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Sundance: HBO Picks Up Syrian Civil War Documentary

The Sundance Film Festival doesn’t start for another month, but already the market for films is heating up.

HBO has acquired U.S. TV rights for “Cries From Syria,” a documentary about the Syrian civil war. The film is directed by Evgeny Afineevsky, who previously oversaw the Emmy and Oscar-nominated “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.” In recent days, other studios and companies have snapped up buzzy Sundance projects in advance of their premiere — Sony Pictures Classics picked up the gay love story “Call Me By Your Name” and A24 nabbed “Ghost Story” with Casey Affleck.

Cries From Syria” draws on footage from Syrian activists and citizen journalists. It follows the bloody aftermath of President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on public protests against his regime and the long civil war that followed. The conflict has led to the killing of hundreds of thousands of Syrians, as well as millions of displaced people and a refugee crisis that is gripping the Middle East and Europe.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it was negotiated by HBO with David Dinerstein, the film’s executive producer.

“This is an unabashed, unadulterated view of war,” says Sheila Nevins, president, HBO Documentary Films. “The brutality of man’s inhumanity to man is blatantly uncovered, exposing war as it is, not as it seems to be.”

“Cries From Syria” includes the original song “Prayers for this World,” written by Diane Warren, and recorded by Cher along with the West Los Angeles Children’s Choir.

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