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Sundance Queer Drama ‘Sebastian’ Finds U.S. and International Distribution (EXCLUSIVE)

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The Sundance queer drama “Sebastian,” directed by up-and-coming Finnish-British director Mikko Mäkelä, has been bought by Kino Lorber for U.S. distribution, along with a string of international buyers.

Represented in international markets by LevelK, the film made its world premiere in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

“Sebastian” follows Max (Ruaridh Mollica), a 25-year-old freelance writer and aspiring novelist who seems well on his way to success in London’s cultural spheres. Yet by night, he finds a different kind of exhilaration as a sex worker with the pseudonym Sebastian, meeting men via an escorting platform. Max uses his experiences as Sebastian to fuel his stories, and the worthy debut novel that he has been longing to write finally seems within reach. But Max increasingly struggles to remain in control of his double-life, leading him to reckon with whether Sebastian is merely a writer’s tool to achieve first-hand authenticity, or if something more is at stake.

Kino Lorber is planning a theatrical, home video and digital release on all major platforms later in 2024.

In addition to Kino Lorber, the film has been sold by LevelK to Germany (Salzgeber & Co.), France (Optimale Sarl), Brazil (Imovision), Spain (Filmin Spain) and Poland (Tongariro Releasing), with more deals still being negotiated. September Films in Benelux and Cinemanse in the Nordics also picked up the film ahead of the EFM.

“Mikko Mäkelä’s sensual, sophisticated debut offers an engrossing and provocative look at the intersection of sex work, art, identity and authenticity,” said Kino Lorber SVP Wendy Lidell. “‘Sebastian’ hardly shies away from frank depictions of sex on screen, but what impressed me most about it at Sundance was that the carnal acts on display were never gratuitous, but rather suffused with intellectual and artistic purpose.”

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Over at the French banner Optimale Sarl, head of distribution Cyril Rota described Ruaridh Mollica as the next U.K. star, “reminiscent of a Tom Holland-type.”

“He explores the highly secretive world of male escorting from a unique angle never seen before,” Rota continued. “This debut feature from a promising young Finnish-British director adeptly navigates a highly sensitive subject, portraying the nuances of sexuality in a time when everything seems polarized.”

The cast is completed by Hiftu Quasem (“The Witcher: Blood Origin,” “Killing Eve”), Jonathan Hyde (“Titanic”) and Ingvar Sigurdsson (“A White, White Day”).

“Sebastian” is produced by James Watson for Bêtes Sauvages and co-produced by Aleksi Bardy, Ciara Barry, Rosie Crerar, Erik Glijnis, Severi Koivusalo, Leontine Petit and Dries Phlypo for Helsinki Filmi, Barry Crerar and Lemming Film. Mike Goodridge, former CEO of Protagonist Pictures and producer of “Triangle of Sadness” serves as executive producer alongside Lizzie Francke for the BFI whose EP credits include “Aftersun” and “The Souvenir.”

The movie marks Mäkelä’s follow-up to his feature debut, “A Moment in the Reeds,” which screened at over 80 festivals worldwide. Mäkelä is an alumnus of Berlinale Talents, as well as the inaugural BIFA Springboard Programme supported by Netflix (2020).

Source: Variety

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