Gkids has scooped North America rights to “Chicken for Linda!,” a hand-painted, Franco-Italian co-production that premiered out of Cannes’ ACID sidebar and is now competing in Annecy. Written and directed Chiara Malta and Sébastien Laudenbach, the bittersweet film focuses on the madcap energy of childhood without overlooking the melancholy.
Charades, which handles sales rights on the film, brokered the deal.
“We wanted something both funny and affecting,” said co-director Chiara Malta. “The two elements were never in conflict, because we made the film for children, putting ourselves in their perspectives while adopting their language.”
“And when you’re a child, you go very, very quickly from laughter to tears,” added co-director Sébastien Laudenbach. “Think of children playing in the park. One minute they’re laughing, the next they’re crying, then laughing again.”
The film follows young Linda, who lives in often unspoken grief with her harried single-mom. When offered anything in the world, Linda opts for chicken with peppers – a Roman dish with hefty sentimental import and a link to her late dad. Only to mom Paulette’s great misfortune, the request comes on the day of a nationwide shutdown, sending the committed cook on a cascading series of screwball scraps as she tries to get dinner on the table.
“We envisioned the film as an oil blot,” Laudenbach explains. “Because the idea right from the start was to change tones. We thought to start with a drop, with two tense and melancholy people in an apartment, and then we’d spread out, starting with two characters and ending with 250.”
“In the great Italian comedies, melancholy rubbed shoulders with burlesque,” adds Malta. “Melancholia fuels the comedy, and we wanted to tap that, to make something fun and musical, something in the mold of Bob Fosse when thinking about death.”
The filmmakers played with highly saturated colors, creating character designs inspired by toy stickers. “The characters are quite realistic when they’re in the foreground, but when in the background, they’re sometimes just represented by a few lines and just one color,” said Laudenbach.
“We weren’t afraid of abstraction, because children live with it all the time,” he continued. “They can’t read the world, so everything is extremely abstract for them. Our approach was more instinctive than cerebral; we were just putting ourselves at a child’s level and adopted their own language.”
“When you say ‘abstract,’ you often imagine something cold and distant,” he continues. “We wanted a [joyful mess]. The film is sad and funny. It’s full of energy and emotion, and as a result, the graphic style is dynamic as well. Everything moves. So, you can stop on an animated plate, or you can follow the characters in motion. You can see features up close in detail, or view them as a colorful blob from afar. It all went with this idea of movement.”
“’Chicken For Linda!’ is a breath of fresh air,“ said Gkids president David Jesteadt. “Through pairing such a unique and daring visual style with a deeply emotional and universal story about family, directors Chiara Malta and Sébastien Laudenbach have given us something both timeless and new, that we cannot wait to share.”
“It’s a blessing and a privilege to be part of Gkids’ highly curated line up,” said Yohann Comte of Charades. “They committed immediately after seeing the film, which is exceptional given the challenges of the US theatrical market today. After the Oscar-nominated Mirai, Marona’s Fantastic Journey, Belle and Unicorn Wars, we couldn’t wish for a better partner than the Gkids team!”