Germany-based sales firm Global Screen has boarded world sales on Mercy, the new film from More Than Ever director Emily Atef.

French-Iranian director Atef is in Cannes sourcing partners for the film, which will be her English-language film debut and is aiming for a 2024 shoot entirely in Kenya.

Atef has written the adaptation of Lara Santoro’s novel of the same name, about a friendship between a US correspondent in Kenya and a local woman from the slums, who pair up to combat the AIDS crisis in the country in 1999. The director is currently working with Kenyan writer Hawa Essuman on the latest version of the script

Gian-Piero Ringel will produce the title for Germany’s Ringel Film, with France’s Les Films Pelleas and the UK’s Cowboy Films. Global Screen is co-financing the title with Arte also putting money in; the project is pitching to France’s Aide aux cinemas du monde fund and the BFI.

Atef is set on hiring a majority of local heads of department for the local story, which will spotlight how AIDS drugs were made prohibitively expensive for African countries, leading to an estimated 10m deaths. “We don’t just want 3rd, 4th assistants from Kenya,” says Atef. “It has to be common ground.” The production is in discussion with European regional funds to see if rules around use of local crews can be relaxed to allow support for the African industry.

Casting is underway on the film, with Atef out to “name” talent, including US and UK actors for the role of US correspondent Anna.

Atef recently debuted One Day We’ll Tell Each Other Everything in Competition at the 2023 Berlinale. Her previous feature was 2022’s More Than Ever, which featured English dialogue.