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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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22 Apr, 2010

New Indie Titles, April 22: ‘The Greatest’ and More

The Greatest
The Greatest

Title: The Greatest
Genre: Drama
Studio: E1 Entertainment
Street date: 7/13
Prebook: 6/15
Price/Format: $26.98 DVD or Blu-ray
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A slew of ‘A’-list performers — Susan Sarandon, Pierce Brosnan and Carey Mulligan — star in a small film about a couple whose son passes away and who must deal with the arrival of the expectant young mother of their son’s child.


Title: My Dog: An Unconditional Love Story
Genre: Documentary
Studio: Docurama
Street Date: 5/25
Price/Format: $26.95 DVD
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This film explores the relationship between people and their dogs — specifically famous people, as the film interviews the likes of Edie Falco, Richard Gere and Glenn Close.


Title: Bluebeard
Genre: Fantasy
Studio: Strand Releasing
Street date: 6/22
Prebook date: 5/25
Price/Format: $27.99 DVD
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This is a retelling of a French fairytale, about a young girl married to an ogre who must outwit him lest she be killed, from director Catherine Breillat (The Last Mistress, Fat Girl, Romance). Time Out New York awarded the film five out of five stars. 


Title: All My Friends are Funeral Singers
Genre: Drama
Studio: IndiePix
Street date: 5/25
Price/Format: $24.95 DVD
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This SXSW pick from indie band Califone’s Tim Rutili, starring Angela Bettis (Girl, Interrupted), is about a psychic advisor whose house is haunted by spirits who play experimental music.


Title: The Only Son/There Was a Father: Two Films By Yasujiro Ozu
Genre: Foreign/Arthouse
Studio: Criterion
Street date: 7/13
Prebook: 6/15
Price/Format: $39.95 DVD
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Rare early films by legendary Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu (Tokyo Story, An Autumn Afternoon) are paired. Both films deal with women in difficult situations — in the first film a mother sacrifices her happiness for her son’s education, and the second film deals with a widow with financial hardships struggling to raise her child.

 

By: Billy Gil


19 Apr, 2010

Sony Unties ‘White Ribbon’


Title: The White Ribbon
Genre: Drama
Studio: Sony Pictures
Street Date: 6/29
Prebook date: 5/27
Price/Format: $28.95 DVD, $38.96 BD

Here at IndieFile, I’ve taken to corralling some of the more interesting titles coming down the pipe and posting them every Thursday, but I couldn’t wait for this one: Oscar nominee, Golden Globe winner, Cannes Palme d’Or winner and all-around highly acclaimed The White Ribbon, from filmmaker Michael Haneke (Caché).

The film takes place in a small Protestant village in Northern Germany as World War I is about to break. Strange accidents begin to happen, and the key to figuring out what’s going on seems to involve the abused village children, who are forced by a domineering pastor to wear white ribbons for minor infractions, to remind them to remain pure.

In Haneke’s films, nothing is clear-cut, and the plot serves as a means to address greater issues, such as inequality and terrorism.

The black-and-white film has earned its cinematographer, Christian Berger, numerous accolades, including a best achievement in cinematography nod at this year’s Oscars. The film also was nominated for best foreign language film at the Oscars, and won that award at the Golden Globes.

By: Billy Gil


15 Apr, 2010

New Indie Titles, April 15: ‘Tokyo Sonata’ and More


Title: Tokyo Sonata
Genre: Comedy
Studio: E1
Street Date: 5/4
Price/Format: $26.98 DVD
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Kiyoshi Kurosawa isn’t known for comedies, having offered up horror films such as Pulse and Cure. But his black comedy Tokyo Sonata, which explores the dynamics of the contemporary Japanese family when its patriarch loses his job and hides that fact from his family, was strong enough to win the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. The DVD includes a making-of featurette, Cannes Festival footage and interviews with the cast and crew.


Title: California Dreamin’
Genre: Comedy
Studio: MPI/IFC
Street date: 5/4
Price/Format: $24.98 DVD
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Young director Cristian Nemescu (part of a Romanian new wave) directs this war farce, which takes place during the civil war in Yugoslavia as an American Marine platoon arrives in a town in Romania and face bureaucratic troubles, sexy young women and strange pop culture celebrations. Sadly, Nemescu passed away before his acclaimed film was released.   


Title: A Town Called Panic
Genre: Animated
Studio: Zeitgeist
Street date: 7/20
Prebook date: 6/22
Price/Format: $29.99 DVD
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A stop-motion animated film about three plastic toys named Cowboy, Indian and Horse who get into hijinks while sharing a house in a rural town. Based on “Wallace & Gromit,” the film was on the Oscar shortlist for best animated feature, among other accolades.



