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New Sion Sono disaster drama Land Of Hope gets backing from UK's Third Window Films

The latest film from Japanese director Sion Sono has attracted a roster of domestic and international investment as the acclaimed auteur’s profile continues to rise.

Entitled The Land Of Hope, the film is an international co-production led by Japanese production company and domestic distributor Bitters End and Sono’s agency Dongyu Club. The two companies are headed by producers Yuji Sadai and Mizue Kunizane respectively.

Independent UK distributor Third Window Films has invested as a co-producer, with first option for UK rights. The move marks new territory for the speciality label which lost much of its stock in the Sony DADC warehouse fire during the London riots last summer.

Well-acquainted with bringing Japanese cinema to the territory, Third Window previously distributed Sono’s 2009 film Love Exposure, achieving a successful one-month run at the ICA and subsequent sale of broadcast rights to Film4. Third Window also picked up two Sono follow-ups, Cold Fish and Himizu.

Third Window CEO Adam Torel commented on the equity investment, which coincides with the establishment of a Japanese corporate entity. “After watching Sono’s feelings about the March 11 disaster come through Himizu I wanted to know more and believe that The Land Of Hope has all the workings to be his masterpiece.”

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Set in 2013, the story focuses on the struggles of a rural family split apart after a massive earthquake triggers a nuclear catastrophe. “I want people to relive March of last year and appreciate the horrifying reality of having to live with radiation,” said Sono.

The Land Of Hope went into production on Jan 13 and stars Isao Natsuyagi, Naoko Otani, Jun Murakami, Megumi Kagurazaka and DenDen.

Other production partners include Japan’s Pictures Dept., Germany’s Rapid Eye Movies and Taiwan’s Joint Entertainment, with the latter two pre-buying distribution rights.

Dongyu Club and Pictures Dept. will jointly handle international sales, set to begin at Hong Kong Filmart (March 19-22). Bitters End will release the film in late summer this year.

Himizu opened January 14 on 79 screens through Gaga Corporation, earning $458,000 (Y35.2m) and entering the top ten to become Sono’s biggest commercial success to date. The film won best new young actor and actress prizes in Venice for its two leads Shota Sometani and Fumi Nikaidou.

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