Modern Films, a leading London-based film banner which notably distributed “Drive My Car,” will release Dina Amer’s emotional and thought-provoking character study “You Resemble Me” in the U.K. and Ireland.
The movie, which world premiered at Venice last year, tells the journey of Hasna Aït Boulahcen, a fragile, young Muslim woman who became linked to the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris and was wrongly believed to be Europe’s first female suicide bomber.
Exploring the roots of radicalization through a layered coming-of-age story, the movie marks the feature debut of Amer, an Egyptian-American filmmaker and award-winning journalist. The movie is executive produced by Spike Lee, Spike Jonze, Riz Ahmed and Alma Har’el.
“I’m thrilled to be working on this film with such a dedicated and talented team to bring it to audiences in the U.K. and Ireland, tying together the story of the fragility of youth, the direct impact of socio-economic diversity and the volatility of being an outspoken muslim woman in contemporary France,” said Eve Gabereau, founder of Modern Films, whose banner handles production, distribution, event cinema and a virtual screening platform.
“As a French national and a North American myself, alongside being a distributor of films that shout out to contribute to wider world views through the power of cinema,” Gabereau continued. She said she was “deeply moved by both the provocative and highly emotive nature of ‘You Resemble Me.’ It speaks volumes.”
Modern Films has a track record with prestige arthouse, having previously distributed Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s Oscar- and BAFTA-winning “Drive My Car” and Ali Abbasi’s Oscar-nominated film “Border,” among others.
The deal with Modern Films was struck by the team behind the movie, Amer and her producing partners, Elizabeth Woodward and Karim Amer.
In spite of being unanimously praised by those who have seen it, earning strong reviews, more than 30 awards at festivals and attracting topnotch filmmakers and talents as executive producers, “You Resemble Me” has yet to be released in most territories.
The reluctance of some distributors to handle a film as politically sensitive as “You Resemble Me” ultimately drove Amer, Woodward and executive producer Sean Glass to join forces to achieve a successful theatrical release independently.
“We received love letters from my favorite distributors. They loved the film but were afraid of how audiences would react to the film because of its ‘radical subject,'” says Amer. “So we decided to launch the film ourselves and not settle for a lackluster deal that would strip us of our agency.”
Amer and her producers spearheaded the U.S. release themselves and were able to book it in over 80 screens across the country through grassroots efforts and sheer perseverance. The opening weekend for “You Resemble Me” was sold out in New York and L.A., and its theatrical run was extended twice over. While not huge, its domestic box office numbers ($60,000) is on par with specialty films released under a traditional distribution model.
“We became distributors overnight essentially but to achieve success, it necessitated a lot of research, thousands of emails to be sent out to exhibitors and the creation of our own all-star team to execute the plan,” said the helmer, who went as far as handing out flyers to fill theaters that had booked her movie.
The film team were also able to rally up filmmakers and friends such as Alma Har’el, Ramy Youssef, Darius Marder, Marni Grossman, Crystal Moselle, Azita Ghanizada, Mojean Aria, Lee, Jonze and Ahmed who all took part in Q&As during the theatrical release in the U.S.
The trio also enlisted the support of a flurry of organizations to get the movie out in U.S. theaters and build an event around its release, notably New York Women in Film and Television, Free the Work, the Africa Center, the Future of Film Is Female, NYU’s Center for Social Media and Politics, Women Under the Influence, WScripted, BIPOC Editors, Muslim Public Affairs Council Hollywood Bureau, MENA Arts Advocacy Coalition, Film Fatales, Africa Film Festival, Letterboxd, The Gotham and Human Rights Watch, among others.
From the early days of development all the way to the release of “You Resemble Me,” Amer has been able to aggregate many high profile figures thanks to her passion and verve. Amer is also known for her tenacity. She says it took her six years and 360 hours of interviews to make “You Resemble Me.”
When she started making calls to exhibitors, Amer got Greg Laemmle, who owns the Laemmle in L.A., on board. “Greg Laemmle was the first to take a chance on us,” she reminisced.
Once Laemmle booked the film, the Angelika Film Center followed suit. “Once we had these leading art houses confirmed, the domino effect started and we got major chains across the country like AMC, Harkins and Regal. “We did not do any four-walling,” said Amer.
Amer and Woodward said they also got crucial help from Liz Manashil from the Sundance Distribution program, Orly Ravid from Film Collaborate, as well as Sean Glass, an executive producer on the film, Dor Dotson, the head of digital marketing, RJ Millard and his team at Obscured Pictures, and Woodward’s team at Willa Productions, on top of Kate Gondwe at Dedza Films.
Executive Producers Abigail Disney’s Level Forward, Hala Mnaymneh, InMaat Productions, Marni Grossman, Foothill Productions supported the independent release.
The “You Resemble Me” team struck the deal with Modern Films and is currently in discussions with several French distributors. Its BAFTA campaign is under way and boasts Q&As with its executive producers including Ahmed, along with other special events.
Watch the trailer below.