U.S. catches Thai ‘Malady’ via Strand

Drama explores growing relationship between soldier, boy

NEW YORK — Strand Releasing has acquired U.S. rights to Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Tropical Malady,” which premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival and was awarded a special jury prize.

Set in the jungles of northeastern Thailand, the enigmatic drama explores the blossoming relationship between a soldier and a boy; a Thai legend about a powerful shaman able to transform himself into animals eventually comes into play.

Like the Thai director’s previous feature, “Blissfully Yours,” the new film divided audiences at Cannes, but it scored a passionate advocate in jury president Quentin Tarantino.

Strand has a strong history with gay-themed Asian cinema, releasing such titles as Hong Kong helmer Stanley Kwan’s “Lan Yu”; Zhang Yuan’s “East Palace, West Palace,” from mainland China; “Iron Ladies” and its sequel from Thailand; and Japanese director Ryosuke Hachiguchi’s “Hush.” Distrib recently acquired Taiwanese gay youth romance “Formula 17.”

“Tropical Malady” deal was negotiated by Charlotte Mickie for Paris-based sales agent Celluloid Dreams with Strand co-prexy Jon Gerrans. An early 2005 release is planned.

Strand also acquired upcoming French release “Who Killed Bambi?” in an earlier deal with Celluloid.

Strand recently pacted with Focus Features to jointly distribute Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s English-language debut, “It’s All About Love,” starring Joaquin Phoenix, Claire Danes and Sean Penn. An Oct. 22 release is set.