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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 May, 2011

Director Loads ‘Blue Valentine’ Discs With More Narrative

'Blue Valentine'
'Blue Valentine'

Director Derek Cianfrance filmed hours and hours of footage before whittling it down to less than two hours for the heartbreaking Blue Valentine, which comes to DVD ($29.98) and Blu-ray Disc ($39.99) May 10 from Anchor Bay Entertainment.

“The two words I hate most as a filmmaker are ‘action’ and ‘cut,’” Cianfrance explained. “Once you get in the editing room, it’s just murder, ... especially a movie like this, because there are so many moments and gifts the actors will give you.”

The movie stars Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, who garnered an Academy Award nomination for best actress for her role, as a couple falling in and out of love, cutting back and forth between past and present. Rather than view the proceedings in a linear fashion, viewers see moments in the couple’s history, both small and pivotal, from his serenade to her in front of a bridal shop as she tap dances, to later on, when the couple implodes during the Fourth of July.

“The past informs the present, the present informs the past and vice versa,” Cianfrance said.

Similarly, Cianfrance went back and forth to the script, which was written after making his first feature film (Brother Tied, in 1998). Cianfrance said he rewrote the script more than 60 times, at first having been inspired by other films more and then by his own life, as he struggled financially and made TV documentary films and shorts to make ends meet. It shows in the end result, as the film feels lived in and more like a true-life romance story, rather than an idealized one.

“I was thankful that I had to wait,” he said. “I felt like I was cursed for all those 12 years, but now I feel that I was blessed that I had to wait ... to be able to tell the story the way I wanted to.”

Cianfrance said there were several moments he filmed between the actors that didn’t make it into the film that he was able to include on the home video releases, both in deleted scenes and in a “home movie” featurette in which Gosling and Williams (who served as executive producers on the film and are rumored to be dating) were filmed basically living in a house for about a month together.

“The way I shot the film wasn’t in a traditional way where you’re just shooting what’s in the script,” he said. “It was like they were really falling in love.”

In one deleted scene, viewers see the couple’s first kiss — which didn’t make it into the film, but was used as the image on the film’s poster art.

“You see what led to that,” Cianfrance said. “Right when they start to kiss in that moment, the camera rolled out. It’s just amazing to me to go back to watch what got to that moment. It wasn't anything where I was like, ‘you, Ryan, sit here, and you and Michelle make out.’ It became that after about 15 minutes of an experience.”

“I always think there’s a whole life to a film outside of a movie,” he added. “This just gives people more insight into things that happen outside of the movie.”

One thing the discs won’t have is an alternate cut to the film, which was originally given an ‘NC-17’ rating by the MPAA but later changed on appeal to an ‘R.’ The discs also include a commentary with Cianfrance and co-editor Jim Helton.


 

By: Billy Gil


6 May, 2011

Fox Debuts World Cinema Line


20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is launching a new line of global films on disc called Fox World Cinema.

Starting later this year, films such as Korea’s The Yellow Sea, which will be at the Cannes Film Festival this month; Chinese film The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman, which was at the Toronto Film Festival last year; India’s Dum Maaro Dum; and Italy’s Vallanzasca: Angel of Evil will be available on DVD, VOD and digital download.

“Filmmakers around the world are creating provocative and entertaining films, many of which are rarely seen outside their native countries,” says Mary Daily, EVP of marketing with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. “With Fox World Cinema, we are committed to introducing these films to passionate audiences in America that are eager to embrace a range of cultures and experiences.”

Sanford Panitch, president of Fox International Productions, added: “Fox has always championed films that transcend language and social differences. In recent years, American audiences have embraced successful foreign films such as Pan’s Labyrinth and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The universal themes represented with Fox World Cinema will be appreciated by film lovers everywhere.

Sounds good to me! This multitiered approach seems to mirror efforts by YouTube and DirecTV with its recent ShortsHD launch and Tribeca screenings. Hopefully it means consumers have more access to film festival and international titles they might not otherwise see, on whichever means they choose — disc or digital.

 

By: Billy Gil


4 May, 2011

Milestone Launches MOD Line


Cult film provider Milestone Film & Video is launching Milestone-On-Demand, a manufacture-on-demand service with plans to release catalog silent films, documentaries, foreign films and comedy shorts in the coming months. 

The first three releases, coming June 7, are: A Day on the Grand Canal With the Emperor of China (1988), an exploration of the historical nature of a Chinese wall scroll; And Now Miguel (1953), a Mexican narrative film that later became an award-winning children’s novel, about a boy and his dream to participate in a local custom to visit the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with his father; and Dziga and His Brothers (2002), a black-and-white, 52-minute Russian documentary about the tumultuous lives of three brothers who were figures in Russian cinema.

