under-the-shadow
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

As the Sundance Film Festival kicks off on Thursday afternoon, Netflix has acquired another high-profile project, nabbing worldwide streaming rights to the Iranian horror movie “Under the Shadow,” Variety has learned.

The movie, which premieres on Friday night as part of the “Midnight” section, is among this year’s most buzzed about indies at Sundance, drawing comparisons to the 2014 hit “The Babadook.” Set in 1988 Iran, during the bloodshed of the Iran-Iraq War, Shideh (Narges Rashidi) and her daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) start to believe their family home is haunted by “djinn”—evil spirits that are trying to steal their most prized belongings, including a treasured cloth doll.

“Under the Shadow” is written and directed by first-time filmmaker Babak Anvari, who is poised to be one of the big discoveries out of Sundance. It is in Farsi. The movie will debut globally on Netflix later this year, shortly after a theatrical or alternative-platform release. (The film’s theatrical rights have yet to be announced.)

The movie is produced by Lucan Toh, Oliver Roskill and Emily Leo of Wigwam Films.

Although talent and buyers are just arriving to Park City, Utah, Netflix has already been very active with Sundance titles, scooping up “Tallulah” (a comedy starring Ellen Page and Allison Janney) and “Fundamentals of Caring” (headlined by Paul Rudd). Netflix is making an aggressive play in the original movie business, which started with the release of its inaugural drama “Beasts of No Nation” last fall and continued with Adam Sandler’s “The Ridiculous 6” last month. Future projects include “War Machine” with Brad Pitt, a sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and “Pee Wee’s Big Holiday,” which revives Paul Reubens’ Pee Wee Herman character.

“Under the Shadow” will premiere at Sundance on Friday at 11:59 p.m. at the Egyptian Theatre, followed by two showings on Saturday (noon at Library Center Theatre and 11:59 p.m. at Tower Theatre in Salt Lake City). XYZ Films is selling the rights to the film and brokered the deal on behalf of the filmmakers.

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