News & Updates
September 27, 2020
Making movies is arduous, but the appreciation that follows can make it all worthwhile. For writer-director duo Bush|Renz, comprised of Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, that experience has so far evaded them. Their feature debut “Antebellum,” which premiered on PVOD last week, aimed to recontextualize what American slavery meant. To put it kindly, it found a blistering reception.
The film, a glossy twist on the so-called “slave narrative,” stars Janelle Monáe as a woman “trapped in a horrifying reality that forces her to confront the past, present and future.” (The promotional language is cryptic, but to say more would create spoilers.) The filmmakers (Bush is Black, Renz is white) made “Antebellum” to catalyze a national dialogue around a host of urgent topics, including race.
Critics don’t see it that way. Rotten Tomatoes currently scores “Antebellum” with a 28 percent rating, with the critical consensus that it’s “a largely unpleasant experience.” It has its supporters — Stephanie Zacharek at Time praises Monáe as “electrifying” and said the film is “a tense, thoughtful picture that seeks both to entertain and provoke.” She’s the outlier; others described it as “a gory theme-park ride showcasing the horrors of slavery” (The Atlantic) and a “leering, exploitative depiction of violent, slavery movie tropes” (RogerEbert.com).
Bush|Renz, best known for their advertising work and directing Jay Z’s 2017 “Kill Jay Z” short, know all of this, of course. Some filmmakers might find this crushing. “Well, we’re the number-one movie in the country on all platforms, streaming or rented or otherwise, so, there’s that,” Bush said. “So, apparently, the polarization of the conversation around this movie is working to great effect.”
Beyond box-office returns, they take the long view. “We maintain our sovereignty as artists above a tech platform as Rotten Tomatoes, because we know that in the end, this is a marathon and the art will be not judged to just in this moment,” Bush said. “And I think that you would be hard pressed to say that the movie isn’t generating so much conversation even among critics. We want them to have those conversations. But we don’t want to put ourselves in a place where our decision making, as artists, will be informed by what critics have to say about our art.”
Renz believes much of the critical reaction speaks to the film’s subject matter rather than the film itself. “We knew, based on slavery, that there were going to be plenty of people that would say, ‘Why is this movie necessary at this time? It’s irresponsible’, etc, and that’s the headline — that there’s no need for any other ‘slave film’, which we completely understand,” he said. “However, we’re not going to contribute to the erasure of the history of Black people in America and how this country was founded, and where they want to get back to. This movie really is a visual representation of what ‘Make America Great Again’ would look like.”
Bush rejects the idea of what is colloquially referred to as “slavery movie fatigue,” insisting that there are still far more stories to be told and being white is not a prerequisite to being a provocateur. “Me, as a Black American artist, I’m going to be really accurate about what my own history looks like,” he said. “Our Jewish brothers and sisters have done an effective job of taking responsibility for their own story,” he said. “I think from our perspective, the stories of the enslaved are by and large always approved or greenlit by someone white. And so it’s interesting to me that Quentin Tarantino is the only one who has been able to do something so provocative with the slave narrative in ‘Django Unchained’ because he could.”
Another factor that may feed into the “Antebellum” response is whether the film’s brutality, in all of its accuracy, might be viewed as overwhelming in this particular sociopolitical environment. Americans are overwhelmed by images of Black bodies under assault in the real world, along with a deadly pandemic that disproportionately affects Black people. Who wants to see a film that depicts brutality on Black bodies in a fictional world as well?
“I want to make it clear that we are deeply respectful of the trauma that Black folk have endured since our beginning in this country and we understand the exhaustion of it,” Bush said. “We are not irresponsible artists, and we would never want to traumatize the community. We know that it is quite traumatizing for some people and we need to respect that, but we also need for them to respect that Black people are not monolith and they don’t get to decide, as ‘thought leaders,’ what black people need or the conversations that they want to have around this film.”
Bush|Renz are not the first to reinvent the slave narrative. Other projects like WGN’s underground railroad action-drama series “Underground” (2016-2017) and Focus Features’ Harriet Tubman biopic “Harriet” (2019) also attempted to offer a different kind of slave narrative that broke free of the genres’ tacit restrictions that required Black characters to be portrayed as submissive victims of a tragic fate, lacking in agency. “Antebellum” shares a production company, QC Entertainment, with Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” a hit film that also hinges on the abduction of a Black person into subjugation by, and servitude of, white people.
“Black people, our history in this country, was built upon our kidnapping,” Bush said. “So thematically, kidnapping is just how many of these stories start, because our story in America starts with our kidnapping.”
Ultimately, the filmmakers hope that, at the very least, audiences walk away with the idea that Bush|Renz was committed and determined to depict Black people in a fresh and interesting way while addressing this country’s original sin of slavery.
“We cannot spend our time exhausted by critics,” said Bush. “The critics are here to critique us, the artists, and our art. They have every right to that, and we have every right to continue making the art that we feel compelled to make.”
