HBO Films has acquired the worldwide rights to writer/director Daniel Sawka’s feature debut, Icebox, it was announced today by Len Amato, president, HBO Films. Produced by Oscar and Emmy winner James L. Brooks’ Gracie Films and co-financed with Endeavor Content, the drama will debut Friday, December 7 on HBO.
Icebox tells the story of Óscar, played by Anthony Gonzalez (Coco), a 12-year-old Honduran boy who is forced to flee his home and seek asylum in the United States, only to find himself trapped in the U.S. immigration system.
“I have seldom seen a movie so of the moment – it’s almost reportage,” said Amato. “Icebox gives viewers not only an opportunity to witness what it’s like inside these migrant detention centers, but also to feel the emotions of the children, revealing a world that many journalists and citizens have not yet been able to sufficiently penetrate.”
Brooks and his production company, Gracie Films, partnered with Sawka to expand the project from a master’s thesis short into a feature-length film. Icebox premiered in the Discovery section at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Endeavor Content co-financed the production and handled the worldwide sale.
The film also stars Omar Leyva, Johnny Ortiz, Matthew Moreno, Jessica Juarez and Genesis Rodriguez.
As Óscar attempts to reach his uncle, Manuel (Leyva), in Arizona, he is apprehended by Border Patrol and placed in “the icebox,” a detention facility where he joins scores of other migrant children being held without their families. Faced with a seemingly impenetrable immigration system, Óscar struggles to navigate a path to freedom, with a journalist (Rodriguez) and his uncle, himself a recent immigrant, as his only lifelines.
“The narrative and characters in Icebox are inspired by so many personal stories that were told to me through years of research and outreach – stories that unfortunately have become all too prevalent in today’s world,” says Daniel Sawka. “I can’t think of a better partner than HBO Films with which to present this incredibly timely issue.”
“Working with the children from this cast, with their parents rooting them on, was maybe the best working atmosphere of my life,” notes James L. Brooks.
Filmed on location in New Mexico, the film was shot primarily in Spanish with English subtitles. Sawka originally wrote and directed Icebox as a short film for his 2016 American Film Institute MFA thesis project. This short was subsequently shortlisted for the 2018 Academy Awards, won the Grand Jury Award at AFI fest, and screened at Telluride Film Festival.