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 firstname.lastname@example.org. For inclusion on IndieFile's Feedroom channel, contact Renee Rosado (email@example.com). Follow IndieFile on Twitter, at Twitter.com/IndieFile.
Alex Cox, famed director of Sid and Nancy and Repo Man, will have six of his films released by Microcinema International.
Films include Straight to Hell Returns (which was acquired directly from Cox) while Searchers 2.0, El Patruellero/Highway Patrolman, 3 Businessmen, Death and the Compass, and Revenger’s Tragedy also will be released and were acquired from HanWay Films (U.K). Microcinema will hold exclusive home video, digital, broadcast and theatrical rights for the United States and Canada.
“Microcinema is one of the only distributors remaining who truly understands the auteur filmmaker, and I am proud to have my films alongside the likes of Luis Buñuel, Maya Deren, Salvador Dalí, Hal Hartley, the ‘Loose Change’ franchise, and many other fine films and filmmakers,” Cox said.
First up is Searchers 2.0, coming to DVD Oct. 26. Straight to Hell Returns, with Joe Strummer, Courtney Love, Dennis Hopper, Elvis Costello, Sy Richardson, Shane McGowan, Dick Rude, Jim Jarmusch and Grace Jones (phew!), streeting before the end of the year.
The Global Film Initiative will now distribute DVDs from the Global Lens Collection, which formerly was distributed by First Run Features.
The first two titles in the series released by Global Film Initiative on DVD will be Getting Home, by Chinese director Zhang Yang, and Song From the Southern Seas, by Kazakh director Marat Sarulu, both streeting July 27 at $24.95.
Global Lens is a traveling series of films that has opened at MoMA in New York every year since 2003 and screens at other museums, cultural centers, universities and film festivals, before being released on DVD. More than 30 nations participate in the series, including countries of Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, and some are produced with financial support from the Global Film Initiative.
Now, not only will Global Film Initiative self-distribute the DVDs and handle all markets, including VOD licensing, educational sales, and theatrical and nontheatrical sales, it also has signed an exclusive pay-per-view release deal with Virgin America airlines as well as a multifilm television deal with Latin American channel Venevision.
“Global Lens is the only film series of its kind, and its popularity has increased exponentially in the last few years,” said Santhosh Daniel, director of programs for the Global Film Initiative, in a statement. “So naturally it makes sense to pull distribution in-house instead of using a third-party, to expand release channels and provide direct and more personalized service to our audience — the series is known from Alaska to Austin to New York and we’re responding to that awareness and demand.”
The Global Film Initiative also has announced its Educational Affiliates program to provide public and private libraries a 33% discount off of traditional educational pricing, in addition to access to new titles from the series before their commercial release. The effort extends to high school, college and university libraries as well. Additionally a complementary Cinema in the Schools initiative will help provide the films at a low cost to high schools.
The titles also will be available for rental through Netflix. No Blu-ray Disc or digital-download plans have been announced yet for the series.
“I think our upcoming DVD releases will surprise a lot people — both in and outside the industry,” Daniel said. “From a consumer standpoint, the encodes and menus are very visually appealing and really reflect the cinematic quality of each film. In terms of the industry, like everyone else, we’re looking at digital and other new ways to support a lucrative distribution model. But at the same time, we also know the market we’ve created for Global Lens and expect a 150% increase in home video revenue this next year.”
Cult movie library Blue Underground, keeper of such titles as the upcoming Prowler (out July 27), Machine Gun McCain (out Aug. 24), Vigilante (due Sept. 21, all Blu-ray Discs $29.98) and Maniac (coming Oct. 26, prebook Sept. 28, two-BD set $34.98), will now have its library released by E1 Entertainment Distribution, effective June 28.
Nearly 200 titles make up the grindhouse, horror and action films in Blue Underground’s library, including such films as Final Countdown, Cannonball, Circle of Iron, Emmanuelle in America and The Crazies.
Requests for orders and returns should be directed to E1 Entertainment Distribution U.S.
