swan song

Before he sinks his teeth into the role of Blade the vampire hunter for Marvel Studios, two time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali will star in Swan Song for AppleTV+. The “genre-bending drama” is an original feature film that will join the fledgling streaming service’s slate of movies and also receive a theatrical release.

This afternoon, Apple sent out a press release announcing that production on Swan Song will begin this spring with Ali producing and playing the lead role of Milo. Adam Shulman (Defending Jacoband Jacob Perlin (The Amazing Johnathan Documentary) are producing as well. Here’s what the movie will be about:

Set in the near future, the film explores how far someone will go, and how much they’ll sacrifice, to make a happier life for the people they love.

Benjamin Cleary will make his feature directing debut on the project. Cleary won an Academy Award for Best Original Short Film in 2016 for writing and directing Stutterer, and went on to make two more shorts in the years that followed: Wave, which won 14 awards at film festivals around the world, and Glimpse, a VR experience. Check out the trailers for all three of Cleary’s shorts below:

After reading the description of Swan Song, my first thought was that it sounded a little like Michel Gondry’s heartbreaking 2004 sci-fi romance Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Turns out I’m not the only one who saw the comparison: the producers also called out Gondry’s film later in the press release:

“Benjamin Cleary is a rare talent who deftly weaves human emotion into his filmmaking in a way that harkens to many of the great films that began at Anonymous Content such as ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind‘ and ‘Being John Malkovich,'” said Anonymous Content’s Adam Shulman and Jacob Perlin.  “We are tremendously grateful to be working with Mahershala Ali and Ben on this thought-provoking project, that we’re sure will be a conversation starter.”

Those are beloved, heady movies to be aiming for (especially for a first-time feature director), but I love it when a new voice bursts onto the scene in a big way, so hopefully Cleary will establish himself as a filmmaker with a unique vision and have us excited to follow him for years to come. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Swan Song make it in to next year’s Sundance Film Festival, so I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for more on this one and will report back.

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