HOLLYWOOD — Newmarket Films has acquired all North American rights to Niki Caro’s “Whale Rider,” which earned the AGF People’s Choice Award at the recent Toronto Intl. Film Festival.
Pic marks the fourth Toronto fest buy for the nascent Newmarket, which launched under Bob Berney last month.
Directed by Niki Caro, who adapted the script from Witi Ihimaera’s novel, “Whale Rider” is the modern-day tale of a young Maori girl (Keisha Castle-Hughes) who must convince her village elder grandfather that she is the new chief he seeks for the tribe.
Previous audience award winners out of Toronto include “Monsoon Wedding” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”
“Whale Rider” was repped by London-based sales company the Works. Newmarket’s Will Tyrer negotiated the deal with Works CEO Aline Perry and producer John Barnett.
Caro’s first feature, “Memory and Desire,” won the best film award at the 1999 New Zealand Film Awards.
“Whale Rider” was produced by Barnett for South Pacific Pictures, Frank Hubner for ApolloMedia, Tim Sanders and Pandora Film. Executive producers are Bill Gavin and Linda Goldstein Knowlton. Ihimaera also served as associate producer.
In Toronto, Newmarket also acquired Jonas Akerlund’s “Spun,” Susanne Bier’s “Open Hearts” and Lucas Moodysson’s “Lilya 4-ever.”
Newmarket will bow its first release, “Real Women Have Curves,” on Oct. 18.