Cynthia Erivo’s Sundance Drama ‘Drift’ Sells to Utopia (EXCLUSIVE)

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Utopia has landed the North American rights to “Drift,” an emotional drama starring Cynthia Erivo and Alia Shawkat. The sale comes a few months after its debut at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

“Drift” is the English-language feature debut of Anthony Chen (“Ilo Ilo”). Based on Alexander Maksik’s 2013 novel “A Marker to Measure Drift,” the story follows a refugee (Erivo) who struggles to survive on a Greek Island as she is tormented by memories of the war-torn country she was able to flee. Through her friendship with an American tour-guide (Shawkat), she begins to find a way to move past the violence and trauma she has endured to forge a new life for herself.

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“After our very emotional Sundance premiere, I’m so pleased to be working with Utopia to bring ‘Drift’ to audiences across the States,” Chen said. “I’m convinced our film’s message of hope and healing is one that everyone desires at this point of time in the world.”

Variety’s Peter Debruge praised the film as “an unlikely ode to healing and human connection.” In his review, he wrote that “Chen is a humanist at heart, and though he didn’t write this movie, his sensibility proves to be a good fit, resulting in a subtler film than the ingredients might suggest.”

Erivo, who also produced the film, notes she was drawn to the project because it explored the immigrant experience with “such specificity, complexity and sensitivity.”

“Jacqueline’s story is resonant of so many stories of displacement, particularly that of Black immigrants,” Erivo said. “Stories that are too often oversimplified to mere headlines which fail to acknowledge the intimate nuances of each individual’s journey. ‘Drift’ allows us to focus in on the true depths of that experience and reminds us all that everyone has a story to tell. For a film that has always been what I’ve referred to as ‘The Little Engine that Could,’ I am so thrilled to have Utopia on board for this ride.”

Utopia has yet to set a release date for “Drift.”

“‘Drift’ is the kind of pure, transcendental cinema that is all too rare these days,” said Danielle DiGiacomo, Utopia’s head of content. “From the masterful performances by Cynthia Erivo and Alia Shawkat, to the details of the universe they inhabit on screen, this is a film Utopia could not be more proud to present to audiences.”

Susanne Farrell wrote the screenplay with Maksik. The film was a co-production of Paradise City Films (France), Heretic (Greece) and Fortyninesixty (U.K.), in association with Cor Cordium, Edith’s Daughter and Giraffe Pictures. Producers were Peter Spears, Emilie Georges, Naima Abed, Chen, Erivo and Solome Williams, while co-producers were Konstantinos Kontovrakis and Giorgos Karnavas. Executive producers include Lauran Bromley, Kevin Sun, Tom (Fang) Sun, Yaping Li, Erin Xie and Teoh Yi Peng.

Utopia, a specialty film distribution and sales company, recently released “Sick of Myself,” Ali Abbasi’s awards contender “Holy Spider and Indie Spirit-winner “Shiva Baby.”

This deal was negotiated by Danielle DiGiacomo and Candace Tan for Utopia with UTA Independent Film Group. Memento International is handling international sales.

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