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Berlin-based sales agent M-appeal has picked up the rights to black comedy “The Humorist,” directed by Michael Idov, one of the scriptwriters of “Leto,” a competition title at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

“The Humorist,” which makes its market premiere at Berlin’s European Film Market on Feb. 8, stars Aleksey Agranovich, Alisa Khazanova and Yuri Kolokolnikov. It is produced by Metrafilms’ Artem Vasilyev, who was one of the producers on Alexey German Jr.’s “Dovlatov,” a competition title at last year’s Berlin Film Festival.

Set in the mid-80s in the Soviet Union, “The Humorist” revolves around Boris Arkadiev, a Russian-Jewish stand-up comedian who is tormented not only by external oppression and censorship, but also by his own insecurities. Fame and the lack of personal freedom contribute to his unbalanced state of mind. When the leaders who dictate what he can and can’t joke about summon him to their villa, the comedian snaps. Armed with the exotic American notion of insult humor, he takes his revenge.

Maren Kroymann, M-appeal’s CEO, said: “Entertaining, at the same time thought-provoking, ‘The Humorist’ does not only relate to Soviet history, but finds reference points to highly important contemporary issues as well. It opens the discussion about artistic freedom that does not only depend on the political environment, but also might be shaped by institutions and audience expectations.”

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The film is set to be released in Russia by Central Partnership on March 1 on at least 400 prints.

It is supported by Eurimages, the National Film Center of Latvia, Riga Film Fund, the Russian Ministry of Culture and the Czech Film Fund. It was shot in Latvia.