Of the ten up-and-coming European directors showcased in Variety’s Critics’ Choice selection at this year’s Karlovy Vary Film Festival, only one can claim to have already directed Jake Gyllenhaal in a slasher film of sorts. That’d be Britain’s Daniel Wolfe, already celebrated for his striking commercials and music videos — a blood-splashed, Gyllenhaal-starring promo for The Shoes’ “Time to Dance” among them — and now riding a wave of festival buzz for his debut feature “Catch Me Daddy.”
A luminously lensed, Yorkshire-set thriller on the subject of honor killing in the Muslim community, the film premiered in Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes, with Karlovy Vary its first follow-up fest; new to the circuit, the Cambridge-based Wolfe is still taking it all in. “Getting into Cannes was an amazing surprise,” he says. “We really couldn’t have got off to a better start. And then to get picked for Variety’s lineup right off the back of that was incredible. The only problem is I have no time to see other films.”
Wolfe’s first feature wasn’t, as he puts it, “predestined”: “A lot of ideas were floating about, but meeting Mike [Elliott, the film’s producer] was the catalyst for this one — he really knows the geography of the story, for starters.”
Elliott originally approached Wolfe with another writer’s script, but the director, who completed an M.A. in screenwriting from Royal Holloway University, was more keen on pitching his own idea, developed in collaboration with his brother and writing partner Matthew — a musician who also composed the film’s score under the name Matthew Watson. It’s an ongoing partnership that Wolfe emphasizes at every turn: The brothers even share an onscreen “a film by” citation.
“When I say we made the film, it’s difficult to find the exact credit,” he admits. “I direct the actors and he doesn’t, which I suppose is the difference. But in every other creative aspect, whether it’s locations or storyboarding or casting, he’s massively involved. I’d be apprehensive about claiming the film as my own.”
The brothers are currently developing a sophomore feature, once more based on an original screenplay of theirs, with Elliott again on board as producer. Wolfe is reluctant to divulge too many details at this early stage, but describes it as “a modern take on a Graham Greene kind of story,” revolving around a British expat “having a breakdown abroad amid the hedonism of modern China.”
Wolfe has U.S. projects he’s interested in exploring in the future, both on the big and small screen, but is happy to stay put for the present: “I feel privileged to be working with Film4 at the moment — they’ve been great allies on ‘Catch Me Daddy.’ Same goes for the British Film Institute and StudioCanal. We’re in a good place right now.”
StudioCanal will release “Catch Me Daddy” in the U.K., while the pic recently secured French distribution with Bodega Films.