(Written for BritScene)
ATO Pictures has acquired the North American distribution rights to Shadow Dancer, a tense British thriller starring British actors Andrea Riseborough (W.E.) and Clive Owen (Intruders), which has been highly praised among the foreign films at Sundance Film festival when it premiered there earlier this week.
Filmed over 5 weeks in Dublin, Ireland, Shadow Dancer is directed by Oscar-winner James Marsh and adapted from a novel of the same name written by Tom Bradby. The story centres on an Irish woman (Riseborough), who is captured by the British authorities following a failed terrorist act, and offered a deal by a British intelligence officer (Owen) to become an informant. As she reluctantly agrees, she must betray her Republican family or else go to prison.
The movie is Marsh’s largest fiction feature to date, but he said making fiction films – as opposed to documentaries like Man on Wire and last year’s Project Nim – was always a part of his dream.
“In Britain you have this sort of exhausted sense of the Northern Irish troubles,” he told Reuters. “But I quickly got caught up in the premise of the story where you take a young single mother and you go and force her to spy on her own family. It’s an impossible bargain.”
Marsh also commented that he was initially reluctant to work on the movie, but that he was ultimately won over by the idea of telling a more personal story of the conflict, as he was interested in the microcosm of one family’s turmoil and how it reflected the region’s larger troubles.
“We didn’t try and bring in the bigger political story or the facts involved in this conflict. It felt like a very boiled down family thriller,” he said, adding he was not interested in getting “flashy and flamboyant.”
So far, Shadow Dancer has been described as “carefully crafted” by The Hollywood Reporter and as “a poetic and unapologetically arthouse story of betrayal and loyalty that, with its terrific score, measured pacing and fierce female performances, is a raw reminder of a sad and painful past” by The Guardian.
Shadow Dancer is now set to be distributed in the US after ATO acquired the North American Rights to the movie earlier this week.
“I am so thrilled to have ATO on board to distribute,” said producer Chris Coen, in a statement. “Their passion for the film is crystal clear and we look forward to a fruitful collaboration with the entire ATO team.”