Skywalkers: A Love Story / Thelma

UPDATE: By Saturday afternoon up to five buyers were understood to be in serious discussions for Jeff Zimbalist’s documentary Skywalkers: A Love Story.

The film caused a stir ever since it premiered on Thursday night and hails from XYZ Films’ documentary division. Sources reported streamers and at least one theatrical buyer were in pursuit. 

Meanwhile interest was understood to be building rapidly following the Saturday premiere of Jesse Eisenberg’s US Dramatic Competition entry A Real Pain.

Eisenberg and Kieran Culkin star as cousins on an emotional tour to see their late grandmother’s home in Poland. WME Independent and CAA Media Finance represent sales and the drama earned a rousing reeception at The Eccles.

JANUARY 19 REPORT: Heading into the weekend Skywalkers: A Love Story is gathering momentum at Sundance with multiple buyers circling the documentary following a strong response at Thursday night’s world premiere.

The groundswell of interest comes hot on the heels of two early transactions announced on Friday, with Sony Pictures Classics closing a deal for North America and multiple territories on Rich Peppiatt’s NEXT entry Kneecap and Netflix taking World Cinema Documentary Competition selection Ibelin by The Painter And The Thief director Benjamin Ree.

XYZ Films executives were on Friday locked in discussions with streamers and more traditional documentary distributors on Jeff Zimbalist’s U.S. Documentary Competition entry Skywalkers: A Love Story.

The feature drew spontaneous gasps and applause from the audience at The Ray Theatre premiere and follows a pair of Russian “rooftoppers” who plan to scale the world’s last super skyscraper under construction in Malaysia in a bid to save their careers and rekindle their love.

At time of writing Josh Margolin’s feelgood Premieres Thelma was getting plenty of attention and Screen understands acquisition teams were catching follow-up screenings after Thursday’s packed world premiere.

Ninety-four-year-old June Squibb, in the first lead feature role of her career, stars as a grandmother who goes on the warpath when she gets scammed. The cast includes the late Richard Roundtree, and CAA Media Finance represents worldwide rights.

It is early days in Park City with many acquisition titles yet to be seen. Some deals will close on site, while others may take weeks if not months to happen. Faced with a challenging distribution arena, buyers continue to exhibit caution and many titles are unknown quantities.

Sources said there was also interest swirling around Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s Freaky Tales in Premieres featuring an ensemble led by Pedro Pascal. WME Independent handles sales.

Two other documentaries in play, both represented by Submarine, are Eno and Gaucho Gaucho.

There are understood to be a couple of offers in on Eno, which screens in New Frontier and sees legendary music producer Brian Eno to take centre stage and discuss his creative process in a format which generates a different film every time it is shown.

Also garnering interest is Gaucho Gaucho, Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw’s US Documentary Competition selection about a community of Argentinian cowboys and cowgirls determined to keep their culture alive. Dweck and Kershaw co-directed the acclaimed 2020 Sundance documentary The Truffle Hunters.

Anticipated Friday premieres of acquisition titles include Steven Soderbergh’s thriller Presence, which stars Lucy Liu and marks the filmmaker’s first return to Park City as director since his 1989 breakout Sex, Lies And Videotape. Sugar23 represents rights.

Love Me, Sam and Andy Zuchero’s Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize recipient about post-humanity romantic entanglement, stars Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun and plays in US Dramatic Competition. WME Independent/2AM represent rights.

Also screening are NEXT entry Little Death with David Schwimmer, sold by UTA Independent Film Group and CAA Media Finance; and Nora Fingscheidt’s drama The Outrun in Premieres starring Saoirse Ronan and represented for sales by Protagonist Pictures and CAA Media Finance.

Saturday brings Nick Frost in Midnight entry Krazy House from Steffen Haars and Flip van der Kuil, which XYZ Films represents for North America; and Megan Park’s Premieres selection My Old Ass with Maddie Ziegler, Maisy Stella, and Aubrey Plaza, sold by CAA Media Finance.

Exhibiting Forgiveness by Titus Kaphar screens in US Dramatic Competition and is being sold by UTA Independent Film Group.

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