“Blue Underground goes to great lengths to feature remastered transfers from original vault elements,” E1 said in a press release. “The label has developed a reputation of releasing the highest quality editions available of their films, and they have developed a broad core audience base for their releases.”
Thanks to reporter Chris Tribbey for the tip!
On a semi-related note, if you are a lover of camp films on Blu-ray, please check out Fox/MGM's recent release of Showgirls 15th Anniversary Sinsational Edition on Blu-ray Disc. My friend and fellow camp film enthusiast Brad Schelden at Amoeba Music in Los Angeles recently sat me down to experience this masterwork, and I can't say I'll ever be the same (I suddenly am overcome with the desire to try dog food ...). Check out his on the Showgirls release (you can also of Showgirls on Blu-ray at the Amoeba site — support an independent chain!).
A new distribution company, Level 33 Entertainment, has launched.
Company executives see an opportunity in the marketplace to supply and distribute original content across all platforms (DVD, video on demand and via the Internet) and market the content to minimize expenses and maximizes profits to rights holders, said EVP Sheldon Brigman, formerly with Ventura Distribution and a former film sales representative with Spy Filmz.
“We’ve heard far too many stories from filmmakers of their disappointing experiences with distributors, where producers and investors end up with the short end of the stick,” Brigman said. “Level 33 looks to break away from that model by partnering with filmmakers to promote their movies and help them realize a bigger share of the profits.”
Level 33 will focus on building fan communities via social networking and online promotions. Brigman said the company will focus on genre and niche films, and aims to acquire and distribute about 12 films in its first full year of operation.
The company has already acquired zombie comedy Aaah! Zombies!!, from director Matthew Kohnen and starring Matthew Davis (“Vampire Diaries”), as well as urban crime thriller Blues, from director and Sundance alum Brandon Sonnier (The Beat), and starring Sydney Tamiia Poitier (Death Proof), Ty Hodges (“Even Stevens”) and Ari Graynor (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist). They will be released on DVD in August and September.
Film Movement has acquired 2010 Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize Winner A Screaming Man. Film Movement will release the film theatrically in North America during the first quarter of 2011, with a VOD run and eventual DVD release to follow (Soda Pictures will handle distribution in the United Kingdom and Ireland, premiering it at the London Film Festival in October). The film, about a 60ish former swimming champion who is harassed to contribute to his country’s civil war and must make a regretful decision, was written and directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun and is in French and Arabic.
Lionsgate’s Creation, out June 29 (DVD $27.98), adapts the novel Randal Keynes wrote about his great-great-grandfather, Charles Darwin, after Keynes found writings by Darwin that showed a humanistic side to the great naturalist often overlooked by history, and by his detractors.
Keynes, a conservationist and author, discovered a writing case that had belonged to Darwin’s daughter, Annie, who died at an early age. The box contained mementos placed there by her mother, Emma, as well as a detailed account of Annie’s sickness by Darwin as he watched over his daughter during her final days.
“I was struck by his close interest, his desperate effort to save her life by doing all that he could with medicine, with science, to keep her alive,” Keynes said. “We all imagined he was just the person who had given us the struggle for existence … claiming that nature was ruthless. … I just had to write the book because it showed an aspect to Darwin’s character that people had just forgotten.”
After Annie died, Darwin wrote a 10-page essay about her and about his loss that Keynes calls an “extraordinary piece of writing.” Keynes took all that he found and wrote his novel about Darwin’s close relationship with his eldest daughter as well as his own struggle to grasp the meaning of his discoveries, and about the conflicts he faced with his religious wife.
The film Creation, directed by Jon Amiel (Entrapment) and adapted by John Collee (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) expands upon that story and at times takes dramatic license in order to fill the gaps, which Keynes said did not clash with his understanding of Darwin.
“Everything they added to the story seems to me to be true to the spirit of Darwin and Emma,” Keynes said.
