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Billy Gil graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and has worked for People and Daily Variety. He is the editor of the Pipeline section and IndieFile, both of which highlight independent films on DVD. For IndieFile tips and inquiries, email bgil@questex.com. For inclusion on IndieFile's Feedroom channel, contact Renee Rosado (rrosado@questex.com). Follow IndieFile on Twitter, at Twitter.com/IndieFile.


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23 May, 2012

Cannes 2012 Acquisitions

  • Film Movement has acquired Room 514 at the Cannes Film Festival. The directorial debut from Sharon Bar-Ziv premiered at the Rotterdam International Film Festival and won a special jury mention for Best New Narrative Director at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. The film, which is in Hebrew with English subtitles, will see a limited theatrical opening in the Q4 of 2012 with a day-and-date cable VOD premiere. Film Movement also has acquired North American rights to French/Israeli film A Bottle in the Gaza Sea. Film Movement plans a Q4 theatrical release and a day-and-date cable VOD release.
  • TLA Releasing has acquired worldwide rights, including theatrical, non-theatrical, TV, home video, VOD and digital rights to  the comedy-drama Elliot Loves, from director/writer Terracino. The gay-themed film follows a young Dominican-American man named Elliot as a 9-year-old who is best friend to his single mother, and as a 21-year-old looking for love in New York City.
  • IFC Films has acquired North American rights to dark comedy Sightseers, from director Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Down Terrace); and Save the Date, a romantic comedy starring Lizzie Caplan. IFC films are distributed on disc by MPI Media Group.
  • Sony Pictures Classics nabbed North American rights to No, a drama about Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, starring Gael Garcia Bernal, and Susanne Bier’s Love is All You Need, starring Pierce Brosnan.
  • Kino Lorber acquired U.S. rights to documentary Meet the Fokkens, which follows two 69-year-old twin sisters who formerly were prostitutes in Amsterdam and eventually started running their own brothel.
  • The Weinstein Co. acquired U.S. rights to documentary The Oath of Tobruk, documenting the fall of Egyptian dictator Moammar Gaddafi, as well as The Sapphires, an Australian film starring Chris O'Dowd (Bridesmaids).
  • Phase 4 Films acquired North American rights to romantic drama See Girl Run, with Robin Tunney and Adam Scott. The film will be released day-and-date in theatres and on VOD this year.
  • Music Box Films acquired North American rights to Sean Baker’s Starlet, about a young porn actress who befriends her 85-year-old neighbor. The indie studio plans a fall theatrical release.

Please send any Cannes acquisition announcements to bgil@questex.com.

By: Billy Gil


18 May, 2012

Documentary Premieres With Sundance Doc Club


The documentary Walk Away Renee from director Jonathan Caouette will see its digital premiere through SundanceNOW’s new SVOD program, Doc Club, day-and-date with its North American film festival premiere.

Walk Away Renee hits North America June 27 at CAMcinemaFest 2012, while Doc Club subscribers will be able to download or stream the film that same day as part of Doc Club’s June offerings. Additionally the film can be rented on SundanceNOW for $6.99. The film premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and is the follow-up to Caouette’s 2004 film Tarnation, a harrowing memoir-doc about his life growing up gay and with a mentally ill mother that he famously made for $218.32 using iMovie on his Mac.

Walk Away Renee sees Caouette taking a road trip to move his mentally ill mother across the country, with flashbacks to the past portraying their extraordinary relationship.

“This online premiere of Caouette’s Walk Away Renee is a major step forward for SundanceNOW and Doc Club,” said Jonathan Sehring, president of Sundance Selects and SundanceNOW. “Our mission is to bring films to audiences in multiple ways and create exciting, innovative campaigns for each film. To give fans of Tarnation the ability to watch Jonathan’s new film from any computer in the country is the best way to make it as available as possible.”

SundanceNOW is the digital sister of Sundance Selects, which an arm of the Sundance Film Festival that brings films to 40 million homes via transactional a VOD platform through major cable providers such as Comcast, Cablevision, Cox, Time Warner Cable and DirecTV, as well as theatrically and on disc and digital download.

