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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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2 Mar, 2011

‘El Topo,’ ‘Holy Mountain’ Coming to Blu-ray


Yes! Anchor Bay Entertainment will upgrade a couple of the weirdest and most innovative films put to video to high-def when it releases director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo and The Holy Mountain on Blu-ray April 26 (prebook March 30) at $34.99.

El Topo helped launch the midnight movie phenomenon when the Mexican director’s film was released in 1969, screening seven nights a week at the Elgin Cinema in New York (see more about this in the film Midnight Movies). The cult classic is a pychedelic Western that defies description and conventional plot, as gunslinger El Topo treks across the desert to defeat his rivals. Follow-up The Holy Mountain was even further out there, as The Alchemist ascends the Holy Mountain to take the place of gods who secretly run the universe.

Both films feature new HD transfers from the original negatives under the supervision of Jodorowsky, as well as commentaries with Jodorowsky, photo galleries, script excerts and original trailers. El Topo features an interview with Jodorowsky while Holy Mountain has deleted scenes with commentary from Jodorowsky, as well as a featurette on the restoration process.
 

By: Billy Gil


28 Feb, 2011

Indies Continue Momentum at Academy Awards

'The King's Speech'
'The King's Speech'

For the second year in a row, a film financed by an independent studio took the gold at the Academy Awards when The Weinstein Co.’s The King’s Speech took the Best Picture Oscar at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. That takes the number of indies during the past 30 years to win best picture to 19, according to the Independent Film & Television Alliance.

The King’s Speech will come to DVD and Blu-ray Disc April 19 from Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Other indies that won big at the awards, and their status on home video, include:

Best Supporting Actor; Supporting Actress: Christian Bale; Melissa Leo – The Fighter (The Weinstein Co.; out March 15 from Paramount)
Best Foreign Language Film: In A Better World (Denmark) (Nordisk Film; to be announced on DVD/BD from Sony Pictures)

Check out John Latchem’s story on the Oscar winners and their availability on home video for more information.

In other awards news, the 2011 Film Independent Spirit Award winners were announced. Some of the winners include:

Best Feature, Best Director (Darren Aronofsky), Best Female Lead (Natalie Portman), and Best Cinematography: Black Swan (DVD/BD March 29, Fox)
Best Male Lead (James Franco): 127 Hours (March 1, Fox)
Best Supporting Female (Dale Dickey) and Best Supporting Male (John Hawkes): Winter’s Bone (on DVD/BD, Lionsgate)
Best First Screenplay (Lena Dunham): Tiny Furniture (MPI/IFC, not yet announced)
Best Screenplay (Lisa Cholodenko): The Kids Are All Right (on DVD/BD, Focus Features)
John Cassavetes Award (best feature made for less than $500,000): Daddy Longlegs (not yet on disc)
Best Foreign Film: The King’s Speech
Best Documentary: Exit Through the Gift Shop (on DVD/BD from Oscilloscope)
Best First Feature (Director: Aaron Schneider): Get Low (on DVD/BD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

The Independent Spirit Awards air tonight on IFC at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
 

By: Billy Gil


28 Feb, 2011

Actor Jon Foster’s ‘Brotherhood’ Pledges for VOD

Jon Foster in 'Brotherhood'
Jon Foster in 'Brotherhood'

Jon Foster (Pandorum, also the brother of actor Ben Foster) stars in Brotherhood, about a fraternity hazing gone wrong — the brothers-to-be are coerced into fake robbing a convenience store, landing one of them in the hospital. Foster plays the ringleader, Frank.

The film won an audience award at least year’s South by Southwest, or SXSW, film festival. Brotherhood also stars Lou Taylor Pucci (who co-starred with Foster in The Informers), Trevor Morgan (Vampire) and Arlen Escarpeta (Friday the 13th).

Phase 4 Films has recently launched into the video-on-demand market and released the film through VOD nationwide Feb. 18, the same day it opened theatrically in Dallas (the film also released theatrically in Los Angeles Feb. 25). A DVD/Blu-ray release date has not yet been set.

Foster talked to IndieFile about the film and its release strategy.

IndieFile: How do you feel about the film coming out on VOD alongside theatrical?

Foster: I’m glad that people get to see it. I think that’s the most diplomatic thing to say. These are tough times to be selling movies right now, and you always hope that the biggest group of people get to see it. Here’s the thing: I watch more movies at my house than the movie theater, so that’s the positive way of looking at it.

IndieFile: SXSW and Sundance are embracing VOD and the Internet as a way to get smaller films out there. What do you think about using those means to deliver films alongside a smaller theatrical release?

