'Blindness' gains Focus for int'l sales

By Gregg Kilday
Focus Features is boarding director Fernando Meirelles' next film, "Blindness." Focus Features International announced Tuesday that it will handle international sales on the film. Focus also is expected to serve as the film's domestic distributor, though the company would not comment on that possibility.

Focus International, headed by London-based Alison Thompson, handled international sales for Meirelles' latest film, "The Constant Gardener," which Focus released in North America. That film grossed more than $85 million in its worldwide release and won Rachel Weisz an Academy Award for best supporting actress.

"Blindness," adapted by Don McKellar from the novel by Jose Saramago, is a dramatic thriller about a sudden outbreak of blindness that envelops a city. An accelerated government quarantine spurs a small group of people to fight back.

Niv Fichman of Toronto's Rhombus Media, Sonoko Sakai of Tokyo's Bee Vine Pictures and Andrea Barata Ribeiro of Sao Paulo, Brazil's O2 Filmes will produce. London-based Potboiler Prods. principals Simon Channing Williams and Gail Egan will executive produce. Bel Berlinck of O2 Filmes will co-produce. Production is to begin next summer in Brazil and Canada.

Potboiler also served as a producer of "Gardener." Meirelles and Ribeiro's O2 Filmes recently signed a three-year first-look deal with Universal Pictures and Focus to produce films by Brazilian directors. Rhombus developed the screenplay for "Blindness" and, along with Bee Vine, produced the upcoming feature "Silk," directed by Francois Girard and starring Michael Pitt and Keira Knightley.

Meirelles said, "Having gotten to know Alison and her formidable team so well already, I am confident that they will work hard on behalf of 'Blindness' from now through our global release in 2008."

Focus International also is currently handling the overseas sales and distribution of such titles as David Cronenberg's "Eastern Promises"; Peter Hedges' "Dan in Real Life"; Michel Gondry's "Be Kind Rewind"; Zhang Yimou's "Curse of the Golden Flower"; Robert Ben Garant's "Balls of Fury"; Sean Penn's "Into the Wild"; producer Michael Bay's remake of "The Hitcher"; Bryan Bertino's "Strangers"; Pedro Almodovar's "Volver"; Justin Chadwick's "The Other Boleyn Girl"; Shane Acker's "9"; Lajos Koltai's "Evening"; and "Lust, Caution," the new film from Ang Lee.