Claude Barras, director of the breakout Academy Award nominated hit “My Life as a Zucchini,” is returning to stop motion animation for his next feature “Sauvages,” a socially conscious tale set in the jungles of Borneo. Producer Rhea Plangg attended this year’s Cannes Film Market to foster negotiations with potential production partners.
“Sauvages,” a working title which translates to “Wild” in English, follows an 11-year-old, half-indigenous girl who heads deep into the Borneo forests. There, under the watchful eye of her grandfather and with the help of a young European and his veterinarian father, the girl commits to protecting an orphaned orangutan from poachers. Issues of heritage, preservation, the importance of biodiversity and family are all touched on with a sensibility that young audiences can embrace.
More than just onscreen, the importance of conservation and protection is being embraced by the entire production, and the film’s practical effects are being produced using sustainable materials whenever possible.
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Despite the overwhelming critical, award and festival success of his previous film, including Golden Globe, Bafta and Oscar nominations as well as scoring the Audience Award and Cristal for best feature at Annecy, Barras and the team working on “Sauvages” are not content to simply do what they’ve done before.
According to Plangg, “Sauvages’ will speak not only to the audience of auteur cinema, but to a much wider public. “We are targeting a large family audience and kids six and up,” she told Variety in a conversation during the Cannes Film Market.
“This new movie comes directly from my childhood memories,” Barras said of the story’s origins. “I grew up in a family of mountain farmers who switched from traditional agriculture to industrial production. In just a few years, we’ve gone from hand weeding to 18 chemical sprays a year. It shocked me a lot.”
To further prepare, Barras spent weeks immersed in the jungle doing field research on the subject matter and living among the indigenous people of Borneo. It’s there that he met the little girl and grandfather who inspired the main characters in “Sauvages.”
He went on, explaining what motivates him in the new endeavor: “Today’s youth is witnessing global warming and the collapse of biodiversity. However, I want to believe that it is still possible to build a more sustainable world and I want to give our children hope and desire to act.”
Confirmed producers thus far include Plangg at Switzerland’s Helium Films, a co-producer on “My Life as a Zucchini,” and Jonathan Blumenthal at France’s Prélude – a producer on the upcoming Omar Sy-starrer “The Lost Prince.” Additional talks are underway with other potential partners.
“My Life as a Zucchini,” was part of a massive production and finance team including A Rita Prods., Blue Spirit Prods., Gebeka Films, KNM production, in co-production with Radio Télévision Suisse, SSR SRG, Rhône-Alpes Cinéma, France 3 Cinéma.
It was made with the participation of Office Fédéral de la Culture, Cineforom et le Soutien de la Loterie Romande, Eurimages, Canal Plus, Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animée, France Télévisions, Indie Sales as a sales company and Indie Invest, Cine Plus, Suissimage, France Télévisions Distribution, and the Rhône-Alpes Region.
It stands to reason then that the company should have no trouble matching up with willing and capable partners on “Sauvages” to hit the proposed budget of €10million ($11.17 million).
“It’s been a very interesting (Cannes Film) market,” Plangg told Variety. “We feel we’re on a great path.”
According to Plangg, development is ahead of their already-ambitious schedule, and they expect the script to be finished this fall when they will begin financing. The film is scheduled to be finalized by the end of 2021.