Briarcliff Entertainment Buys SXSW Audience Award Winner ‘My Dead Friend Zoe’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Briarcliff Entertainment has acquired domestic distribution rights to Legion M’s “My Dead Friend Zoe.” The dark comedy-drama, which won the SXSW Film Festival’s Audience Award this year, stars Sonequa Martin-Green (“The Walking Dead”), Natalie Morales (“No Hard Feelings”), Oscar nominee Ed Harris (“Apollo 13”) and Oscar winner Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”). The supporting cast also includes Gloria Reuben (“ER) and Utkarsh Ambudkar (“Ghosts”).

The film is the directorial debut of Kyle Hausmann-Stokes, a former U.S. Army infantry paratrooper and Iraq War Bronze Star veteran. In the film, Hausmann-Stokes examines the post-war experience and pays tribute to veterans. The story was co-written by Hausmann-Stokes with A.J. Bermudez. The film also marks the executive producer debut of NFL star Travis Kelce.

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In “My Dead Friend Zoe,” Merit (Martin-Green) is a U.S. Army Afghanistan veteran who finds herself at odds with her family because of the presence of Zoe (Morales), her dead best friend from the Army. Despite the persistence of her VA group counselor (Freeman), the tough love of her mother (Reuben) and an unexpected love interest, Merit’s friendship with Zoe keeps the duo isolated from the world. At least until Merit’s estranged grandfather (Harris) — holed up at the family’s lake house — needs help. Briarcliff plans to release the film in theaters nationwide on Nov. 1.

“’My Dead Friend Zoe’ is a moving exploration of military veterans, told in a manner we haven’t seen before and one in which we believe will leave audiences with a deeper connection to this special group of Americans,” said Briarcliff’s CEO Tom Ortenberg. “We’re so excited for moviegoers to fall in love with, laugh and cry with these characters in the way that we have, all the while shedding light on important issues that anyone — veteran or not — can relate to and celebrate.”

“We are excited to team up with industry leader Tom Ortenberg and his team at Briarcliff to give ‘My Dead Friend Zoe’ the full-strength theatrical release and care and attention it deserves,” said Paul Scanlan, co-founder and CEO of Legion M. “With a history of picking breakout success films, we’re beyond grateful for Tom and his team’s enthusiastic passion for this important project.”

The film is produced by Terri Lubaroff, Ray Maiello and Mike Field (Radiant Media Studios), Richard Silverman (ReCre8 Entertainment), Robert Paschall, Jr., Hausman-Stokes and Scanlan (Legion M). In addition to Kelce, executive producers include Martin-Green, Morales, Harris, Jeff Annison, David Baxter, Brandi Plants, Nancy Masterson, Joe Masterson and Igor Tsukerman.

“We are thrilled to work with tastemaker Tom Ortenberg and his Briarcliff team to theatrically release ‘My Dead Friend Zoe’ and bring attention to this important film,” said Maiello, who serves as co-founder of Radiant Media Studios. “It’s a powerful film with an outstanding cast and we are delighted our renewable energy investments helped bring this impactful story to light.”

The deal was negotiated by CAA Media Finance on behalf of the filmmakers, and by Ortenberg, Jessica Rose, Danielle Goodman Strong and Andrew Ortenberg on behalf of Briarcliff Entertainment.

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