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2017 Sundance Film Festival Predictions: Michael Larnell’s Roxanne, Roxanne

Michael Larnell knows a thing or two about big breaks. He launched his filmmaking career with the microbudgeted Cronies which was included in Sundance’s NEXT section in 2015, and the buzz appears to have carried over into his sophomore outing which lensed. Naturally this happens to also be the story of big breaks, underdogs and the early hip hop industry. Produced by Pharrell Williams and the team of Nina Yang Bongiovi and Forest Whitaker, Roxanne, Roxanne employs an unknown entity in the lead role of the 14 year-old protag and enlists the services of Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Nia Long and Mitchell Edwards. This could be an off the charts, original take on the biopic and buzz title offering.

Gist: In the early 1980s, the most feared battle emcee in Queens, New York, was a fierce teenage girl with the weight of the world on her shoulders. At the age of 14, Lolita “Roxanne Shanté” Gooden was well on her way to becoming a hip-hop legend as she hustled to provide for her family while defending herself from the dangers of the streets of the Queensbridge Projects in NYC.

Production Co./Producers: Significant Productions’ Nina Yang Bongiovi and Forest Whitaker (Songs My Brothers Taught Me), Mimi Valdés (Hidden Figures), IamOTHER Entertainment’s Pharrell Williams.

Prediction: U.S. Dramatic Comp or sought after acquisition titles in the Premieres category.

U.S. Distributor: Rights Available. TBD (domestic). TBD (international)

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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