Focus Features kicked off the Cannes 2018 market by acquiring opening night Competition entry “Everybody Knows,” starring Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz. The solid Spanish-language melodrama from Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi played well Tuesday night to mixed response from critics. UTA and Memento fielded multiple bids for the film — which did not go to Netflix — which screened for buyers ahead of Cannes.
“Everybody Knows” is in the running for jury prizes, which could go to Bardem or Cruz; and Spain could submit the film for the Oscars.
Focus will release the taut family kidnap drama in the U.S., Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, select Asian territories, and the Middle East (but not Iran). Focus had previously acquired rights in Spain last year.
Farhadi has two foreign-language Oscar wins, for “A Separation” and “The Salesman.” In the film, Laura (Cruz) and her two children travel from Argentina to her home village in Spain for her sister’s wedding. As her sprawling family celebrates during a blackout, Laura’s 16-year-old daughter goes missing and a ransom note appears. Under pressure, family secrets and community tensions emerge as Laura’s old lover Paco (Bardem) takes on a pivotal role in the kidnap negotiations.
Bardem and Cruz walked the red carpet at the opening night ceremony packed with French stars, from Jean-Luc Godard’s “Pierrot Le Fou” star Anna Karina to Isabelle Adjani, which introduced Cate Blanchett’s jury; Blanchett and Martin Scorsese officially declared Cannes 2018 open.
“Everybody Knows” is produced by Alexandre Mallet-Guy of Memento Films and Álvaro Longoria of Morena Films.
Universal’s specialty division Focus Features, led by chairman Peter Kujawski, is on a roll; they released 2017 Oscar contenders “Darkest Hour” (Working Title) and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” (Annapurna). In current release is Jason Reitman’s well-reviewed new comedy “Tully,” starring Charlize Theron and written by Diablo Cody.
Playing in competition at Cannes is Spike Lee’s new film “BlacKkKlansman; also in the release pipeline is Sundance breakout “Won’t You Be By Neighbor,” Morgan Neville’s documentary on Mister Rogers; “Room” director Lenny Abrahamson’s thriller “The Little Stranger”; Joel Edgerton’s coming-out drama “Boy Erased,” starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe; “Mary, Queen of Scots,” with Saoirse Ronan as Mary and Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I; and Mimi Leder’s “On the Basis of Sex,” starring Felicity Jones as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.