Syndicado Boards Rati Oneli’s ‘Ulysses,’ Seeks Financing at Cannes (EXCLUSIVE)

Syndicado Film Sales has boarded Rati Oneli’s “Ulysses,” a working title, as world sales agent and executive producer, and will be looking for financing for the Georgian production at Cannes.

Oneli directed “City of the Sun,” which had its world premiere at the Berlinale in 2017, and produced, co-wrote and played a lead role in Dea Kulumbegashvili’s “Beginning,” which was selected in the Official Selection at Cannes, was Georgia’s Official Entry in the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar category, and won best film, director and screenplay at San Sebastian Film Festival in 2020.

“Ulysses,” which Oneli says can be viewed as part noir, part thriller, but in essence is “a metaphysical journey of a man without a past to regain the meaning of life,” is in late development, with shooting set to begin in July. Syndicado is looking to premiere the pic in the spring next year, and is looking for co-producers and financing to close the gap.

The film, written by Oneli and Evgeniia Marchenko, and produced by Office of Film Architecture, centers on Ulysses, whose wife and child die in a car crash because of his negligence, a crime for which he is imprisoned. The experience is so devastating that, after coming out of prison, Ulysses feels like he died as well, was reborn, and is learning how to live again.

He leaves his home town, where he feels like a prisoner of his past, and travels to the capital city of Tbilisi, where there is at least a faint chance at new life. He settles in the blue-collar neighborhood of Africa, which becomes the starting point of his personal odyssey.

In Tbilisi, Ulysses tries to define new rules for his life that will help him to find meaning again. In search of meaning, Ulysses enters a new night world where he meets a host of eccentric and charismatic characters who define a new set of moral rules that work in this bizarre place.

He descends to the very bottom of this world to encounter homeless taxi drivers, prostitutes and pornographers. In the process, he meets the businessman who was involved in the fatal car crash, and Margo, a waitress and prostitute.

Oneli says: “ ‘Ulysses’ can be viewed as part noir, part thriller, punctuated with bursts of occasional violence. But in essence I envision this film as a metaphysical journey of a man without a past to regain the meaning of life. Unhurried, meditative pace is the tempo-rhythm of the film.”

He adds: “The film has several layers. The social environment is a fabric where the action of the film is projected. This social layer itself is a diverse, colorful world that reminds me of Bosch’s paintings. Bosch’s triptychs are never simplistic, straightforward depictions of Heaven or Hell, but are rather possibilities where the viewer is allowed endless interpretations. In this regard, characters in ‘Ulysses’ are not good or bad, they are fallen angels.

“And significantly, Ulysses’ journey into the nocturnal world is both a physical as well as a metaphysical road-movie. It’s an odyssey that leads Ulysses from hell, all the way to free, uninhibited Olympus, which happens to be a bar where most of the film characters congregate.”

Oneli concludes: “Mark Twain said, ‘The two most important days in a person’s life are the day of your birth and the day when you realize why you were born.’ ‘Ulysses,’ for me is about searching for the day when you realize why you were born.”

In 2014, Oneli produced, co-wrote and edited “Invisible Spaces,” a short film that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and was nominated for the Palme d’Or. He also produced “Lethe,” a short film by Kulumbegashvili, which premiered in Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes in 2016. Oneli directed “City of the Sun,” which had its world premiere at the Berlinale in 2017. In 2020, he produced, co-wrote and played a lead role in “Beginning,” the debut feature by Kulumbegashvili, which was selected in Cannes’ Official Selection, was Georgia’s Oscar entry, and won best film, director, screenplay and actress at San Sebastian.

Syndicado’s slate includes Ivalo Frank’s “The Last Human,” Victoria Fiore’s “Hide And Seek,” and Lukasz Kowalski’s “The Pawnshop,” which were all at CPH:DOX this year, and Gregoris Rentis’ “Dogwatch,” which was at Visions du Reel. Syndicado’s co-founders are Aleksandar Govedarica and Greg Rubidge.

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