“Buoyancy,” the Australian-made story that has gathered momentum as a powerhouse depiction of human trafficking, is set to be released in North American theaters. Rights were acquired by specialty distributor Kino Lorber, which will give it a cinema opening in Spring 2020 ahead of video on demand and home video outings.
The rights sale was handled by Paris-based sales agent Charades.
The film portrays the desperate journey of two Cambodian teenagers who are unwittingly signed up to join Thailand’s commercial fishing fleet. There the labor is forced, and the trawlers only rarely return to port.
“Buoyancy” had its premiere nearly a year ago as part of the Berlin film festival, and has since played at the Mumbai, Melbourne and Macao festivals. It has picked up multiple accolades including the best youth feature prize from the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.
It was directed by documentary maker Rodd Rathjen as his first feature-length fiction film. Shot largely in Khmer and Thai, it was submitted by Australia as its contender for the Academy Awards international feature film race, but was not nominated.
Because of the sensitivity of the subject – in 2015 the European Union issued a formal warning to Thailand over the reported 200,000 people allegedly enslaved in its fishing and seafood businesses – “Buoyancy” is a fictional telling. But characters are closely based on actual people, and at least one of the actors is an escapee from the fishing boats. Variety reviewer Jessica Kiang called the film “a taut and urgent message movie.”
Kino Lorber is a mainstay of the foreign-language and art-house film markets in North America. It recently enjoyed documentary Oscar nominations for “Fire at Sea” and “Of Fathers and Sons.” In addition to its own titles, Kino Lorber handles ancillary media releases for Zeitgeist Films, Carlotta USA, Adopt Films and Raro Video. Last year it launched its streaming channel KinoNow.com which includes over 600 titles from its Kino Lorber library.