IFC Films and FilmNation have emerged victorious in a bidding war for U.S. distribution rights to “Happening,” a French drama that won the top prize at this year’s Venice Film Festival.
IFC Films plans to release the movie in theaters in early 2022, but the company has not set an exact date yet.
“Happening” is the sophomore feature of French director Audrey Diwan (“Losing It”). Adapted from Annie Ernaux’s semi-autobiographical novel, the film takes place in 1960s France and centers on a promising young student who gets pregnant at a time when abortions aren’t legal in the country. The movie’s official logline reads: “Anne is a bright young student with a promising future ahead of her. But when she falls pregnant, she sees the opportunity to finish her studies and escape the constraints of her social background disappearing. With her final exams fast approaching and her belly growing, Anne resolves to act, even if she has to confront shame and pain, even if she must risk prison to do so.”
In Variety’s review, film critic Guy Lodge praised “Happening” and called it timely, powerful and “quietly devastating.”
“Audrey Diwan’s quietly devastating sophomore feature is the latest in an ongoing run of tough, emotionally intelligent art films dealing frankly with the subject of abortion access,” he wrote.
After its warm reception at Venice, “Happening” is poised to be a major contender for France’s official Oscar entry for best international film. Diwan co-wrote the screenplay with Marcia Romano. “Happening” was produced by Rectangle Productions’ Édouard Weil and co-produced by Srab Films.
IFC Films has been hot on the festival circuit, recently nabbing three big titles — Mia Hansen-Løve’s “Bergman Island,” Jacques Audiard’s “Paris, 13th District” and Paul Verhoeven’s buzzy “Benedetta” — at Cannes Film Festival. The company recently released “The Painted Bird,” which was shortlisted for best international feature at the 92nd Oscars.
“Audrey has crafted an award-winning film that puts a face on the choices women have to make, achieving something incredibly rare and rewarding in its powerful depiction of humanity,” IFC Films president Arianna Bocco said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Audrey, Glen and the entire filmmaking team to bring this film to the widest audience possible in the US.”
Glen Basner, CEO of FilmNation Entertainment added, “Audrey’s stunning and powerful film could not be more timely and we are thrilled to collaborate with Arianna and her team at IFC Films to bring this emotional cinematic experience to US audiences.”
Diwan called the partnership between IFC Films and FilmNation “an extremely exciting one.”
“Through the lens of IFC Films and FilmNation, I realized what ‘Happening’ could represent to audiences in the U.S. I feel incredibly supported by this alliance, whose common goal is to take this story to new heights and champion my artistic vision,” Diwan said. “Arianna Bocco and Glen Basner have both long advocated for compelling and important films, which assures me this partnership that we are about to embark on together will be an extremely exciting one.”
The deal for the film was negotiated by Bocco with CAA Media Finance and Wild Bunch on behalf of the filmmakers. Wild Bunch International is handling international sales.
Deadline Hollywood first reported news of the sale.