And you thought Jude Law was the Hollywood pope.

Pope Francis, a populist sweetheart of a religious leader who has gained favor around the world for his emphasis on the poor, is taking his message to the big screen with the new feature film “Beyond the Sun.”

Written and directed by Graciela Rodriguez, the independent film follows a group of multicultural children who emulate aspects of the apostles. According to a news release, the film was made at the express request of Pope release, who wanted to a see “a movie for children that communicates Jesus’ message.”

Francis even makes a cameo — his acting debut — alongside child actors Aiden Cumming-Teicher, Cory Gruter-Andrew, Emma Duke, Kyle Breitkopf, and Sebastiάn Alexander Chou.

How much do you pay the leader of the Roman Catholic Church to be in your movie, you ask? You give it all to charity, obviously.

“Pope Francis was willing to participate in the movie to support charity as all profits from “Beyond the Sun” will be donated to two selected charities — El Almendro and Los Hogares de Cristo,” the film’s financier AMBI said.

Both charities support Pope Francis’ social and spiritual message within the film, they added.

The film just wrapped production in Argentina. AMBI co-founders Andrea Iervolino and Lady Monika Bacardi produced the film with the religious advise of Monsignor Eduardo Garcia, Bishop of San Justo and General Assistent of FIAC. Co-producers are Graciela Rodriguez and Gabriel Leybu.


Ambi Media Group has acquired North American rights to coming-of-age drama “In Search of Fellini” from Nancy Cartwright’s Spotted Cow Entertainment. Ksenia Solo, Maria Bello, and Mary Lynn Rajskub star in the film.

Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, launched Spotted Cow last year.

The film will be released Sept. 15. It’s screened at the Sonoma International Film Festival, San Diego Film Festival, Bentonville Film Festival and USA Film Festival and will be shown at the Newport Beach Film Festival on Sunday.

“In Search of Fellini,” was directed by Taron Lexton and written by Nancy Cartwright and Spotted Cow President Peter Kjenaas. The movie was inspired by Cartwright’s early years in the entertainment industry, when she set off to “find herself” in Italy before establishing herself in Hollywood.

Solo, whose credits include “Black Swan,” “Orphan Black,” and “Turn: Washington’s Spies,” portrays a small-town girl from Ohio who discovers the films of the legendary Italian filmmaker, Federico Fellini, and sets off on a journey across Italy to find him. Bello plays her mother and Rajskub portrays her aunt.

Kjenaas and Lexton produce alongside Monica Gil of Spotted Cow, Nathan Lorch & Milena Ferreira from TXL Films and Michael Doven of United Pictures Group. Executive producers are Cartwright, Kevin J. Burke and Ambia co-founders Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi.

“The charmingly adventurous nature of ‘In Search of Fellini’ really immerses audiences in the story,” Iervolino said. “It is a perfect fit for Ambi as we build out our theatrical distribution slate.”

The deal was brokered by Larry Greenberg for Ambi and Spotted Cow Entertainment’s Peter Kjenaas and Jonathan West of Latham and Watkins.


AMBI Media Group/ Deadly Codes Productions’ revenge thriller Bent has tapped Karl Urban, Sofia Vergara, and Andy Garcia as leads in the film, written and directed by Bobby Moresco. Based on characters created by Joseph O’Donnell, the pic is set to begin filming in Rome this month.

It’s follows Danny Gallagher (Urban), a shamed and discredited narcotics detective who, upon his release from prison, makes plans to seek revenge on the accuser who framed him and killed his partner. Through his quest, Gallagher is forced to confront a ruthless, seductive government agent (Vergara), who may or may not be on his side; and his mentor (Garcia), a retired cop who’s fought corruption his entire career.

Andrea Iervolino, Monika Bacardi and Joseph O’Donnell are producing.