Title: Owl and the Sparrow
Genre: Drama
Studio: Film Movement
Street date: 5/4
Prebook: 4/27
Price/Format: $27.98 DVD
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This Vietnamese film follows a 10-year-old flees the bamboo factory at which she works and travels to Saigon, where she struggles to survive and avoid authorities. The film has received praise from LA Weekly, The Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Examiner.


Title: The Prowler
Genre: Horror
Studio: Blue Underground
Street date: 7/27
Prebook: 6/29
Price/Format: $29.98 Blu-ray


Props to Blue Underground for continuing to release cult films on Blu-ray, such as this ’80s “body count” thriller in which a young couple is murdered on the night of their graduation dance — 30 years later the dance is held again, and the killing returns.

 

By: Billy Gil


13 Apr, 2010

Screen Media Acquires Three


Screen Media Films has made three acquisitions: Gareth Lewis’ Assassin in Love (previously titled The Baker), Steven Kastrissios’ The Horseman and Deon Taylor’s The Hustle.

Assassin in Love stars Band of Brothers’ Damian Lewis and the “Harry Potter” series’ Michael Gambon in a film about a hit man who seeks to reform his ways (and escape his former boss) by taking a job as a baker in a rural Welsh village. The film saw a limited theatrical release and will street on DVD in the fourth quarter of 2010.

The Horseman, to be released in the second quarter of 2010, is a thriller about a father and daughter on a revenge-motivated killing spree in the Australian Outback.

Meanwhile, The Hustle will come out on DVD in the third quarter of 2010 and stars Charlie Murphy (Night at the Museum, your annoying friends’ Dave Chappelle impersonations), as well as certifiably crazy Bai Ling, David Alan Grier, John Witherspoon (Friday), Brigitte Nielsen (she did it with Sylvester Stallone AND Flava Flav!) and David Faustino (Bud on “Married … With Children”). It’s about an exterminator. Wow.

By: Billy Gil


12 Apr, 2010

New on VOD from IFC: ‘Breaking Upwards,’ ‘The Human Centipede’


IFC Films’ on-demand channel this month is screening the romantic comedy Breaking Upwards (which is playing in select theaters) and the horror film The Human Centipede (starting April 30).

Breaking Upwards, from director Daryl Wein and starring Wein and girlfriend Zoe Lister-Jones, is about a New York couple (named Daryl and Zoe), who try to plan their own breakup and make it as smooth as possible. The film has been getting great reviews from the New York Times and New York Magazine and also stars Olivia Thirlby (Juno), Julie White (the “Transformers,” uh, “films”) and Peter Friedman (The Savages).

The Human Centipede sounds like a typical horror film at the outset — the car of two American girls traveling through Europe breaks down and they wake up in a makeshift hospital with a madman — only this madman, Dr. Heiter, wants to connect his abductees via their gastric systems, in order to make a “human centipede.” Gross! The film won best horror feature at the 2009 Fantastic Fest & Scream Fest, and its description alone is making me reconsider eating whilst I work.

Both films will be available for two to three months in the main on-demand section of such cable providers as Comcast, Cox and Cablevision and Time Warner.

By: Billy Gil


9 Apr, 2010

Moverman’s ‘Messenger’ Hits Home

Oren Moverman
Oren Moverman

Oren Moverman doesn’t aim to convince viewers of one particular thing with his film The Messenger (on DVD/Blu-ray May 18 from Oscilloscope Laboratories), which tells the story of two soldiers who notify next of kin that their family member has died in battle.

“I think that people come into the film with certain kinds of biases and maybe walk out with certain biases enhanced and others changed,” Moverman says of the film, which he says has seen support both from left-wing anti-war activists and the U.S. Army itself, which approved the film and allowed a colonel to be a technical advisor on the film, helping gain access to military bases and learning the language of the military.

“It didn’t interfere with the creative process,” Moverman said. “It really kind of saved the day a lot of times.”

The $29.99 DVD and $34.99 Blu-ray Disc contain a short film called “Notification,” a companion piece to the film directed by late filmmaker Joe Kelly, in which real Casualty Notification service members are interviewed.

“When I saw [“Notification”], knowing that it was going to be on the DVD, I almost thought, as emotional as The Messenger is, there’s something about seeing the real people and listening to them … that is, in a way, more emotional than the film itself,” Moverman said.

The DVD and Blu-ray also will include a commentary with Moverman, stars Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson, and producer Lawrence Inglee; behind-the-scenes footage; and a Q&A with the cast and crew. What the releases will not contain are deleted scenes.

