MADRID  —  Venice 2018 Queer Lion winner “José,” a movie which went on to play 50 festivals in 35 countries, has been acquired for North American distribution and international sales by Paul Hudson’s Outsider Pictures.

Strand Releasing will handle digital distribution. “José” was acquired from its production house YQstudio.

World premiering in Venice Days, “Jose,” a Guatemala-set gay love story which is directed by the U.S.-based Li Cheng, turns on José, a 19-year-old working class Guatemalan who lives in the humblest of circumstances with his clinging mother, makes ends meet, falls head over heels in love with Luis, a construction worker.

Working a neorealist tradition – non-pro actors, detailed description of diurnal reality, a contained narrative of larger social resonance – “José” has won praise for what Hudson called “a gripping, layered and beautifully honest story” and a “nuanced and vivid look at being gay in Central America.”

“José” is proving broader based in its audience appeal,  attracting social-activists, film and art students and professors, and cinephile groups, in addition to the LGBTQ+ community, Hudson added, calling it “one of the most mature and cinematic second films I’ve seen.”

“This is one of the most poetic but also honest depictions of a young gay man’s coming-of-age, and in a Central American context, that I’ve seen.” Robert Rosenberg, co-director of “Before Stonewall,” who is handling marketing and distribution of the film for Outsider.

In an exclusive new trailer made available to Variety before Outsider debuts “José” on social media, José (Enrique Salanic) is seen trying to direct cars to a cheap eatery, his job; looking warily about him as he walks across a footbridge, and listening to a preacher on the bus he takes, prickling that “Jesus loves the sinner but not the sin,” accumulating details of José’s low-income existence and violence-strewn conservative environment. In one of the film’s high points. José and lover Luis (Manolo Herrera) ride out on a motorbike to the countryside, make love in a bamboo field. His mother (Ana Cecilia Mota), who is aware José likes boys, prays to the Lord for his forgiveness.

“We made the film in Latin America due to the realities of extreme violence and poverty, and to highlight young people’s struggle for love and dignity,” said George Roberson, producer and co-writer with Li Cheng.

In addition to Venice, “José” won best film at the Boston LGBT Film Festival, among others; and made the official selection cut Miami Film Festival, Santa Barbara Intl. Film Festival, El Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano in Havana;, Outfest Los Angeles and Hong Kong Intl. Film Festival. It was also featured by Amnesty International.

“We’re delighted that the José story is resonating in heart and minds around the world, and is now coming soon to U.S. audiences,” said Li Cheng and Roberson in a statement.