China’s Hugoeast Acquires Cannes Directors’ Fortnight Film ‘The Tale of King Crab’ (EXCLUSIVE)

The Tale of King Crab
Courtesy of Volpe Films

Beijing-based distributor Hugoeast Media has acquired Chinese distribution rights to Cannes Directors’ Fortnight film “The Tale of King Crab,” the first feature venture into narrative fiction of Italian filmmakers Alessio Rigo de Righi and Matteo Zoppis.

Hugoeast Media plans a limited theatrical release in Chinese theaters in the course of 2022.

The deal with Hugoeast Media was closed by the international sales arm of France’s Shellac. It adds to a North American pick-up by Oscilloscope Laboratories, negotiated by Shellac’s Thomas Ordonneau and Egle Cepaite and announced a week after “Crab King” world premiered at the Cannes Festival.

An out-there tale of tragedy and redemption, “The Tale of King Crab” is based on vague local legend picked up by the filmmakers of a man, Luciano, living in a benighted Italian village in the late 1800s or early twentieth century decried as a “madman, an aristocrat, a saint and a drunkard.” A feud with a prince over rights of passage through an ancient gateway with the local landowner sparks ghastly tragedy and his flight to Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego where Luciano finds redemption of  a sort, searches for a mythical treasure, with the help of ruthless gold-diggers and the movie’s titular crab.

Shot on film and hailed as one of the discoveries of this year’s Cannes Festival, “The Tale of King Crab” is produced by Tommaso Bertani and Massimiliano Navarra at Italy’s Ring Film, Agustina Costa Varsi Volpe Films and Wanka Cine’s Ezequiel Borovinsky, both based in Argentina, and Thomas Ordonneau at France’s Shellac.

Hugoeast sources described their brand-new acquisition as “an avant-garde legend with the beauty of classic Italian films.”

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The Tale of King Crab Courtesy of Volpe Films

Compounding the Oscilloscope deal, the sale to China continues “a long journey which led our production crew from deep in the Roman countryside to the islands of the southernmost tip of Argentina”, the producers said in a joint statement. “It is a truly great honor to know that this story will reach a new continent and a new market.”

Alessio Rigo de Righi and Matteo Zoppis hoped “this choral experience, which took shape from distant legends, village voices and those of [their] collaborators, will speak to the audiences in China.”

Established in 2016, Hugoeast has acquired more than 160 international arthouse films for China, often major festival sourced such as “Cow” (Cannes 2021) which played at this month’s Beijing festival, “Schoolgirls,” (Berlin 2020), “Invisible Life,” a Cannes top Un Certain Regard winner in 2019, and “Let The Sunshine In” (Cannes 2017).

Supporting women-focused stories, Hugoeast has now launched an international sales operation, representing arthouse films and documentaries by talented Chinese directors.

Based out of Marseilles, Shellac’s tentacles stretch to  production, distribution, video publishing and exhibition. It has a strong line in films from emerging directors – Damien Manivel, Virgil Vernier, Roberto Minervini – as well as established  cineastes such as Chantal Akerman, Cristi Puiu and Miguel Gomes.

Its international branch, launched in 2017, handled the sales of  Puiu’s “Malmkrog,” Felipe Bragança’s “A Yellow Animal,” Manivel’s “Isadora’s Children,” Ted Fendt’s “Outside Noise” and Emilie Aussel’s feature debut, “Our Eternal Summer.”