Cynthia Erivo & Alia Shawkat Lead Anthony Chen’s ‘Drift’ For ‘Call Me By Your Name’ & ‘Nomadland’ Producers — Cannes

EXCLUSIVE: Oscar nominee Cynthia Erivo (Harriet) will lead cast alongside Being The Ricardos and Arrested Development star Alia Shawkat in Anthony Chen’s (Ilo Ilo) English-language debut Drift.

The film reunites Call Me By Your Name producers Emilie Georges and Peter Spears and exec producer Naima Abed. Spears won the Best Picture Oscar last year for Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland.

Drift follows a young Liberian refugee named Jacqueline (Erivo) who has barely escaped her war-torn country to a Greek island. She offers massages to tourists in exchange for one or two euros to battle her hunger, while her daily struggle for survival keeps the memories that haunt her at bay. She meets an unmoored tour guide (Shawkat) and the two become close as they each find hope in the other. Ibrahima Ba, who has a supporting role in Cannes 2022 title Father & Soldier, is also among cast.

Filming is currently underway in Greece on the under-the-radar drama. Susanne Farrell (Dirty God) and Alexander Maksik adapted the screenplay from Maksik’s well-received novel A Marker To Measure Drift.

Drift marks the third collaboration between Chen and Georges, who sold his first two films, Caméra d’Or winner Ilo Ilo and Wet Season. French firm Memento is handling sales but it isn’t a sales priority project in Cannes.

Georges and Abed, co-founders and co-CEOs of Memento’s newly re-launched production label Paradise City are producing with Spears of Cor Cordium. Cynthia Erivo and Solome Williams are producing under their Edith’s Daughter banner alongside Anthony Chen’s Giraffe Pictures. Konstantinos Kontovrakis and Giorgos Karnavas are serving as co-producers for Heretic.

Erivo stars in Netflix’s upcoming film Luther opposite Idris Elba. She will next begin filming Jon M. Chu’s two-film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical Wicked, starring as Elphaba opposite Ariana Grande. Erivo was nominated for two Oscars for Harriet, for Best Actress and Best Original Song, and was recently nominated for an Emmy for her performance in Genius: Aretha. Also a singer and a stage actress, Erivo has won Tony, Grammy, and Emmy for her performance in the musical The Color Purple.

Shawkat can currently be seen in Amazon Studios’ critically acclaimed feature film Being The Ricardos from Aaron Sorkin. She stars opposite Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem as I Love Lucy writer Madelyn Pugh. On TV, she will next be seen in FX’s series, The Old Man, opposite Jeff Bridges. She is well known for HBO’s Search Party and Arrested Development.

Festival-favourite Chen’s recently wrapped The Breaking Ice starring Dongyu Zhou. He is also slated to direct The Secret Daughter with Priyanka Chopra and Sienna Miller for Amazon.

Drift is a compelling and deeply affecting story about the strength of the human spirit during the worst of times. It has been an emotional experience developing this film in the past few years, particularly during the challenging days of the pandemic,” said director Chen. “I’m thrilled to mark my English language feature debut working alongside the remarkable talents of Cynthia and Alia.”

Commented Erivo: “From the moment I read Drift, I was moved by the rare duality of Jacqueline, who both painfully and hopefully represents the depths of the immigrant experience, and specifically the black immigrant experience abroad. Sadly this subject becomes more and more relevant and timely with each day. Too often the experience of immigrants is told through headlines, which don’t encapsulate the individual’s humanity. My hope is this project can show their struggle with the empathy and attention it deserves.”

Georges said: “From my long standing collaboration with Anthony on Ilo Ilo and Wet Season, I’ve learned that he has a unique talent for exploring intimacy with love and his accessible style giving the audience access to character’s humanity, decency and warmth.”

Added Abed: “Representing the immigrant experience requires nuance, subtlety and grace. We couldn’t be prouder to have this incredible team to bring this story to life.”

Spears explained: “In this time of great human upheaval, Drift reminds us of our common humanity; that every one of us has a story forged by hope, resilience, and, for many, unimaginable hardships. I could not be prouder to help tell this powerful story with our incredible team of filmmakers from around the world.”

The film is a co-production between Paradise City Films (France), Heretic (Greece) and Fortyninesixty (the U.K.), in association with Cor Cordium, Edith’s Daughter and Giraffe Pictures, and is financed by Sunac Culture and Aim Media, Lauran Bromley’s Ages LLC, the UK Global Screen Fund – financed by the UK government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and administered by the BFI, and the Greek Film Center, with additional support from the Creative Europe Media European Program.

Erivo is represented by UTA, Authentic Talent & Literary Management & The Lede Company. Anthony Chen is represented by UTA and Casarotto Ramsay & Associates. Shawkat is repped by UTA and MGMT Entertainment.

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