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Ben Affleck is back in the spotlight with his directorial debut, "Gone, Baby, Gone"

The film almost doesn't need an introduction: Affleck (times two), a director and cast with a few Academy Award wins and nods between them, a best-selling novel and a gripping story -- all sealed by the Miramax label. But "Gone, Baby, Gone," Ben Affleck's debut behind the camera, will indeed be introduced to the world at this year's Deauville Festival of American Film on Sept. 5.

The artist formerly known as the prefix of "Bennifer" is back with a promising thriller based on the eponymous novel by Dennis Lehane, author of "Mystic River." The crime drama follows two private investigators searching for a 4-year-old girl kidnapped in a rough neighborhood in Boston.

Affleck produced, directed and co-wrote the film, but he stayed behind the camera, choosing instead to bestow the leading role upon his brother, Casey. The younger Affleck is on the brink of a breakthrough year, with a starring role opposite Brad Pitt in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," also in Deauville's lineup. Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris and Amy Ryan round out the high-powered cast of "Gone."

After reading "Gone, Baby, Gone," the fourth book in Lehane's popular series about a co-ed team of South Boston detectives, the elder Affleck sought out the book rights from producer Alan Ladd Jr., then penned a script with high school buddy Aaron Stockard. Affleck pitched the idea to his fellow co-founders of production company LivePlanet -- Matt Damon, Chris Moore and Sean Bailey -- who jumped at the project, followed by Miramax.

"Ben wrote a wonderful screenplay and felt this was a perfect opportunity for him to make his directorial debut," says Miramax president of production Keri Putnam. "The film is based in Boston ... so he felt very connected to it."

The film was shot from May-July 2006 in the "Southy" section of Boston. Affleck made it a point to incorporate real Boston locations and employ nonprofessional actors to create a realistic panorama of life on the streets in a part of town known for being blue-collar and familial yet often violent -- a place he and his brother know well.

Both famous freres are confirmed to attend the world premiere in Deauville, which is set for release stateside on Oct.19 by Miramax and in France on Nov. 21 by BVI.

So why the trip from the brutal streets of Beantown to quiet Normandy for such a star-studded, high-profile project? "Deauville always has a great combo of smart independent films and more commercial fare, so we thought that this movie would be a great fit for the festival," explains Putnam. "We felt that France is such a director-driven market and really embraces filmmakers. The country just seems to love cinema."

And so far, everyone seems to love Affleck's cinema. With an enticing trailer already leaked on the Internet, two thumbs up from Affleck's buddies Damon and Kevin Smith and the seal of approval from novelist Lehane, Miramax is hoping for a success.

"Ben was really able to grab a terrific cast, and the shoot was smooth," says Putnam. "The film remains true to the book. We feel confident that readers will be satisfied and find some surprises as well."
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