Stockholm-based Momento Film, the company behind “Tiny King for a Day” and Göteborg’s Nordic Film Market-bound work in progress “Dogborn,” has confirmed start of production and E.U. partners on Daniel Espinosa’s “Madame Luna,” its biggest project ever.

Principal photography in Sicily and Calabria is set to begin May 5 on the €5 million ($5.6 million) refugee drama, penned by Maurizio Braucci (“Gomorrah”) and Suha Arraf (“Lemon Tree”) from an idea by Binyam Berhane.

David Herdies is producing for Momento Film, with co-production partners Marco Alessi and Massimiliano Navarra of Italy’s Dugong Films, Peter Nadermann of Germany’s Nadcon and Katja Adomeit and Pål Røed of Denmark’s Adomeit Film.

The film marks Chilean-born Espinosa’s return to Swedish-language filmmaking, after a string of Hollywood movies including “Safe House,” “Life” and Sony Pictures’ upcoming Spider-Man spin-off “Morbius”.

“It’s going to be interesting and inspiring to enter a cinematic tradition that really was my roots, or at least the starting point in my career,” said Espinosa whose international breakthrough came with “Easy Money.” “I also feel a great joy and honor to make it on the beaches of Sicily and Calabria, where so many masterpieces in the European realistic tradition were made,” he added.

“Madame Luna” chronicles the true story of an Eritrean refugee girl, washed ashore in Libya, who becomes one of the most notorious of human trafickers with deep ties to the Italian Mafia.

Filmmaker-producer Herdies says he’s looking forward to merging his documentary background with Espinosa’s European realist style and Hollywood attunement. “We’re actually using a docu-like filmmaking process, through our work with facts, true circumstances and casting. Daniel will apply the techniques he used with “Easy Money” by taking non-professionals and helping them bring characters to life.” The multi-language shoot’s cast announcement on pro and non-pro actors is expected next month.

Top behind the camera talent takes in production designer Brigitte Broch (an Oscar winner for “Moulin Rouge’s” set design), Juan Sarmiento (“Amparo”), composer Jon Ekstrand (“Borg vs McEnroe”) and editor Theis Schmidt (“Easy Money”).

Financiers confirmed so far include the Swedish Film Institute, Film i Väst, Nordisk Film Distribution, Creative Europe, the Italian Ministry of Culture, the Sicilian Film Commission, Regione Sicilia, Calabria Film Commission, Regionale Calabria, and Italian tax rebates. The project has received a Eurimages Co-production Development Award.

Momento Film’s film slate also includes rising talent Isabella Carbonell’s feature debut “Dogborn.” The director, whose credits take in the multi-prized short film “Boys,” will be pitching the film at Göteborg’s Nordic Film Market (Feb 3-6).

The intense thriller follows two homeless siblings who turn to the criminal world to survive. Their new life lives take a radical turn when the goods they are meant to transport turn out to be two young girls. “‘Dogborn’ is a suspenseful gut punch which also carefully explores intimacy and power. It does so through the eyes of characters that are normally placed on the side-lines of cinematic narratives,” said Carbonell.

Making her screen debut is hip hop artist Silvana Imam, cast alongside Philip Oros (“Top Dog”). The film, currently in post-production, has received backing from the Swedish Film Institute, SVT, Norrköking Film Fund and distributor NonSop Entertainment. 
Momento Film is aiming at a late spring festival launch.