Nate Bolotin from XYZ Films says he was simply “blown away” by Jallikattu, this year’s International Feature Oscar entry from India, when he first encountered the movie as it was being submitted to festivals in 2019. The company quickly moved to board the project as an executive producer and took its North American rights.
“We’ve been looking for filmmakers from all over the world who surprise us and entertain the masses,” says Bolotin during the film’s panel at Deadline’s Contenders International awards-season event. “When we saw it [Jallikattu] we were blown away – we immediately contacted the filmmakers and begged them to work with us on the project.”
The movie had a triumphant premiere at Toronto and went on to screen at Fantastic Fest and many more festivals around the world. It depicts events in an Indian village where a bull goes on a rampage, causing havoc as the local villagers try to capture it.
Director Lijo Jose Pellissery explains the project grew from a short story that appealed to him because it was “so catchy.” The original material had more satirical aspects, but he decided to primarily harness the thriller side because it would have global appeal.
The film’s central antagonist, the rampaging bull, was impressively achieved by animatronics, the director reveals, with CGI only used to brush up certain sequences.
The picture has multiple subtexts, from local cultural allegory to a series of quotations from the Bible popping up throughout, with Pellissery saying the religious themes occurred to him as he dove deeper into the story. “Each time I go back to the film I had a different reading,” he adds.
“The film is all that the world should not be,” he says. “It is about how slowly we have to leave behind all the chaos in the world.”
Composer Prashant Pillai’s score involves plenty of unconventional sounds, such as human chanting, which lends the film a new level of intensity. “It’s always a pleasure working with Lijo because he knows exactly how the music will be placed in the film and he can conceive how the sound will be mixed,” Pillai says. “From the beginning it was clear he wanted to use human sounds.”