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Magnolia Pictures Takes U.S. Rights on Cannes Prizewinner ‘Dogman’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Magnolia Pictures has acquired North American rights to Italian director Matteo Garrone’s gritty revenge drama “Dogman,” which won the best actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Dubbed an “urban Western,” the movie marks Garrone’s return to smaller-scale Italian-language filmmaking following his English-language fantasy “Tale of Tales.” “Dogman” is inspired by a murder committed by a dog groomer during the late 1980s in a gang-ridden area outside Rome. 

Newcomer Marcello Fonte, who plays the mild-mannered dog groomer caught up in spiraling violence with a bullying boxer, “gives an expert performance as a saintly scamp who ‘blooms’ into a butterfly of vengeance,” Variety critic Owen Gleiberman said in his review. Besides the acting nod for Fonte, “Dogman” also won Cannes’ unofficial Palm Dog award for its canine cast.

Several critics have pointed out similarities between Garrone’s hit 2008 Neapolitan mob drama “Gomorrah” and “Dogman” in terms of their criminal underworld theme and atmospherics. “Dogman” recently swept Italy’s Silver Ribbon prizes, which are awarded by the Italian film journalists’ union, and is currently considered a front-runner to become the country’s contender for the upcoming foreign-language film Oscar race. 

Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles praised Garrone in a statement for having “fashioned another extremely compelling crime tale, a great companion piece to his ‘Gomorrah,’” and noted that “Marcello Fonte richly deserved his Cannes acting award, as did the canine ensemble.” Magnolia is planning a 2019 U.S. theatrical release.

Garrone, who is currently preparing a “Pinocchio” adaptation, said he was looking forward to bringing “Dogman” to U.S. audiences. His Archimede Films banner produced “Dogman” with financing from RAI Cinema and Le Pacte, which will distribute in France. The producers are Garrone and Le Pacte chief Jean Labadie. HanWay, the company founded by British producer Jeremy Thomas, has U.K. rights. The film was widely pre-sold by RAI sales unit, RAI Com, before Cannes.

The U.S. deal was negotiated by Magnolia SVP of Acquisitions John Von Thaden, with media investment company 30West, Andrew Kramer and RAI Com.

Magnolia has been an active buyer at the Cannes market, where they picked up Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Palme d’Or winner “Shoplifters,” Iceland’s “Woman at War,” about an ecological activist, and Norwegian disaster film “The Quake.” The company’s recent releases include the Oscar-nominated “I Am Not Your Negro”  and last year’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner, “The Square.”

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