Seeing Tarnation on DVD when it was first released, I was stricken by how it was like no movie I had ever seen before. Viewers with the utmost stoicism and skepticism, a disposition for which they could be forgiven, knowing Tarnation’s seemingly precious and self-indulgent set-up, have been moved far beyond expectation by Tarnation’s hyperreality — not only is it a film which redefines the documentary, it predated much of social networking and foreshadowed the way Facebook and YouTube give us far more avenue than we could have dreamed for sharing our stories, for better or worse. It remains one of my all-time favorite films, and I’m glad that for his long-awaited follow-up, Caouette has remained ahead of the curve, in terms of the way this film is being brought to audiences.

 

By: Billy Gil


8 May, 2012

James Redford, Son of Robert Redford, Talks Whole Foods Film


As a child, James Redford was fascinated by the creation of Lake Powell. He and his family (including famous father Robert Redford, Oscar-feted director/actor and founder of the Sundance Film Festival) would visit there, but he knew it came at the expense of the beautiful Glen Canyon, which was flooded by the Colorado River, which passes through it, after the creation of the Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1963, a year after Redford was born. Seventeen years later, Lake Powell hit its intended high water mark, completing the creation of Lake Powell.

“It seemed like a shattering tragedy loomed over every subsequent visit to the lake,” Redford said. “But it didn't stop my family from going there. The vast raw beauty of the Southwest shined through. The oddity and, frankly, hubris of manipulating a natural system never left my curiosity.”

Redford produced the film Watershed: Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West about the human activity surrounding the Colorado River, how the river has receded and what could be done to help the situation. The documentary is narrated by Robert Redford and directed by Mark Decena.

The film is the second entry in this year’s edition of Whole Foods Market’s Do Something Reel Film Festival, which began on Earth Day (April 22) and features films dealing with issues regarding food and the environment. Watershed can be streamed at www.dosomethingreel.com for $5.99 through May, with a different film available on the site each month.

Additionally the film will be shown at select Whole Foods stores. A list of screenings, plus tips on conserving water, can be found at www.dosomethignreel.com and Whole Foods’ Facebook page.

Redford said the film also is available on DVD for free to community organizations or nonprofits that want to hold public screenings of the film. He said they also are in discussions related to a cable broadcast.

Watershed is Redford’s fourth social impact documentary, after The D Word: Understanding Dyslexia, Mann V. Ford and The Kindness of Strangers. Redford said he now is in production on two more such films.

“I feel blessed to do these kinds of films,” he said. “As for ‘Bob,’ I'm sure he'll continue to build on his extraordinary record.”

Proceeds will help fund the 2012 Whole Foods Market/AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Festival filmmaker grants, and the festival is presented in association with Applegate Organic & Natural Meat, Earthbound Farm Organic, Popcorn Indiana and siggi’s.

Whole Foods Market also has partnered with online charity fundraising site Crowdrise to allow donations to the Colorado River Delta Water Trust, dedicated to restoring the Colorado River Delta, at www.crowdrise.com/watershed.

“If the 1% that inhabits the Colorado watershed were to write checks for $100, you could buy enough water rights to reconnect the river to the Gulf of California,” Redford said. “You could get the same amount of water if everyone in Denver reduced the square footage of their lawns by 50%. This is doable.”

By: Billy Gil


30 Apr, 2012

2012 Tribeca Film Fest Announces Awards


The 2012 Tribeca Film Festival saw more than 380,000 attendees in its 11th year, taking place in screenings, panels, talks and free community events in New York.

The festival ran from April 18 through April 29 and hosted nearly 400 screenings and panels with more than 95% attendance. The festival saw a total of 89 features and 60 short films screen from 46 countries, with 116,000 attendees hitting the screenings.

“Our 11th Festival was an extraordinary 12 days filled with amazing films, unique experiences and incredible reactions from audiences,” said Nancy Schafer, executive director of the Tribeca Film Festival.

This year also saw the Tribeca Online Film Festival, which returned to offer free content at tribecafilm.com/tribecaonline, including world premiere features and shorts. Interactive elements included a live stream of the Universal Pictures 100th anniversary panel with Tribeca co-founder Robert De Niro and Judd Apatow; and the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards, which honored Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, Justin Bieber and Scooter Braun.

