France's StudioCanal is to co-finance the next feature from Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles, God's Town (Cidade De Deus), which is scheduled to start shooting on location in Rio de Janeiro in June.

The film will be produced by Sao Paulo-based O2 Filmes, which is co-owned by Meirelles and Andrea Barata Ribeiro, and co-produced by Walter Salles' Videofilmes with Brazilian media giant Globo as co-financier.

StudioCanal's specialist division Wild Bunch will handle international sales on the project in all territories outside North and South America where O2 has retained rights.

Based on Paulo Lins' best-selling novel of the same name, God's Town tells the true life story of two boys during the occupation of the housing project Cidade De Deus in Rio de Janeiro. One of the boys resists the appeal of becoming a bandit to pursue a career as a photographer, while the other becomes the most feared drugs dealer in Rio. The original novel has been translated into six languages and is to be published in the US by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux and in the UK by Bloomsbury.

The screenplay, by Braulio Mantovani, was awarded the prize of the Motion Pictures Association and Writers Guild of America in its 1999 Screenplay Competition. It also participated in the third Sundance/Riofilme Script Laboratory in 1999. In preparation for the film, Meirelles made a short entitled Palace II with actors who had received training in an acting school he had established in the slums of Rio.

Meirelles' latest feature Maids (Domesticas), which was co-directed with Nando Olival and is being handled internationally by start-up sales agency Levine Film, received its world premiere this weekend in the Tiger Award competition at the Rotterdam International Film Festival.