“I do have to say the film is the cut that I wanted and the cut we all felt strongest of,” Moverman said of the half an hour or so of scenes that were cut from the film for aesthetic reasons and for time. (The film, as it stands, is nearly two hours.)

Moverman says he has not yet seen The Messenger on Blu-ray but that extensive, subtle sound-work was done on the film that could be greatly enhanced by high-definition.

“The thing that’s exciting to me about [the DVD and Blu-ray release] is there’s a whole new audience exposed to the film, and it if it’s on Blu-ray, this kind of technology is giving them a more enhanced experience,” Moverman said.

Indeed, The Messenger made just more than $1 million at the U.S. box office, but with Oscar nominations both for Moverman (best original screenplay) and Harrelson (best supporting actor), the filmmaker said the film has gotten much more attention that it would have normally. He hopes with the film’s DVD/Blu-ray release, more people will see the film and draw their own conclusions about the film’s message.

“I think what [the film] does is present [its subject] as objectively as possible,” Moverman says. “What that does is open debate.”

“I think a big thing in The Messenger is this question we kept asking ourselves, ‘how do you get through life, knowing there’s grief and hardships, how do you go on living?’ The answer is through the simplest thing — love, friendship, humor and finding things in other people that make their lives better.”

By: Billy Gil


8 Apr, 2010

New Indie Titles, April 8: ‘Pretty Bird’ and More

Paul Giamatti
Paul Giamatti

Title: Pretty Bird
Genre: Comedy
Studio: Paramount
Street Date: 6/29
Prebook date: 5/18
Price/Format: $22.99 DVD
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The cast of this one alone is worth the price of admission — starring Billy Crudup, Paul Giamatti and Kristen Wiig, this Sundance Grand Jury Prize nominee is based on the true story of a group that seeks to invent and market the personal rocket belt.


Title: Beyond The Barbed Wire: An Artists View of the Holocaust
Genre: Documentary
Studio: ADA/Reality Entertainment
Street date: 5/25
Prebook date: 4/28
Price/Format: $19.95 DVD
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This documentary tells of Ben Altman, an artist and a tailor who survived numerous concentration camps in Poland, never seeing his family again. Altman eventually moves to San Francisco and becomes the tailor for the San Francisco Opera House. Upon retiring, his memories come out in the form of paintings. ADA/Reality Entertainment also release the WWI doc A War to End All Wars the same day at $19.95.


Title: Animation Express
Genre: Animated
Studio: Image
Street date: 6/8
Prebook date: 5/11
Price/Format: $29.98 DVD or Blu-ray
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A compilation of 26 animated shorts featuring award winners and other CGI, hand-drawn and stop-motion shorts, from the experimental to the traditional. The Blu-ray includes 13 additional shorts.


Title: MINE
Genre: Documentary
Studio: Film Movement
Street date: 5/4
Price/Format: $26.95 DVD
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From filmmaker Geralyn Pezanoski, South by Southwest winner MINE tells of animals abandoned then rescued during Hurricane Katrina. Appropriately, the short film Film Movement has chosen to include with MINE is La Vie D’un Chien, an American-made, French-language film about a potion that can temporarily change people into dogs.



Title: Squatterpunk
Genre: Documentary
Studio: Pathfinder
Street date: 6/8
Prebook: 5/4
Price/Format: $24.98 DVD
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Multiaward-winning Squatterpunk follows a young would-be gangster through the shantytowns of Manila in a wordless, hypnotic visual journey.

By: Billy Gil


5 Apr, 2010

Tribeca’s On Demand Channel Gets a New York-Style Ad


Marketing company Ogilvy & Mather New York is helping promote the Tribeca Film Festival’s new on-demand channel with a new ad on various broadcast and video outlets.

Beginning in April, the channel will appear to an expected 40 million households via cable, satellite and telecom providers such as Comcast, Cablevision and Verizon FiOS. Ads for the channel proclaim “Here Comes the Neighborhood,” to tout spreading New York flavor through bringing Tribeca to the television set.

“The ad shows movers packing up the downtown Tribeca neighborhood — a taxi cab, pigeons, and other various icons like a traffic cop, even Robert De Niro — to demonstrate that with the new VOD service, Tribeca Film is bringing the feeling of Tribeca to homes all over the country,” said Terry Finley, group creative director at Ogilvy & Mather New York.  “In working with The Tribeca Film for many years, we have helped create a brand that has an ‘only in New York,’ attitude.  So it makes sense to bring that sensibility to their expanding properties.”

