‘Shiva Baby’ Distributor Buys Tribeca Award Winner ‘Materna’

Utopia has acquired worldwide rights to David Gutnik’s “Materna” ahead of the film’s in-person debut at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

The movie looks at four women, whose lives intersect during an incident on a New York City subway. Kate Lyn Sheil (“She Dies Tomorrow”), Jade Eshete (“Billions”), Lindsay Burdge (“Black Bear”), Assol Abdullina (“First Snow”), Michael Chernus (“Orange Is the New Black”), Rory Culkin (“Castle Rock”) and Sturgill Simpson (the upcoming “Killers of the Flower Moon”) all star. Abdullina and Eshete co-wrote the screenplay with Gutnik.

According to the official logline: “‘Materna’ follows the journeys of four New York women who are isolated by city life, separated by class, politics, race and religion, and yet bound by a shared hunger for identity and connection. With their futures at stake, the characters’ lives are upended by a fateful encounter underground, where their stories of personal transformation become a battle for survival.”

It marks Gutnik’s feature film debut, and was originally scheduled to bow at the 2020 edition of Tribeca, until COVID upended those plans. Still, it was awarded two prizes by the jury after it showed virtually: best actress for Abdullina, and best cinematography for Greta Zozula, Chananun Chotrungroj and Kelly Jeffrey. Last spring, Gutnik wrote about the experience for Variety of having the premiere refashioned.

“If the women’s stories in ‘Materna’ have any relevance to our current moment, it is because they are stories of hunger, of the need for love and understanding, and the confinements posed by our own nature,” he wrote. “These enduring human problems are revealed to us under stress, when the world feels, as it does now, like it is coming apart all around us. But the truth of who we are, and what we need, will remain when we put the pieces back together, when the subway restores its rumble, and the lights go down for the first Film Forum matinee. Cinema will remain — for me, and for so many — the place we go alone, and together — to learn how to live.”

Utopia, which recently released the buzzy comedy “Shiva Baby,” will release “Materna” in August across all digital platforms and on demand.

“An astonishing portrait of profound intimacy from isolation, ‘Materna’ captures how even our most private relationships intertwine with each new chapter the nation faces,” said Danielle DiGiacomo, Utopia’s head of content. “We are honored to be working with Gutnik on his ravishing debut, a telltale sign that he will continue to be a visionary filmmaker of record.”

Gutnik previously served as editor of Christina Choe’s “Nancy” starring Andrea Riseborough. “Materna” is produced by Emily McEvoy and Liz Cardenas; executive produced by Abdullina and Eshete, alongside Amman Abbasi and Chantal Lian.

“‘Materna’ began with private conversations between myself and my co-writers, Jade Eshete and Assol Abdullina,” Gutnik said in a statement. “In many ways, the film’s intensively collaborative creative process is reflective of the experience of New York City life that we wanted to capture. ‘Materna’ was borne of the tension that every New Yorker experiences: the tug of war in our hearts between a place that feels so communal and so isolating at the same time. After a year during which so much of what makes up urban life has been under threat, we are thrilled to share our love song to New York and its citizens with Utopia, a distributor committed to championing new and bold American cinema.”

DiGiacomo represented Utopia in the negotiation, with Untitled Entertainment working on behalf of the filmmakers.

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