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In today’s film news roundup, “Maze Runner” director Wes Ball gets a sci-fi gig, Montreal’s Fantasia festival goes virtual, Saudi fantasy drama “Scales” finds a home, and “Point Defiance” and “Waterlily Jaguar” are set for release.

PROJECT LAUNCH

“Maze Runner” director Wes Ball will direct an adaptation of the sci-fi adventure “The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August” for Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners.

The film centers on a man repeatedly born into the same life and remembers all his past experiences. He seeks to save the world by outmaneuvering a similarly gifted rival who’s willing to make any sacrifice to attain a godlike knowledge.

The movie is based on a novel written by Catherine Webb under the pseudonym Claire North, who won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Melissa Iqbal, whose credits include “Humans” and “The Nevers,” has written the adaptation for the big screen.

Pete Czernin and Graham Broadbent of Blueprint Pictures, which originally optioned and developed the project, and Joe Hartwick Jr. of Oddball Entertainment will produce. Czernin and Broadbent received Best Picture Academy Award nominations for 2017’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Amblin president of production Jeb Brody and vice president of creative affairs Andrew Calof will oversee for the studio.

Ball directed “Maze Runner,” “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” and “Maze Runner: The Death Cure.” The trilogy generated $912 million at the worldwide box office. The news about “The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August” was first reported by The Observer.

FILM FESTIVAL

Citing the continuing uncertainty related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival has announced it will mount its 2020 edition as a virtual festival.

The genre film event, which had been scheduled to start on July 16, will begin on Aug. 20 and run through Sept. 2. The Frontières Co-Production Market, which typically runs in conjunction with the festival, will operate July 23-26. The event will include filmmaker intros, audience-involved Q&A’s, live panels and workshops. In addition, the festival’s short film showcases, juried competitions, and audience awards will remain in place.

“While we’re saddened not to be able to put on the larger-than-life physical event that we’d been planning for this year, we’re extremely excited to be working with Festival Scope and Shift72 on an unconventional virtual edition,” said Fantasia co-director Mitch Davis. “They’ve enthusiastically embraced every challenge we’ve thrown their way, particularly when it comes to making so many of our screenings be real-time, live events instead of the usual streaming approach.”

ACQUISITIONS

Variance Films has acquired all North American theatrical rights from Image Nation Abu Dhabi to Saudi filmmaker Shahad Ameen’s debut feature “Scales.”

The movie follows the story of a strong-willed young girl whose poor fishing village is governed by a dark tradition: every family must give one daughter to the mermaid-like sea creatures who inhabit the waters, to ensure the village can continue their fishing expeditions. When her father refuses, the girl becomes a pariah, but she has her own plans for her destiny.

“Scales” premiered at the Venice International Film Festival’s Critics Week, where it won the Verona Film Club Award, a prize for the film deemed most innovative. The film was scheduled to play at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival. Variance Films will release “Scales” to theaters across North America later this year.

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Shoreline Entertainment is releasing Lexicon feature films “Point Defiance” and “Waterlily Jaguar” on May 19 on VOD and DVD.

Justin Foia’s “Point Defiance” stars Derek Phillips, Josh Crotty, Lauren Elaine, Sarah Butler and Steven Swadling. It focuses on a stockbroker (Phillips), whose world is turned upside down when his troubled younger brother returns from military duty in Afghanistan. The film is produced by Mark Mathias Sayre and executive produced by Larry Nealy and Swadling.

Melora Walters’ directorial debut “Waterlily Jaguar” made its world premiere at the Breckenridge Film Festival and stars James Le Gros as a famous novelist who seeks to pen a more serious novel inspired by the ancient remains of the only human ever found in the La Brea Tar Pits, only to find himself tumbling down a spiral of obsession. Also starring are Mira Sorvino, Stacey Oristano, Dominic Monaghan, Christopher Backus and Steven Swadling.

Walters directed from her original screenplay. Producers on the project are Sayre, Walters and Jonathan Piumelli with Paul Thomas Anderson, Raphael Auerbach, Suzanei Archer, Swadling, and Nealy among the executive producers.