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Sony Classics lands rights to Oscar contender The Notebook

Analysis

In a good portent for Hungary’s prospective Academy Award nominee “The Notebook,” representatives of distributor Sony Pictures Classics yesterday announced the company’s acquisition of the film’s North American rights.

Based on the 1986 French-language novel “Le Grand Cahier” by Hungarian author Ágota Kristóf, “The Notebook” was named the country’s official selection for consideration in the “Best Foreign Language Film” category at Hollywood’s 86th Academy Awards ceremony in February. According to the trade industry publication Variety, “The Notebook” has been shortlisted with eight others for one of the five slots on the Oscar ballot.

The film’s international premiere came at this summer’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in Prague, where “The Notebook” was awarded with the Crystal Globe for best film. In September, “The Notebook” premiered in North America as part of the 2013 Toronto Film Festival’s “Contemporary World Cinema” screenings, likely where the work first caught Sony Classics’ attention.

Sony Pictures Classics has been recently releasing around 15 independently-produced films annually, with an accent on movies made outside the U.S.; its most recent big box office success, however, was Woody Allen’s own Oscar-nominated film Midnight in Paris.

“The Notebook” is considered Hungary’s strongest contender for Academy Award nomination – and possibly even Oscar-winning – since director István Szábo’s 1980s heyday. Even an acknowledgement among Hollywood’s top five choices for foreign-language film would represent a major victory for the burgeoning Hungarian National Film Fund founded by former Hollywood producer Andrew Vajna.

“The Notebook” represents the first full-length feature film produced with Fund money; another 26 film projects have received some or all budget coverage from the Fund.

The movie described in Karlovy Vary PR as “A fascinating and hard-hitting adaptation of the controversial debut novel by Hungarian writer Ágota Kristóf about 13-year-old twins forced to spend the last years of the Second World War with their cruel grandmother somewhere near the Hungarian border. The term bewitching was never so apt as in the case of this new film…”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ list of five nominees in the “Best Foreign-Language Film” category will be announced on January 16.

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