“Antebellum” is now streaming across premium VOD platforms where it’s available for $19.99 per rental. The film is being released theatrically in select international markets.
Source: IndieWire film
September 27, 2020
As we move toward the presidential election, November 3, so do celebrity endorsements. The latest is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who is throwing his weight behind Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Johnson announced his endorsement via Twitter on Sunday morning. Watch below.
“As a registered independent for years now with centrist ideologies, I do feel that Vice President Biden and Senator Harris, are the best choice to lead our country. And I am endorsing them to become President and Vice President of our United States,” Johnson said in his video announcement supporting the Democratic candidates.
“I’ve never publicly endorsed a presidential candidate or a vice presidential candidate in my life, over my career,” Johnson added in a video Q&A with Harris and Biden that followed the announcement. Johnson used the opportunity to ask Harris and Biden how they plan to use their time in office to bridge a divided nation.
“By doing what we say we’re going to do. By keeping our word. By leveling with the American people,” Biden said. “By taking responsibility. When we fail, acknowledge it. We’re not going to be perfect, but take responsibility. Say this is what I’m going to do, this is what I believe, and tell the truth. That sounds so basic, but the American people are strong, they’re tough. They can take anything if you level with them and tell the truth.”
Johnson has used his social media platforms to spread a political message before. Back in June, Johnson made a passionate plea on Instagram demanding a change in leadership and compassion. “Where is our compassionate leader who’s going to step up to our country who’s down on its knees, and extend a hand and say, ‘You stand up, stand up with me because I got you. I hear you, I’m listening to you. And you have my word that I’m going to do everything in my power, until my dying day, my last breath, to do everything I can to create the change that is needed, to normalize equality because Black Lives Matter.’ Where are you?”
Progress takes courage, humanity, empathy, strength, KINDNESS & RESPECT.
— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) September 27, 2020
Source: IndieWire film
September 27, 2020
Sufjan Stevens is the darling of “Call Me By Your Name” fans thanks to the singer/songwriter’s contributions to the soundtrack, including his Oscar nominee for Best Original Song, “Mystery of Love.” At the 2018 Academy Awards ceremony, Stevens performed the romantic ballad onstage alongside collaborators St. Vincent and Moses Sumney, but in a new interview with The Guardian, he called the experience “traumatizing.”
“Honestly, one of the most traumatizing experiences of my entire life,” Stevens said of his live performance at the 90th annual Oscar ceremony that he likened to “a horrifying Scientology end-of-year prom.” The Oscars, he said, represent “everything I hate about America and popular culture.”
With 26 million viewers, the Oscars represented massive exposure for the shy musician revered for his plaintive and experimental folk-electronic music. Even so, it’s an experience he doesn’t want to repeat. Stevens, whose new studio album “The Ascension” dropped September 25, said he felt out of his skin amid Hollywood A-listers.
“I didn’t want to have anything to do with that world and that culture,” he said. “I don’t want to be part of any room full of adults hemming and hawing over plastic trophies.” (Each eight-pound statuette is actually made of solid bronze, and plated in 24-karat gold.)
The winning song was “Remember Me” from the movie “Coco.” Stevens was also up against Mary J. Blige for the song “Mighty River” from “Mudbound,” Diane Warren for “Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall,” and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul for “This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman.” Prior to his Oscar nomination, Stevens received one Grammy nomination, also for “Mystery of Love” in the Best Song Written for Visual Media category.
“Mystery of Love” is one of three songs from Stevens featured on the soundtrack for Luca Guadagnino’s lush romance “Call Me By Your Name,” including the teary goodbye to love that closes the film, “Visions of Gideon,” and a remix of his track “Futile Devices,” a song off his 2016 record “The Age of Adz.”
Stevens’ ambitious new album “The Ascension” has been earning the singer/songwriter some of his best reviews since 2015’s “Carrie & Lowell.”
Source: IndieWire film
September 26, 2020
The 68th San Sebastián Film Festival helped revive the global festival circuit this season with a physical event held September 18-26 in Spain. The lineup, which kicked off with Woody Allen’s “Rifkin’s Festival,” concluded with the annual awards September 26.
The festival’s big winner was Georgian writer/director Dea Kulumbegashvili’s debut feature “Beginning,” taking four of the jury prizes including Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actress, and the Golden Shell for Best Film. A psychological portrait of the effects of an extremist attack on a rural place of worship, “Beginning” was originally slotted for a Cannes competition premiere, and also played the Toronto International Film Festival. Next, it will head to the ongoing New York Film Festival.
