Artscope, Paris-based Memento Film Intl.’s new talent label, has acquired international sales rights to “Girl Asleep,” the Australian rites-of-passage fantasy drama that opens Berlin’s 2016 Generation 14plus, one of the festival’s biggest sidebars.
The first feature of Rosemary Myers, the artistic director of Adelaide’s Windmill Theatre, comedy-laced “Girl Asleep” hits Berlin with a good buzz off its world premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival where its screenings were the fastest selling film in the festival’s 13-year-old history. “Girl Asleep” went on to win the AFF’s 2015 Foxtel Movies Audience Award.
Set in a vintage brown-and-yellow ‘70s Australia of flared trousers, laden timber décor and eye-popping colored wallpaper, “Girl Asleep” plumbs the contradictory, wrenching and often downright excruciating daily and fantasy life of near-15 Greta Driscoll, kicking off with her first day at a new school, befriended by the class nerd and picked upon by the school bitches. It segues to Greta’s 15th birthday, forced upon her by her embarrassing parents, where she falls asleep and is fling into a forest-set fantasy, which works through her fears, regrets and desires.
Bethany Whitmore, who plays Greta, made her film debut playing opposite Toni Collette, Anthony LaPaglia and Rebecca Gibney in P.J. Hogan’s “Mental.” She voiced Mary Daisy Dinkle in Sundance-selected “Mary and Max.”
“Greta starts off quite meek. She learns and decides through her journey that she’s going to be empowered and is going to run her life the way she wants to, and she finds the strength to find the things that are important to her. I love that message in the film,” Myers told Variety.
Based on an acclaimed Adelaide Theater stage-play written by actor Matthew Whittet (“The Great Gatsby”) who plays Greta’s insecure father, and which forms part of a trilogy of teenage rites-of-passage theater stories, “Girl Asleep” marks the feature film debut of not only Myers and Whittet as a writer but also production and costume designer Jonathan Oxlade and sound designer Luje Smiles, both of whom come from theater. Rising Australian cinematographer Andrew Commis, who lensed “The Rocket,” a Tribeca Fest 2013 best feature film winner, shot “Girl Asleep.”
A flamboyant mix of film and theater, with dance scenes and inter-credits – written on coffee-mugs, for instance – “Girl Asleep” influences range widely from film – Wes Anderson in its opening stretches of boys and girls in dinky uniforms and child men such as Greta’s father – to literature – “Alice and Wonderland” – and fairy tales such as Sleeping Beauty and paintings, such as the pierrots in woodland reverie landscapes of Post-Impressionist Henri Rousseau.
“There is so much crossover in the world now. The screen’s the art medium of our lifestyle. We’re steeped in its culture. Wes Anderson’s a big hero, and Michel Gondry. Their work is quite theatrical and very highly composed,” Myers told Variety.
But, she added: “There’s a lot of autobiographical content in ‘Girl Asleep.’ Matthew Whittet is into stories about friendship and often tells the loser’s story. A lot of artists can relate to that. We were the theater nerds at school, not the sporting jocks.”
“’Girl Asleep’ is a refreshing, witty and fun take on teenage years, definitely not your typical coming-of-age film. We were impressed by this bold exercise of mixing the codes of theatre, genre and teenage films into one crowd-pleasing art-house adventure,” said Artscope label manager Sata Cissokho.
“Girl Asleep” is produced by the Windmill Theatre and Jo Dyer (“Lucky Miles,” “The Boy Castaways”) at Australia’s Soft Tread Enterprises and distributed in Australia by Kojo.
“We are very proud to see ‘Girl Asleep’ joining Artscope’s prestigious catalogue. Making it was an exhilarating ride for us as it brought together artists from the worlds of both theatre and film,” Dyer said.
“Now, in the next stage of the film’s life, we look forward to enjoying the Artscope team’s great energy, humor and savvy as they work to take our story from Australia to an international audience.”
Recent Artscope acquisitions include Gabriel Mascaro’s “Neon Bull,” a Venice Horizons’ Special Jury Prize winner and the story of a motley crew of rodeo workers which paints a portrait of a fast-transforming Brazilian North-East still brimming, however, with strict social hierarchies as well as sex and sensuality.