M-Appeal Scores a Hat-Trick With Soccer Film ‘Bigman,’ Adds Spain, Sweden, Lithuania Deals (EXCLUSIVE)

Spain’s European Dreams Factory, Sweden’s Filmcentrum and Lithuania’s Kino Centras Garsas have joined the distribution team supporting soccer movie “Bigman,” which is being sold by M-Appeal. Previous sales have included Denmark’s Angel Films, Estonia’s Estinfilm and Poland’s New Horizons Association.

In “Bigman,” directed by Camiel Schouwenaar, best friends Dylan and Youssef (Anouar Kasmi and Maik Cillekens) dream of becoming professional soccer players. One day, an unexpected event changes everything for Dylan. But thanks to the help of skater girl Maya – whom he has a crush on – he learns to play in a completely new way.

“Solidarity and friendship feel especially important since the COVID pandemic, and we love how this film goes deeper into important topics in an entertaining format,” Maren Kroymann, managing director of M-Appeal, said. “We are thrilled to see its uplifting message resonate with young festival audiences and winning awards, and very happy that it will continue to reach this age group more widely as it goes into the commercial circuit. Cinema is an exceptional tool for the 8-12 year olds to understand and learn about social inclusion, surpassed only by real-life experiences.”

Schouwenaar said the story was inspired by real life. “I met screenwriter Job Tichelman six years ago. He was telling me about his childhood and how he, as a disabled boy, learned to play soccer in his wheelchair,” he said.

“Job comes from a soccer crazy family. He learned to play by lying upside down in his wheelchair, with his legs up and his hands down on the ground so that he could run and kick the ball with his hands. His parents let him play outside with all the other kids. They wanted him to become a happy, confident individual. That spirit is reflected in our film.

“Dylan doesn’t want to quit soccer and through his friendship with Youssef he is holding on to his dream. We use soccer to show his persistence. ‘Bigman’ is not about winning the game, but about accepting your loss.

“Everyone, adults and children, can relate to failure, [they understand] how it leads to anger and frustration. The audience wishes for Dylan to walk again and when things don’t work out, he finds another way. It’s that ‘never give up’ mentality of a 12-year-old boy that inspires people.”

While the love for “the beautiful game” is at the core of his film, Schouwenaar doesn’t see “Bigman” as a typical sports movie. “It’s a coming-of-age story,” he said.

Following its world premiere at Zlín Film Festival, “Bigman” has enjoyed a successful festival run, shown at multiple events including Cinekid, Giffoni, Red Sea and Tallinn Black Nights.

The film was produced by Reinier Selen and Rinskje Raap of Rinkel Film, and co-produced by Marcel Lenz and Guido Schwab of Ostlicht Filmproduktion.

Currently developing a 3D animation VR film, based on Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis,” Schouwenaar is also eyeing two further projects with Tichelman: a sci-fi thriller about a 16-year-old girl testing a new computer game in the metaverse and an adaptation of a young adult novel.

The Netherlands is well-known for its quality children and family films, but these days parents often favor “their phones and laptops,” Schouwenaar said.

“It’s really a shame, because going to the movies together is a beautiful experience. To see an entertaining and meaningful story with the whole family should be mandatory in parenting. That’s why film festivals are important: to promote and highlight more artistic family films,” he said.

“There is a positive feel in family films that I can relate to. Children are a great and critical audience. I love to write adventurous plots with somewhat deeper, more personal themes, so that both children and adults feel they are taken seriously. Don’t make it ‘childish’: write bold and original scripts.”

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