Cannes: Haut et Court Takes ‘Mediterranea’ for France (EXCLUSIVE)

Carpignano’s debut expands on his 2014 Critics’ Week winning short ‘A Chiana’

CANNES — In a first sale that speaks well of the title’s sales potential, France’s Haut et Court, producer of Cannes Palme d’Or winner “The Class,” has closed French distribution rights on Jonas Carpignano’s buzzed-up Cannes Critics’ Week player “Mediterranea.”

“Mediterranea’s” German producer, DCM, will distribute in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Sold by Paris and Mexico City-based NDM, “Mediterranea” is the feature debut of Carpignano, a filmmaker based out of Rome and New York who won Cannes Critics’ Week main prize with his short “A Ciambra.” The film is produced, among many others, by U.S. director-producer Chris Columbus. After Carpignano worked on Benh Zeitlin’s Sundance sensation “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Mediterranea” was developed out of Zeitlin’s company Court 12, and Zeitlin came on board to compose the film’s music with Dan Romer.

An expansion of Carpignano’s short “A Chiana,” “Mediterranea” tracks two friends from their native Burkina Faso to Italy. They experience culture shock and disappointment upon arriving in Italy; one assimilates, while the other does not; and violence suddenly flares against the migrants, who have starkly contrasting fates.

“Mediterranea” stars Koudous Seihon and Alassane Sy.

Distances apart, current migration shares certain similarities with the early 20th century emigration of Italians from Sicily and Calabria to America, Carpignano observed. He described “a strong element of subjective desire that was circulated and cultivated by the existing communication infrastructure.” In the case of today’s African emigrants, that involves social media and Facebook in particular, said Carpignano.

To finance the film, Carpignano spread the net wide, he said. Adizen and others took some kind of production responsibility: Jon Coplon, Gwyn Sannia, Jason Michael Berman, Chris Columbus, Christoph Daniel, Andrew Kortschak, John Lesher, Ryan Lough, Justin Nappi, Alain Peyrollaz, Marc Schmidheiny, Victor Shapiro and Ryan Zacarias.

Carpignano worked with rising key crew such as cinematographer Wyatt Garfield, who worked on four Sundance films, and Affonso Goncalves, editor of “Beasts” and “Winter’s Bone.”

“Despite its dramatic subject, ‘Mediterranea’ portrays unusual characters with sensibility, empathy and realism. The result is a vivid and extremely contemporary depiction of what Europe is today, besides frontiers and cultural boundaries,” said Haut et Court’s Carole Scotta.

An Italy-France-U.S.-Germany-Qatar co-production, “Mediterranea” reps another move into non-Mexican movies for NDM, and another bet on a young talent.

“We are always looking to work with promising young directors such as Jonas; Gabriel Ripstein, who won best first feature at the Berlinale for ‘600 Miles’; and Ole Giaever, whose ‘Out of Nature’ also screened at Berlin,” said NDM’s Fiorella Moretti. “But we also work with established auteurs such as Sharunas Bartas, whose latest film, ‘Peace to Us in Our Dreams,’ is showing in Directors’ Fortnight.”

As a producer, Haut et Court’s credits include Cannes Palme d’Or winner “The Class,” and Canal Plus original TV series “Les Revenants,” one of the bestselling French TV series ever, remade as “The Returned,” which bowed on the Sundance Channel in October 2013, and whose original series won that year’s drama series Intl. Emmy.

At Cannes this year, Haut et Court has Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Lobster” in competition and two films in Un Certain Regard, Naomi Kawase’s opener “An” and Yared Zeleke’s “Lamb.”

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