Focus Features Buys Sundance Coming-of-Age Movie ‘Dìdi’

“Dìdi,” a coming-of-age drama that won the U.S. dramatic audience award at Sundance, has sold to Focus Features. The semi-autobiographical film was written, produced and directed by Sean Wang in his feature debut.

The film follows a 13-year-old Taiwanese American boy in the throes of an awkward adolescence, as he enjoys the last month of summer before high school begins. He experiences the pangs of first love, becomes friends with some skaters (after promising to make videos of them), fights with his older sister and gets a hard-earned understanding of his mom. It is set in 2008, when MySpace was still a thing and TikTok had yet to explode.

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Wang says he hopes that audiences will be able to see a version of themselves in the film, which stars Izaac Wang as the filmmaker’s cinematic alter-ego and Joan Chen (“The Last Emperor”) as his onscreen mother.

“’Dìdi (弟弟)’ is the movie I’ve always wanted to see: a coming-of-age story set in a place I know, starring people who look like those I knew, during a time when we are the worst versions of ourselves having the best time of our lives,” he said in a statement. “It’s been a dream to see the film resonate with so many others since our premiere at Sundance.”

Focus Features president of production and acquisitions Kiska Higgs added, “Everyone at Focus saw a little of themselves in Dìdi, so we can’t wait to share Sean Wang’s brilliant vision of a Californian misfit with audiences everywhere, who will also fall in love with 13-year-old Wang-Wang as he stumbles his way into high school.”

“Dìdi” was a hit with critics after it debuted at Sundance. Variety’s Peter Debruge likened it to “a cross between Bing Liu’s ‘Minding the Gap’ and Jonah Hill’s ‘mid90s'” and wrote that the film’s “appeal has everything to do with the balance between the universal and the unique in Wang’s experience.”

Consequence of Sound also liked the movie, writing “Sean Wang, as both writer and director, has turned in an excellent entry into the ‘call your mother’ cinematic canon. He doesn’t flinch from the darker or more troublesome aspects of the early teen years, but he ultimately balances them expertly by handling his messy protagonist with generosity and care.”

Antigravity Academy and Spark Features produced the film with Carlos López Estrada, Josh Peters, Valerie Bush serving as producers with Wang. Chris Quintos Cathcart, Tyler Boehm, Robina Riccitiello, Joan Chen, Chris Columbus,  Eleanor Columbus, Dave A. Liu and Jennifer J. Pritzker executive produced.

Wang’s short documentary “Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó (Grandma & Grandma)” premiered at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival where it won the grand jury prize and the audience award. The film was acquired by Disney+ (where it’s slated to release in February) and was nominated at the Oscars for best documentary short.

The deal was negotiated by WME Independent and UTA Independent Film Group on behalf of the filmmakers.

Focus Features’ 2024 slate includes Morgan Neville’s documentary “Piece by Piece,” which captures the life of Pharrell Williams through the lens of Lego bricks; director Ethan Coen’s “Drive-Away Dolls”; and the Amy Winehouse biopic “Back to Black.”

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