Femme-centric, woman-directed films ‘Late Night,’ ‘The Farewell,’ ‘Share’ sell big at Sundance

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Emma Thompson in “Late Night.”

PARK CITY, Utah – Some of the biggest sales of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, which started Thursday, have gone to femme-centric, woman-directed films, including the Mindy Kaling-Emma Thompson vehicle “Late Night,” and the Awkwafina starrer “The Farewell” and Pippa Bianco’s feature film debut “Share.”

Amazon acquired U.S. rights to “Late Night,” according to The Hollywood Reporter, with source Saturday pegging the deal at an impressive $13 million. The comedy stars Thompson as a talk-show host whose world is shaken up after she hires her first female staff writer, played by Kaling, in an attempt to address diversity concerns.

Canadian director Nisha Ganatra, who has helmed episodes of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Amazon’s “Transparent” and Kaling’s “The Mindy Project,” directed “Late Night” from a screenplay written by Kaling.

“Late Night,” which was produced by Kaling, Howard Klein, Jillian Apfelbaum and Ben Browning, made its world premiere Friday at the Eccles Theatre in Park City. John Lithgow, Paul Walter Hauser, Reid Scott and Amy Ryan round out the cast of the film, which was produced by FilmNation and Imperative.

Heading into Sundance, buyers were calling “Late Night” the most commercial of this year’s festival crop and expected at least one major studio to be among those pursuing, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Everyone from Lionsgate to New Line vied for the comedy, which was financed by 30West with FilmNation, and the deal surpasses the previous high-water mark for domestic rights to a film at Sundance, which was also struck by Amazon for the excellent “The Big Sick” for $12.5 million in 2017.

In the second big-ticket sale of this year’s fest, A24 acquired worldwide rights, minus China, to “The Farewell” in a deal said to be worth up to $7 million. According to The Hollywood Reporter, a source says the film will get a traditional theatrical release in the summer.

Written and directed by Lulu Wang – who has helmed several short films and the 2014 feature “Posthumous,” starring Jack Huston and Brit Marling – “The Farewell” made its world premiere Friday at Sundance.

Starring Awkwafina, who broke out in last year’s smash “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Farewell” revolves around members of a Chinese family who discover their grandmother has only a short time left to live and decide to keep her in the dark, scheduling a wedding before she dies. Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Zhao Shuzhen, Lu Hong and Jiang Yongbo co-star.

Big Beach Films, the indie film company behind the Sundance mega-hit “Little Miss Sunshine,” produced the movie. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “The Farewell” is in English and Mandarin and is seen as having the potential to do robust business in Asia. Amazon, Netflix and Fox Searchlight also were chasing the film.

In addition, HBO Films, in association with A24, acquired Pippa Bianco’s debut film “Share” in a seven-figure deal, according to The Wrap.

“Share” also premiered Friday at the Sundance as one of the 16 films in competition in the U.S. Dramatic section of the festival. The film will make its debut on HBO in 2019.

Bianco’s film is based on an acclaimed short of the same name that won prizes at the Cannes Film Festival and the South by Southwest festival in 2015. Along with directing, Bianco also wrote the screenplay for the drama.

“Share” follows a 16-year-old named Mandy who discovers a disturbing video from a night she doesn’t remember, and must try to figure out what happened and how to navigate the escalating fallout.

Rhianne Barreto, who makes her feature film acting debut, stars  opposite Charlie Plummer, Poorna Jagannathan, J.C. MacKenzie, Nicholas Galitzine, Lovie Simone and Danny Mastrogiorgio. Carly Hugo, Tyler Byrne and Matt Parker are producers, according to The Wrap.

As previously reported, a survey of the top 250 films of 2018 at the domestic box office found that women made up only 8 percent of directors, a number that was down 3 percentage points from the 11 percent in 2017. So, hopefully, these two big sales are a good sign for a rising number of female helmers in the near future.

Sundance ends Sunday.




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