Flawless, XYZ Films & Tea Shop Productions Acquire Ryoo Seung-wan’s ‘Smugglers’ Ahead Of Film’s TIFF Gala Premiere

Director Ryoo Seung-wan’s Smugglers has been acquired ahead of its Gala Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Flawless, along with XYZ Films and Tea Shop Productions, announced today their acquisition of the South Korean crime-action epic. Deadline reported in May that Flawless, co-founded by filmmaker Scott Mann (Fall), had partnered with U.S. seller and distributor XYZ Films (Run Rabbit Run) and UK producer Tea Shop Productions (47 Meters Down) to acquire rights to foreign-language films and convert them to English for distribution in English-speaking territories.

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Ryoo Seung-wan has helmed some of South Korea’s most commercially-successful titles and earned seven nominations from the Grand Bell Awards, the country’s equivalent of the Academy Awards. Set in the 1970s, the film tells the story of a pair of haenyeo — women free divers who harvest shellfish — who are driven to underwater smuggling and must battle it out with a notorious criminal when he expands into their territory.

Per their partnership, Flawless will leverage its TrueSync AI technology, named one of TIME Magazine’s Best Inventions, to create a lip-synced visual translation of Smugglers in English. XYZ will leverage its distribution and sales resources to maximize theatrical, VOD and OTT opportunities in English-speaking markets. The title is slated for theatrical release in both English and Korean in 2024.

Dubbed versions of the film will include use of Flawless’ Artistic Rights Treasury, a management platform that the company says ensures generative AI can be implemented in a way that guarantees transparency, consent, credit and compensation for all rightsholders connected to materials used in the film. All materials will be created in accordance with necessary union guidelines.

Ryan Black, Head of Acquisitions for Flawless, said, “We are thrilled to bring this fantastic film to English-speaking audiences.  Ryoo Seung-wan has not only delivered a stunning action film with some of the best underwater sequences ever shot, but he has crafted an incredibly moving female empowerment story.”

James Emanuel Shapiro, EVP of US Distribution for XYZ Films added, “I am such a huge fan of Ryoo Seung-wan, so this is a massive thrill for me. Smugglers is so fun and so done with so much style, I am sure audiences are going to love it.”

The deal builds upon the momentum developed by the partnership’s multiple acquisitions at Cannes, including of Victor Danell’s UFO Sweden, the sci-fi adventure that earned three nominations at the 2023 Guldbagge Awards, Sweden’s Academy Awards equivalent; and Vincent Must Die, the darkly comic action-thriller and Cannes Golden Camera nominee from director Stéphan Castang. Flawless, XYZ, and Tea Shop will be on the ground throughout the Toronto International Film Festival looking to expand their slate with the acquisition of top-quality international titles with major potential in English-speaking markets.

James Emanuel Shapiro, EVP of US Distribution for XYZ Films, Ryan Black, Head of Acquisitions for Flawless, and Tea Shop’s James Harris negotiated the deal with Danny Lee, EVP, and Youngkyung Sohn, manager of international business, who represented the film’s sales company, Contents Panda

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