New Zealand director Taika Waititi’s “Boy” has been picked up for U.S. distribution by Paladin and Unison Films in association with Radius Films, Paladin president Mark Urman said Monday. The film, which screened at Sundance and Berlin, where it won the Grand Prix for Best Feature Film (Generation), and at last year’s AFI Fest in Los Angeles, where it went on to win the Audience Award for Best International Film, will open in select markets toward the latter part of the fourth quarter of 2011.
Full acquisitions release follows:
BOY, Taika Waititi’s sleeper sensation that became one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed and honored films, as well as its biggest box office success to date, will be distributed theatrically in the US by Paladin and Unison Films in association with Radius Films, it was announced by Paladin president, Mark Urman. In addition to conquering its homeland, the film has been a hit on the international festival circuit, having played to great acclaim at such high-profile events as Sundance and Berlin, where it won the Grand Prix for Best Feature Film (Generation), and at last year’s AFI Fest in Los Angeles, where it went on to win the Audience Award for Best International Film. Paladin will open BOY in select major markets toward the end of the fourth quarter in order to qualify the critically lauded film for year-end accolades and awards.
Inspired by Waititi’s Oscar-nominated short, “Two Cars, One Night,” (which the filmmaker developed into a feature at the Sundance Writer’s Lab), BOY is set in 1984 in the remote Maori community of Waihau Bay, a location whose natural splendor only serves to underscore the hardscrabble life of its inhabitants. At the center of the story is eleven year-old “Boy” (played by newcomer James Rolleston), a high-spirited adolescent obsessed with American pop culture—especially Michael Jackson– and prone to particularly vivid fantasies about his long-absent father, (played by Waititi), whom he imagines as an adventurous world traveler. When his father returns, Boy discovers, instead, a lovable loser who has been serving a seven-year sentence for robbery, and inveterate schemer whose daydreams are no more grounded in reality than his son’s. Confronting the enormous contrast between the father he longed for and the one he has, Boy crosses the threshold into adulthood, having proven himself both strong enough and smart enough to live a better life than his dad’s.
Drawn from experiences and characters from Waititi’s childhood, BOY was filmed on the very locations where he grew up. Incorporating dream sequences, fantasies, and animated renderings of children’s drawings come-to-life, the film also boasts three elaborate musical numbers, based on Michael’s Jackson’s indelible music videos of the era, giving the film a distinctive visual dimension that conveys the unique way in which Boy sees the world. The film is infused with the same fresh comic sensibility that garnered Waititi enormous acclaim with his debut feature, the widely praised “Eagle Vs. Shark” (which also had its US premiere at Sundance), as well as the cult-favorite television series, “The Flight of the Conchords,” several episodes of which he wrote, directed, and appeared in. For his work on BOY, Waititi was awarded three New Zealand Film and Television Awards for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor, with the film winning a total of seven, including Best Feature Film.
About the deal Urman says, “I am thrilled to be bringing BOY to American audiences. The film is a perfect blend of the exotic and the universal, the timeless and the new, and there is no question that critics and audiences alike will recognize Taika as an exciting new voice in international cinema.” Emanuel Michael of Unison Films, who produced BOY along with Ainsley Gardiner and noted New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis (“Whale Rider,” “Sunshine”), adds “After personally witnessing BOY win over audiences all around the world, I couldn’t be more excited to bring this truly heartwarming and hilarious film back home. BOY is that rare type of film discovery, like “Billy Elliott” or “Whale Rider,” that really leaves audiences exhilarated.” Michael who also produced “Eagle Vs. Shark,” will see his next production for Unison, “360”, directed by Fernando Mierelles and starring Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz, and Jude Law, have its world premiere at the forthcoming Toronto International Film festival in September. It will be followed closely by the upcoming “A Late Quartet,” starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, and Catherine Keener, to be released domestically by the newly revamped RKO Pictures.
BOY rounds out a particularly exciting year for Paladin, who shepherded Tom Shadyac’s I AM to a $1.6 million gross, making it one of the surprise indie hits of the season. The company has LOVE ETC. in current release, and opens Marcus Dean Fuller’s ONE FALL this month. Coming in the fall are the prize-winning documentaries, THE WHALE, (executive produced and narrated by Ryan Reynolds), and Tiffany Shlain’s Sundance hit, CONNECTED. Paladin will release Margaret Whitton’s A BIRD OF THE AIR in New York on September 23rd.