The American Film Market (AFM) got underway in Santa Monica, California yesterday with a small flurry of activity. As our own Eric D. Snider explained last month, AFM "is designed to be a place for film makers and film buyers to come together. Movies are sold, and deals are made for production of new films, too." I've attended AFM a couple of times in the past and I'd describe it as a madhouse of controlled chaos, with hotel suites converted into trade show booths and reams of printed material (posters, flyers and postcards) vying for attention.

Even though it's called the American Film Market and many domestic deals are made, the emphasis is really on international territories. For example, here are three deals making news on ScreenDaily.com, the online arm of UK trade publication Screen International: (1) The Weinstein Co. "closes major AFM pre-sales on Richard Kelly's The Box," with deals covering the UK, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea; (2) Andrew Lau (Infernal Affairs) "to produce trilogy based on Chinese classic" Water Margin, "with directing duties split between Lau and Johnnie To [Election]"; (3) "Korean distributor Showbox has acquired Andrei Konchalovsky's Nutcracker: The True Story."

But AFM wouldn't be AFM if it didn't offer, shall we say, more mainstream movies alongside the foreign and arthouse flicks. What can one make of indie comedy Heavy Petting, whose plot is described in the online AFM catalogue thusly: "When Charlie meets Daphne he never expects he'll have to battle past her dog to woo her. When Charlie begins to fall in love with the dog, he scrambles to keep the relationship going." Wait a minute: he falls in love with the dog?! The film stars Malin Akerman (The Heartbreak Kid). Is Heavy Petting a hidden gem? Or headed straight to video? (Watch the trailer at the official site and decide for yourself.) Look for more coverage from Cinematical on the wild, wacky and completely essential AFM in the next few days.