Carol Polakoff, a two-time Directors Guild of America award winner, is teaming with “Exodus” producer Denise O’Dell to adapt to the big screen “Speak Sunlight,” American writer Alan Jolis’ much-loved memoir. 

Now in pre-production and scheduled to shoot from May 8, the high-profile title is produced by Madrid-based Babieka Films, most recently behind Netflix hit “The Paramedic,”  and L.A.’s Viewfinder Pictures. 

“Speak Sunlight” (“La Voz del Sol”) marks the directorial debut of journalist-screenwriter Polakoff whose curriculum includes two DGA wins and three Daytime Emmy Awards nominations for “ABC Afterschool Specials.” Most recently, Polakoff produced Daniel Rosenberg’s 2020 Cannes Official Selection title “The Death of Cinema and My Father Too,” which won a Cannes Label for making the cut in Thierry Frémaux’s First Features category.

To film in Spanish, with a smattering of French, “Speak Sunlight” is written by Polakoff with a Spanish version from Natxo López, a creator of top primetime series such as “Perdida” and “Unauthorised Living.” López also co-wrote the just-out Amazon Studios hit “Operation Black Tide,” the subject of a case study panel at Series Mania on March 23.

A heartfelt coming of age tale set in Paris and majorly Pamplona in 1965, “Speak Sunlight” is based on the memoir of the same title by Jolis, who died aged just 46 in 2000. 

It drinks from his childhood memories as the son of posh but distant American parents in Paris who is really looked after by the family’s cook, Maruja, a force of nature, and her husband, Manolo, the butler. 

In 1965, they take Alanito off to Pamplona, where he awakes to a vivid sensual world and grows up emotionally. “It’s an emotional roller coaster set in a tumultuous time and place in Spain that we see through Alanito’s wide eyes. Pamplona will be an explosion of light, color and the unique brand of madness that is San Fermín,” Polakoff said. 

Alanito gains a sense of a far bigger world than that of his sheltered childhood in Paris when Maruja carts him off to dirt-poor Galicia for a final reckoning with her sister. He will also have memories of a summer where he learned life lessons that will resonate a lifetime, Polakoff observed.

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Carmen Machi, Karra Ejealde Courtesy of Babieka

Two of Spain’s biggest stars, Karra Elejalde (“Spanish Affair”) and Carmen Machi (“Aida”), play Manolo and Maruja. They are both best known for their comic turns, but have underscored their acting chops in more nuanced roles, Elejalde playing Miguel de Unamuno in Alejandro Amenábar’s “While at War” and Machi proving “superb,” Variety said in its review, in Spanish 2022 Sundance hit “Piggy.”  

Newcomer Matteo Artuñedo plays Jolis as a teenager.

Babieka’s Denise O’Dell, whose producer credits include “Sexy Beast,” “The Kingdom of Heaven” and “Sahara” –  and Polakoff at Viewfinder are producing the film, with Orlando and Denis Pedregosa serving as executive producers, and Marta Ferrer García as associate producer. “Speak Sunlight” will shoot in Madrid, Estella and Pamplona, including its cathedral, said O’Dell.

A homage to the people who shaped his life and a Spain he deeply loved, when he knew nothing about politics, “Speak Sunlight’s” adaptation also makes good on a promise Polakoff made to Jolis to bring his memoir to the big screen, she told Variety 

“I didn’t know the how and when, but I was 100% sure – in a business that is never sure – that I would will this film into production,” she added.

“I heard Alan Jolis read his own words at a book signing in Paris, a precious few years before he left us – and the movie started playing out in my head,” said Polakoff. “Within 10 minutes I burst into tears – the story grabbed my heart and has never let go.”

“I only dreamed of being able to direct it with Denise O’Dell as my producer and a dream cast and crew who share our passion for his story and legacy,.”

She added: “Most of all I want to honor Alan and his family and hope that his story – in its unique place and time – will move and inspire people to create and cherish memories of people and places in their lives that live on well after we lose them.”

“Along with more traditional equity out of Europe and the U.S. we are advancing on alternatives to traditional financing,” said O’Dell. 

“We are taking advantage of the many opportunities available to filmmakers in the crypto universe and NFTs, giving both corporate and private investors a chance to support this and other films in untraditional but very effective ways,” she added.

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Denise O’Dell, Carol Polakoff Courtesy of Babieka