Foster: Times are changing, and media’s changing along with it dramatically, to make entertainment more accessible to people so they don’t have to travel to go to them movie theater. It is an ordeal to go to the movies, as much as I love it. It’s much easier to pop on my Netflix and hang out comfortably. But I really think it’s important to have a group experience when being entertained. If you’re going to go to a standup comedy club, if you’re the only person in the audience, you might laugh, but it’s going to be a lot more fun if you’re with a bunch of people. So I think that’s the only downside to having access to this kind of media as opposed to going with a group. But I’m a Netflix junkie, so I can’t speak negatively about VOD or any of these new forms of sharing media that these new companies are doing right now.

IndieFile: Did you record anything special for the eventual DVD release of Brotherhood?

Foster: I guess they were released on the Internet recently, they were these little segments of these pledges being interviewed to see if they wanted to be in or not. I think those were released. We did some real hazing for the three days before the movie started, and they filmed that. But that film was destroyed by the actors; that won’t be released. To be entirely honest with you, everything we shot is in the movie. If someone was filming between scenes, it was unbeknownst to me. We may have done some sort of mock interview in the basement of the house one time; that might be on the DVD.

IndieFile: What was the response like at SXSW?

Foster: Oh my god, it was a party. People were literally standing up and screaming at the screen and cheering. It really was like a party. That was the most fun, being at SXSW, because the audience, it was so up their alley. I get booed a lot at the Q&As because they hate Frank so much, so that’s really fun for me to do. I love that festival; it’s one of my favorites.

IndieFile: Were you ever in a fraternity? Did you want to be?

Foster: When I was young, I think I wanted to be, but I didn’t go to college either. I’ve had experiences with friends who had really fond memories of their fraternities and have stayed at fraternities over the years. Some of them are great, and some of them are not great. It depends on the people in the establishment that make it good or bad.

IndieFile: This is a made-up story, but the ideas ring true. Could you relate to that desire to belong so much that people would be willing to do things like fake rob a convenience store?

Foster: Yeah, absolutely. A good example is in the hometown I grew up in Iowa, there’s this place called Dead Man’s Bridge, which sounds so stereotypical. It was really rickety and falling apart and you would dare each other to run across it. It was super dangerous, but you’d do it anyway. That was early hazing, a way to kind of put yourself in danger to create a bonding experience. In any group there’s always going to be something that takes place to make bonding happen. And it really depends on the people and the establishment that makes that bonding enjoyable or pleasant or not. I did plenty of silly, stupid things that I probably shouldn’t have growing up because the crowd I was running with was doing it.

IndieFile: I recently got to interview your brother, who was really great. Do you hope to ever star with him again?

Foster: Oh yeah. We just finished a movie together called Rampart about the Rampart police scandal in Los Angeles in the late ’90s. He played a crackhead, and I played a cop. That was really fun. We kind of made a pact to each other that we would keep on working in each other’s stuff from now on, so we’re always looking.
 

By: Billy Gil


25 Feb, 2011

Target Gets ‘Mao’s Last Dancer’ Exclusive


Target has landed exclusive sellthrough rights to 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s Mao’s Last Dancer, out May 3 on DVD ($22.98) and Blu-ray ($29.99).

The film is based on the true story of a Chinese dancer who leaves his homeland to follow his dreams, based on Li Cunxin’s autobiography of the same name. Mao’s Last Dancer is directed by two-time Oscar nominee Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy and Tender Mercies). Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain a making-of featurette.
 

By: Billy Gil


25 Feb, 2011

SXSW Offers Film Festival Alternative

sxsw
sxsw

The South by Southwest Film Festival, which runs March 11-19 in Austin, continues to pick up steam as an alternative to the bigger film festivals such as Sundance and Cannes, aiming for a younger, more connected audience.

“South By is one of our favorite festivals,” said Bob Alexander, president of independent distributor IndiePix. “We have been sponsors, we have attended consistently, we have supported the films that have come out of South By, we have many films available from South By on our website.”

Now in its 18th year (the music festival has been around for 25 years), the film festival has expanded to 141 feature films this year, up from around 120 last year, with 65 world premieres, 15 North American premieres and 16 U.S. premieres. The festival received a record of nearly 4,900 film submissions this year.

“I think it’s a really important festival,” said Janet Pierson, film conference and festival producer. “It attracts a lot of talent. It has a different orientation than Sundance — I think it’s more youthful. It’s clearly a different sensibility that characterizes the films. I think it’s a great venue and a great place for filmmakers to present their work.”

