Shooting now in France, the film is being helmed by Mathieu Vadepied, who made his directorial debut with “Learn by Heart,” which world premiered at Cannes’ Critics Week. Vadepied also worked as the artistic director and cinematographer on “Untouchable,” Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano’s 2010 comedy smash hit which marked Sy’s acting breakthrough and earned him a Cesar nod.
The story opens during the First World War, in 1917, in the French colony of Senegal. Sy stars as Bakary, a father who enlists in the army to stick by Thierno, his 17-year-old son, who was recruited against his will. Together, father and son must fight the First World War in the trenches in France. Thierno is ready to sacrifice his life to fight for France, a country he knows little about. His father, meanwhile, sets off to protect him at all costs.
Budgeted at $14 million, “Father & Soldier” is produced by Bruno Nahon’s Unité (“A Good Doctor”) and Sy’s production vehicle Korokoro. Gaumont, which produced “Lupin” and Sy’s biggest movies including “Untouchable” and “Samba,” is co-producing “Father & Soldier, as well as handling international sales. The outfit will distribute in France in 2023.
The film is currently lensing in France and will next shoot in Senegal.
“This film is coming together at a time in my life where I feel an urge to connect the cultures and histories of two countries which saw me grow up — as a producer, alongside Unité, and as an actor — in order to pay tribute to these deserving men,” said Sy.
“I’m touched that this film is being produced out of France with Senegal as a co-production country, with the support of France’s National Film Board and FOPICA (the Senegalese film board), and I feel happy that this film has received the unwavering support of France Televisions, Canal Plus, as well as Gaumont and [company president] Sidonie Dumas to whom I’m addressing a wink because we have such a beautiful history together, since ‘Untouchable’ and ‘Chocolat,'” added Sy.
Vadepied co-wrote the film with Olivier Demangel, whose credits include Mati Diop’s Cannes prize-winning “Atlantics.” Vadepied’s other directorial credits also include several episodes of “En Therapie,” Nakache and Toledano’s hit French series adapted from the Israeli show “Betipul.”
Sy, who was just profiled as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, is the first French talent to have signed a multi-year feature film deal with Netflix. Sy stars in “Lupin” as Assane Diop, a character inspired by the French story of thief Arsène Lupin. “Lupin” ranks as one of Netflix’s most popular series to date.
“‘Father & Soldier’ sheds a light on unsung heroes of the great war while tackling universal themes such as family bonds in wartime,” said Alexis Cassanet, Gaumont executive VP of international sales and distribution.
“We’re very proud to accompany Omar Sy [in] coming to the big screen with a project that is close to his heart and is being directed by the talented Mathieu Vadepied,” said Cassanet, who will introduce the project to buyers during the virtual AFM.
Associate producers are Maryvonne Le Meur and Caroline Nataf. The film’s co-producers are Sy Possible Africa, Milles Soleil, Gaumont, France 3 Cinéma, Canal Plus et Ciné Plus.