Amazon Studios has acquired the U.S. rights to “Les Misérables,” the new film from writer and director Ladj Ly, Variety has learned.
The sale comes following the movie’s world premiere in competition at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday evening, where it earned sterling reviews from critics who were dazzled by Ly’s look at a life in the projects. Netflix was also believed to be pursuing the film, with insiders pegging the final price for the pic at $1.5 million. It’s a major sale for a small French-language movie, an achievement that’s all the more remarkable, given that it marks Ly’s feature-length narrative film debut.
In a largely favorable review, Variety‘s Guy Lodge wrote that the film “simmers with urgent anger over police brutality” and compared Ly’s work to that of Spike Lee.
Giordano Gederlini and Alexis Manenti co-wrote the film alongside Ly, with Toufik Ayadi and Christophe Barral of SRAB films producing. Wild Bunch is handling international sales. CAA Media Finance represented the U.S. rights and also reps Ly.
Ly is a native of Montfermeil, a suburb of France best known as the location of Thénardiers’ inn in Victor Hugo’s classic novel “Les Misérables.” The director became well known for his web documentaries showing the often brutal realities of living in a downtrodden community.
“Les Misérables” is inspired by the 2005 French riots, a three-week period of civil unrest characterized by violence, looting and car burnings. The film examines the tensions between neighborhood residents and police that helped inflame the rioting. It centers on Stéphane (Damien Bonnard), who has recently joined the anti-crime brigade in Montfermeil and his two partners. The men find themselves overrun during the course of an arrest.
Amazon was one of the biggest buyers at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, shelling out tens of millions for films such as the Mindy Kaling comedy “Late Night” and the Adam Driver political thriller “The Report.”