Marking its first international co-production, Loic Magneron’s Paris-based Wide Management has boarded the Georgian prison-rugby drama “Negative Numbers,” signing on to co-produce with Brett Walker and Miguel Govea of Tbilisi-based Alief LLC and David Isakadze at Tbilisi’s Magnet Studio.
Wide will also serve as the sales agent on “Negative Numbers.” When it is completed, Magneron aims to put it through Eye on Films (EoF), the festival and distribution-support program for first and second features, backed by the E.U.’s Media Mundus program.
The first feature from Georgian screenwriter-director Uta Beria, “Negative Numbers” is set in Georgia in the early years of the last decade, when an economic crisis pushed many of the country’s out-of-work young into petty crime, which saw them ending up in juvenile detention centers.
“Negative Numbers” is based on the true story of a juvenile detention center in Tbilisi where two ex-professional rugby players took up the challenge to help these young offenders by bringing rugby into the center. While training the young inmates, they wrote down their stories, which inspired the film.
In the film, Nica, the teen authority among his fellow inmates, having taken the rap for a crime committed by his older brother, is instructed by his sibling to organize a riot at the detention center. This would destroy the chances of the inmates playing their first rugby match, which could lead to more games outside the center. Nica hesitates between loyalty to his brother and rugby, which offers the young inmates some form of self-respect and, through it, rehabilitation.
“Dignity and respect are among the most important concepts in rugby, which comes into conflict with the system operating among the inmates, based on oppression and hate,” Beria has said.
“Negative Numbers” is scheduled to go into production from late summer, shooting at the old Tbilisi state prison, said Walker, who now lives in Tbilisi.
“Negative Numbers” has received financial support from the Georgian National Film Center, a driving force behind the development of Georgian cinema this decade, as well as technical guidance from the Georgian Rugby Union.
Magneron said he had been attracted by the story and by writer-director Beria, “a real auteur with an arthouse film which has key elements that will offer strong marketing angles.”
Magneron added that Georgia is “not a very-well known country but has a really strong culture and cinema history.”
The Wide Management founder has previously backed, mainly by equity investment, documentary films by his father, Jean-Luc Magneron, who has had “Mai 68,” and “Mumbo Jumbo” at Cannes. Magneron also produced Jacky Katu’s feature film “4.48”; Wide is currently producing his new film, “Crazy in Love,” and is the rights holder on Jafar Panahi’s “This Is Not a Film.”
But “this is my first real, classic co-production,” said Magneron.
Acquired by sales company Jinga in a deal announced at December’s Ventana Sur, Alief’s genre auteur horror feature “Our Evil,” from Brazilian director Samuel Galli, screened at this year’s European Film Market in Berlin.