Natalie Rae and Angela Patton’s “Daughters,” an acclaimed documentary about a program that allows young girls to participate in a special dance with their incarcerated fathers, is finalizing a sale to Netflix. If the deal closes, it is expected to be in the seven-figure range. It was a competitive situation with at least three companies circling the picture.
“Daughters” premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award in Documentary Competition and was named overall Festival Favorite. The film took eight years to produce.
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In a rave review in Variety, Lisa Kennedy praised “Daughters,” writing that the film adds “depth and dimension to stories of incarceration.” Kennedy added: “The film is rife with visually lyrical moments that connect viewers with the young ones’ sorrows, fears, insights and hopes. In the hands of the directors, cinematographer Michael Cambio Fernandez and editors Troy Lewis and Adelina Bichis, the documentary exercises the kind of compassionate attention that leaves room for the girls to be girls.”
Kennedy wasn’t alone in praising the film, which currently holds a 100% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
In addition to co-directing the film, Patton serves as CEO of Girls For A Change, an organization that works to advance opportunities for Black girls. Rae’s work, which includes music videos and commercials, has been commissioned by the U.N. and Gates Foundation. She is the recipient of two Cannes Young Lions nominations. This is the first feature documentary from the filmmaking team.
Netflix has been active at Sundance, spending $17 million for the horror film “It’s What’s Inside,” and snapping up “Skywalker’s,” a non-fiction film about a couple Angela Nikolau and Ivan Beerkus who are drawn together by their love for climbing tall buildings. The streamer also bought “Ibelin,” a documentary about a Norwegian gamer named Mats Steen, who died of a degenerative muscle disease at the age of 25.
Producers on “Daughters” include Lisa Mazzotta, Justin Benoliel, Mindy Goldberg, Sam Bisbee, Kathryn Everett, Laura Choi Raycroft, James Cunningham. Paul Rachman served as co-producer.
The film centers on Date with Dad, a program that Patton’s organization, Girls For A Change, launched in 2008. The event is designed to take place within a correctional facility and aimed at father-daughter bonding without physical barriers between them. The men participate in fatherhood training and mentorship in advance of the dance, then dress in semi-formal attire for the special occasion with their daughters. The documentary was inspired by Patton’s TEDWomen talk about the program, which garnered more than a million views. “Daughters” was shot in the first year the dance was held in Washington, D.C and centers on four girls — Aubrey Smith, 5, Santana Stewart, 10, Ja’Ana Crudup, 11, and Raziah Lewis, 15 — as they prepared for the event.
“After eight years and such a long intense journey together, it means more than anything that bringing this to audiences they’d have such a strong reaction,” a tearful Rae said as she and Patton accepted their prizes during Sundance’s awards ceremony last week. “And that the experience and pain and wisdom and everything that these families shared with us is resonating. It is so meaningful.”
A similarly emotional Patton shared a call to action.
“[This film] is about activism and awareness, so just don’t give us applause. If you saw ‘Daughters’ then you know you must do something,” Patton said. “Please vote for change in our criminal justice system and understand that this system is impacting our families in a way that we can see it clearly through this film, and create the change that we know that our families need – and that we need — to really get to victory and to really be unified.”
Kerry Washington is among the executive producers of the documentary and joined the filmmakers and subjects at the festival.
“People always ask me why I’m drawn to political work,” Washington said about boarding the project. “I’m not drawn to political work. It’s just I am a woman and I am a Black person. In this body, when I center stories about me or stories that star people that look like me, it’s considered political because the world wants to push us out into the margins and we all deserve to be at the center of our lives.”
CAA and Submarine represented the filmmakers in the dealmaking.
Update (1/31/04): Netflix confirmed it had closed a deal for “Daughters”
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