Locarno: Beta Cinema Takes Piazza Grande Entry ‘What Doesn’t Kill Us’ From Sandra Nettelbeck (EXCLUSIVE)

‘Mostly Martha’ director focuses on just past midlife crisis life quandaries

Beta Cinema has exercised its first look rights option on “What Doesn’t Kill Us,” writer-director Sandra Nettelbeck’s return to German filmmaking and to the themes and even one character of the string of drama-comedies, particularly “Mostly Martha,” which founded her reputation.

With worldwide rights sold by Beta Cinema, “What Doesn’t Kills Us” will world premiere on Aug. 3 at Switzerland’s Locarno Festival, Europe’s biggest mid-Summer event, where it will play in the Piazza Grande, a showcase for the festival’s usually more audience-friendly fare.

To be released in German cinemas by Alamode, “What Doesn’t Kill Us” is an early production of  the Ludwigsburg/Berlin-based production house Sommerhaus Filmproduktion (“In the Aisles”), launched in 2015 with Beta’s Jan Mojto on board as a founding partner. Beta Cinema has a first look but no obligation to handle word sales rights on Sommerhaus titles.

Fore-fronting “Mostly Martha’s” character of psychotherapist Max in “What Doesn’t Kill Us,” the dramedy also returns to Nettelbeck’s sense of characters’ confronting larger life-phases, whether seven late-twenties friends asking if what they want is what they need (1996 debut “Loose Ends”), slowing down and re-prioritizing (“Mostly Martha”) or final romance (“Mr. Morgan’s Last Love”).

Tempered – mixing melancholy and cheer – “What Doesn’t Kill Us” has Max, divorced, with two teen daughters, a headstrong ex-wife, and a sad-looking new dog, falls for a patient, Sophie, a professional no-go.

But, what the hell. Max “has no choice but to stick to the old airplane rule: you must help yourself before you can help others,” as the synopsis puts it.

Beyond Zirner, Mark Waschke, Johanna ter Steege, Deborah Kaufmann, Barbara Auer and Christian Berkel comprise the film’s key cast.

Nettlelback’s sixth feature looks at “the highs and lows that can either save us or haunt us when we realize that the second half time is already well on its way,” Beta Cinema announced on Monday. “When we feel that we should have arrived by now,” it went on, “but are still navigating – and when we hopefully come to understand that it is never too late to gamble everything for love.”

“What Doesn’t Kill Us” “certainly feels like my most reflective, page-turning one to date. A declaration of love for life in the face of loss, a love letter to humor in the face of tragedy, and above all, a passionate pledge for hope,” Nettelbeck said in a statement.

“Because hope,” she went on, “is what keeps us alive, keeps us going, and hope will save us if we let it.”

Produced by Sommerhaus’ Jochen Laube and Fabian Maubach, “What Doesn’t Kill Us” was co-produced by German public broadcaster ZDF, Cine Plus and the Ruhrsoundstudios. The film was shot in Cologne and Wuppertal, among other places, and backed by support from film funds in North Rhine Westphalia, Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein, Baden-Württemberg, the German Federal Film Fund (DFFF) and its BKM allocation for art films.

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