Urban (RED, Star Trek) is repped by UTA as well as Vergara (Modern Family, Hot Pursuit) who is managed by Latin World Entertainment. Garcia (Passengers, Ocean’s Eleven) is with by CAA and Brillstein Entertainment Partners while Moresco is repped by ICM and Primary Wave Entertainment.


A charming, beautifully photographed modern fairy tale about love and gardening, This Beautiful Fantastic is worth seeing in spite of its dumb deterrent of a title. It’s an odd story about some very odd people guaranteed to grow on you. Written and directed with whimsical taste and obvious talent by Joseph Aboud, the son-in-law of Paul McCartney, it’s different, gorgeous to look at, and you go away feeling good about life and lilacs.

The centerpiece is a reclusive woman who dresses almost entirely in black. Her name is Bella Brown (Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay). She was a foundling tended by a flock of ducks, rescued by an old man in the bulrushes by a lake and raised in a Catholic orphanage. Cut to Bella as a very strange adult indeed—an assistant librarian with a passion for order and precision with a dream of becoming an author of children’s books. One thing Bella has no interest in or talent for is horticulture.

When the garden behind the modest little house she rents turns to weeds, her irascible landlord threatens her with eviction unless she can pull the neglected garden to its former glory in 30 days. With the encouragement of Vernon (Andrew Scott), an Irish cook and widower with two daughters, she begins the arduous task of restoring the garden while enduring the insults of a curmudgeonly next-door neighbor, Alfie Stevenson (the great Tom Wilkinson). Eventually a color palette comes alive as the surly old man teaches Bella about life and love through the metaphor of gardening as the barren, vine-choking lot turns into a magical world of hollyhocks, delphiniums, and dahlias.

Stevenson turns out to be an unexpected but treasured ally, while Vernon keeps them all faithfully sated with béarnaise and blancmange. By the time it ends in a rainbow, Bella has experienced a new appreciation of happiness through nature, a fresh definition of friendship, and even romance—with an eccentric inventor of mechanical birds (the impossibly handsome Jeremy Irvine from War Horse, in nerd disguise) whose flying objects give Bella the inspiration she needs to write her first children’s novel.

It’s all a bit too precious for my taste, but it’s sweet as marzipan, dreamy to look at and warmed by performances that resonate.


AMBI Distribution has acquired worldwide sales rights (Scandinavia, Iceland and former Yugoslavia) to thriller The Guardian Angel, now shooting.

Writer-director Arto Halonen [pictured] is currently filming the Finnish-Danish-Croatian co-production on location in Croatia and Denmark.

Pilou Asbæk (A War), Josh Lucas (The Lincoln Lawyer), Rade Serbedzija (Downton Abbey) and Cyron Melville (A Royal Affair) lead the cast.

The English-language film is based on the true story of Copenhagen’s Hypnosis Murders of 1951; a police investigation discovers that one man used manipulation and hypnosis to turn another man into a robber and a murderer.

“The story holds great interest for us today, not only as proof of the external power of controlling the human mind but also as it focuses on the visible and invisible manipulations acting upon us and affecting us as human beings,” said Halonen. “Focused on a single, fascinating case of an actual hypnosis crime, The Guardian Angel will use this situation to suggest much deeper issues of how present-day systems use manipulation on all of us – the mass-mind of the modern world.”

Halonen also produces for Finland’s Art Films Production AFP Ltd alongside Timo T Lahtinen of Copenhagen-based Smile Entertainment and Igor A Nola of Croatia’s MP Film Production. AMBI’s Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi will executive produce.

Backers are Finnish private venture capital fund IPR.VC, Finnish Film Foundation, Nordic Film & TV Fond and Croatian Audiovisual Fund.

Iervolino said, “The Guardian Angel, the previously untold story of a fascinating hypnosis crime, is especially relevant today as we shine a spotlight on issues surrounding mass manipulation through technology in the modern world. We are excited to bring Arto Halonen’s compelling vision to audiences which will leave them questioning their environment and outside influences.”

The film will be delivered in 2018.

Halonen’s past films are A Patriotic Man and Princess.