The films will be available for $29.95 each, or for 20% off at www.milestonefilms.com.

 

By: Billy Gil


20 Apr, 2011

DirecTV to Screen Six Tribeca Films


Big studio films on premium VOD aren’t the only movies coming to the TV before their home video debuts: The 2011 Tribeca Film Festival is hitting DirecTV, as six of the fest’s films will be included in the service’s DirecTV Cinema VOD offerings.

From April 20 (the day the festival starts in New York) through May 5, four titles will be offered, while two more will be offered later on. All six films will be available until June 23.

The initial films include The Bang Bang Club, starring Ryan Phillippe, Malin Akerman and Taylor Kitsch, about the true story of four photojournalists who risked their lives to capture the violence associated with elections in post-apartheid South Africa; romantic drama Last Night, starring Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington; NEDS, about a young man’s life of crime in 1970s Glasgow; and horror/thriller The Bleeding House.

The other films to be offered are The High Cost of Living, a drama starring Zach Braff, and Brother’s Justice, with actor-comedian Dax Shepard abandoning comedy in favor of becoming a martial arts star (also featuring Bradley Cooper and Tom Arnold).

“Partnering with Tribeca Film is yet another way we’re adding value to our customers’ viewing experience on DirecTV Cinema,” said Sarah Lyons, VP of upgrade marketing for DirecTV. “By giving our more than 19 million customers access to these films, we can provide an additional platform for the festival’s established and emerging filmmakers to showcase their work, and enhance our DirecTV Cinema service to further diversify an unrivaled home-viewing experience that can’t be found anywhere else.”

The films will be available starting at $6.99. DirecTV also will also feature red-carpet footage and behind-the-scenes interviews from the fest, which runs until May 1. More information can be found at directv.com/cinema.

This is the second VOD venture for Tribeca this year, after the fest bowed an online film festival, featuring six films from the festival for free at set times at www.tribecaonline.com.

While the parallel to premium VOD seems natural, it should also be noted these films also are coming out on VOD before their theatrical debuts, as it’s likely each film could see at least a small theatrical run. And they’re the kind of movies that likely would make most of their money on DVD — traditionally.

 

By: Billy Gil


13 Apr, 2011

‘Undertow’ Director Creates Sweeping Ghost Story

'Undertow'
'Undertow'

Javier Fuentes-León didn’t know how his first film as writer and director, Undertow (Contracorriente), would play to a Spanish audience when it opened. He didn’t expect the standing ovation he got — nor did he expect to win an audience award at the Sundance Film Festival, or to be submitted as Peru’s official best foreign language Oscar submission.

Wolfe Video releases the film June 1 on DVD ($29.95) and Blu-ray Disc ($29.95). Special features include deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes and a Spanish-language PSA for GLAAD with Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family”).

“It was amazing to get that close [to an Oscar nomination] with my first film,” Fuentes-León said. “It's been a beautiful trip.” 

 Javier Fuentes-Leon
 Javier Fuentes-León

Fuentes-León’s journey into filmmaking began in Peru, where he was born, raised and studied medicine for eight years. He knew he always wanted to do something related to the arts, but that wasn’t something that seemed like an option in Peru.

So he moved to Los Angeles and attended the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), where he created the seedling for Undertow in the form of a short called “Mariela’s Kitchen,” based on a play he wrote, in which a fisherman walks into his home to find his wife and his lover, only his lover is a ghost and cannot be seen by his wife. In the play and short, the lover was a female prostitute; it was only later, when Fuentes-León himself came out as gay, that he changed the gender of the lover to male.

In Undertow, the same scene appears and serves as the lynchpin for the story — fisherman Miguel (Cristian Mercado) has been carrying on with painter Santiago (Manolo Cardona) in a small Peruvian fishing town in which Miguel is married to beautiful Mariela (Tatiana Astengo) and is a leader in his community, while Santiago is shunned for being openly gay. Mariela wakes up from a nap to find Miguel pallid as Santiago tells him he has been pulled under the sea by the undertow and has died, leaving him a ghost that only Miguel can see.

“My aim was first of all to make a personal movie,” he said. “It's not my autobiography, In my life there's nothing similar to the main characters, but I also had to struggle with the same dilemmas of coming out and the fear of losing the love of people around you.”

The film then follows as Miguel deals with the rumors that surround him and Santiago, with Mariela’s pregnancy and the birth of their son, and with his own sexual orientation and what it means to be a man. It’s a stunning film, both emotionally and visually, with wide, spectral shots of the Peruvian seaside and the sand blowing in the wind.

“Of course, I wanted a gay audience to be proud of it, to embrace it,” he said. “But at the same time, I didn't want it to just stay there. I wanted it to be seen by people like my parents and their friends, to have them enjoy the story, be moved by it and hopefully in the process of watching the movie, humanize this dilemma, people who have a sexual orientation that is different than the one most people have.”