This year Pierson, in her third year with the festival, said the festival added two more venues, staggered film screenings and updated line policies to ensure more people would get into screenings this year.

“SXSW is like attending a treasure hunt,” said independent distributor Film Movement president Adley Gartenstein. “We see lots of films while we are there and sift through many films, but we always walk away with gold. Some of our biggest indie hits — like Helena From the Wedding, Mine and Arranged — are straight from SXSW, and we anticipate discovering more than a few gems there this year.”

As previously, SXSW features two main categories, the narrative and documentary feature competitions, each of which consist of eight world premieres. This year, those films also will be up for other awards.

The narrative feature competition consists of 96 Minutes, directed by Aimée Lagos; A Year in Mooring, directed by Chris Eyre; American Animal, directed by Matt D'Elia; Charlie Casanova, directed by Terry McMahon; Fly Away, directed by Janet Grillo; Happy New Year, directed by K. Lorrel Manning; Natural Selection, directed by Robbie Pickering; and Small, Beautifully Moving Parts, directed by Annie J. Howell and Lisa Robinson. The documentary feature competition consists of A Mouthful, directed by Sally Rowe; Better This World, directed by Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane; The City Dark, directed by Ian Cheney; Dragonslayer, directed by Tristan Patterson; Fightville, directed by Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein; Kumaré, directed by Vikram Gandhi; Last Days Here, directed by Don Argott and Demian Fenton; and Where Soldiers Come From, directed by Heather Courtney.

Other screenings include opening night film Source Code, starring Vera Farmiga, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan; Jodie Foster’s directorial debut, The Beaver, starring Mel Gibson; MPI Home Video’s The Innkeepers; and documentary Conan O'Brien Can't Stop.

“While SXSW is focused on bringing audiences and filmmakers together, there is also a strong industry contingent present,” said Greg Newman, EVP of MPI Media Group. “The atmosphere at SXSW is very different than the standard market screenings. It’s unique that press, industry and the general SXSW audiences experience these films at the same time.

“We’re thrilled to be premiering Ti West’s The Inkeepers at SXSW this year, in addition to … [focusing] on acquisitions as well. While not a market in the formal sense, there is a great variety of product and sales agents on the ground ready to do business.”

Other screening categories include Headliners, Spotlight Premieres, Emerging Visions (not just for newer filmmakers, but also risk-taking artists, Pierson said), Special Events (live soundtracks, cult re-issues and more), 24 Beats Per Second (music films), Lone Star States (films having to do with Texas), SX Global (international films, now focusing on narrative films, in addition to its previous focus on documentaries), Festival Favorites (films that have screened at other festivals), two midnight sections (Midnighters, programmed by SXSW, and SX Fantastic, programmed by Fantastic Fest), narrative shorts, documentary shorts and more.

Tom Quinn, SVP Acquisitions, Magnolia Pictures, said that after not having been as much a serious buyers market for distributors, the festival also has stepped up after the studio last year acquired sci-fi love story Monsters in a six-figure deal.

“This year's festival has at least three world premieres that fall into the same … category [as Monsters],” he said. “So any buyer that missed out … last year is guaranteed to be there this year. That includes international buyers as well. The world has woken up to SXSW.”

“We’re giving a really significant launch pad for new films, and industry and press gathered together to actively discover films,” Pierson said. “There are films that this is where they see the light of day, and they attract attention and people get excited about them.”

 

By: Billy Gil


24 Feb, 2011

IFTA Announces Top Indies of 2010

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse Robert Pattinson Taylor Lautner Kristen Stewart
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse Robert Pattinson Taylor Lautner Kristen Stewart

The Independent Film & Television Alliance, or IFTA, has announced the worldwide box office grosses for the top 50 independent films of 2010.

Foreign films accounted for more than one-third of the total globally. This is the first time IFTA compiled the list, based on data from Rentrak Box Office Essentials.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse topped the list, with $562.8 million worldwide. Thirty-seven English-language films made the list.

“The talent and imagination of the independent film industry is evident throughout the world,” IFTA President-CEO Jean Prewitt said.
 

