Cannes: Ken Loach's 'Jimmy's Hall' Closes North American Deal With Sony Classics (Exclusive)

UPDATED: The movie makes its world premiere in competition at the Cannes Film Festival on May 22.

CANNES -- Sony Pictures Classics has closed in on British director Ken Loach's latest feature, Jimmy's Hall.

The historical drama makes its world premiere in competition at the Cannes Film Festival on May 22. Loach is 77.

Sony Classics has made a deal for North American rights with Wild Bunch. FIlm4, the stand-alone movie unit of the U.K. broadcaster Channel 4,  the British Film Institute and the Irish Film Board bankrolled the development, with Entertainment One inking an early deal for U.K. distribution rights to the movie.

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Jimmy's Hall marks Sony Classics' third acquisition on the ground at Cannes, where co-presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard are enjoying a stellar festival. SPC titles playing in competition have received rave reviews. Foxcatcher and Mr. Turner both immediately generated awards buzz. Wild Tales, which Bernard and Barker bought last this week, also went over well. Ditto for Russian hockey drama Red Army. SPC's other acquisition at Cannes was Saint Laurent.

Loach's largest production ever, Jimmy's Hall revolves around a champion for freedom of speech in church-dominated 1920s Ireland. The film marks the director's 12th film to play at Cannes and his 10th collaboration with writer Paul Laverty.

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Loach has won nine prizes at the festival, including the FIPRESCI award for 1979’s Black Jack; the Palme d’Or for 2006’s The Wind That Shakes the Barley, about Ireland’s 1920 civil war; and the jury prize for 2012’s The Angel’s Share. The latter two were written by Laverty. Loach also received the 30th Anniversary Prize of the Ecumenical Jury for his life’s work.

Stuart Kemp contributed to this report.