Italy-based sales agent Lights On has acquired world rights for “Mammalia” by Romanian director Sebastian Mihăilescu, ahead of its world premiere in the Berlinale Forum strand. It has debuted the film’s trailer (below).

In “Mammalia,” 39-year-old Camil (István Téglás) embarks on a dreamlike trip where the banal and the surreal merge. Struggling to come to terms with losing control – of his work, his social status, his relationship – Camil sets off on a search that leads him to question the basis of his identity as a man. He pursues his girlfriend (Mălina Manovici) into an increasingly bizarre and disturbing world of community and ritual before being confronted by a tragi-comic role-reversal that leads us to question everything.

Mihăilescu comments: “The film satirizes the way that classic binary gender roles are often rigidly defined in society, and it highlights the performative nature of gender identity, emphasizing the ways in which, by assuming our gendered role, each of us contributes to skewed gender discourses and amplifies gender frictions. With ‘Mammalia,’ I wanted to take a detour from realism and naturalism and to create a kind of fairytale, playing with myths and horror tropes, all the while using minimalistic means. This will challenge viewers I hope, inviting them to be more participative and to become aware of the voyeuristic active/passive mechanisms that impact the cinematic experience.”

“Mammalia” is produced by Diana Păroiu, who served as executive producer for this year’s Oscar-shortlisted “Return to Seoul,” and by Ada Solomon, known for Golden Bear winners “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn” by Radu Jude and “Child’s Pose” by Călin Peter Netzer, for the Romanian outlet microFILM.

Ewa Puszczyńska is coproducing for Polish outfit Extreme Emotions and Nina Frese for the German company Pandora Film. Dan Wechsler, Andreas Roald and Jamal Zeinal-Zade are executive producers, and Antoine Simkine is associate producer. Produced out of Romania, Poland and Germany, “Mammalia” is co-produced by Bord Cadre Films, Sovereign Films and HiFilm Productions, and in association with Visual Walkabout, nomada.solo, Aeroplan Studios, XANF, Les Films d’Antoine and Wunderlust. The film is co-financed by the Romanian Film Centre, the Polish Film Institute, Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, Creative Europe MEDIA Programme and Romanian Public Television.

Mihăilescu’s previous film, the feature-length documentary “You Are Ceaușescu to Me” (2021), won the award for Best Film from Central and Eastern Europe and Best Cinematography at Ji.hlava Intl. Documentary Film Festival, the DocLisboa IFF’s New Talent Award and the Transilvania IFF’s What’s Up Doc Competition. His short “Old Luxurious Flat Located in an Ultra-Central, Desirable Neighborhood” (2016) premiered in the Pardi di Domani Competition at the Locarno Festival in 2016. “Mammalia” is his first fiction feature.

Flavio Armone, managing director of Lights On, comments: “We believe ‘Mammalia’ is a true gem, a film able to talk about pressing topics through a unique and personal style. Gender roles and identities are challenged in a way you’d never expect. The world premiere at Berlinale Forum is an amazing start and we can’t wait to bring ‘Mammalia’ out into the world!”

Lights On’s recent feature films include Bianca Lucas’ “Love Dog” (Locarno, 2022), György Mór Kárpáti “Summer to Come” (Tallinn, 2022) and “Red Moon Tide” by Lois Patiño (Berlinale, 2020), as well as acclaimed shorts such as “Cherries” by Vytautas Katkus (Cannes, 2022), “Will You Look at Me” by Shuli Huang (Cannes Critics’ Week, 2022, Queer Palm Award winner), “The Criminals” by Serhat Karaaslan (Sundance, 2021) and Pham Thien An’s “Stay Awake, Be Ready” (winner of the Illy Award for Best Short Film at the 51st Directors’ Fortnight).