Sony Pictures Classics has acquired Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland‘s “Quinceanera,” winner of the dramatic grand jury prize and audience award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The company has closed a pact for North American and Latin American rights to the film. The coming-of-age story of two teens growing up in a rapidly changing region of Southern California, the movie will next screen at the New Directors/New Films series in New York later this month and Sony Classics is understood to be eyeing a potential August release for the picture. Other festival bookings are pending according to insiders.
The film, its title taken from the traditional Latino ritual of elaborately celebrating a young woman’s fifteenth birthday, is the coming-of-age story of two L.A. teenagers (played by Emily Rios and Jesse Garcia) who are rejected by conservative Mexican-American families. The cousins, living in a gentrifying Los Angeles neighborhood, form a modern family with an aging uncle who rents a small home from an upwardly mobile gay couple.
“We are overjoyed to be picked up by Sony Pictures Classics,” co-directors and partners Westmoreland and Glatzer told indieWIRE tonight in an email. “We are confident they will do an amazing job with our movie. In the current invertebrate acquisitions climate, it’s nice to meet some guys who have a spine.”
The film, executive produced by Todd Haynes and Kitchen Sink Entertainment, screened at the Berlin International Film Festival following its Sundance debut. It was produced by Anne Clements and sold to SPC’s Michael Barker, Tom Bernard and Dylan Leiner in a deal negotiated by John Sloss and Paul Brennan of Cinetic Media. Celluloid Dreams is handling international rights to the film and during last month’s European Film Market in Berlin closed a number of European deals for the movie.
Westmoreland recently directed the documentary “Gay Republicans,” about the dilemma faced by gay Republicans considering President Bush’s opposition to gay marriage, while Glatzer’s film “Grief” appeared at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival.
“‘Quinceanera’ is that rare film that perfectly and gracefully captures the uniqueness of a culture while also reflecting on the evolution of our society,” said Barker, Bernard, and Leiner, in a statement. “Done in such a profound and moving way, this film is immensely entertaining and we are extremely excited to be working with the skillful filmmakers Wash and Richard, to bring this picture to audiences throughout the Americas.”
On New Years Day last year, filmmakers Westmoreland and Glatzer sketched out the idea for a new film, they explained in January at the film’s Sundance premiere. By the end of that day they had already come up with a plot and characters. Two weeks later they pitched the idea to funders and began to consider cast for the movie, even before they had entirely locked financing into place. The film was written in three weeks and later shot in the same amount of time, on HD.
“In 2004 we were invited to our next door neighbor’s Quinceanera (which is a giant 15th birthday celebration for Latina girls). Once we stepped through the door, we were amazed at the elaborate ceremony taking place,” Westmoreland and Glatzer detailed in an indieWIRE interview published during Sundance this year. “We thought this would be a good subject for a film, but we didn’t think we would be the ones to make it. It was later on in 2005 when we were thinking about setting a drama in a gentrifying neighborhood that the whole idea resurfaced and rapidly took shape. We thought of it in January, wrote it in February, cast it in March and shot it in April.”
The directors filmed the movie within a mile of their home in Echo Park, in Los Angeles, weaving in a mix of storylines inspired by their lives and their changing neighborhood. “I wanted it to be a movie about acceptance,” explained Glatzer, after a Sundance screening.
“The biggest challenge was to be authentic,” the filmmakers said in the interview. “We didn’t want this film to feel like it was made by two white boys peering in. It had to be insider. We cast people from our Echo Park neighborhood and constantly looked to them to let us know if we were on target.”