A project tat was first announced in May of 2016 when it was being shopped at the Cannes Film Market, Turkish-French writer/director Deniz Gamze Ergüven is making her English-language feature film debut with “Kings,” which stars Halle Berry and Daniel Craig, in a story that centers on a foster family set during the 1992 Los Angeles riots that followed the acquittal of the police officers charged with the excessive beating of Rodney King.
Berry plays a “strong, protective” single mother living in South Central, Los Angeles, where the riots began in April 1992; and Craig portrays a loner who lives in South Central and falls in love with Berry’s character. When the riots erupt, he helps Berry in protecting her children from the violence.
Lamar Johnson, Kaalan Walker and Rachel Hilson are round out the film’s key cast.
The project is back at the Cannes Film Market a year later, where it’s just been picked up for distribution by The Orchard, after what’s reported to have been some competitive bidding from other players who were very impressed with what they were shown of the film. No release date has been set yet. But given the filmmaker’s resume, and reaction to the film at the Cannes Film Market, this could very well be an awards season contender, after a premiere at a premiere international film festival like Toronto.
Bliss Media and Maven Pictures are co-financing the independent drama which writer/direct Erguven began working on in 2004, spending years working in the South Central neighborhood where the film is set. Ergüven first tried to make the film right out of film school (France’s prestigious Fémis film school) and made some progress with it (like being selected to present it at the Cannes L’Atélier co-production event in 2011); but the filmmaker realized that it was too ambitious for a first, feature-length production. So she put it aside to make what ended up being her feature film debut, “Mustang,” about 5 rebellious sisters in a small Turkish village, for which she was nominated for an Oscar last year (Best Foreign Language Film, submitted by France).
“‘Kings’ is such a powerful read. Its elegant simplicity, coupled with Deniz’ vision, make it the perfect kind of project that Bliss Media would like to be a part of,” said Bliss Media’s Wei Han in a previous statement.
Charles Gillibert, who produced “Mustang,” is doing the same on “Kings” via his through his CG Cinema. Maven Pictures co-founders Trudie Styler, Celine Rattray, and Charlotte Ubben serve as executive producers alongside Wei Han of Bliss Media.
“Kings” is also co-produced by Canal Plus, France 2 Cinema and Ad Vitam in France, and by Scope Pictures in Belgium.
The film is one of at least 7 films or TV programs on the L.A. uprising that will likely all be released this year, the 25th anniversary of the Rodney King verdict.
Up next for Berry is the thriller “Kidnap” which is set to be released on August 4th of this year (after numerous push backs, following what was to be an October 2015 premiere) after an initially scheduled December 2016 premiere). She also co-stars in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” (a sequel to the 2015 film “Kingsman: The Secret Service”) which will be in theaters in October of this year.
Deadline was first to report the news of The Orchard’s acquisition of the film.