EXCLUSIVE: Coming-of-age tale about a mentally challenged girl is latest production from Incendies production house micro_scope.

Quebecois filmmaker Louise Archambault’s Gabrielle, about a mentally challenged young woman’s quest for independence and sexual freedom, has racked up a raft of sales just weeks after it was launched at the EFM.

The feature, sold by eOne Films International, has been snapped up for France (Haut et Court), Benelux (Cinéart) and Switzerland (Agora Film).

“We really fell for this film from the start on the basis of the script and first images of Gabrielle – which were both incredibly moving — and we’re not surprised distributors are falling for it too,” Toronto-based eOne sales chief Charlotte Mickie told Screen.

The picture revolves around the musically gifted but mentally challenged Gabrielle who is eager to strike out on her own and find love but is held back by her condition. Her situation comes to a head when she falls for a similarly challenged young man whom she meets through a special needs choir.

They embark on a relationship but the couple hit resistance from their families and social workers who fear they cannot handle an adult romance. The determined Gabrielle strives to prove them wrong with a few hurdles along the way.

For now, eOne has focused chiefly on buyers from French-language territories because a subtitled version of the picture, which is in post-production, is still in the works.

“We’ll start rolling it out to elsewhere in Cannes where we’ll have a subtitled version,” she said.

Gabrielle is the latest production from Incendies and Monsieur Lazhar producers Luc Déry and Kim McCraw at Montreal-based micro_scope.

“It’s not a subject that has been explored a lot in the past… it’s about a mentally challenged couple’s quest to have a relationship and explore their sexuality like everyone else” said McCraw. 

Director Archambault met the film’s 23-year-old star Gabrielle Marion-Rivard at Montreal’s Les Muses performing arts school for mentally challenged people.

“Louise spent a year coaching Gabrielle, for the role… at first she was all over the place and incredibly nervous in front of the camera but Louise’s patience paid off and Gabrielle is extraordinary on screen,” said McCraw.

Gabrielle is Archambault’s second film after mother and daughter tragi-comedy Familia. The picture, which premiered in Locarno in 2005, was also produced by micro_scope.

Toronto-based eOne is also handling sales on micro_scope’s upcoming psychological drama Whitewash  about a man who goes into hiding after he mows someone down with his snowplough. The debut feature from award-winning commercials director Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais will premiere in the Spotlight section of Tribeca Film Festival in April. Mickie will accompany the film to New York.