Cannes Recap Day 9: Sean Baker Talks Sex Work, Mohammad Rasoulof Escapes to Cannes

Plus: more acquisitions!

Sean Baker Cannes
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Cannes, somehow, is still chugging along, and we’ve got more press conferences, surprises and acquisitions to discuss.

Mohammad Rasoulof heads to Cannes

After dissident Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof received an eight-year prison sentence from the country for making “The Seed of the Sacred Fig,” which will have its premiere at Cannes later this week, it was thought that he would (for obvious reasons) not be attending the festival. But he snuck out of the country and into Europe and will actually be attending the premiere of his latest film.

Rasoulof decided to leave the country shortly after being sentenced to eight years in prison and flogging by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court. Iranian authorities also pressued the filmmaker to pull the movie from the festival, going on to harass the film’s producers and actors.

The official synopsis for the film reads: “Investigating judge Iman grapples with paranoia amid political unrest in Tehran. When his gun vanishes, he suspects his wife and daughters, imposing draconian measures that strain family ties as societal rules crumble.” The film, which was illegally shot in Iran, was recently acquired for domestic distribution by Neon. They are planning a North American theatrical release for later this year.

None of Rasoulof’s films have been screened in Iran because they have been banned. In 2017, on his way back from the Telluride Film Festival, where his film “A Man of Integrity” screened, he had his passport confiscated by Iranian authorities. Lord knows what’s going to happen when – and if – he gets back from Cannes.

Sean Baker Talks Sex Work

One of the undeniable highlights of the festival, so far, has been Sean Baker’s “Anora.” The movie was met with glowing praise and a warm critical response. It’s the tale of the titular character, a sex worker played by Mikey Madison. During the press conference someone asked why so many of his characters involve sex workers.

“I became friends with [sex workers] and realized there were a million stories from that world. If there is one intention with all of these films, I would say it’s by telling human stories, by telling stories that are hopefully universal,” Baker said. “It’s helping remove the stigma that’s been applied to this livelihood, that’s always been applied to this livelihood.” He thinks that sex work should be “decriminalized and not in any way regulated, because it’s a sex worker’s body and it’s up to them to decide how they will use it in their livelihood.” (Historically, those pushing for sex work to be decriminalized have also argued for regulation, since it would, hypothetically at least, allow for safer working conditions for sex workers.)

Baker also said that he is working on his next project, which would also involve sex workers. Also, in regards to sex scenes, which Baker prefers to refer to as “sex shots,” “They’re really choreographed, they’re really blocked and I’m obviously working with my actors very closely in the choreography and development as well to make sure each sex scene or sex shot is necessary and moving the plot forward.”

The scenes would be choreographed with the actors, himself and his producer Samantha Quan (who is also Baker’s wife, which adds a whole other layer). The admission that he was choreographing these scenes with his wife got some nervous laughter out of the room at Cannes.

More Pickups

IFC Films and Shudder have picked up the domestic rights to “Menace,” out of the Cannes marketplace. Spooky Pictures and Image Nation Abu Dhabi, who produced the movie, also secured distribution rights to the film for the U.K. and Ireland, along with Australia and New Zealand.

The film, directed by Randall Okita, stars “1883” breakout Isabel May, as a studio who has a breakdown and is remanded to the custody of her aunt and uncle, who are living in a small, backwater town. There, strange things start to occur, leading her to question what is actually transpiring and what she is imagining.

But that’s not all!

Francis Ford Coppola’s divisive, hugely expensive “Megalopolis” has now sold to old to Australia (Madman Entertainment), Benelux (September Films), Bulgaria (Profilm), Czech Republic and Slovakia (Film Europe), Ex-Yugoslavia (MCF Megacom Film), Greece (Feelgood Entertainment), Hungary (Mozinet), Israel (Lev Cinemas), Morocco (Facility Event), Portugal (Midas Filmes), Romania (Independenta Film), Scandinavia (Njutafilms) and Turkey (Bir Film). It had previously secured istribution from Constantin Film for Germany and all German-speaking territories, including Switzerland and Austria; Eagle Pictures for Italy; Tripictures for Spain; Entertainment Film Distributors Limited for the United Kingdom and Le Pacte for France.

Unfortunately, a domestic release partner has yet to be secured, beyond some vague commitment from IMAX last week.

You can do it Francis! Don’t give up!

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