French sales group Wide Management has picked up worldwide rights, outside of Ethiopia, for Jan Philipp Weyl’s coming-of-age drama Running Against the Wind.
The feature, which was Ethiopia’s official entry for the best international film Oscar, will be presented to buyers next month at Cannes’ virtual film market, the Marché du Film Online.
The film follows two friends growing up in a remote village whose lives are changed by a single photo. Solomon leaves for the city to become a photographer. Abdi stays home and trains to be a long-distance runner, emulating his hero, Ethiopia’s two-time Olympic gold medal winner Haile Gebrselassie, who has a cameo in the film. Ten years later, Abdi moves to the city to train with the national running team, only to meet up again with Solomon, who has drifted into a life of crime.
German director Weyl immersed himself in Ethiopian culture to make the movie, spending several years living in the country, learning Amharic, one of Ethiopia’s eight major languages, and even working as a garbage man in the capital Addis Ababa — like his character Solomon.
Running Against the Wind was produced by Weyl and Samerawit Seid Kekebo of R&B Film and Chris Naumann and Andreas Seck of AC Independent Film in Munich.
“It’s rare to find an African film with such high production values that also has the potential to reach a large audience,” says Maxime Montagne, head of international sales at Wide. “I think that in this sense the film is very modern and can be compared to films which work really well on platforms like Netflix or Amazon.”
Online platforms, hungry for high-quality finished films, are expected to be among the most active buyers at the online Marché. Netflix in particular has shown a penchant for international art house titles, with such acquisitions as Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma and Mati Diop’s Senegalese drama Atlantics.
Paris-based Wide specializes in international art house features, from less-exposed regions of the world. African cinema is a particular focus, with such titles as Saïd Ould-Khelifa’s Algerian war drama Zabana! and Aujourd’hui from Senegalese filmmaker Alain Gomis among its sales slate.
Weyl is represented by Matt Goldman and Tarik Kanafani of Silver Lining Entertainment.
The Marché du Film Online runs June 22-26.
You can watch the trailer for Running Against The Wind below.