Great news on a project we've been tracking since it first showed up on oury radar in the fall of 2011... first a brief catch-up...
The feature film debut of French/Senegalese director Dyana Gaye, whose short film, the vibrant, unorthodox musical Saint Louis Blues, was one of 5 projects selected, financed and produced under the Focus Features Africa First program (she was part of the very first class, announced in 2008).
Titled Des Etoiles (or, in English, Stars), the project was one of 22 selected for the annual Co-production Village, which ran from December 11-13, 2011 at the 3rd Les Arcs European Film Festival; then it was announced as one of 5 debut feature film projects selected at the last 2011 session of the second advance on receipts committee of the National Film and Moving Image Centre (CNC); and most recently, it was one of 15 projects selected for the Cannes L’Atelier last year - an initiative which runs during the Cannes Film Festival aimed at finding financing for projects by upcoming directors that are in an advanced state of development.
And there are still other honors bestowed upon the project, as it traveled from one market/conference to the next, raising financing along the way and attracting talent at each stop, culminating in today's news (courtesy of Cineurope) that Gaye is set to begin principal photography on her first feature film in Turin, Italy, on February 4th, with a cast that includes Souleymane Seye N’Diaye (from fellow Senegalese Moussa Toure's The Pirogue, which opens in NYC next week, courtesy of Artmattan), Babacar M’Baye Fall, Ralph Amoussou, Italian actress Maya Sansa, Mata Gabin, Andreï Zayats and Marième Demba Ly.
Des Etoiles' synopsis reads:
Over one winter, through the cities of Dakar, Torino and New York, we follow the exiled paths of several interconnected characters. For her husband’s funeral, New Yorker Mame Amy returns to Dakar with her 19-year-old son Thierno, who takes his first ever steps on African soil. Sophie, 24-years-old, leaves Dakar for Torino to join her husband Abdoulaye. He is missing. Abdoulaye has just arrived in New York with his cousin through an organisation of clandestine migrants. As the days go by, their destinies begin to echo one another, through the diversity of the cities they are crossing, somehow all united under the same starry sky.
Gaye co-wrote the script with Cécile Vargaftig.
The film is being produced by Arnaud Dommerc for Andolfi Production, in a co-production effort with Centrale Electrique, Cinekap (Senegal), MG Productions (Belgium), as well as the Groupama Gan Foundation for the Cinema, the Fond Francophone de Production Audiovisuelle du Sud and the Procirep. Filming will end on April 3rd.
The film already has distribution in French theatres, via Haut et Court; international sales will be handled by Films Distribution.
With a February production start date, and given the scale of the production (assuming she'll be shooting in multiple cities, as described in the synopsis), I'll be looking for Des Etoile to premiere at a festival sometime in early 2014. It could very well be a Cannes 2014 lock. But we'll see.
It's feels like it's been a long journey. I'm excited for this, given what I know of Dyana Gaye's past work.