The film stars Paul Bettany (who also starred in Collee’s Master and Commander) as a sick and troubled Darwin, haunted by the ghost of his daughter and by his then-unfinished work, The Origin of the Species, which recently celebrated its 150th year in publication (2009 also marked Darwin’s 200th birthday). Bettany’s real wife, Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly, plays the religious and restrained Emma, who must cope with her husband’s increasing distance and her own religious dilemma in the face of her husband’s theory of evolution by natural selection.
“I hope people will see how difficult it was for each of them (Darwin and Emma) and how they managed to come to an understanding,” Keynes said.
The Creation DVD includes deleted scenes and is full of extras exploring differing views on Darwin. Among other featurettes are a couple featuring Keynes, one in which he details what he found in Annie’s box and another in which he gives a tour of Down House, Darwin’s former home, which Keynes hopes will become designated a world heritage site.
Legendary TV actress Sharon Gless, perhaps best known for playing Christine Cagney in pioneering female-cop drama “Cagney & Lacey,” has long appreciated her gay following. Other than playing tough lesbian icon Cagney (who wasn’t gay, nor is Gless), she played Debbie Novotny, the overbearing mother to Hal Sparks’ Michael Novotny, in Showtime’s “Queer as Folk.”
“[“Cagney & Lacey” was] really when I first because acquainted and close to the lesbian community because they were so supportive and really kept us on the air,” Gless said. “I have tremendous appreciation for the gay community for really keeping my career going.”
Her latest role is the title character in Hannah Free, a lesbian drama now out on DVD from Wolfe Video ($24.95). In the film, based on a play by Claudia Allen, Gless plays an elderly woman whose lifetime love is near the end of her life, and whose family won’t let her see her.
“What was so timely for me, and I do make gay and lesbian causes my thing, I’m very passionate about it … what I thought was so timely and why it meant so much to me is the fact that gay couples still can’t get into a hospital room, still are not considered family,” Gless said. “I was on Rosie O’Donnell’s cruise (for gays and lesbians and their families), and there were two lesbian couples just boarding the ship, I think they’d been together 30 years. As they were boarding, one of the women had a heart attack … and her partner was not allowed in the room. And the woman died, with her partner sitting out in the hallway.”
Gless’ Hannah is a free spirit who constantly left her lover to raise her kids alone, while never failing to return to her. Gless said the final scene of the film, when Hannah is confronted with the end of her lover’s life, was particularly challenging in that she sought to underplay Hannah’s emotional state.
“When confronted with a highly emotional situation like that, you don’t usually fall apart,” Gless said. “You don’t go for the obvious.”
Gless was approached by Allen to play Hannah in the film after Gless starred in one of Allen’s plays in Chicago (her “Cagney & Lacey” co-star, Tyne Daly, also has starred in a radio play by Allen).
“She called me one day and said, ‘they’re putting one of my plays on film, do you want to be in it?’ I said, ‘absolutely,’” Gless said. “She writes women beautifully, so I knew it’d be fabulous.”
Gless now stars in TV’s “Burn Notice.” While that show and many others she has been in are available on DVD, there’s one notable exception: Other than one season and some reunion TV movies, almost all of “Cagney & Lacey” is still unavailable.
“My greatest regret is that ‘Cagney & Lacey’ never made it to DVD,” Gless said.
She hopes that if a “Cagney & Lacey” movie remake were to happen, renewed interest in the series would lead to its release on DVD.
Gless hopes that a feature film of the show would get even grittier than the series allowed when it aired during the 1980s. She said a technical advisor on the show was a female police officer who kept the show rooted in the reality of police work.
“I asked once our technical advisor, if you see something really horrible, is it really bad for a female cop to cry … in front of one of your male colleagues?” Gless said. “And she said, ‘Sharon, I’ve seen men cry, the things we see.’”
