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Jan Naszewski’s Warsaw-based sales outfit New Europe Film Sales has acquired world sales rights to “A Piece of Sky,” Swiss director Michael Koch’s sophomore feature, which was selected for The Films After Tomorrow strand of the Locarno Festival.

“A Piece of Sky” is based on the real-life story of Anna and Marco, a couple who falls in love in a remote Alpine village. Shortly after their wedding, Marco is diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and increasingly loses the ability to control his impulses. But while he grows violent and is even accused of sexually abusing Anna’s daughter, his wife decides to honor his last wish and stay with him until his death.

Koch traveled to the forbidding, mountainous Alpine region while developing the script for the film, befriending villagers and delving deep into the area’s culture and traditions. “I try to be really precise and to find in this local environment the bigger [story],” he told Variety during the Cannes virtual market.

The villagers he met lived hard lives shaped by the powerful forces of nature and the dramatic landscape around them. “At the end, nature has so much more power than you, and you are so small. This experience was really important,” said Koch. The director chose to cast non-professional actors from the region, ultimately spending three years gaining their trust before filming could commence. Production was halted by the coronavirus pandemic after just 10 days of shooting. It has resumed this week, and the film is slated for a 2021 release.

“A Piece of Sky” is produced by Switzerland’s Hugofilm with Germany’s Pandora Film Produktion, Swiss broadcaster SRF SRG SSR, and upscale German-French network Arte. Koch’s debut, “Marija,” premiered in competition in Locarno in 2016. Both films feature strong female leads and are based on real events, “but this is pretty much the end of the common ground,” said Hugofilm’s Christof Neracher.

“Michael’s new project is not set in an urban environment but in the harsh mountain world of Switzerland,” he said. “The story focuses on Anna’s impossible love for Marco, whose illness puts their relationship to a hard test. Despite the devastating effects of the illness, Anna finally decides to stay with Marco and to carry the burden until his death.

“Do these traditional values still exist in these remote mountain regions, or does her great love for Marco leave her no other choice?” Neracher continued. “This tragic love story is told in few words and well-composed images, therefore it gains in urgency and intensity.”

“We are thrilled to be attached to this movie,” said Naszewski. “Michael is an inspiring filmmaker and we want to help him get his vision across to the world. ‘A Piece of Sky’ is the kind of visually-stunning and emotional cinema that we love. Thanks to the early involvement, we at New Europe are looking forward to continuing the creative dialogue with Michael and Christof Neracher, with whom we’ve had a great experience on ‘Aloys’ some years ago.”