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Cannes Standout ‘Happy as Lazzaro’ Inks Major Global Sales (EXCLUSIVE)

Happy as Lazzaro,” a prizewinner at the Cannes Film Festival, has sold widely around the world, including to China, the U.K., Germany and Spain, following Netflix’s previously announced acquisition of North and Latin American rights.

German sales company The Match Factory has closed deals for more than 20 territories for the time-bending fable about Italy’s transition from a rural society to modernity. The film, directed by Alice Rohrwacher, was a standout in Cannes’ official competition lineup and won the best screenplay award for Rohrwacher (in a tie with Iran’s Nader Saeivar for “3 Faces”).

Set in a pastoral village dominated by a tyrannical tobacco magnate, the fact-inspired story is centered on a meeting between Lazzaro, a young peasant so good he is often mistaken for being simple-minded, and Tancredi, a young nobleman cursed by his imagination. A bond is sealed when Tancredi asks Lazzaro to help him orchestrate his own kidnapping.

Variety critic Guy Lodge called the film a “tale of a rural innocent defying life’s certainties to bear witness to two separate eras of social and economic exploitation” and praised it as “a slow but bewitching burn that rewards viewers’ patience with humor and uncanny grace.” Lodge said “Lazzaro” sealed Rohrwacher’s status “as a truly distinctive European major,” following her 2014 Cannes Grand Prix winner “The Wonders.”

“Lazzaro” has been licensed for theatrical release in China (iQiyi); the U.K. (Modern Film); Germany (PIFFL); Spain (Vertigo); Russia (Mauris); the Middle East and North Africa (Moving Turtle); Australia (Palace); Turkey (Filmarti); Israel (United King); Sandinavia (Folkets Bio); and the Benelux countries (Cinemien), among other territories.

Producer Carlo Cresto-Dina said he was particularly pleased about the deal with China, where “the arthouse market is growing,” and the sale to U.K. distributor Modern Times, a new company founded by former Soda Pictures chief Eve Gabereau that specializes in “films by women that are socially committed.” 

“Lazzaro” was one of only three titles by a female filmmaker out of the 21 Cannes competition titles.

Carlo Cresto-Dina said he would work with Netflix to try to secure a theatrical release in the U.S., since “this is a movie that was made to be seen in movie theaters.”

In its first theatrical outing, “Lazzaro” is being released in Italy on Wednesday by Rai Cinema’s 01 distribution on about 120 screens.

Happy as Lazzaro” is an Italy-Switzerland-France-German production. It’s a Tempesta production with Rai Cinema in co-production with Amka Films Prods., Ad Vitam Production, KNM, Pola Pandora, RSI Radiotelevisione Svizzera, ARTE France Cinéma, and ZDF/ARTE.

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