Strand Releasing has acquired North American distribution rights for “Africa,” Israeli director Oren Gerner’s personal story about an aging man learning to reinvent himself, Variety has learned.
“Africa” is the story of 68-year-old Meir, a retiree who discovers that after 30 years of planning the annual village celebration, the job has been given to an inexperienced group of local teens instead. As the ground beneath his feet gives way at this sudden upheaval, he begins to search for a way to restore a sense of meaning and vitality to his life.
The film stars the director’s father, Meir, as a semi-fictionalized version of himself, alongside other members of the Gerner family and their community in the Israeli town of Nirit. It takes its title from video footage of a trip to Africa taken by Gerner’s parents, which the helmer incorporates into the film.
In a director’s statement, Gerner said he developed “Africa” “through a long observation of my parents and the use of personal (biographical) materials of their lives and community in my hometown.” The story centers on his aging father, a recent retiree who seemed to be at peace with his new life, but in whom Gerner saw “a quiet and powerful drama” unfolding.
“‘Africa’ seeks to create a cinematic MRI image of a character who finds himself in a reality that has disassociated itself from the meanings which he relied on during his life,” he said. “The energy underlying his actions are a rebellion: rebellion against the betrayal of his body, against the growing distance from his children, against the absence of meaning. But by the very existence of this struggle, a new meaning is born, with a possibility of redemption.”
Gerner’s 2014 short, “Greenland,” screened at Sundance and won a prize at San Sebastian, while his most recent short, “Gabriel,” appeared in the official selection in Cannes in 2018. His feature directorial debut, “Africa,” premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2019 and was nominated for seven Ophir Awards, the Israeli equivalent of the Oscars, including best picture and best actor. Pic is produced by Itay Akirav of Film Harbor. Heretic Outreach is handling world sales.
“We are very proud to be releasing Mr. Gerner’s beautiful and intimate film,” said Strand Releasing’s co-president Jon Gerrans. “Thematically it is just what we need during these times. We look forward to introducing the film to our audience.”