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Deal Delivers IFC Documentaries to New Video

26 Jul, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner

Not only does video give independent documentaries a new life, the DVD editions can give the directors the rare opportunity to share their passion with audiences via commentary and other special features.

“The filmmakers are so excited to be bringing out the DVD. They're so excited to be involved in the process,” said New Video COO Susan Margolin, whose label has the sublabel Docurama.

Margolin and her partner launched the Docurama line three years ago after finding the documentaries the most interesting attractions on a trip to the Sundance Film Festival — and the least likely to get mainstream exposure.

Taking those titles to home video also let them open the door to give directors the opportunity to fill in blanks that often don't exist in a fictional storyline. Unlike fictional features, documentary directors may shoot thousands of hours of film an audience never sees.

“Often these filmmakers lived with the story for four or five years,” Margolin said. “Filmmaking is an emotional, painful process.”

The extras may flesh out facts and details that didn't fit into a film format or share the filmmaker's thought process, as director Michael Moore did for The Awful Truth.

“He basically free-associated about the film for four hours. I think he took two breaks,” Margolin said. “I don't think we had to edit it.”

Although the Docurama line, which specializes in award-winning, cutting-edge documentary films and offers commentaries and other extras not often seen on documentary DVDs, Margolin said, “they shouldn't be wall-to-wall talking.

“We want to allow the viewer to breathe and enjoy the film,” she said. “We really have tried to sculpt the film in that fashion.”

Now documentaries from the Independent Film Channel (IFC) will get a new life as well, via a deal for New Video to distribute its documentaries on home video.

Starting in September, New Video will launch 12 IFC films per year on DVD and VHS. The product line will include theatrically released documentaries, plus several IFC-branded dramatic and art house films under its own imprint.

Among the first IFC titles due out on New Video are Keep the River On Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale about 78-year-old Tobias Schneebaum, a gay Jewish writer who, estranged from his family and community, went to South America, walked along the Amazon river and joined a tribe of cannibals. Forty years later, he returned to meet with the tribesmen and share their interim experiences; and Go Tigers!, which details the community support — and pressure — on a high school football team in Masillon, Ohio, whose funding depends on its field performance.

Also in the fall, New Video will release Angela, the directorial debut from filmmaker Rebecca Miller, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year for her latest film, Personal Velocity; and Thomas In Love, a futuristic romp directed by Belgian first-timer Pierre-Paul Renders about a technologically savvy agoraphobe looking for love in all the wrong digital places.

Early next year, Docurama plans to release the critically acclaimed documentary Brother's Keeper, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's film about a mysterious family murder and the ensuing trial.

“There is an excellent fit between our product and New Video,” said Harold Gronenthal, VP, rights and licensing, for IFC Entertainment. “For over 10 years, they have been at the forefront of special-interest marketing and distribution in the home entertainment industry. Their Docurama label also gives us the perfect outlet to expand the market for IFC's theatrical documentaries, films which ultimately need to be handled with dedication, skill and passion. Those qualities have driven New Video's success in this market, and we are delighted to partner with them in this exciting new venture.”

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