Focus Features has acquired the worldwide rights, excluding the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, to LIMBO, the English-language directorial debut of Ben Sharrock (Pikadero). The film is written and directed by Sharrock, produced by Irune Gurtubai and Angus Lamont and stars BIFA Nominee Amir El-Masry (Industry, Jack Ryan, The Night Manager). The critically acclaimed film received two nods on BAFTA’s longlist for Outstanding British Film and Sharrock for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. It has also previously garnered nominations including Best Actor, Breakthrough Producer, Best Cinematography and Best Casting at the 2020 British Independent Film Awards, was part of 2020’s Cannes Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, the San Sebastian International Festival where it won the Youth Jury Award, and the BFI London Film Festival where it was runner-up for the Audience Award. LIMBO has also won the Golden Pyramid award for Best Film at Cairo International Film Festival along with the Henry Barakat Award for best artistic contribution and also the FIPRESCI critics’ prize. The film also picked up Best Film and Best Screenplay at Macau Film Festival. Executive producers are Julia Oh and Daniel Battsek for Film4, Ross McKenzie for Screen Scotland, and David Segal-Hamilton and Lizzie Francke for the BFI, which awards National Lottery funding.
LIMBO is a wry and poignant observation of the refugee experience, set on a fictional remote Scottish island where a group of new arrivals await the results of their asylum claims. It centers on Omar (El-Masry), a young Syrian musician who is burdened by his grandfather’s oud, which he has carried all the way from his homeland.
Reflecting the complexity of the movement of people across bordershas been a long-held passion for Sharrock, who spent time working for an NGO in refugee camps in southern Algeria and living in Damascus in 2009 shortly before the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. There, he formed a network of friends whose personal stories inspired the film.
“We are thrilled to bring moviegoers Ben Sharrock’s entrancing film, which examines its characters’ timely yet absurd experience with distinctive humor and heartfelt pathos,” said Focus’ president of production and acquisitions Kiska Higgs.
“I am a long-term admirer of the iconic Focus Features brand and their continued dedication to bringing bold, risk taking films to international audiences – many becoming icons of the cinematic landscape,” said Sharrock. “I couldn’t be more excited for Limbo to be lining up alongside an impressive, ever daring slate of films from Focus and to establish this valuable relationship as I move forward in my career.”
Amir El-Masry is joined by Vikash Bhai, Ola Orebiyi, and Kwabena Ansah. Sidse Babett Knudsen (The Duke of Burgundy, Borgen) and Kais Nashif (Tel Aviv on Fire) round out the supporting roles. LIMBO also features non-actors in supporting roles and as extras, including refugees who have made their home across Scotland and locals from the Outer Hebrides.
Protagonist Pictures handled the sale of the film. Sharrock is represented by CAA and LARK. El-Masry is represented by UTA and Insight. Focus Features will distribute the film in the U.S. and Universal Pictures International will distribute internationally except in the UK, where Mubi will distribute.