Besides crossing over to a wider audience globally, Fuentes-León hoped it would play well in Latin America.

“Except for in cities like São Paulo and Buenos Aires, you don't go to other cities and see an open gay community — there's not a gay niche like there is in the U.S. or Europe,” he said. “A lot of gay people in Latin America are not out — they're afraid to be seen in a movie theater that evidently has a movie with a gay relationship.”

He said that while he finds the comparison “lazy and limiting,” he doesn’t mind if people call his film a Latin American Brokeback Mountain, in that it’s a love story between two men that live in a rural area.

“There's a function that all gay love stories are the same, so if a film told it already than another film is just the same,” he said. “But how many ‘boy meets girl, boy loses girl’ stories do we see? But at least they are not comparing me to a terrible film.”

The Undertow discs include 24 minutes of deleted scenes with additional explanation and foreshadowing that Fuentes-León cut for pacing, including one scene that deals more in depth with the religious undertones of the film.

“When we wrote it and shot it, it seemed like an important scene, but when we edited it, it seemed like it stopped the story for the writer to talk about religion,” he said. “It worked as a scene but it seemed like it stopped the story.”

Fuentes-León said one man in a Colombian focus group summed up his film best: “I think it is a movie about being faithful to yourself. No matter how big the obstacles may be, being faithful to yourself is worth it.”

 

By: Billy Gil


8 Apr, 2011

‘Company Men’ Deals with Men and Job Loss

'The Company Men'
'The Company Men'

The idealized image of the American male includes working and providing for one’s family. John Wells’ The Company Men, releasing June 7 (prebook May 11) from Anchor Bay Entertainment, deal with what happens when that image is torn down due to corporate downsizing.

In the film, Ben Affleck plays a man who seems to have it all — a great job and loving family. But when his company lets him and several others go (including co-stars Chris Cooper and Tommy Lee Jones), the men must reevaluate what it means to be a provider for one’s family.

“It shows what it means to be a father and what men can mean to their families,” Wells said.

In the film, Affleck’s character then goes to work for his brother-in-law (Kevin Costner), installing drywall. Wells said his real-life brother-in-law lost his job and went through many of the emotions portrayed in the film, helping to inspire Wells to research and find similar stories, which inform several of the plot points of Company Men. Wells said he could relate inasmuch as being a freelancer working week to week.

“This is the first period of time in my adult life that millions of white-collar workers who’ve done everything they were supposed to do are feeling what a lot of blue collar workers have been feeling for 15 or 20 years now, which is insecurities in the marketplace,” Wells said. “I feel that all the time because I'm only as good and employable as the last thing I did.”

Wells shouldn’t have to worry much these days, having served as executive producer on such shows as “The West Wing.” He’s had the critical success of Company Men (74% on RottenTomatoes.com), which was his film directorial debut; and now he’s working on Showtime’s “Shameless,” as writer and executive producer. The latter show also deals with family and father issues, as drunk Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy) avoids taking care of his six children. Wells says he likes exploring stories about fatherhood, about how and why people take care of one another and how communities form around those in need.

“One of the things people told me over and over again [in researching stories for The Company Men] was that people came around them to support them even when they didn't think they had a community,” Wells said. “One hundred and fifty years ago we were dependent on community. We’ve moved a bit away from that, but the reality is as things change, that’s exactly what we need to return to.”

The Company Men DVD ($29.98) and Blu-ray ($39.99) discs include a commentary with Wells, a making-of featurette and deleted scenes Wells said were taken out from the version that aired at the Sundance Film Festival.
 

By: Billy Gil


7 Apr, 2011

Twilight Time to Release Fox Classics


Specialty DVD label Twilight Time is releasing limited edition 20th Century Fox films, starting with the John Huston spy thriller The Kremlin Letter (1970), which is available now at $19.99.

Each film will be pressed in a run of 3,000 DVDs from a restored transfer and will include an eight-page booklet with an essay, stills and poster art, as well as an isolated score on some titles. They will be available to purchase exclusively at www.screenarchives.com.

The next titles are Fate Is the Hunter (1964), Woman Obsessed (1959), Violent Saturday (1955) and The Egyptian (1954).

“We are embracing this opportunity to engage the film enthusiast, by providing long sought-after collectible and fully restored titles in their original aspect ratios manufactured to the highest quality available and at a very affordable price,” said Brian Jamieson and Nick Redman, founders of Twilight Time.
 

By: Billy Gil


29 Mar, 2011

TromaDance Announces Lineup

The 12th TromaDance Film Festival (held April 22 to 23 in Asbury Park, N.J.) has announced its feature film program: Drew Bolduc’s The Taint, Joshua Grannell’s All About Evil and the East Coast premiere of Miguel Angel Vivas’ Kidnapped.

