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Music Box Films Lands U.S. Rights to Berlin Winner ‘By the Grace of God’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Music Box Films has acquired all U.S. rights to François Ozon’s “By the Grace of God,” a drama about the activist group that pushed French authorities to address a sex-abuse coverup in the Roman Catholic Church.

The film world-premiered in competition at the Berlin Film Festival and went on to win the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize. Music Box Films plans a theatrical rollout this fall followed by a release on home entertainment platforms.

The movie, which was produced by Mandarin Cinema and co-produced and represented in international markets by Playtime, has been performing well at the French box office thanks to solid word of mouth. Distributed by Mars Films, “By the Grace of God” has already sold 850,000 admissions in local theaters since bowing five weeks ago.

“By the Grace of God” is based on an ongoing scandal in France involving Bernard Preynat, a priest who was accused of having abused scouts from 1986 to 1991, and who was finally indicted in 2016 after several of the alleged victims decided to file lawsuits. The scandal is still very much in the news, as the Cardinal of Lyon, Philippe Barbarin, was convicted earlier this month for concealing Preynat’s alleged misdeeds. Around the time of the film’s release, Pope Francis met with senior bishops from around the world to discuss the protection of minors.

“By the Grace of God” tells the story of three adult men, Alexandre (Melvil Poupaud), François (Denis Ménochet), and Emmanuel (Swann Arlaud), who band together to expose the code of silence that continues to enable a priest who abused them as boys. “Their experiences powerfully illustrate the varying affects that the trauma of abuse causes on individuals and their families for years,” Music Box said in a statement.

“With ‘By the Grace of God,’ Ozon has captured an affecting and uplifting story of the power of the victims and their families to bring about change and find justice,” said William Schopf, president of Music Box Films. The company has successfully released some of Ozon’s best-known films – “Frantz” and the BAFTA-nominated “Potiche” – in the U.S.

“We have shared great successes in the past with Music Box and when the time came for us to choose our U.S. partner, that track record weighed in a lot,” said Nicolas Brigaud-Robert of Playtime, who negotiated the deal with Schopf. “‘By The Grace of God’ has great potential for the US market if in the right hands.”

Variety‘s review of the film said that “Ozon’s conscientiously researched screenplay finds significant tonal variation within that remit, establishing distinct personalities and outlooks for the four semi-fictionalized men driving its narrative.”

“As focus shifts from one to the next, the tenor of the filmmaking changes several times over the course of a hefty but consistently gripping 137 minutes,” the review said.

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