Fast-rising South African helmer Sibs Shongwe-La Mer has been tapped to direct “Meridian,” produced by Cassian Elwes and Susan Carter Hall. By Christopher Vourlias
Based on an original screenplay by Henderson Hall and Karolina Waclawiak, it’s the story of a priceless Picasso that goes missing from a Nazi bunker after WWII, only to resurface decades later in the small American town of Meridian.
Shongwe-La Mer describes the film as “a beautiful ode to cinema” and “classic Hollywood.” “That Hollywood is the Hollywood that made me fall in love with films,” he says.
Shongwe-La Mer says he met Elwes in L.A. after the AFI Fest screening of his acclaimed debut, “Necktie Youth,” which premiered at the Berlinale in 2015. “Cassian Elwes is a true hero of mine,” he says. “From ‘Blue Valentine’ to ‘Dallas Buyers Club,’ these are pictures that move me to the point that they remind me why I want to make films.”
The young helmer credits the “Mudbound” producer with mentoring him through his rapid climb, which sees Shongwe-La Mer in Cannes this week with his third feature, “The Color of the Skull.” That film is taking part in the Cinefondation’s Atelier, the Cannes fest’s forum for films seeking completion funding.
He says Elwes has stressed “the value of following your vision,” telling him, “When you find a movie you want to make, don’t let anyone else shy you away from that ambition.”
“Meridian” is currently casting. Shongwe-La Mer is also in production with “The Sound of Animals Fighting,” an ambitious South Africa-Brazil co-prod toplining Emile Hirsch and Alice Braga. The co-prod between Fireworx Media Brazil and Brazil’s Los Bragas and Querosene Filmes is being repped by Versatile in international markets and XYZ Films in the U.S.