Karim Ainouz
Courtesy of Gullane

Tokyo-set love story-action thriller unveilded at Berlin.

Brazil’s Karim Aïnouz, whose “Futuro Beach” competed at 2014’s Berlin, will make his English-language debut and first action film with “Neon River,” a love-story-come-thriller set in Tokyo’s underworld and produced by Gullane, whose credits include “The Second Mother,” which won Berlin’s Panorama Audience Award and Sundance’s World Cinema best actress award in 2015.

Budget will come in as high as $5 million-$10 million, said producer Fabiano Gullane – way above Brazil’s average. Adapted by Aïnouz and the U.K. writer Toby Finlay, from Marco Lacerda’s “Favela High-Tech,” “Neon River” marks another celebrated Latin American auteur’s move towards the mainstream.

It narrates in a near-future Tokyo the wild love affair between Dirka, a Japanese-Brazilian girl who works as a nightclub hostess to pay for her ailing Japanese father’s debts, and Vadim, a young Russian drug delivery driver. Dirka yearns to return to the vaguely remembered Brazil of her youth. Vadim is sunk by remorse at having got his brother killed back in Russia.

Now at second-draft screenplay, said Aïnouz, and an adventure film set mostly at night, “pulsating with sexual tension,” “Neon River” is scheduled to shoot first half 2017, per Gullane.

“Neon River” also turns on “ a crucial question of our time – displacement, the so-called children of the 4th World: Daughters and sons of first generation immigrants who dream of their motherland but are drowned in their new country,” Aïnouz observed.

Movie also marks another example of auteur genre. “I’m very interested in genre codes, resonating with a young generation: Film is after all, pop culture,” he added.

How to make something which is original and yet accessible is “a real issue for me,” Ainouz said.

In Brazil, “We that don’t come from an action cinema tradition,” said Ainouz. His challenge was “to embrace genre and create something which is singular and not a copy of a traditionally-made action film.”

A matching company at Berlin’s co-production market, Gullane produced Venice closer “Amazon,” Annecy Animation Fest winner “Rio 2096,” “Narcos” director Fernando Coimbra’s standout debut “A Wolf at the Door,” and Brazilian cinema’s biggest domestic hits in 2012, 2014 and 2015, all installments in “Till Luck Do Us Part” movie franchise.

With movies such as “The Second Mother,” Gullane is targeting not only Brazil but the global theatrical market. “Neon River” is “definitely one of the most ambitious projects of this new phase of Gullane,” said Fabiano Gullane.

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