Strand Releasing has snatched up North American distribution rights to Singaporean filmmaker Anthony Chen’s recent Cannes favorite The Breaking Ice. The film made its world premiere in May in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section, with The Hollywood Reporter‘s critics later selecting it as one of the 20 best films screened at the festival this year.

The Breaking Ice tells the story of an unlikely, fleeting friendship formed between three restless young people in China’s far northeastern border city of Yanji. It is headlined by a star-studded ensemble of young Chinese talent, including Zhou Dongyu (Oscar-nominated Better Days), Liu Haoran (the Detective Chinatown franchise) and Qu Chuxiao (The Wandering Earth).

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Chen previously won Cannes’ Caméra d’Or award with his debut feature Ilo Ilo (2013), which was later submitted by Singapore as its entry to the Oscars’ best international film race. His second feature Wet Season premiered in Toronto and his English-language debut, Drift, bowed at Sundance earlier this year. The Breaking Ice is his first feature shot entirely in Mainland China, a project that took him far outside his creative comfort zone. In an interview with THR, Chen described the film as his “love letter” to China’s restless youth.

THR‘s critic praised the film, writing: “Chen returns here to the gentler observational style and hushed intimacy of his gorgeous domestic drama, Ilo Ilo… Rich in feeling yet never emotionally emphatic, The Breaking Ice has an uncluttered narrative simplicity that’s mirrored in the shooting style and nicely offset by the nuanced complexity of the relationships.”

He added: “The new film’s characters — a woman and two men in their 20s, played with exquisite restraint by three appealing, impeccably naturalistic actors — are afflicted by sorrows, frustrations and anxieties seldom articulated, but their many moments of introspection reveal as much as they withhold.”

Strand Releasing says it is planning a theatrical release for The Breaking Ice in late 2023 or early 2024. The deal was done by Jon Gerrans of Strand and Fen Chen from Rediance, the Chinese company handling worldwide sales on the film.

“We’re absolutely thrilled about representing The Breaking Ice for North America and have had a long productive relationship with Anthony as colleagues and handling Wet Season,” said Marcus Hu of Strand Releasing.

In addition to closing deals for France, South Korea, Switzerland, Greece, Italy, Hong Kong previously, The Breaking Ice has also been sold to Japan (New Select), Spain (Filmin), Sweden (novemberfilm), and worldwide inflight rights have been picked up by Encore Inflight.

Produced by Canopy Pictures and co-financed by Huace Pictures, the film is targeting a significant release in Mainland China on Aug. 22. In Singapore, it will be released by Giraffe Pictures, and theatrical releases in other territories are soon to follow.

Strand Releasing is based in Culver City, Calif. Other recent acquisitions include Pierre Creton’s A Prince, which appeared in this year’s Directors’ Fortnight and is currently on release, and the Sundance prize-winning Mutt, opening in August.

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