Riz Ahmed’s sci-fi film Encounter alights for the autumn festival circuit
by David Katz
- The newly Oscar-nominated actor stars in rising British director Michael Pearce’s second feature, a UK-USA production from Film4, RAW and Amazon Studios
In his first starring role since garnering an Oscar nomination for Sound of Metal, Riz Ahmed has joined up with emerging British director Michael Pearce (Beast [+see also:
interview: Michael Pearce
film profile]) for Encounter [+see also:
interview: Michael Pearce
film profile], a sci-fi chase thriller recently announced for next month’s Toronto International Film Festival. It will receive its international premiere in the Special Presentations section, meaning it’s all but certain to world premiere at the more exclusive Telluride Film Festival the prior weekend. As to the nature of the promised ‘encounter’, we can only guess, but the title’s suggestive, one-word elegance reminds one of Denis Villeneuve’s cerebral sci-fi Arrival.
The film’s synopsis reveals more about the interpersonal bonds between the characters, than what fantastical elements are in store. Ahmed will play a decorated Marine, who goes on the run with his two young sons as they try to evade an ‘unhuman threat.’ As the journey takes them in increasingly dangerous and unexpected directions, the boys will need to confront hard truths and leave their childhood behind. Pearce shot the film last year under Covid-19 production guidelines, when it was previously titled Invasion. Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer, and Rory Cochrane round out the adult cast.
Encounter was in development over the past few years with the UK’s Film4 and RAW, before Amazon Studios swooped in to take world rights and join as a producer. Pearce wrote the script alongside Joe Barton, another British talent gaining wider attention following Giri / Haji and his signing on to HBO Max’s The Batman spin-off series. The primary producers are Dimitri Doganis, Piers Vellacott, and Derrin Schlesinger for RAW, with Daniel Battsek, Ollie Madden and Julia Oh from Film4 taking executive producer credit.
Pearce’s prior feature was Beast, a crime-mystery set notably in Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands. Jessie Buckley and Johnny Flynn headed the cast with breakout performances, and the film won an Outstanding Debut BAFTA for Pearce and producer Lauren Dark.
Ahmed’s career has been percolating before he won his greatest acclaim last year for Sound of Metal, where he was nominated for many awards — including an Oscar — for his portrayal of a hearing-impaired rock drummer.
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