2010 TOP 50 INDEPENDENT FILMS

(Worldwide Box Office Gross)

 

Rank

Title

Language

Worldwide

Box Office

1

TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE

English

 $  562,772,794

2

RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE

English

 $  270,702,775

3

THE EXPENDABLES

English

 $  228,474,879

4

RED

English

 $  160,645,569

5

THE BOOK OF ELI

English

 $  158,460,168

6

STEP UP 3D

English

 $  155,259,499

7

THE TOURIST

English

 $  126,492,009

8

SAW 3D

English

 $  122,660,096

9

KARIGURASHI NO ARRIETTY

(THE BORROWER ARRIETTY)

Japanese

 $  114,146,003

10

DEAR JOHN

English

 $  112,150,467

11

KICK-ASS

English

 $    95,609,990

12

UMIZARU: THE LAST MESSAGE

Japanese

 $    95,469,952

13

KILLERS

English

 $    91,408,598

14

NANNY MCPHEE RETURNS

English

 $    89,832,550

15

ODORU DAISOSASEN 3 (BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN 3)

Japanese

 $    83,204,093

16

EDGE OF DARKNESS

English

 $    81,208,697

17

GULLIVER'S TRAVELS

English

 $    80,770,446

18

LETTERS TO JULIET

English

 $    79,135,982

19

PIRANHA 3D

English

 $    69,449,994

20

LEGION

English

 $    65,675,885

21

THE LAST EXORCISM

English

 $    64,853,785

22

HOT TUB TIME MACHINE

English

 $    63,457,446

23

THE GHOST WRITER

English

 $    62,047,590

24

THE AMERICAN

English

 $    62,039,378

25

TROPA DE ELITE 2 (ELITE SQUAD 2)

Portuguese

 $    61,534,032

26

TYLER PERRY'S WHY DID I GET MARRIED TOO

English

 $    60,631,493

27

SKYLINE

English

 $    58,749,662

28

REMEMBER ME

English

 $    56,506,120

29

FROM PARIS WITH LOVE

English

 $    53,139,168

30

THE FIGHTER

English

 $    51,012,572

31

DAYBREAKERS

English

 $    50,590,794

32

DEATH AT A FUNERAL

English

 $    48,977,233

33

THE SWITCH

English

 $    48,322,702

34

LE PETITS MOUCHOIRS (LITTLE WHITE LIES)

French

 $    47,312,277

35

POCKET MONSTERS DIAMOND AND PEARL THE MOVIE: PHANTOM RULER: ZOROARK

Japanese

 $    46,497,001

36

THE SPY NEXT DOOR

English

 $    44,117,662

37

NINE

English

 $    43,865,872

38

SAMMY'S ADVENTURES: THE SECRET PASSAGE

English

 $    43,810,300

39

KOKUHAKU (CONFESSIONS)

Japanese

 $    43,505,566

40

MACHETE

English

 $    42,813,650

41

SP: THE MOTION PICTURE

Japanese

 $    42,154,480

42

ALPHA AND OMEGA

English

 $    42,131,174

43

BENVENUTI AL SUD

Italian

 $    41,483,723

44

NODAME CANTABILE THE MOVIE 2

Japanese

 $    39,756,729

45

FOR COLORED GIRLS

English

 $    37,724,730

46

L’ARNACOEUR (HEARTBREAKER)

French

 $    37,667,759

47

BROOKLYN'S FINEST

English

 $    37,563,547

48

SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO

Japanese

 $    37,109,671

49

DETECTIVE CONAN: THE RAVEN CHASER

Japanese

 $    36,996,205

50

THE NEXT THREE DAYS

English

 $    36,436,774

 

Source: IFTA Research analysis of Rentrak Box Office Essentials data

 

 

 

By: Billy Gil


23 Feb, 2011

Palisades Tartan Gets Indie Rocker-Starring Film ‘Some Days are Better Than Others’

Palisades Tartan has secured North American and U.K. distribution rights for Some Days are Better Than Others, which stars Carrie Brownstein, guitarist of Wild Flag and formely Sleater-Kinney, as well as of IFC’s “Portlandia.”

Matt McCormick’s debut feature also stars indie rocker James Mercer (The Shins — you know, the band that changed Natalie Portman’s life in Garden State).

The film was selected to play the New Directors/New Films series, organized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art. It played at the AFI festival in Los Angeles, The Portland Film Festival and SXSW, and it opens theatrically in the United States March 25 at the Hollywood Theater in Portland, before a wider release.

“Matt McCormick is a very talented young director and he has assembled a fantastic cast of indie musicians in his debut feature,” said Palisades Tartan CEO Soumya Sriraman. “We have always taken pride in our ability to introduce the world to innovative and exciting artists and look forward to releasing this film in multiple territories.”

The film deals with such ideas as “emptiness, human connection and abandonment.” And awkward characters. Sounds like a perfect film for the hipster set.
 

