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Sean Penn, Tye Sheridan and Michael Pitt breezed into Cannes’ beachside La Môme Plage Thursday evening for a glitzy cocktail reception toasting the world premiere of French phenom Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire’s Black Flies, a viscerally immersive action drama about the lives of New York City paramedics. The black-tie bash, which was co-hosted by The Hollywood Reporter and Tage Studios, drew a lively crowd of producers, press and Cannes glitterati.
Produced by Warren Goz (Copshop), Eric Gold (Copshop), Penn and Sheridan, Black Flies is directed by Sauvaire — whose previous Thai prison boxing drama A Prayer Before Dawn (2017) has become something of a cult favorite — from a script by Ben Mac Brown and Ryan King (The Tutor), based on Shannon Burke’s novel.
Black Flies follows Ollie Cross (Sheridan) an upstart paramedic who courses through adrenaline-fueled nights in an ambulance for the New York City Fire Department in Brownsville, Brooklyn while spending days studying for med-school exams in a Chinatown hovel. Working alongside seasoned first responder Gene Rutkovsky (Penn), Cross discovers firsthand the chaos and awe of a job that careens from harrowing to heartfelt, and occasionally stretches into ethical ambiguity.
Alongside Penn and Sheridan, the film stars Michael Pitt (Funny Games), Katherine Waterston (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) and Mike Tyson (The Hangover).
Black Flies was first announced back 2018 and spent several years in development, with various actors attached over the years. But Sauvaire says he ultimately landed on his dream cast before the film was shot over 23 intense days across real-life locations in Brooklyn.
“This project was a long journey, but it’s a beautiful film, a challenging film, and we’re very happy how it came out,” Lucan Toh (Under the Shadow), one of Black Flies’ producers told THR inside the soiree.
“You may want to think twice about calling 911 after seeing Black Flies, a ruthless chronicle of New York City paramedics that plays like a full-blown urban war film, with Sean Penn and Tye Sheridan saving lives and losing their shit in a Brooklyn hellscape,” THR‘s critic wrote in his review of the film.
The film’s Cannes party became a touch livelier than planned when Black Flies‘ premiere was bumped back by one hour because of delays surrounding the special screening of Disney and LucasFilm’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, giving attendees at the beach some extra time to imbibe. But the cast finally decamped for their black cars to be whisked to the Palais des Festivals to walk the cinema’s famed red carpet steps and bast in an eventual lengthy standing ovation.
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