Strand Releasing has acquired U.S. distribution rights to Majid Majidi’s “Sun Children,” which competed at Venice and represents Iran in the international feature film race at the 2021 Academy Awards.

Represented in international markets by Hengameh Panahi’s Celluloid Dreams, “Sun Children” has been critically acclaimed in the festival circuit, and its young leading actor Ruhollah Zamani won Venice’s Marcello Mastroianni Award for best young actor. The movie went on to win the best feature film award at the Doha Ajyal Film Festival. The film was produced by Amir Banan and Majid Majidi.

“Sun Children” tells the story of 12-year-old Ali and his three friends who work hard together to survive and support their families, doing small jobs in a garage and committing petty crimes to make fast cash. In a turn of events that seems miraculous, Ali is entrusted to find hidden treasure underground, but in order to gain access to the tunnel, he and his friend must enroll at the Sun School, a charitable institution that tries to educate street kids and child laborers. The film’s authenticity lies in the genuine performances of the children who are all from the streets of Iran.

Majidi previously directed “Children of Heaven,” the first Iranian movie to receive an Academy Award nomination in 1998. His movies have traveled all around the world and have played at Berlin, Venice and London festivals, among others. Majidi made his feature debut with “Baduk” in 1992, which was handled by Celluloid Dreams.

“It has been a wonderful honor to reunite with Majijd Majidi and it’s also such a pleasure to be working with our friends at Strand again,” said Panahi. Celluloid Dreams previously successfully collaborated with Strand Releasing on Lorenzo Vigas’ Golden Lion winner “For Afar,” selected as the Venezuelan entry for the Oscars.

“We’ve also admired Strand’s work on the Oscar-nominated ‘The Missing Picture’ and the shortlisted ‘Felicite,’ as well as ‘Wild Reeds,’ ‘Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,’ ‘The Edge of Heaven,’ ‘The Cakemaker,’ ‘Chevalier’ and ‘Adam,'” said Panahi.

Marcus Hu, president of Strand Releasing, described “Sun Children” as “an extraordinary accomplishment — managing to be both observant and delicate as well as completely exciting and gripping.”

“It is a tour-de-force: a true arthouse film that plays like a Dickensian caper movie. We are so excited to bring the movie to American audiences and to shepherd it through the awards season,” said Hu.

Majidi told Variety that he was “so grateful to U.S. audiences and critics who have responded to [his] past films with such genuine appreciation and enthusiasm.”

“I am very excited that my new movie ‘Sun Children’ will have an opportunity to reach a new generation of American filmgoers, especially young viewers who will have a special empathy for the children in the film,” said the director.