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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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9 Sep, 2009

People’s Choice, AFM Team for Contest

The People’s Choice Awards and American Film Market (AFM) have partnered for the Favorite Film Pitch contest, which sounds like an “American Idol” for independent film.

Those attending AFM Nov. 4-11 can get their pitches in front of producers, distributors and — gasp — you and I, the voting public. Submissions will be recorded live Nov. 7-10 on a mini-set at AFM. Pitches will be limited to two-and-a-half minutes, and industry folk will pick five finalists to be posted on www.peopleschoice.com after the 2010 People’s Choice Awards airs in January. Fans will pick which movie gets made.
The winner will receive the Favorite Film Pitch award and an AFM 2010 package with full access for two to AFM, airfare for two to Los Angeles, hotel for five nights in Santa Monica and scheduled meetings with producers and distributors. Full details are at www.AmericanFilmMarket.com/FavoriteFilmPitch.
This sounds a bit like Netflix’s FIND Your Voice competition, and like that contest, it’s a nice gesture toward struggling independent filmmakers. Personally I can’t wait to see these in action. I just hope they post the really bad ones somewhere a la “Idol.”

By: Billy Gil

3 Sep, 2009

Strand Releases ‘A Woman in Berlin’

Street Date: 11/10
Prebook Date: 10/13
Studio: Strand Releasing
Price/Format: $27.99 DVD
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One of the most controversial films of the year, adored by the stuffier critics such as those of the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, A Woman in Berlin tells a tough story. It takes place in 1945, during the Red Army invasion of Berlin near the end of World War II, during which there was widespread rape of German women by soldiers. Anonyma (Nina Hoss) is a journalist and photographer who decides to take matters into her own hands by starting a complex relationship with an officer who can protect her. The film was directed by Max Färberböck, based on a book written anonymously (the writer was later said to be as Marta Hillers, after her death).

By: Billy Gil

3 Sep, 2009

Register for AFM

The American Film Market is here once again, and registration is open through Oct. 14. The event takes place Nov. 4-11 at the lovely Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel and surrounding theaters. Lots of deal-making takes place at AFM, such as securing the funding for Peter Jackson’s District 9. I was there last year, and I couldn’t have had a nicer time talking to distributors and filmmakers alike. AFM gets a big thumbs up from us for showing IndieFile some love and promoting us on their site. Thanks, AFM!

Register here.

By: Billy Gil

1 Sep, 2009

Criterion Inks With IFC Films

<i>Summer Hours</i>
<i>Summer Hours</i>

Criterion is going to be releasing some amazing IFC Films on DVD.

First up is Arnaud Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale (Nov. 10) and Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah (Nov. 24), which I wrote about a while ago. Criterion also will distribute films from the IFC library, some of them on Blu-ray Disc, in addition to DVD, such as Steven Soderbergh’s Che, which will come out on both formats in late 2009.

Releases in 2010 will include Jan Troell’s 2008 Golden Globe-nominated Everlasting Moments; Olivier Assayas’ acclaimed 2009 hit Summer Hours, starring Juliette Binoche; Steve McQueen’s Hunger, starring Michael Fassbender; Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s Still Walking; and Abdellatif Kechiche’s films Venice and the César Award-winning The Secret of the Grain. Special editions of library titles will include Alfonso Cuaron’s Y Tu Mama Tambien, one of my favorites, starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna and Maribel Verdu; as well as Christopher Nolan’s Following, the Dark Knight director’s 1998 film noir debut.

By: Billy Gil

1 Sep, 2009

Lightning Strikes for ‘Act of God’

Street Date: 1/26/10
Prebook Date: 12/15/09
Studio: Zeitgeist
Price/Format: $29.99 DVD
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Directed by Jennifer Baichwal (Manufactured Landscapes), this 75-minute documentary covers what happens to people after they are struck by lightning and survive. Is it a random thing that happens? Is it a divine act? Baichwal talks to people from around the world to find out, including a former CIA assassin, a French storm chaser, writer Paul Auster and improvisational musician Fred Frith. The part where Frith improvises with his guitar and a bow to demonstrate the electricity in our bodies looks and sounds amazing, judging by the trailer, which seems to indicate that the personalities on display in the film will be as interesting as the subject itself. Act of God screened at the Hot Docs and Silverdocs Film Festivals.


By: Billy Gil

31 Aug, 2009

Genius Slates ‘The Killing Room’

Street Date: 10/13
Studio: Genius Products
Price/Format: $19.95 DVD
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The Killing Room looks really intense. The film premiered at Sundance this year and follows an experiment designed to test the limits of human fear as a group of volunteers are put in a room and told only one of them will survive. Fearnet.com calls it a “rough and tough psychological thriller,” and it is directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning). Chloe Sevigny stars as one of the people behind the glass, looking into this group of poor shmucks. Other classy actors dot the cast, including Timothy Hutton, Clea Duvall and an always-creepy-as-hell Peter Stormare (Fargo).