The winners of Tribeca’s competition categories also were announced, doling out $180,000 in cash prizes. The Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature went to War Witch, directed by Kim Nguyen (Canada), awarded $25,000 and an art award; Best Actor in a Narrative Feature Film was given to Dariel Arrechada and Javier Nuñez Florian in Una Noche, directed by Lucy Mulloy (U.K., Cuba, U.S.), with the winners splitting $2,500; Best Actress in a Narrative Feature Film went to Rachel Mwanza in War Witch, awarded $2,500; Best Cinematography in a Narrative Feature Film – Cinematography to Trevor Forrest and Shlomo Godder, for Una Noche, receiving $5,000 and $50,000 in post-production services provided by Company 3; Special Jury Mention to Alex Catalan for Unit 7; Best Screenplay for a Narrative Feature Film to All In (La Suerte en Tus Manos), from director Daniel Burman (Argentina), receiving $5,000; and Best New Narrative Director to Lucy Mulloy (Una Noche), receiving $25,000, $50,000 in post-production services by Company 3 and an art award. A full list of winners can be found at http://www.tribecafilm.com/news-features/Awards_Announced_2012_Tribeca_Film_Festival.html.

The multiple awards given to Cuban film Una Noche also were notable for the headline-grabbing disappearance of award-winning star Nuñez and his co-star (and girlfriend) Anailin de la Rua, who went into hiding in Miami on a stopover to New York from Cuba and were absent at the ceremony. The pair are seeking political asylum in the United States.

In addition, two Heineken Audience Awards were given to audience favorites. Any Day Now, directed by Travis Fine, won the narrative award, while Burn, directed by Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez, was given the documentary award. The awards included a cash prize of $25,000.

And The Tribeca Film Institute announced the winners of its Tribeca All Access Creative Promise Awards. The awards were given to the narrative film Rhymes for Young Ghouls and the documentary The New Black, selected from 11 projects from budding filmmakers and given a $10,000 award, as well as an original piece from a contemporary artist.

Congratulations to all the winners!

 

 

By: Billy Gil


26 Apr, 2012

Wolfe Nabs ‘Gayby’ at SXSW


Wolfe Releasing acquired the U.S. rights to the critically acclaimed and hilariously titled comedy Gayby at the SXSW Film Conference & Festival.

From writer-director Jonathan Lisecki, Gayby tells of a gay man and a straight woman who decide to have a child together. The film will be released theatrically later this year, in partnership with The Film Collaborative, and the DVD and VOD release will come in 2013.

I’ve seen the short film upon which it was based, on First Run Features’ Fest Selects: Best Gay Shorts Vol. 1, and I have to say it’s one of the funniest and most memorable short films I’ve seen (read my review here). Upon finishing it, I wanted to see more, as the characters, premise and writing were so promising. This looks to be a great release for Wolfe.

Gayby is the funniest movie I've seen in years," said Wolfe president Maria Lynn. “It's a pleasure to be able to work with such a talented filmmaker as Jonathan Lisecki and help him reach the widespread audience he deserves.”

By: Billy Gil


9 Apr, 2012

Comcast, Tribeca Give Access to Tribeca Film Fest


Comcast’s Xfinity TV subscribers are in luck. Beginning April 17, Xfinity TV and Tribeca Film will give the service’s 20 million-plus subscribers access to the 11th Annual Tribeca Film Festival via Xfinity On Demand and XfinityTV.com. 

 

Subscribers will get access to films before they screen, including Death of a Superhero, The Giant Mechanical Man and Sleepless Night. Jesus Henry Christ, a title from last year’s fest, also will be available April 17, and more new titles will follow, including Booker’s Place: A Mississippi Story, April 26. Additionally subscribers can view other current and past Tribeca films as well as special behind-the-scenes extras.

“For our customers that aren’t located in an area that has arthouses or screenings of indie films, this is a great way to experience a world-class indie film festival like Tribeca,” said Maggie McLean Suniewick, VP of video services for Comcast Cable.  “Our Xfinity On Demand and XfinityTV.com platforms give filmmakers access to millions of homes that they may not have reached otherwise, and we are committed to working with filmmakers and festivals to help broaden the distribution of these films and to bring the best festival experiences and indie films to our customers.”

Death of a Superhero features motion-capture star Andy Serkis (The Hobbit, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) in a story of a teenager struggling with his mortality.

Romantic comedy The Giant Mechanical Man stars Jenna Fischer (“The Office”), Chris Messina (Vicky Christina Barcelona) and Topher Grace (“That 70's Show”).

French action thriller Sleepless Night follows a cop dodging drug dealers in a nightclub as he tries to rescue his son from a crime kingpin, to whom he’s in debt.

Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story explores life in 1960s Mississippi and “Booker” Wright, a black man who spoke his mind on race relations on network TV. Jesus Henry Christ stars Academy Award nominees Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, Little Miss Sunshine) and Michael Sheen (Midnight in Paris, Frost/Nixon) in a comedy about a boy prodigy who is searching for his biological father.

By: Billy Gil


21 Mar, 2012

‘Telstar’ Tells Joe Meek Story

'Telstar'
'Telstar'

The film Telstar, released March 20 on DVD ($26.98) by Inception Media Group, tells the story of Joe Meek, the record producer who produced such songs as the 1962 Tornados hit “Telstar.” The instrumental song, with eerie atmospherics and distinctive melody played on the space-age-sounding clavioline keyboard, went to No. 1 in the United Kingdom and won the prestigious Ivor Novello Award, given solely on recording and composing talents.


Meek sank into depression in the following years and killed both his landlady and himself in 1967. Telstar, which Nick Moran wrote and directed, based on his own play (co-written with James Hicks), tells of those years when the tone-deaf Meek (played by Con O’Neill, who played Meek onstage as well) struggled to get the songs he heard in his head played back through session musicians such as John Leyton and the Outlaws (seen in the film recording his haunting “Johnny Remember Me”) while operating his recording studio above a leather-good store.

However, Meek’s scatterbrained genius came with its share of baggage. The volatile producer thought he could speak with the dead — he said Buddy Holly helped him write songs and would set up tape machines in graveyards — and he was gay at a time when that was still illegal in the United Kingdom, as seen through his tumultuous relationship with pop singer Heinz.

Moran said the genesis for the play and film came after a drunken night out with co-writer Hicks.

“Many years ago, about 1995 I think, my best mate Jim and I were staggering drunk towards a taxi on the Holloway Road with another pal, who pointed up to a plaque over 304 Holloway road above our heads,” Moran explained. “‘You know who lived there? Some mad old poof who wrote and recorded all these No. 1’s in a studio he built in his kitchen. Took loads of drugs and worshipped the devil. Shot the landlady then himself.’ My ears pricked up, obviously I thought there was a story to be told here.”

Moran said at the time he was an underemployed actor barely making a living (before he starred in Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels).

“After a little research, we could see that Joe's life, as well as being macabre and bizarre, was also arched like a Greek tragedy,” Moran said. “A man who becomes a king, but the same strength that makes him great becomes what destroyed him. His determination becomes his blinkered arrogance. … All set to the backdrop of ’60s London and filled with colorful characters who were to go to be huge stars.”

Moran said the first readthrough of the play was at a pub with then-little-known actors Jude Law and Samantha Morton, alongside O’Neill and the rest of the cast. He said he couldn’t dream it would become a West End play and a feature film with an Oscar winner — the film also stars Kevin Spacey as Meek’s studio’s financier.

“Once he is on set, you forget that he’s a star and just think of him as a really good actor, which is what he is,” Moran said of Spacey. “He is a fantastic example to everyone else on set and a joy to direct. We had some fun as well. There's a very funny gag reel. Kevin is a too-rare example of someone who becomes a star because of how talented they are.”

Moran said he did extensive research into the film’s story, interviewing those who were involved and still alive, and that translated into an authentic retelling of Meek’s history.

Telstar is quite rare because absolutely everything that happens in the film happened in real life, in the same places and in the right order,” Moran said. “It might have improved the story if we changed things, but I don't think so. One Hollywood producer I spoke with was interested in the script but wanted Joe to be heterosexual so he could attach a female star as a love interest. That's just not the film I wanted to make.”

By: Billy Gil


14 Feb, 2012

TLA Inks With Polish Distributor Tongariro


TLA Releasing has signed a deal with Polish LGBT distributor Tongariro to release content to Poland day-and-date with the United States and the United Kingdom. The first title under the deal will be the drama Beauty.

“The expansion into the Polish market provides further assurance of a global day-and-date strategy with our future releases, and we are excited to be making in-roads into a rapidly expanding European market,” said TLA President Derek Curl.

Additionally, the VOD service Outfilm.pl will debut in Poland in late February, featuring TLA content.

By: Billy Gil


7 Feb, 2012

Anchor Bay, Wolfe Make Sundance Acquisitions


Anchor Bay Films has acquired all North American distribution rights to director-writer Richard Bates Jr.’s debut feature, Excision, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month.

