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Paramount buys Canadian hip hop film, ‘How She Move’

PARK CITY (CP) _ Paramount Vantage has snapped up the Canadian film "How She Move," a gritty drama about the hip-hop step-dancing scene in Toronto’s notorious Jane-Finch corridor, for a hefty US$3.4 million.

Just hours after the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday night, the art house division of Paramount Pictures bought the film in a partnership with MTV Films, both likely mindful of the fact that another step film, "Stomp the Yard," is currently on top at the box office.

The purchase _ the result of a bidding war that attracted several distributors _ is considered notable because "How She Move" features a cast of virtual unknowns.

The film tells the story of a 17-year-old girl who turns to step-dancing to earn her way back into a prestigious private school and out of her crime-filled neighbourhood. It’s the first-time screenplay from Jamaican-born Annmarie Morais of Brantford, Ont., and was directed by Ian Iqbal Rashid, a Tanzanian-born filmmaker who grew up in Toronto.

Telefilm Canada partially funded the movie, which is in the World Cinema dramatic competition at Sundance.

"We are delighted," Dan Lyon of Telefilm Canada said in an interview from Montreal late Wednesday.

"Telefilm Canada was thrilled with the response at Sundance to the diversity, the quality and the quantity of the Canadian films selected for the festival. The sale of ‘How She Move’ to Paramount is very exciting and they will make a great distribution partner."

It’s the first Canadian film to be sold this year at Sundance, but Lyon says it likely isn’t the last. Other sales at Sundance and its sister festival, Slamdance, could be revealed soon.

"Our understanding is that further announcements are pending regarding the distribution of some of our other films as a result of their strong showing at Sundance and Slamdance," he said.

"How She Move," featuring 14 complex step routines and a vibrant hip-hop soundtrack with many Canadian artists, stars American actress Rutina Wesley, Toronto’s Dwain Murphy and B.C. native Brennan Gademans. Famed New York choreographer Hi Hat created the dance sequences for the film.

"’How She Move’ is a crowd-pleasing hip-hop film that has incredible dancing and a real heart," Amy Israel of Paramount Vantage said in a news release.

"Director Ian Iqbal Rashid has proven himself to be an exceptionally talented filmmaker whose work can deliver on all levels."