Strand Releasing announced that the company is acquiring North American rights to Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles’ critically acclaimed documentary MALA MALA, executive produced by Killer Films’ Christine Vachon and Pamela Koffler and produced by Santini and Sickles’ El Peligro Productions. A celebration of the trans and drag communities in Puerto Rico, the film made its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and will have its highly anticipated debut in theaters on July 1st at the IFC Center.
Christine Vachon says of the acquisition, “We are very proud MALA MALA and excited to get it out into the world with longtime friends and collaborators at Strand. The IFC Center is the clear choice for New Yorkers to see this important and necessary film.”
Strand has a rich history of distributing a wide array of LGBT films from around the world, including Gregg Araki’s MYSTERIOUS SKIN, Daniel Ribeiro’s THE WAY HE LOOKS, James Franco’s INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR., and Hong Khaou’s LILTING. They are also distributing the upcoming Alanté Kavaïté’s THE SUMMER OF SANGAILÉ, Anucha Boonyawatana’s THE BLUE HOUR, and Dean Francis’ DROWN.
“We’re thrilled to be working with Dan and Antonio,” say Strand Releasing’s Jon Gerrans and Marcus Hu jointly. “They have the spirit, vitality and energy and a keen eye, something that is so rare these days and obviously their partnership with Killer Films on this project means a lot.”
MALA MALA is a unique exploration of self-discovery and activism, featuring a diverse collection of subjects that include LGBTQ activists, business owners, sex workers, and a boisterous group of drag performers who call themselves The Doll House, MALA MALA portrays a fight for personal and community acceptance paved with triumphant highs and devastating lows. Filmed over the course of a historic three-year period, MALA MALA records the beginning of a new transliberation movement in Puerto Rico, as trans people came out of the shadows and into the spotlight. Through riveting cinematography that encapsulates the candy-colored, vivacious personalities as well as their frequently dark personal experiences, directors Santini and Sickles dynamically present the passion and hardships reflective of this distinctly binary human experience.
About the acquisition, Sickles says, “We’re excited to be partnering with Strand for the release of our debut feature. Few independent distributors are as visionary as they are, and in today’s climate, selling a film starring queers of color from a colonized island has been an uphill battle; I’m proud that Strand is able to see the value in diverse content. This film is our baby, and it’s an emotional time for me to see that it is finally receiving the support is deserves. It’s a big moment for Puerto Rican film, and a really exciting time for transgender communities everywhere.”
Santini continues, “We hope this Puerto Rican trans fairytale adds force to the new transliberation movement and finally sparks the conversation about the United States’ complex relationship with its colony, Puerto Rico. Young Latinos are in need of more stories that help them understand and appreciate their culture and roots. Why not aspire to be like the nine trans people in the film? I do.”
Coming off its world premiere at Tribeca, MALA MALA was universally praised by critics, with Grantland’s Wesley Morris calling the film “one of the richest, most emotionally complicated portraits of identity” he’s ever seen. Indiewire wrote that the film is a “landmark LGBT documentary” and The Village Voice lauded the film as “mesmerizing.”
The deal for the film was negotiated by Jon Gerrans on behalf of Strand Releasing.