By: Billy Gil

31 Aug, 2009

Magnolia Has ‘The Answer Man’

<i>The Answer Man</i>
<i>The Answer Man</i>

Street Date: 11/3
Prebook Date: 10/6
Studio: Magnolia
Price/Format: $26.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray
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Indie comedies about self-help gurus seem to be growing in popularity, as this is the second one in a week I hear about coming to DVD. This one stars Jeff Daniels as Arlen Faber (which, incidentally, was the original name of the film), the author of “Me and God,” which has been translated into more than 100 languages. Twenty years after being published, the book still inspires people, but curmudgeon Arlen, who’s sort of a reclusive, self-help version of J.D. Salinger, couldn’t care less. Chance occurrences bring him into contact with Elizabeth (Lauren Graham), a single mom raising as seven-year-old, and Kris (Lou Taylor Pucci), a young man just out of rehab. They’re touched by his book, and Arlen is faced with actually having to interact with the people his book has helped. The film also stars Kat Dennings (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) and Olivia Thirlby (Juno), who are both great but sort of remind me of each other. The Answer Man was an official selection at Sundance.


By: Billy Gil

27 Aug, 2009

No Stopping the Pattinson Machine

Robert Pattinson in <i>How to Be</i>
Robert Pattinson in <i>How to Be</i>

Independent film distributors are like 14-year-old girls when it comes to Robert Pattinson. MPI Media Group is the latest to announce a small film release from a Twilight star; it’s releasing the comedy How to Be on Nov. 17 (reserve the movie on Netflix or Amazon). The IFC film stars Pattinson as a musician in a rut who makes a self-help book author become his life coach. Haven’t we all been there!

OK, so the movie sounds a bit hokey, but it actually looks really funny (watch the trailer at the film’s official site, www.howtobemovie.com). And hitching your wagon to either Pattinson’s or Kristen Stewart’s stars seems like a pretty good idea. I didn’t love Twilight, but they’re both good in it; Stewart has been around a while now, a strong child actor in films like David Fincher’s Panic Room, and I see her eventually going the Winslet rather than Lohan route. At least I hope so.

As for the Robert Smith-coiffed Pattinson, I think there’s more to him than the brooding stares and unbuttoned shirts of supermarket checkout counter magazines. He seemed lighthearted in a MySpace interview with Paramore’s Hayley Williams that I’ll admit to watching. Maybe indie comedy will suit him.

If you’re a fan, you’ll be happy to learn the DVD has an exclusive interview with Pattinson and behind-the-scenes footage for even more Pattinson. And if you’re sick of him, Kristen Stewart and vampires altogether, you’re basically S.O.L.

By: Billy Gil

25 Aug, 2009

Monterey Media to Serve Up ‘Humble Pie’

monterey media has acquired Humble Pie. No, not the ’70s supergroup, but rather an offbeat comedy along the lines of Napoleon Dynamite (it’s from the same producer), to release theatrically and then on DVD in December.


It has won a bunch of awards at smaller film festivals and was an official selections at AFI, the U.S. Comedy Arts Film Festival and Slamdance. Judging by the trailer, it’s not hard to see why. Hubbel Palmer plays a sarcastic, chubby young man working at a supermarket in a dead-end town, living with a bitchy mom (Kathleen Quinlan) and his sister (Mary Lynn Rajskub, who was in Julie & Julia, but I’ll always love her from her hilarious role as a mom jealous of her own baby in a “Mr. Show” skit). It’s rare that a trailer will make you laugh as hard as this one does, with awkwardness aplenty. The movie also stars William Baldwin in the sort of self-parodying role the Baldwins seem to be doing lately (including Stephen).


Watch the trailer at the movie’s official site:





By: Billy Gil

20 Aug, 2009

Criterion Enters ‘Gomorrah’ on Blu-ray and DVD

Street Date: 11/24
Prebook Date: 10/27
Studio: Criterion
Price/Format: $39.95 DVD or Blu-ray
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DVD or Blu-ray)
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Criterion will release the acclaimed Italian crime thriller Gomorrah on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Nov. 24. Directed by Matteo Garrone and presented by Martin Scorsese, the film is a dark and shocking adaptation of Italian reporter Roberto Saviano’s exposé of the Camorra — Naples’ violent Mafia underworld, which involves both adults and children. The film was released theatrically in 2008 and won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival as well as made several top 10 film lists for the year, including those of the Los Angeles Times and Entertainment Weekly.

Special features include a new high-definition transfer of the film, supervised and approved by Garrone; “Five Stories,” a 60-minute documentary on making the film; new interviews with Garrone and actor Toni Servillo; interviews with writer Saviano and actors Gianfelice Imparato and Salvatore Cantalupo; deleted scenes; and a booklet with an essay by critic Chuck Stephens.


By: Billy Gil