Swiss Berlin Encounters Thriller ‘Azor’ Sells Out Half the World for Be For Films (EXCLUSIVE)

Following on an initial sale to MUBI for U.S., U.K, Italy, Turkey and India, Brussels-based sales agency Be For Films has clinched its first tranche of sales to international distributors on Berlinale Encounters title “Azor,” the first feature from Swiss talent to track Andreas Fontana.

In new sales, Pamela Leu at Be For Films, part of the pan-European Playtime Group, has closed Spain (Vitrine Filmes), Portugal (Legendmain Filmes), Greece (Cinobo), CIS  (Capella Film), China (Huanxi Media Group), Brazil (Vitrine Filmes) and, just this week, Switzerland (Xenix Filmdistribution).

The news deals mean that “Azor” has sold more of less half of the 15 major territories in the world.

“Azor” is produced by Eugenia Mumenthaler and David Epiney from Alina Film and co-produced by France’s Local Films, Argentina’s Ruda Cine and Swiss public broadcaster RTS.

The deals also show “Azor” shaping up as one of the standout Swiss titles of the year and they mark another recent triumph for Switzerland-based Alina Film. The company co-produced Luis López Carrasco’s “El año del descubrimiento,” an exposé of the economic downside to Spain in 1992, which won best documentary at this month’s Spanish Academy Goya Awards.

Set in Buenos Aires in 1980, as Argentina’s brutal military Junta tightens its grip on power, “Azor” charts a Swiss family bank’s collusion with massive illicit capital flight from the country. It also asks if, in a battle to grow business, Switzerland’s most venerable banking institutions could have gone further, attempting to protect the interests of the Junta’s and its most murderous covert operations.

Those questions are wrapped in a suspense-thriller following Yvan De Weil (Fabrizio Rongione), a partner at Keys, Lamar and De Weil, a discreet, 200-year-old private bank in Geneva, whose clients take in some of the richest families in Argentina. Written by Fontana, with Mariano Llinás, a mentor to a new generation of Argentine cineastes such as Santiago Mitre, “Azor” tracks De Weil as he arrives in Buenos Aires with his wife Inés (Stéphanie Cléau) to shore up his bank’s client relations after René Keys, his reportedly flamboyant and far more personable Buenos Aires-based partner, disappears off the face of the earth.

De Weil is quite prepared to be part of the bank’s “transport” system of ferrying big bags of banknotes from Argentina for safekeeping at his bank as his clients are hit by the country’s seemingly endless inflation.

But he gets into Buenos Aires as his clients are reeling from shock as old money proves not enough to protect members of the ultra rich from being seized and murdered by the ruling military government. There are rumors too that Keys was knocking around with people whom a friend of De Weil’s describes as “veritable beasts”: Members of the Junta.

A character study of the ethical and even sartorial compromises which a man accepts to protect his own interests and those of his family, “Azor’s” sales roll off upbeat reviews at Berlin.

“The first thing one notices about ‘Azor’ is how real it feels: the entitlement, the encyclopedic knowledge of ‘good’ families, the multilingual fluency, the bonhomie of power,” Jay Weissberg write in a Variety review.

“Like the intelligent performances — both Rongione and Cléau are standouts — and the terrific art direction, the film’s design reinforces an exquisite, levelheaded decorum about to be smashed by a chillingly cruel monster,” he concludes.

More sales beckon.