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China’s Phoenix Buys Italian Body-Positivity Comedy ‘Sweeties’

Chinese distributor Phoenix Entertainment Group has bought all China rights to the Italian comedic drama “The Sweeties” from Germany-based Media Luna New Films.

The movie is the second feature from director Francesco Ghiaccio and stars Valeria Solarino, Vinicio Marchioni and four young newcomers in their acting debut. It deals with issues of bullying and body-shaming through the story of three overweight girls who decide to become synchronized swimming champions after a video of them in their swimsuits embarrasses them online.

It was written by Marco D’Amore, also known for his turn as an actor in the TV series “Gomorrah.”  It is distributed in Italy by VisionDistribution. It premiered at the Giffoni Film Festival earlier this year.

Phoenix Entertainment is one of China’s bigger production and distribution companies, and has jointly produced films such as “Wolf Totem” and “This Is Not What I Expected,” the 2017 romantic comedy starring Takeshi Kaneshiro and Zhou Dongyu. Media Luna was founded in 1991 by Ida Martins and focuses on independent films with an original style.

Now that the Chinese government’s propaganda bureau is directly in charge of film censorship, it has been more difficult to predict what sorts of content will obtain approval. Authorities have repeatedly called for more content that exudes “positive energy,” containing uplifting but unpolitical messaging.

According to the Giffoni festival website, the main young actors said at the film’s premiere that, being more heavyset, “we’re invisible because we’re not what society seeks for, and it’s such a bad feeling….It doesn’t matter what size or color you are. We’re all the same.”

Ruby Li, who negotiated the deal for Phoenix, told Variety she had selected it because “the feel-good comedy can be easily related to.”

“The story tells us not to seek perfection, but to accept who you are, since beauty can be in different forms,” she said.

The Chinese youth drama about school bullying, “Better Days,” currently in theaters, has been this fall’s breakout hit on the mainland, grossing $201 million (RMB1.41 billion) so far since its late October release.

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