Modern cult film All About Evil, starring Natasha Lyonne and Thoams Dekker in a film about a horror filmmaker whose films depict her real murders, was released on DVD last year. The Taint and Kidnapped have not yet been released on DVD.

TromaDance also will host a block of new shorts from Academy Award-nominated animator Bill Plympton.

More information can be found at www.tromadance.com.
 

By: Billy Gil


21 Mar, 2011

Tribeca Takes It Online


Tribeca Film Festival, longstanding as one of the great American film festivals, is now taking it to the Web with Tribeca (Online) Film Festival, with features and short films online for free.

With help from founding partner American Express, the online fest will run during the Tribeca Film Festival, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, running in New York from April 20 to May 1. The online experience will include a screening room, footage from the festival, Q&As, a filmmaker feed and a blog.

Six films from the 2011 fest will be featured, including the world premiere of New York Says Thank You, directed by Scott Rettberg, about New Yorkers whose lives were touched by 9/11 and who travel to rebuild communities hit by disaster. The other films, making their North American premieres, are Jerry Rothwell’s Donor Unknown (United Kingdom); David Dusa’s Flowers of Evil (Fleurs du Mal), from France; My Last Round (Mi Último Round), directed and written by Julio Jorquera (Chile, Argentina); Neon Flesh (Carne de Neon), directed and written by Paco Cabezas (Spain, Argentina, Sweden); and Rabies (Kalevet), directed and written by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, from Israel.

Additionally the online fest will feature 18 short films, four of which are world premieres and nine of which come from past Tribeca Film Festivals. Each film will screen three to five times for 24-hour periods, with a select number of “seats” available. Viewers can reserve their spots online at www.tribecaonline.com, starting April 12 for American Express Card members and April 18 for the general public.

Online viewers also will be able to vote both for the Best Tribeca Online Feature Film, which awards a prize of $25,000 sponsored by American Express, as well as the Best Tribeca Online Short Film, a $5,000 prize sponsored by Accenture.
 

By: Billy Gil


3 Mar, 2011

S’more Entertainment Keeps Niche Product Coming


A jazz special, an indie horror flick and a set of old smoking ads might not seem the most logical combination of product, but that mix of niche product works for S’more Entertainment, headed by industry veteran Arny Schorr.

S’more Entertainment has been releasing underserved genre titles, classics and iconic TV shows since 2005. The company has recently been preparing a new set of acquisitions for release after some down time for the company, starting with the May 17 (prebook April 22) release of Louis Prima: In Person, featuring rare performances by the jazz singer and musician, on DVD at $19.99. S’More titles are distributed by eOne.

“We’re dealing with pop culture, stuff that entertains, that has value,” Schorr said. “It’s comfort food.”

Schorr said the company seeks to release product that might not otherwise see a home video release but that still has consumer interest, whether it’s through brick-and-mortar retail or through schools, libraries and direct-response catalogs. Schorr said S’more also seeks as many rights as possible, for more digital distribution and manufacture-on-demand down the line.

Schorr spent 10 years in the music industry before joining former home video company Media Home Entertainment. He served at Rhino Records in their video division and has taken that combined experience to open S’more Entertainment and now RockBeat Records (which also is distributed through eOne), releasing vintage titles on enhanced CDs and vinyl.

“I want to have something for everybody,” Schorr said. “When I was in the record business years ago, I never walked out of an account without an order because there’s always something for somebody.”

He points to S’more’s upcoming May 17 slate as an example: The Louis Prima title will do well on retailers such as Amazon, he says, because of its title breadth, while tongue-in-cheek horror-comedy The Fergusons (on DVD at $24.98) will be a strong rental title and Smokin’: Classic Cigarette Commercials (DVD $9.98) will be good for big-box retailers such as Walmart “because the price is right.” He said so far the niche tactic has paid off in the successes of such titles as the Paul Lynde Halloween Special, which features Kiss’s first primetime TV appearance.

“Unfortunately, with the shrinking of the business and the limitations that are inherent with retailers like Redbox and Blockbuster, there’s only so many things they can put in the vending machine,” Schorr says. “Consumers are learning that if they want these programs, they need to go to Amazon or catalogs, and a lot of what we’re doing appeals to that segment of the market.”

Schorr calls these “the invisible consumers.”

“In some respects, they’re almost easier,” he said. “Consumers have been trained that they’re only going to find frontline product at retail. If anything is out of the mainstream, they’ve become accustomed to tracking it down or going to a site like Amazon.”

Schorr wants to release between four and five titles a month, including a celebrity bowling boxed set June 3.
 

By: Billy Gil