The worldwide distribution rights for highly anticipated and well-reviewed film Passing has been purchased by Netflix. According to Deadline, the sale is estimated at a whopping $15.75 million and was brokered by Endeavor Content. Passing premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2021 on January 30th in the U.S. Dramatic Competition and marked the directorial-debut of Rebecca Hall (Christine (2016), Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008)).
It stars Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga (Loving (2016)), and features a dynamic cast including André Holland (Moonlight (2016)), Bill Camp (Joker (2019)) and Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood, Big Little Lies). The film is produced by Hall, Nina Yang Bongiovi, and Forest Whitaker, as well as executively produced by stars Thompson and Negga, Oren Moverman, Angela Robinson, Erika Hampson, Michael Y. Chow, Kevin A. Lin, Lauren Dark, Daniel Battsek, Ollie Madden, Brenda Robinson, Chaz Ebert, Yvonne Huff, Christopher Liu, Arcadiy Golubovich, Dori A. Rath, Joseph J. Restaino, David Gendron and Ali Jazayeri.
Passing is adapted from the 1929 novella by Harlem Renaissance author Nella Larsen. It tells the story of two black women Irene (Thompson) and Clare (Negga), both of whom can be considered “white passing.” The two women, once childhood friends, are reunited on a chance encounter in 1920’s Harlem. One masquerading as white while the other lives as black, Passing poignantly deals with issues of race, gender and sexuality in the midst of the Jazz Age. The film is beautifully adapted by Hall, as it tells a story that profoundly resonates with her own family’s past. Some years ago, Hall and family had discovered that her grandfather was actually African-American, but presented as white for the majority of his life. Critics have begun to applaud the film’s direction and acting, as well as its black-and-white cinematography, by Ed Grau, whose previous works include Tom Ford’s A Single Man (2009). The costuming by Marci Rodgers (BlacKkKlansman (2018)) and original jazz score by Devonté Hynes (Queen and Slim (2019)) are masterful assets to the film.
Passing is Netflix’s first purchase at SFF 2021. Last year, it bought up The Social Dilemma by Jeff Orlowski, Remi Weeks’ horror film His House, and The Forty-Year-Old Version by Radha Blank from the Sundance 2020. There were speculations that Passing and Siân Heder’s CODA would spark high-priced bidding wars upon their Sundance premieres. Those speculations were right. Both sold for blockbuster-worthy amounts, with CODA going to Apple+ for $25 million, SFF 2021’s steepest transaction thus far.
Netflix has yet to announce a release-date for Passing.