Bolude Watson and Michela Carattini.

Producers Yolandi Franken and Michela Carattini have received further support for buddy comedy Carmen & Bolude, selected for the Ontario Creates International Financing Forum (IFF) at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

Loosely based on the friendship between Carattini and Bolude Watson, the film follows the titular characters on a journey from Harlem, New York to Sydney, where they have ten days to collect 100 ‘welcomes’ so that Bolude’s traditional Nigerian father will agree to let her marry an Australian.

Watson and Carattini co-wrote the script and are also set to star as the two leads, with Penelope Berkemeier to direct.

Carmen & Bolude is the only Australian project at this year’s market, which will be held vitually across September 12 and 13.

Now in its 16th year, the event brings global and Canadian producers together with international sales agents, US distributors, agents, equity financiers, and executive producers for brokered meetings and networking opportunities.

Frankel said they were pleased to be able to take part, given the current situation.

“Of course, there is nothing like those in-person networking events,” she said.

“But being in lockdown in Sydney, we wouldn’t have been able to attend if it weren’t online this year – so that accessibility is a huge relief.”

The film, which is set to receive development support from Screen Australia’s Generate Fund, has already been seven years in the making for the Watson and Carattini.

They were forced to finish the final draft of the script from separate countries as a result of Watson being unable to get home to Sydney from Edmonton, Canada due to the pandemic.

“Bolude would be writing dialogue into her phone in the middle of the night while breastfeeding and trying to toilet train,” Carattini said.

“I was in lockdown with two young kids of my own, and I thought to myself, ‘We can do it like this, we can do it differently – however works’.

“The entire process for us has been profoundly similar to giving birth, and on all counts we are privileged and blessed to have an enormous amount of support and encouragement.”

That support, which included script editor Anthea Williams, script consultant Beatrix Christian, Gadigal consultants Paul and Akala Newman, and a Sydney-based ‘Quarantine Writer’s Group’, meant the final script was completed two weeks ahead of schedule.

Watson, who has since been able to return to Australia, said they didn’t have to look far to find inspiration for the story.

Carmen & Bolude is based on Michela and my lives,” she said.

“That was the reason we wrote it: we were desperate to see a story we could relate to on the subject of multiple cultural identities and being constantly asked to choose.”

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