More than 10 titles will come to VOD through the Tribeca Film channel, beginning April 21, several of them day-and-date with their 2010 festival premieres. Films premiering day-and-date on VOD include environmental documentary Climate of Change, narrated by Tilda Swinton; ESPN documentary Birth of Big Air, produced by Spike Jonze and Johnny Knoxville, about extreme sports athlete Mat Hoffman; and sex & drugs & rock & roll, the story of punk icon Ian Dury.
 

By: Billy Gil


1 Apr, 2010

New Indie Titles, April 1: ‘John Lennon: Rare and Unseen’ and More


Title: John Lennon: Rare and Unseen
Genre: Documentary
Studio: MVD
Street date: 5/18
Price/Format: $14.95 DVD

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This DVD collects rare footage, photographs and newsreels of Lennon during his solo career, including: “Man of the Decade,” which aired only once, in 1969, according to MVD; “Aquarius”; “Weekend World”; and “Frost.” The DVD also includes opinions from Phil Collins, Len Goodman and Tony Barrow.


Title: Fish Out of Water
Genre: Documentary
Studio: First Run
Street date: 4/20
Price/Format: $24.95 DVD

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Here’s a documentary that breaks down seven key passages from the Bible that are used in anti-gay sentiments. Filmmaker Ky Dickens interviews theologians and members of the gay and lesbian community alike in her exploration.


Title: Phyllis and Harold
Genre: Documentary
Studio: Breaking Glass
Street date: 5/25
Prebook date: 5/4
Price/Format: $24.99 DVD


This film tells of a disastrous 59-year marriage through the use of family movies, interviews and animation.



Title: Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman
Genre: Documentary
Studio: New Video
Street date: 5/25
Prebook: 4/27
Price/Format: $26.95 DVD

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Narrated by Dustin Hoffman, this doc celebrates architectural photographer Julius Shulman, who photographed the work of major progressive architects such Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, John Lautner and Frank Gehry.




Title: Toe To Toe
Genre: Drama
Studio: Strand Releasing
Street date: 6/8
Prebook: 5/11
Price/Format: $27.99 DVD

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Set in Washington, D.C., this film explores issues of race, class and sexuality in a coming-of-age story about two girls — one an black youth from the blighted Anacostia area, the other a rich white kid from the suburbs — on the same lacrosse team who find they’re dating the same boy. The film has received praise from the likes of The Village Voice, Time Out New York, The Hollywood Reporter and The Huffington Post.

By: Billy Gil


25 Mar, 2010

New Indie Titles: ‘Five Minutes of Heaven’ and More


Title: Five Minutes of Heaven
Genre: Thriller
Studio: MPI/IFC
Street date: 4/27
Price/Format: $19.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray


Liam Neeson stars in director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Sundance award-winning thriller based on true events in 1975 Northern Ireland, and the conflict there between Catholic nationalists who wanted to end British rule of the region and largely Protestant loyalists. Three decades after the conflict, a man who was asked to kill a young Catholic nationalist must face the victim’s younger brother, who witnessed the killing, on a talk show.


Title: Easier With Practice
Genre: Drama
Studio: Breaking Glass
Street date: 4/6
Price/Format: $24.99 DVD

Based on a true story that was published in GQ, Easier With Practice stars The Hurt Locker’s Brian Geraghty in a Sprit Award nominated film about a writer who engages in phone sex with a mysterious woman he has never met, and for whom he comes to have feelings.


Title: Andy Kaufman: World Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion
Genre: Documentary
Studio: Infinity
Street date: 4/27
Price/Format: $19.98 DVD


Really, the name says it all — it’s a documentary about legendary comedian Andy Kaufman’s famed wrestling matches with women around the country.


Title: Hal Hartley’s Surviving Desire/Possible Films Vol. 2
Genre: Shorts
Studio: Microcinema
Street date: 4/27
Price/Format: $24.95 DVD each


Two titles from the vaults of director Hal Hartley (Fay Grim): One has the 53-minute comedy Surviving Desire, plus two short films; the other has five new short films from Hartley.


Title: The Queen and I
Genre: Documentary
Studio: Walking Shadows
Street date: 6/29
Prebook date: 5/25
Price/Format: $24.95 DVD

This is a documentary about two very different women coming to understand one another — one is the filmmaker, Nahid Persson Sarvestani, an Iranian exile who was part of the Communist faction to overthrow the Shah of Iran; the other is the Shah’s wife, Empress Farah Pahlavi. It’s nice to see relatively new company Walking Shadows take chances on challenging films, and this one’s a Sundance selection.

By: Billy Gil