Los Angeles-based production-distribution house Cinema Libre Studio has acquired U.S. rights to Frédéric Choffat and Julie Gilbert’s “My Little One,” in the wake of its U.S. premiere at the Miami Film Festival.
The deal was closed by Philippe Diaz, Cinema Libre Studio chairman and Loic Magneron, founder of Paris’ Wide Management, the film’s sales agent.
Produced by Anne Deluz and Jessica Huppert Berman for Luc Peter’s Intermezzo Films and Les Films du Tigre, and co-produced by public broadcaster Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS), “My Little One” has been seen to date, of festivals, at Germany’s Frankfurt Biennal, Tübingen and Stuttgart and Mannheim-Heidelberg, as well as France’s Beaujolais French-Language Cinema Meetings and Switzerland’s Solothurn Film Festival, before its theatrical release in Switzerland.
“My Little One” has been licensed to South Korea in an all rights deal and to Eastern Europe, for premium pay TV and VOD.
A Swiss production, but set in Navajo Nation, and starring French art house names Anna Mouglalis (“Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky”) and filmmaker and actor Mathieu Demy (“Americano”), “My Little One” turns on two men, Alex (Vincent Bonillo, a star of Choffat and Gilbert’s 2006 feature “Real Life is Elsewhere”) and Bernardo (Demy), once as close as brothers, who are summoned by Jade (Mouglalis), their former lover, to the middle of the Navajo Nation desert, where she now lives.
10 years before, Alex and Bernardo, lived a wild adventure with Jade on the coast of Mexico, which marked their lives, until a tornado left their business in ruins, and Jade disappeared.
Alex still clings to some of the dreams of his youth and memory of Jade. Bernardo fled to the safe haven of marriage, children, and works as an architect in Geneva.
Jade, however, has an agenda. She is dying from cancer and wants the two men to sense and feel, as she puts it, her world and that of her feisty 10-year daughter Frida whom she would like to live after her death with the men who have cared for her most.
The vast plains, early prejudices about the local Navajos, and especially reunion with Jade, force Alex and Bernardo to ask who they are, and who they could be, now that, past 40, they still have some time to forge their lives.
“In the desert, everything is in sight. We cannot hide. This territory resonates with the recurrent questioning in our films of uprooting and identity,” the directors said in an press dossier interview.
Both feel a connection to the desert and Indigenous populations, Choffat growing up in the Moroccan desert and Gilbert, the daughter of an ethnologist, spending her formative years among Indigenous peoples in Mexico, Canada and the U.S.
“While traveling in recent years in Navajo territory, we have met a population caught between American modernity on one side and, on the other side, a great attachment to their lands, their stories, their beliefs,” the directors commented.
They added: “It was there that it seemed obvious to us to anchor our story in this territory where several realities can co-exist.”
The film features a performance in a slot machine casino by singer-songwriter-actor John Doe, a figure on the early 1980s’ L.A. punk scene.
Recruited after an open casting call at Dilkon’s Chapter House, Navajo actor Zoël Zohnnie plays the local medicine man who throws Alex and Bernardo by prescribing standard medicine, Navajo videographer Kody Dayish makes an impression as a seemingly fearsome young local who insists that Bernardo and Alex sample what looks by pretty powerful pot, by way of their welcome to the local community.
“We are happy to acquire this beautiful film that celebrates the spirit of the American desert and provides opportunities for Native American peoples,” said Philippe Diaz, chairman of Cinema Libre Studio.
“My Little One” marks the last feature film of valiant Swiss director-producer Anne Deluz, who cut her teeth as an A.D. to Alain Tanner (“The Diary of Lady M”) and, installed in Spain, Fernando Trueba (Penelope Cruz-starring “The Girl of Your Dreams”), David Trueba (“Masterpiece”) and Mateo Gil (“Nobody Knows Anybody”), among many directors.
Moving into direction herself – such as TV movie “Bien dégagé derrière les oreilles,” a large hit in Switzerland – Deluz produced “My Little One” while receiving on-set chemotherapy.
Six-part series “Bulle,” starring Suzanne Clement and Claudia Cardinale, which Deluz created, wrote and directed for Intermezzo Films and RTS, proved her last series, and largest and final work, which she finished on her deathbed.
“Bulle” will premiere Thursday, March 12 on RTS.