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Memento International has boarded “The Ugly Stepsister,” the ambitious feature debut of Norwegian director Emilie Blichfeldt. The company will kick off sales at this year’s Cannes.

Combining comedy and horror, the film is a daring and unexpected take on the world-famous tale, seen through the eyes of the Cinderella’s stepsister, Elvira.

The gory film follows Elvira as she battles to compete with her insanely beautiful stepsister in a kingdom where beauty is a brutal business. She will go to any lengths to catch the prince’s eye. 

“The Ugly Stepsister” is produced by Maria Ekerhovd in Norway for Mer Film (“The Innocents,” “Sentimental Value”), and is co-produced by Lizette Jonjic for Zentropa Sweden (“Another Round”), Mariusz Włodarski for Poland’s Lava Films (“The Girl with The Needle”), Theis Nørgaard for Denmark’s Motor (“The Dead Don’t Hurt”), Zefyr and Film i Väst. With support from the Norwegian Film Institute, the Polish Production Incentive and the Polish Film Institute, the Swedish Film Institute, the Danish Film Institute, Eurimages, DR, Nordisk Film & Tv Fond. Scanbox will release the film across Scandinavian countries.

“The Ugly Stepsister” is headline by newcomer Lea Myren who makes her acting feature debut as Elvira. She stars opposite Thea Sofie Loch Naess (“The Last Kingdom”) and Ane Dahl Torp (“The Wave”).

The stellar key crew includes costume designer Manon Rasmussen (“A Royal Affair,” “Melancholia”), cinematographer Marcel Zyskind (“The Dead Don’t Hurt”), editor Border Olivia Neergaard-Holm (“The Apprentice”), VFX supervisor Peter Hjort (“Triangle of Sadness”) and VFX make up Thomas Foldberg (“Border”). 

Blichfeldt said she “immediately identified” with the stepsister after “rediscovering the Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella in which the stepsister cuts off her toes to make the shoe fit.”

“With this ‘beauty horror’ I want to seduce the audience into a “girl-dreaming-of-marrying-the-prince-fairytale”, before revealing its true and raw insides,” said the filmmaker, adding “it’s time the ugly stepsister’s story is lifted from the shadows of Cinderella, and cultivated as the iconic feminist narrative of the tyranny of beauty that it is.”

Memento International praised the helmer’s “unique take on the classic we all know is equally funny, bold, shocking and destined to be cult for a generation.”

“It is highly contemporary in its exploration of what one is willing to do to meet society’s imposed beauty standards on women. Emilie is finally giving a voice to the underdog in a very entertaining way, allowing audiences worldwide to connect with her,” the company said.

Blichfeldt graduated from the Norwegian Film School with the short film ‘Sara’s Intimate Confidences’. The film had its world premiere at the Locarno Film Festival and was selected for the competition program at the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival.

“The Ugly Stepsister” joins Memento International’s 2024 Cannes slate which also features Cannes Directors’ Fortnight title “The Other Way Around” (“Volveréis”) by Jonas Trueba. U.S. projects in pre-production include “The Murderous Miss Highsmith” by Alexandra Pechman starring Shailene Woodley and Cara Delevingne, as well as “The Maid of Orleans” by Sarah Elizabeth Mintz.

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