EXCLUSIVE: Focus Features is circling Critics Week’s flesh-eating thriller Raw in a deal that would see it take most of the world, including domestic rights. The deal isn’t closed yet but Focus — as well as other buyers — have been hungrily eyeing the film, which debuted to strong reviews. Raw is the debut feature directorial effort of French filmmaker Julia Ducournau and its premiere in Cannes has positioned as her as a major new talent. One buyer likened the buzz around her to that around Tomas Alfredson and Juan Antonio Bayona after the bows of Let The Right One In and The Orphanage respectively: a distinctive, exciting new voice capable of storming the world stage. Deadline understands that Ducournau is being courted by all the major talent agencies. That deal could also close any day, such is the interest in the eminently photogenic filmmaker.
Raw tells the story of 16-year-old Justine. Everyone in her family is a veterinarian. And a vegetarian. She’s a brilliant and promising student. When she starts at veterinary school, she enters a decadent, merciless and dangerously seductive world. During the first week of hazing rituals, desperate to fit in whatever the cost, she strays from her family principles when she eats raw meat for the first time. Justine will soon face the terrible and unexpected consequences of her actions when her true self begins to emerge.
Stylishly and effectively mixing horror tropes with a genuinely affecting coming-of-age tale as well as elements of a teen comedy, Raw would be a good get for Focus, which has enjoyed a strong first Cannes under new chairman Peter Kujawski, COO Abhijay Prakash and president Robert Walak. The prestige film division saw strong critical notices for Jeff Nichols’ Loving. That film stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who married in 1958 and found themselves prosecuted in Virginia and sent to prison. The couple fought until the state’s miscegenation law was overturned in 1967 by the Supreme Court in a landmark Civil Rights case. Focus had acquired worldwide rights in a splashy acquisition at the beginning of the Berlin fest in February.
Focus moved similarly quickly at Cannes to acquire key international markets on Andrea Arnold’s competition entry American Honey, starring another fest breakout, Sasha Lane, and Shia LaBeouf. Focus took UK, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Italy and Scandinavia for the coming-of-age tale about law-breaking teenagers chasing the American Dream.
A Raw deal would cement the division’s strategy of producing and acquiring quality titles with local and international breakout potential. Raw was produced by Jean des Forêts for Petit Film, with Jean-Yvez Roubin, Cassandre Warnauts, Julie Gayet, Nadia Turincev co-producing. Wild Bunch is handling international sales.