Lionsgate and Roadside Pick Up Post-WWII Epic EMPEROR; SPC Acquires Saudi Film WADJDA

     September 15, 2012


News on two, two, two acquisitions for you, you, you:

  • Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions picked up Emperor, their fourth joint acquisition out of TIFF this year.  (The first three were Thanks for Sharing, Imogene, and Much Ado About Nothing.)  Tommy Lee Jones and Matthew Fox star as the generals who led the investigation into whether to charge Emperor Hirohito for war crimes following World War II.  Eriko Hatsune and Toshiyuki Nishida co-star.
  • Sony Pictures Classics has acquired the North American rights to Saudi writer/director Haifaa Al-Mansour‘s Wadjda.  The story centers on a 10-year-old girl enters her school’s Koran recitation competition to win enough money to buy a bike.  SPC will release Wadjda in 2013.

Hit the jump for more on both projects.

THR reported the Emperor deal.  Here’s the official synopsis:


A gripping tale of love and honor forged between fierce enemies of war, EMPEROR unfolds the story, inspired by true events, of the bold and secret moves that won the peace in the shadows of post-war Japan.  Matthew Fox joins Academy Award® winner Tommy Lee Jones and newcomer Eriko Hatsune to bring to life the American occupation of Japan in the perilous and unpredictable days just after Emperor Hirohito’s World War II surrender. As General Douglas MacArthur (Jones) suddenly finds himself the de facto ruler of a foreign nation, he assigns an expert in Japanese culture – General Bonner Fellers (Fox), to covertly investigate the looming question hanging over the country: should the Japanese Emperor, worshiped by his people but accused of war crimes, be punished or saved?  Caught between the high-wire political intrigue of his urgent mission and his own impassioned search for the mysterious school teacher (Hatsune) who first drew him to Japan, Fellers can be certain only that the tricky subterfuge about to play out will forever change the history of two nations and his heart.


The synopsis for Wadjda is bolded in the press release below:

Sony Pictures Classics announced today that they have acquired all North American rights to WADJDA from Berlin-based Razor Films.  Written and Directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour, WADJDA is the first feature film shot entirely in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia–and the first ever by a Saudi female filmmaker. The film had its world premiere at the 2012 Venice Film Festival to standing ovations and rave reviews before making a similarly triumphant North American debut at the Telluride Film Festival where the film was first discovered by Sony Classics. WADJDA will be released in 2013.

wadjda movie image

Sony Pictures Classics has worked previously with Razor Films and producers Roman Paul and Gerhard Meixner on the Academy Award® nominated film WALTZ WITH BASHIR.

10-year-old Wadjda challenges deep-rooted Saudi traditions in a determined quest to buy a bicycle.   When everything goes against her plans, she sees one last chance in her school’s Koran recitation competition and the large cash prize for first place. WADJDA is the story of a girl determined to fight for her dreams.

Haifaa Al-Mansour is the first female filmmaker in Saudi Arabia. Through WADJDA, as well as previous media in the Kingdom, Haifaa has gained recognition for penetrating the wall of silence surrounding the sequestered lives of Saudi women and providing a platform for their unheard voices.

“We are extremely happy to work with the Sony Pictures Classics team again since we adore how dedicated and passionately they will release the film. After finishing the film in the way we had hoped for, this is another dream come true,” says Roman Paul of Razor Films.

Haifaa Al-Mansour adds, “I come from a small town in Saudi Arabia, a country where showing movies in public is illegal. To write and direct the first film ever to be shot inside Saudi Arabia, with one of the leading companies in Europe, Razor Films, was beyond my wildest dreams. To premiere my film at the Venice Film Festival was even more incredible, and now to have Sony Classics bring the film to North America, the place from where I first saw the power and emotional possibilities of film, is beyond anything I ever could have imagined.”

“WADJDA captivated audiences in Telluride in a spectacular, richly rewarding way. For the first time we are seeing a movie from that part of the world and it’s a great movie. When we met the director Haifaa and the producers Roman and Gerhard, we knew instantly we were a perfect match all around,” says Sony Pictures Classics.

SPC negotiated the deal with Rena Ronson of UTA Independent Film Group, who first discovered filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour at the Abu Dhabi Circle Conference in 2009 and helped to arrange financing along with Razor Films. The Match Factory is handling foreign sales.

Latest News