April 19, 2024

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EXCLUSIVE: Independent studio and distributor MEMORY has picked up North American distribution rights on Artemis Shaw and Prashanth Kamalakanthan’s pandemic comedy New Strains.

The film debuted at the 2023 International Film Festival Rotterdam, where it won the Tiger Competition Jury Prize and had its US premiere at the Museum of the Moving Image’s First Look Festival in New York later that year. The film will have its Los Angeles premiere at the inaugural Los Angeles Festival of Movies on April 6, and MEMORY will release the film early this summer. 

New Strains is the story of a frustrated couple on vacation at the beginning of a mysterious new pandemic. Kallia (Artemis Shaw) and Ram (Prashanth Kamalakanthan) have just arrived in New York, and they’re already bickering. A strange new illness is on the brink of exploding into a pandemic, and despite Ram’s protestations, Kallia insists that they are going to have a fun week in the city. Within hours of their arrival, a nationwide lockdown is announced ruining their plans. Over the course of their stay, they descend to absurd extremes of jealousy and codependence. 

Shot during the COVID-19 lockdown in New York City, the filmmakers relied on improvised dialogue, a decades-old camcorder, no operator, and a full cast of non-professional talent. Shaw and Kamalakanthan wrote, starred, directed, shot, and edited the feature. 

New Strains is a feat of creativity and resourcefulness. In a very stressful time in the world, Artemis and Prashanth used their immense talent to create an original and entertaining psychological ride that is at once unhinged yet completely relatable,” said Riel Roch-Decter, co-founder of MEMORY. “This film speaks to the kind of work MEMORY has championed since our inception, so we are honored to be able to collaborate with the filmmaking team on its release.”

The filmmakers added: “We knew that to put out such a handmade, personal film into the world we needed a distribution partner who could help us craft a very special release. We’ve loved MEMORY films for a long time and admired how they consistently connect daring, innovative work to wide audiences. It’s been a breath of fresh air to work with distributors who are also filmmakers in their own right, and open to close collaboration.”

Shaw and Kamalakanthan both teach film and are currently at Virginia Commonwealth University. Previously, they taught at institutions including Tribeca Film Institute, Museum of the Moving Image, Brown University, and New York University. The deal was negotiated by Roch-Decter for MEMORY and the filmmakers on behalf of the film.

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