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Film Movement Lands U.S. Rights to Satirical Film ‘I Am Not a Witch’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Film Movement has acquired U.S. rights to Rungano Nyoni’s satiric feature-film debut “I Am Not a Witch,” Variety has learned exclusively.

I Am Not a Witch” screened at the Cannes Film Festival in the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar and was nominated for a Caméra d’Or award at Cannes. It’s also up for a 2018 Independent Spirit Award for best international film.

Film Movement will open the movie later this year, with digital and home entertainment releases to follow. The deal was brokered by Michael E. Rosenberg, president of Film Movement, and Grégoire Melin, president of Kinology.

The story centers on an eight-year-old named Shula who turns up alone and unannounced in a rural village, where a minor incident escalates to a full-blown witch trial, where she is found guilty and sentenced to life on a state-run witch camp, told that if she ever tries to run away, she will be transformed into a goat. She is soon forced to make a difficult decision — whether to resign herself to life on the camp, or take a risk for freedom.

Jessica Kiang wrote in her review for Variety, “Perhaps more beautiful and strange than wholly satisfying, it’s nonetheless easy to see why Rungano Nyoni’s debut film arrives in the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar of Cannes, trailing ribbons of new-discovery buzz. A defiantly uncategorizable mix of superstition, satire, and social anthropology, it tells the story of a small Zambian girl who is denounced as a witch and exiled to a witch camp, where she is alternately exploited and embraced.”

Nyoni is a Zambian-born Welsh woman, who was inspired to tell this story following a research trip to a witch camp in Ghana. The movie won best film at the 2017 Adelaide Film Festival and best directorial debut at the Stockholm Film Festival.

“Rungano Nyoni is a unique and vastly talented new storyteller,” Rosenberg said. “We’re excited to be able to share her cinematic vision with U.S. audiences, as it also comes at a powerful time for our culture, when, at long last, women’s voices and stories are playing an ever larger part both behind and in front of the camera.”

The production companies are Clandestine Films and Soda Pictures in co-production with Unafilm. The producers are Juliette Grandmont and Emily Morgan, with Eve Gabereau, Mary Burke, Hannah Thomas, and Eva Yates executive producing.

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