Gless on DVD
Cagney & Lacey: Season One is available on DVD — the set collects early episodes beginning with Gless’ first episodes as Cagney, who was played by Loretta Swit and Meg Foster in the show’s earliest incarnation — as are reunion sets Cagney & Lacey: The Menopause Years and Cagney & Lacey: The Return. Season sets and a complete-series set of “Queer as Folk” is available from Showtime, and the first three seasons of “Burn Notice” are out on DVD from Fox (season two is also available on Blu-ray).
It Came From Kuchar
Title: It Came From Kuchar
Studio: First Run
Street Date: 6/29
Price/Format: $24.95 DVD
Reserve for purchase
This documentary interweaves clips of films by notorious underground filmmaking twins George and Mike Kuchar, who helped create and inspire ‘B’-movie sleaze, with interviews by fans and followers such as John Waters, Buck Henry, Atom Egoyan, Wayne Wang, Bill Griffith, Gerard Malanga, B. Ruby Rich and Guy Maddin.
Title: Machine Gun McCain
Studio: E1/Blue Underground
Street date: 8/24
Price/Format: $19.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray
Reserve for purchase (DVD or Blu-ray)
No, not that McCain. This 1969 Cannes favorite stars John Cassavetes as an ex-con who stages a heist after his mob employer turns on him. The film co-stars Peter Falk, Gene Rowlands, Britt Ekland and Florinda Bolkan, and features music by Ennio Morricone.
Title: An American Journey: In Robert Frank’s Footsteps
Street date: 8/24
Prebook date: 7/27
Price/Format: $29.95 DVD
Filmmaker Philippe Seclier traces influential photographer Robert Frank’s trips across the United States that inspired his intimate images.
Title: A Town Called Panic
Street date: 7/20
Prebook date: 6/22
Price/Format: $29.99 DVD
Reserve for purchase
Based on a Belgian cult TV series, three plastic toys named Cowboy, Indian and Horse share a house in a village that attracts crazy events.
Title: Lights Camera Dead/F.A.R.T. the Movie
Street date: 7/27
Price/Format: $19.95 DVD/$9.95 DVD
Reserve for purchase (Lights/)
Nope, IndieFile is not too stuffy for this: MVD Visual and SRS Cinema are releasing two cult, er, “classics.” One is about two filmmakers who will stop at nothing to finish their zombie masterpiece. The other is about a man with two passions — television and flatulence — whose passions are about to come together in a big way. Guess which description is for which film.
IFC’s fertile on-demand offerings are getting two new titles that showed at the 2009 South By Southwest (SXSW) festival.
First up on Sundance Selects is Dia Sokol’s Sorry, Thanks (coming June 4). The Mutual Appreciation director tells another tale of misguided youths in their 20s, this time of a girl who’s reeling from a breakup and sleeps with a man who’s in a relationship, sparking his voyage into discovering if he is “an ass.”
Coming June 11 is SXSW grand jury prize for narrative film winner Made in China. Judi Krant’s film tells of a novelty inventor from Texas who travels to China in hopes of creating “a humorous domestic hygiene product.”
Both films will appear in the main on-demand category for such cable carriers as Comcast, Cox, Cablevision and Time Warner.
Michael Winterbottom’s controversial 9 Songs, which puts scenes of a couple making love to indie rock music, is being offered on Blu-ray in two deals from distributor Palisades Tartan.
Those who buy the full uncut version of the film on Blu-ray for $17.99 will receive three more films from the studio at no additional charge (beyond shipping and handling). The films, You the Living, Silent Light and Import Export, have received praise from a variety of sources (You the Living made Roger Ebert’s top 10 films of the year, Martin Scorsese championed Silent Light, and John Waters lovingly called Import Export “depression porn”).
A second deal offers the eight-DVD Vengeance Trilogy set, which includes Oldboy, free with the 9 Songs Blu-ray purchase. A Blu-ray Vengeance Trilogy set will come out June 15.
9 Songs includes music by such artists as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Von Bondies, Elbow, Primal Scream, The Dandy Warhols, Super Furry Animals, Franz Ferdinand and Michael Nyman.
The film is also available on DVD. The Blu-ray was released May 18.