Urban Sales Swoops on Carolina Markowicz’s Toronto-San Sebastian Title ‘Charcoal’ (EXCLUSIVE)

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Paris-based Urban Sales has swooped on international sales rights to Brazilian writer-director Carolina Markowicz’s awaited debut feature film “Charcoal” (“Carvão”), which is set for its world premiere at at Toronto’s prestigious Platform showcase before heading to San Sebastian for a Europe bow as part of its just-revealed Horizontes Latinos lineup.

Urban Sales has also shared with Variety a first look still from the film.

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Distribution in Brazil is handled by Pandora Filmes, founded by André Sturm, which launched the country’s first classic film streaming platform Belas Artes in 2019, bringing big-name, cult, and regional classics to audiences nationwide.

Markowicz has written and directed six short films that have been selected by 400 festivals including Locarno, SXSW, Toronto and AFI.  Her short film,“The Orphan,” a gritty tale about a young queer boy who tries to navigate his most recent adoption after being placed with a well-off conservative family, premiered at Directors’ Fortnight and won the Queer Palm at Cannes in 2018.

“We’ve always felt close to Brazilian cinema, working with filmmakers such as Marco Dutra, Juliana Rojas, Sandra Kogut, Esmir Filho,” said Louise Ronzet, Urban Sales’ head of sales.

She added: “We found Carolina Markowicz’s debut to be simply mind-blowing. She’s written and directed a social satire, depicting the harsh reality of those living off (and dying prematurely from) the charcoal industry, but she did so with such audacity and originality, through trenchant humor and in a thriller-tinted atmosphere. We look forward to the audience and buyers’ reactions to this gem.”

“Charcoal” follows a family stretched-thin in rural Brazil, living in a countryside village that’s tied to the Charcoal factory. When offered a sum of cash and a way out of the monotony, they agree to harbor a mysterious fugitive while trying to keep up appearances around town to hide an unsavory secret.

The project takes a darkly satirical look at religion, life, death and obligation as each family member gets acquainted with the equally enthralling and irritating new house guest.

Carolina Markowicz - Credit: Credit: Renata Terepins
Carolina Markowicz - Credit: Credit: Renata Terepins

Credit: Renata Terepins

“There’s no ‘absurd’ anymore. ‘Charcoal’ is my trial, to understand that. Somehow, why we ended up like this. It’s a huge honor to be in the Platform Competition and San Sebastian with my first feature,” Markowicz remarked.

“It will be my fifth time at TIFF and I’m so grateful and proud of such important festivals showcasing my work in prestigious sections.,” she added. “I’m happy to be working with Urban, which joins our team of very talented cast and crew that I had the luck to work with since the very beginning of the project, more than five years ago.”

“Charcoal” is lead produced by Brazil’s Zita Carvalhosa at Cinematográfica Superfilmes (“Fotografação”) and co-produced by Karen Castanho at Biônica Filmes (“Divinas Divas”) and Alejandro Israel at Argentina’s Ajimolido Films (“Los Que Vuelvan”). Castanho is producing Markowicz’s upcoming second feature, “Toll ”

“It’s a privilege to present the first feature film by Carolina Markowicz. Carolina has an original voice with an acid, peculiar humor,” Zita Carvalhosa at Cinematográfica Superfilmes, stated. “The moral elasticity of ‘Charcoal’ is a metaphorical extension of the world we’re forced to face now.”

A small but impressive cast lifts the narrative with their wry and understated humor, pulling each scene intimately into focus. César Bordón (“Wild Tales”) plays the embattled drug lord with Maeve Jinkings (“Aquarius” “Neon Bull”) taking on the role of no-nonsense matriarch Irene. Camila Márdila (“The Second Mother”) stars as Luciana with Aline Marta (“Memory House”) cast as the ominous Juracy. Jean Almeida da Costa plays precocious son Jean with Rômulo Braga (“Marie”) rounding out the ensemble as Irene’s neglectful and oft-absent husband Jairo.

“As an Argentinian producer, it’s an honor to be a part of this transcendental and delicate film by Carolina, which I’ve had the privilege to work on since the development stage, almost five years ago, together with Carolina, Superfilmes, and Biônica,” Israel stated. “I think it’s truly important to encourage these types of co-productions in our region for the best growth of our film industries.”

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