (Elena Topalidou), a solo traveler facing a life crisis who suddenly decides to change course on a whim. Boarding a ferry she meets Antonis (Antonis Tsiotsiopoulos), who’s traveling to an island cemetery to bury the metallic box holding his aunt’s bones. When Antonis’ car breaks down Elena offers him a ride, setting off a series of misadventures that brings the duo closer together, even as their lives seem determined to drift apart.
Speaking to Variety at the Thessaloniki Film Festival, Goussis called “Magnetic Fields’” unexpected success a “miracle” for “a film that no one knew existed” a year ago. He described its award-season run as a “David vs. Goliath” campaign against a field of high-profile contenders that includes Cannes darlings “Corsage” (Austria) and “Close” (Belgium), by Lukas Dhont, and Alice Diop’s Venice prize winner “Saint Omer” (France). “We have a very unique product,” Goussis said. “It’s very different from any other film in this Oscar campaign.”
It’s a success story the director couldn’t have imagined two years ago, when he set off with his two stars and six crew members on a road trip from Athens to the island of Kefalonia. Greece was locked down during a difficult pandemic winter, and Goussis — with little more than €6,000 ($6,000) and a Canon XM2 camcorder to work with — gave his guerilla filmmaking team 15 days to shoot the rough storyline he’d sketched out in Athens.
The actors improvised off his treatment, with the close-knit cast and crew building chemistry along the way. “We decided we’re going to have this adventure, and whatever we find on the road will be our movie,” Goussis said. It wasn’t until he returned to Athens and finished a rough cut that the director was convinced they’d even managed to put together a feature film.
The result struck a chord with Greek audiences, whose word-of-mouth buzz propelled the film to an extended theatrical run. For Goussis, that success has been validation for his small team’s labor of love.
“We found out something about ourselves in this adventure,” he said. “We were wondering if this feeling was going to be inside the film. And we understood from the people who watched it that there’s a…light, there’s happiness, there’s kindness.”
The Thessaloniki Intl. Film Festival runs Nov. 3 – 13.
Greek Oscar Contender ‘Magnetic Fields’ Attracts Buyers in Europe, China as Award-Season Run Ramps Up (EXCLUSIVE)