May 28, 2024

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EXCLUSIVE: Brussels-based company Best Friend Forever (BFF) has acquired international sales rights for Canadian director Matthew Rankin’s Universal Language.

The intriguing Persian and French-language drama is among 21 feature films announced as being selected for the 2024 edition of Cannes parallel section Directors’ Fortnight on Tuesday.

In a first key distribution deal for the movie, Oscilloscope Laboratories have taken U.S. rights. Quebecois distributor Maison4Tiers will release in Canada.

Universal Language is Rankin’s second feature after The Twentieth Century, on which BFF also handled international sales. The surrealist dark comedy won the Berlinale Fipresci Award in 2020 and Best Canadian debut award in TIFF Midnight Madness 2019.

Rankin has also made multiple short films including The Tesla World Light, which premiered in Cannes Critic’s Week 2017.

Going under the Persian title of Avaz boughalamoune (Lovesong for a Turkey), Rankin’s new film Universal Language is described as taking place “somewhere between Tehran and Winnipeg”.

Per the official synopsis: “The lives of multiple characters interweave with each other in surprising and mysterious ways. Gradeschoolers Negin and Nazgol find a sum of money frozen in the winter ice and try to claim it. Meanwhile, Massoud leads a group of increasingly-befuddled tourists through the monuments and historic sites of Winnipeg. Matthew quits his meaningless job in a Québecois government office and sets out upon an enigmatic journey to visit his mother. Space, time and personal identities crossfade, interweave and echo into a surreal comedy of misdirection. 

The movie stars newcomers Rojina Esmaeili, Saba Vahedyousefi, Sobhan Javadi, Pirouz Nemati, Matthew Rankin, Mani Soleymanlou and Danielle Fichaud.

“We explode with jubilation at being able to share our movie in the legendary Directors’ Fortnight section of Cannes. Upon receiving this nice news, my collaborators Pirouz Nemati and Ila Firouzabadi and myself fused together into a loving group hug which lasted well over an hour,” said Rankin.

“We salute the sweet fellows at Best Friend Forever, who were insane enough to accompany my first feature and audacious enough to take on this improbable second one. Universal Language is a work driven by feelings of great existential longing and I hope audiences will love it as much as we loved making it. Ghorbonet besham,” said Rankin

BFF co-founders Martin Gondre and Charles Bin welcomed the opportunity to work with Rankin again as well as the selection of Universal Language for Directors’ Fortnight.

“Matthew has a very unique voice and his cinema doesn’t look to anything you have seen before,” they commented.

Universal Language is produced by Sylvain Corbeil’s Metafilms, the top Canadian indie production company behind the films of Xavier Dolan and hits such as The Nature of Love, Falcon Lake, Felix and Meira.

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