Protagonist Pictures has come on board to handle worldwide sales on Cannes Directors’ Fortnight title “The Rider,” written and directed by Chloé Zhao, Protagonist CEO Mike Goodridge said Wednesday. This is Zhao’s second feature and second film selected for Directors’ Fortnight.
Based on the true story of Brady Jandreau, the film stars Jandreau along with Tim Jandreau, Lilly Jandreau, Lane Scott and Cat Clifford. While visiting the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota for her first feature, “Songs My Brothers Taught Me,” Zhao connected with a group of Lakota cowboys, including Brady, and wrote “The Rider” around his “tragic and ultimately universal story.”
“Once a rising star of the rodeo circuit, young cowboy Brady is warned that his competition days are over after a tragic riding accident. Back home, Brady finds himself wondering what he has to live for when he can no longer do what gives him a sense of purpose: to ride and compete,” according to a statement. “In an attempt to regain control of his fate, Brady undertakes a search for new identity and tries to redefine his idea of what it means to be a man in the heartland of America.”
“‘The Rider’ is a film of great beauty and poetry,” Goodridge said. “I was a huge admirer of Chloé’s first feature, ‘Songs My Brothers Taught Me,’ and her story of the young cowboy Brady is another indelible portrait of contemporary rural Americans. Brady — playing himself as Brady Blackburn — is magnetic on screen, and the soulfulness of his presence is unforgettable.”
The project was produced by Zhao’s Highwayman Films, Bert Hamelinck and Sacha Ben Harroche of Caviar Films, and Mollye Asher. Caviar’s Michael Sagol and Jasper Thomlinson serve as executive producers.
Protagonist, which will launch sales on the title in Cannes, is co-repping the U.S. rights with WME Global. “The Rider” is one of two projects selected for Directors’ Fortnight that Protagonist is handling; the second is “The Florida Project,” written and directed by Sean Baker, starring Willem Dafoe.
Chinese-born, British- and American-educated Zhao is a writer, director and producer. “Songs My Brothers Taught Me” premiered in U.S. Dramatic Competition at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, followed by its Directors’ Fortnight selection. The film was nominated for three 2016 Independent Spirit Awards.
Other titles on Protagonist’s slate include Clio Barnard’s “Dark River,” Richard Loncraine’s “Finding Your Feet,” and Amma Asante’s “Where Hands Touch,” all in post-production, and Pawel Pawilkowski’s “Cold War” and Kristoffer Nyholm’s “Keepers,” which are shooting.
Past Protagonist titles include Ben Wheatley’s “Free Fire,” Adam Smith’s “Trespass Against Us,” Charlie McDowell’s “The Discovery,” and William Oldroyd’s “Lady Macbeth.”