By: Billy Gil


14 Feb, 2011

Warner to Release ‘Clockwork Orange,’ Kubrick Set on Blu-ray


Warner Home Video celebrates four decades of legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick with the release of A Clockwork Orange on Blu-ray Disc May 31, as well as a nine-film set titled Stanley Kubrick: The Essential Collection.

Kubrick’s 1971 film A Clockwork Orange starred Malcolm McDowell in a controversial, dystopian tale of a young gang leader who is brutally reconditioned. The $34.99 two-disc Blu-ray release will include two newly made bonus features: “Turning Like Clockwork,” a 25 minute documentary about the film’s depiction of “Ultra-violence” and its cultural impact, and a featurette with McDowell. Also included are two feature-length documentaries and a 40-page Blu-ray book with photos, production notes and more.

May 31 also will see the release of Stanley Kubrick: Limited Edition Collection on Blu-ray ($148.95) and DVD ($74.92). The 10-disc collection has every Kubrick film made since 1960, including the film and content from A Clockwork Orange: 40th Anniversary Edition, the Blu-ray debuts of Lolita and Barry Lyndon, as well as Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut. The Blu-ray version will have 40-page hardcover book exploring Kubrick’s work, while the DVD version includes a 40-page soft-cover book.

A Clockwork Orange: 40th Anniversary Edition and the other films, except for Spartacus and Dr. Strangelove, also will be made available on demand and for download on iTunes.
 

By: Billy Gil


11 Feb, 2011

Tromadance Starts Fundraising Campaign

Troma Entertainment has started a fundraiser to keep its Tromadance Film Festival (April 22 to 23, Asbury Park, N.J.) free, with such prizes as DVDs.

Troma has started a Kickstarter page (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/852899646/the-12th-annual-tromadance-film-festival) to raise funds for the festival. Rewards also will include T-shirts, posters, free passes to parties, getting a donor’s name in the Tromadance festival program and lunch with Lloyd Kaufman, Troma Entertainment president, The Toxic Avenger creator and the Tromadance Film Festival founder.

Tromadance was inspired by “South Park’s” Trey Parker and founded by Kaufman as an alternative to the Hollywood film festivals such as Sundance. Tromadance offers free submissions for filmmakers, as well as free screenings. Last year’s 11th annual Tromadance featured the North American premiere of gross-out hit The Human Centipede.
 

By: Billy Gil


4 Feb, 2011

‘Four Lions’ Director Brings Jihadist Comedy to Disc

Four Lions
Four Lions

It might not seem there is much comedy to mine from Jihadist terrorist attacks. But director Chris Morris’ Four Lions, releasing March 8 from Magnolia Home Entertainment (DVD $26.98, Blu-ray $29.98), proves that even the direst of situations are ripe for satire.

“I wanted to find out a bit more about this subject, as it’s not adequately described in the average media discourse,” Morris said. “There were a bunch of Canadians who wanted to assassinate the Canadian Prime Minister and forgot who he was. There are fairly ridiculous examples of these guys in action.”

In Morris’ film, a group of hapless British Muslim extremists plot a terrorist attack at the London marathon. Far from the stone-faced caricatures you might see elsewhere, Morris’ group are seen as misguided souls who love gangsta rap and joking with one another. At one point, a member of the troupe makes videos of himself with his cell phone while at a terrorist training camp in Pakistan — possibly alerting the camp’s presence to U.S. drones.

“[Terrorist attacks] are to some degree or other amateur projects, relative to what they’re up against,” Morris said. “They are commissioned and put into action by people who are not really sophisticated operators or highly trained individuals.

“The more I looked, the more I found. I thought, as amazing as it is to me, maybe it will be amazing to someone else. And it happens to fit something I understand, a kind of comic universe. At that point, it was impossible not to do [this film].”

Morris said the DVD and Blu-ray contain deleted scenes that impeded the film’s pace, but that were funny enough to include on their own. Additionally, he said there would be some behind-the-scenes featurettes and a couple of mini documentaries on people who are similar to characters in the film, such as a Caucasian man who converted to the Muslim faith, and showing a slice of life from non-radical Muslims.

“There’s probably me answering endless questions about the film as well,” he added.

Morris is known for such British TV shows as the news-show-skewering “The Day Today” (think “The Onion’s” online news segments) and TV doc spoof “Brass Eye.” He said “Brass Eye” is available as a Region 0 import and both shows can be seen in bits on YouTube, but neither show has had an official U.S. DVD release.
 

By: Billy Gil