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Toronto: Neon Lands Documentary ‘The Biggest Little Farm’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Neon has harvested John Chester’s crowd-pleasing critical hit “The Biggest Little Farm,” a documentary feature following the director and his wife, Molly, as they attempt to develop a sustainable farm by reawakening the ecosystem on 200 acres just an hour north of Los Angeles.

After what some close to the film described as “insane competition” — with seller UTA Independent Film Group fielding multiple offers from studios, mini-majors, and streamers shortly after the film’s world premiere at Telluride — the $2-million deal for North America was reached last night at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the film had its international premiere Friday.

Finding a strong domestic theatrical partner for the film, which Variety’s Peter Debruge dubbed “fresh air for the soul,” was the filmmakers’ goal. Neon plans a major U.S. theatrical release in 2019, screenings at major festivals, and a robust marketing campaign and P&A support.

“Making this film has been an eight-year labor of love, and it was very important for us to find a theatrical partner that believed in it as much as we do,” said director John Chester, a veteran TV doc cinematographer. “Neon is approaching the distribution of this film with the same innovative and bold vision with which we built the farm. We could not be more excited to partner with them to share our film with the world.”

Neon’s Tom Quinn was behind the release of breakout docs such as Oscar-winners “Man on Wire” while at Magnolia and “Twenty Feet From Stardom” and “Citizenfour” while at Radius, and, since joining Neon, the $12-million grossing “Three Identical Strangers.”

“Biggest Little Farm” chronicles eight years of daunting work and outsized idealism as John and Molly Chester attempt to create the utopia they seek, planting 10,000 orchard trees, over 200 different crops, and bringing in animals of every kind. The pair’s attempt to create perfect harmony takes a series of wild turns but they come to realize that to survive they will have to reach a deeper understanding of the intricacies of nature and life.

The film was directed, produced, and written by Chester, who co-wrote it with Mark Monroe (“Icarus”)’ produced by FarmLore Films and Sandra Keats (“Eating Animals”). The executive producers are Laurie David (“An Inconvenient Truth”) and Erica Messer. Amy Overbeck edited the film, with Jeff Beal writing the original score.

The domestic deal was negotiated by Neon with UTA Independent Film Group on behalf of the filmmakers. Neon has been very active at this year’s Toronto, buying “Vox Lux” and “Wild Rose,” two buzzy dramas that premiered to strong reviews.

VARIETY PORTRAIT STUDIO AT TIFF

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