Magnolia Pictures Buys Venice Hit ‘Blue Jean’ for North America

Magnolia Pictures has acquired the North American rights to Venice Film Festival sensation “Blue Jean.”

The directorial debut of Georgia Oakley, which just world-premiered in the Venice Days section of the Italian festival, is set in England in 1988, where Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government is about to pass a law stigmatizing gays and lesbians.

The new legislation forces Jean (Rosy McEwen), a closeted gym teacher, to live a double life. But as pressure mounts from all sides, the arrival of a new student catalyzes a crisis that will challenge Jean to her core.

The movie features a powerhouse performance by McEwen, and won Venice’s Giornate degli Autori (GdA) People’s Choice award. Magnolia plans to release the film next year.

“Blue Jean” was an early standout at the Venice Film Festival, which wrapped on Saturday, selling into powerhouse distributor Altitude for the U.K. and Ireland in the first week itself.

Variety critic Guy Lodge said that “Oakley’s restrained yet powerfully poised film doesn’t shoot for fuzzy big-picture universality. Instead it draws one stymied life with such texture and precision that you can see any number of others reflected in it, their identities as certain and inalienable as their rights.”

Magnolia Pictures president Eamonn Bowles said of the film: “’Blue Jean’ is like a beautiful island in the sea of current filmmaking. Georgia Oakley displays the touch of a master and Rosy McEwen’s performance is nothing short of incandescent.”

Oakley added: “Witnessing the audience respond to ‘Blue Jean’ in Venice was such a special moment for our team. We couldn’t be more excited to join Magnolia Pictures’ roster of new voices and work together to bring the film to North American audiences.”

Written and directed by Oakley, “Blue Jean” is produced by Hélène Sifre’s Kleio Films, with backing by BBC Film and the BFI (awarding National Lottery funding), in association with Great Point Media. It was developed with the support of BBC Film.

The deal was negotiated by Magnolia executive VP Dori Begley and senior VP of acquisitions John Von Thaden, with Fabien Westerhoff at Film Constellation on behalf of the filmmakers.

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