The horror film stars AnnaLynne McCord (“90210”), Traci Lords (Cry Baby), Ariel Winter (“Modern Family”), Malcolm McDowell and John Waters.  The quirky horror film follows Pauline (McCord), a teenage outcast with horrific fantasies who decides to perform a risky surgery on her sister in order to repair her damaged relationship with her family.

Also, Wolfe Releasing has acquired the North American rights to Mosquita y Mari at Sundance. Writer-director Aurora Guerrero’s debut feature is a complex love story between two young Latinas growing up in South East L.A. Wolfe plans to release the film theatrically this year and on VOD and DVD in 2013.

By: Billy Gil


6 Feb, 2012

Sony Classics Announces Actors’ Showcase ‘Carnage’

'Carnage'
'Carnage'

Carnage is the kind of film that makes fans of the dramatic arts’ tongues wag. It’s a filmed presentation of a Tony Award-winning play by Yasmina Reza, adapted by Roman Polanski, starring four of the hands-down best actors alive: Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly, Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release the Sony Classics film, which was nominated for two Golden Globes (for Foster and Winslet’s performances), March 20 (prebook Feb. 16) on DVD ($30.99) and Blu-ray ($35.99).

The story concerns two New York couples who come to meet because the son of one couple punches the son of the other. One couple, played by Waltz and Winslet, at first seem like stereotypical uppity Manhattanites, he on his phone every two minutes to discuss some Wall Street conundrum, she pressed and polite, eager to keep up appearances and smooth away her husband’s rudeness. Foster and Reilly, on the other hand, play, on the surface, a more down-to-earth couple, consisting of a bleeding-heart liberal who pushes fairness and justice upon her peers, and a working-class man who has worked his way up into the upper middle class and carries its associated manners but also a certain internal darkness.

The film takes these four and places them into a room, bouncing their conflicting views and veneers off of one another until all niceties melt away and what’s left is a truer, harsher view of humanity through these people.

“When the gloves come off, it’s pretty revealing,” Reilly said of the characters.

With a film such as this in which nearly all of the action takes place in one room, between four characters, two weeks of rehearsals took place before anything was shot for the film. But don’t expect any of that rehearsal footage to make the home video release, according to Waltz.

“If I had a say in these things, I would do away with all this ‘behind-the-scenes, making-of’ rubbish,” Waltz said. “It’s nobody’s business. Why would you poke your nose in our rehearsals? Where do we then have our safe space where we try and make fools of ourselves and just fathom what it is we need to do?

“… It’s a huge drag, and I try to avoid making-ofs, EPKs, blah blah, ‘Can you explain your character?’ … Why would I? I would be doing myself and the story and, most of all, your experience watching the film, the greatest disservice possible. I’m just there to incarnate … the character that has no body when it was written.”

If there’s one particular sequence of Carnage sticks out in many viewers’ — and the actors’ — minds, it’s when Winslet’s character throws up the peach cobbler the nervous other couple has been foisting upon them. Her character runs off, mortified, to clean herself off, while the others stick around to deal with the mess.

“It was days of that. It was horrible. It was really gross,” Reilly said. “Everyone’s like, ‘Poor Kate, she had to vomit.’ I had to clean up Kate’s vomit.

“… Needless to say, I haven’t had cobbler since I made the movie.”

Regardless, Reilly said the cast of heavy-hitters got along smoothly.

“There wasn’t a diva in the bunch,” he said.

Both Waltz and Reilly had only the highest praise for Polanski, whose resume includes classics from Chinatown to The Pianist.

“If you look at his movies, the only thing that really kind of strings them all together is like, they’re excellent,” Reilly said. “They’re really well-made and beautifully photographed. … He has a lot of variety as a director. I thought this was a really gutsy movie for him to make.”

When asked what Polanski brought to his performance, Waltz replied: “Precision. Exactitude. Concreteness. All the qualities that I adore and that I really strive for and that I’m grappling with and fighting with, and where I derive all my inferiority complexes and all that.”

Perhaps that precision is why the film’s DVD and Blu-ray don’t include any deleted scenes.

“It’s all there,” Reilly said. “What we said is what’s in the movie.”

The DVD and Blu-ray do include a making-of of sorts in the form of an “Actor’s Notes” featurette, as well as a red carpet featurette and another dubbed “An Evening with John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz.”

By: Billy Gil