Ari Folman Set to Direct ‘The Horse Boy’ With Lea Seydoux, Joel Kinnaman (EXCLUSIVE)

Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman, whose 2008 “Waltz With Bashir” nabbed a foreign-language Oscar nom, is set to write and direct “The Horse Boy,” an English-language feature based on Rupert Isaacson’s New York Times bestseller that will topline current Cannes jury member Léa Seydoux and Joel Kinnaman.

Gaumont has come on board to co-produce, take international sales and handle French distribution on the ambitious film, one of the hottest titles being pitched at Cannes. Gaumont and Endeavor Content are co-repping U.S rights.

Folman’s first full-on live-action movie, “The Horse Boy” is being produced by Didar Domehri — whose “Girls of the Sun” is competing at Cannes — Laurent Baudens and Gael Nouaille at Full House, the joint label of French banners Maneki Films and Borsalino Prods. Diana Elbaum at Belgium’s Beluga Tree is also producing.

The film follows the journey of Emily and Jonathan’s son, Noah, an autistic child who rarely talks and isn’t improving despite his parents’ efforts to connect with him. When Jonathan notices that Noah is more peaceful and seems more able to communicate while riding horses, he sets off to take his family for a ride through the Mongolian plains to meet shamans in order to cure his son.

“‘Horse Boy’ is a passion project for Folman, who said he felt compelled to explore this important story in a cinematic way. “‘Horse Boy’ is a love story about a man and a woman who, against all odds are willing to take the biggest possible risk, not only to rescue their son, but to rescue their love for each other, their memories of the bond they used to share,” said Folman, who added that Mongolia will be portrayed in a unique way in the film.

Gaumont, France 2 Cinéma, Zentropa Sweden, Israel’s Pie Films, Belgium’s Proximus and Monte Rosso Production are co-producing, in association with Film i Vast and the Swedish Film Institute. Film i Vast will host a big press lunch to present “Horse Boy” on Saturday.

The movie has been pre-bought by Canal Plus and Cine Plus and is backed by Creative Europe’s Media Program, Caviar Film Financing and the Tax Shelter of the Federal Belgium Government, Screen.brussels and the Federation Wallonia Brussels.

“The Horse Boy” will start shooting in October in Sweden, the U.K. and Mongolia.

The film is lensed by Michal Englert, who worked with Folman on his previous film, “The Congress,” with Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel and Jon Hamm.

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