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Italy’s Satine Film has picked up Julie Lerat-Gersant’s Locarno Film Festival title “Little Ones” about teen pregnancy, Variety has learned in Locarno. In the past, the company has also released such titles as “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and Golden Bear winner “There Is No Evil.”

“We aim to discover and introduce visionary and courageous cinematographic voices from all over the world,” said Claudia Bedogni, Satine Film’s founder and managing director.

“The film struck me with its gentle but secure narration and captivating, emotional performances. It’s one of these rare gems where you feel tremendous empathy for the characters as if you were there with them, sharing the same sorrows and dilemmas,” she added. The company is hoping to encourage young audiences to watch the film. “We have done the same with Stéphane Demoustier’s ‘The Girl With a Bracelet,’ also acquired in Locarno, and it has been a very rewarding experience.”

Presented in the Filmmakers of the Present competition at the Swiss fest and sold by Be For Films, “Little Ones” is an Escazal Films production.

“When we were wrapping the shoot, a 60-year-old man told me he hasn’t been so moved in years. I thought: ‘This means it’s not just for women like me,’ ” Lerat-Gersant said.

“It’s easier to talk about your own generation, but it’s a movie about connections between people. About love that exists, even though you don’t always like the cards you have been dealt.”

In “Little Ones,” pregnant Camille (Pili Groyne) is placed in a home for teen mothers by a family court judge. While she rebels against the decision, it allows her to experience life away from her overbearing mother (Victoire Du Bois), who also had her young.

“At the beginning, Camille is completely under her mother’s influence. She looks at the world through her eyes. It’s all about repeating the same patterns, about doing the same things as our parents. But Camille tries to break that vicious cycle.”

In Lerat-Gersant’s film, the father of Camille’s child is also present, offering her a support system.

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“Little Ones” Courtesy of Be For Films

“Her mother keeps saying: ‘We are like sisters. We don’t need men.’ But he arrives and becomes this symbol of something else. Her mother hates him because she can feel that he will separate them and help to cut this umbilical cord.”

Having spent a lot of time in the institutions similar to the one depicted in the story for her research, the French director also wanted to celebrate the people who work there.

“Nadine [played by Romane Bohringer] represents all of them. She really tries; she has been doing it for 20 years — but then Camille shows up on rollerblades, with that big belly,” she said with a laugh.

“These places tend to be portrayed in a very bad light, especially on TV. But there are so many people doing a wonderful job. They are asking: ‘What’s the best for the child?’ And that’s a big question.”

She never wanted to label her characters, she said.

“It would be easy to say: ‘She is a bad mother and he is a drunk.’ I wanted to look for their humanity instead. I said to Victoire: ‘When you look at your daughter, you love her. We will see your character’s flaws, her lack of attention, so just show her love.”

Lerat-Gersant, who opens the film with Camille’s unsuccessful abortion attempt, admitted it might “hit differently” now, following what is happening in the U.S.

“We don’t have this problem in France, but it’s still important to talk about women’s rights,” she stated. Adding that she will keep on exploring family issues in her next projects.

“In that first scene, when they are so close, I wanted to show Camille hiding in her mother’s shadow. But eventually, she chooses the light.”

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Director Julie Lerat-Gersant and actor Pili Groyne Courtesy of Locarno Film Festival/Ti-Pres