Naomi Watts and “It” star Sophia Lillis, who appears in the forthcoming “Sharp Objects” and “Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase,” will head the cast of Claire McCarthy’s movie “Burning Season,” with London-based HanWay Films on board as sales agent. Watts, who recently starred in McCarthy’s “Ophelia,” will also executive produce. HanWay will introduce the project to buyers at the Cannes Film Festival.
Adapted for the screen by writer/producer Jenny Halper, based on Laura Van Den Berg’s short story “What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us,” the film sets a complicated mother-daughter relationship against the dramatic landscape of Madagascar, an island where nearly all the species are indigenous, and many are endangered.
The film centers on primatologist June Engle, played by Watts, who has returned to a drought-stricken region of Madagascar in search of endangered species. Dragged along for the adventure are teenage daughter Celia (Lillis) and a handsome local researcher, Kiady. June is headstrong and passionate as a scientist but is far from a perfect mother. Left to herself, Celia uses the trip as her own journey of discovery.
Watts said: “This is a beautiful and timely story that raises important questions. My character June is a formidable and fascinating woman – an extremely accomplished scientist who pushes her young daughter to take a hard look at the tougher aspects of living in the world today.”
The movie was developed by Halper (“The Kindergarten Teacher,” “American Honey”) and Emmy award-nominated producer Kate Sharp (“The Hallow,” “Madame Bovary”) through Sharp’s newly launched company Daughter Films. The script was featured on the 2016 Black List, and was the recipient of a Sloan Grant from the Tribeca Film Institute and a Film Independent Fellowship. Primatologist and professor of anthropology Patricia Wright has served as a science advisor along with Duke University’s Tara Clarke. The film will shoot in South Africa and Madagascar.
HanWay chief Gabrielle Stewart commented: “ ‘Burning Season’ feels fresh and original; both a sensitive coming-of-age story whilst engaging us in the complexities of wildlife conservation versus the survival of very poor rural communities.”