Joika: Robertson’s Biopic of Ballet Dancer, Starring Thomasin McKenzie (Project Sold at Cannes Market)

Rising star Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace and Jojo Rabbit) is set to play American ballet dancer Joy Womack in James Napier Robertson’s Joika, one of the projects being sold at the upcoming online Cannes market.

The film will shoot in Thomasin’s native New Zealand — where production is “already safely underway” according to the New Zealand Film Commission — with the filmmakers set to “utilize digital technology to navigate ongoing pandemic restrictions.”

Joika is based on the true story of Joy ‘Joika’ Womack, one of a handful of foreigners — and only two U.S. women — to ever penetrate Moscow’s infamously tough Bolshoi Ballet Academy, when she graduated from its main training program and was offered a contract in 2014. Following a stint in South Korea, as the principal dancer with the Universal Ballet, Womack returned to the USA where she now dances with the Boston Ballet.

Womack is personally overseeing McKenzie’s training and will act as the actress’ double for more demanding sequences.

Napier Robertson and Hern’s Four Knights Films (Shadow in the Cloud, Guns Akimbo, The Dark Horse) will produce, alongside Anonymous Content’s Paul Green (The Loft, Triple 9, The Fifth Estate), Paula Munoz Vega and Laurie Ross. Luke Rivett will executive produce.