Other highlights included Florian Zeller’s Oscar hopeful “The Father,” winner of the Audience Award — and a likely Best Actor nominee next year for Anthony Hopkins’ devastating turn as a man wrestling with dementia. Mads Mikkelsen took the Silver Shell for Best Actor for his performance as a drunken teacher in Thomas Vinterberg’s “Another Round,” hot off acclaim in Toronto. Eliza Hittman’s “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” a February 2020 stateside opener hit hard by the pandemic, also picked up an award outside the official selection.
Led by president Luca Guadagnino, the jury members included Joe Alwyn, Marisa Fernández Armenteros, Michel Franco, and Lena Mossum. See the full list of winners below.
Official Selection Prizes
Golden Shell for Best Film: “Beginning,” Dea Kulumbegashvili
Special Jury Prize: “Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan,” Julien Temple
Silver Shell for Best Director: “Beginning,” Dea Kulumbegashvili
Silver Shell for Best Actress: “Beginning,” Ia Sukhitashvili
Silver Shell for Best Actor: “Another Round,” Mads Mikkelsen
Best Screenplay: “Beginning,” Dea Kulumbegashvili and Rati Oneli
Best Cinematography: “Any Crybabies Around?,” Yuta Tsukinaga
Other Festival Prizes
New Directors’ Award: “Last Days of Spring,” Isabel Lamberti
New Directors’ Award (Special Mention): “Slow Singing,” Dong Xingyi
Latin Horizons Award: “Identifying Features,” Fernanda Valadez
Latin Horizons Award (Special Mention): “One in a Thousand,” Clarisa Navas
San Sebastian Audience Award: “The Father,” Florian Zeller
Audience Award for Best European Film: “The Mole Agent,” Maite Alberdi
Zabaltegi-Tabakalera Award: “The Metamorphosis of Birds,” Catarina Vasconcelos
Zabaltegi-Tabakalera Award (Special Mention): “The Woman Who Ran,” Hong Sang-soo
TVE Another Look Award: “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” Eliza Hittman
TVE Another Look Award (Special Mention): “Gull,” Kim Mi-jo
Spanish Cooperation Award: “Identifying Features,” Fernanda Valadez
Irizar Basque Film Award: “Where is Mikel?,” Amaia Merino and Miguel Angel Llamas
Source: IndieWire film
September 26, 2020
Actors who worked with Christopher Nolan have plenty of stories about the methods to his madness. Earlier this year, comments from “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Interstellar” star Anne Hathaway got blown out of proportion when she said the filmmaker doesn’t allow chairs on his sets. (What she meant was Nolan doesn’t keep directors’ chairs clustered around the video-village monitors.) Now, “The Dark Knight Rises” co-star Matthew Modine, who played Commissioner Gordon’s second-in-command Foley, shared the major similarity between Nolan and director Stanley Kubrick. Modine starred in Kubrick’s 1987 war classic “Full Metal Jacket.”
The similar approach between the legendary filmmakers, Modine told Hollywood Reporter, is in the intimacy of the set despite the massiveness of the project. “Sometimes on ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ there weren’t more than 10 or 15 people on the set,” he said. “And as big as ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ was, with all of the people that were working on it and the tremendous size of the cast and crew, it got smaller and smaller and smaller as you got closer and closer to the set where you were going to be filming. So there’s a similarity between Stanley and Chris.”
Nolan and Kubrick share a notoriety for perfectionism, Modine said, and that helped foster a great collaboration between the cast and crew. “As you got to the epicenter of where the action was taking place, it was incredibly calm, quiet, focused and intimate. All of the noise and all of those other things were kept far, far away from the set, and there wasn’t any reason to have a chair or a video village because for what purpose? Everybody could see what was going on. It was a quiet environment where we were making the film.”
Modine’s biggest recent role was a run on the Syfy series “Sanctuary,” and he’ll next appear in Tate Taylor’s star-stuffed “Breaking News in Yuba County,” alongside Mila Kunis, Juliette Lewis, Allison Janney, Awkwafina, and Regina Hall.
Nolan’s most recent film, “Tenet,” has just crossed the $250 million mark globally despite key markets remaining shut down in the United States.
Source: IndieWire film
September 20, 2020
As theaters regain their footing, they’re making baby steps. The good news: for the first time since March, 10 first-run films played in theaters in the U.S. and Canada, grossing $100,000 or more. And most drops from the past week were under 30%, which is above average: Warner Bros.’ “Tenet” dropped 26%, with few new theaters. Such small drops suggest an uptick in interest in going to theaters.
The bad news: there is little new to be seen. And disturbingly, on the specialty side, even though they played hundreds of theaters, Bleecker Street’s “The Secrets We Keep” and IFC’s “The Nest” failed to pull even minimal adult audiences.
This weekend last year, all films grossed $123 million. Led by three new openers (“Downton Abbey,” Ad Astra,” and “Rambo: Last Blood”), the lowest total for a Top Ten title was just under $1.5 million. This year, with something over 3,000 locations open (exact number unknown), a tiny increase over last week, total gross looks to be about $11.5 million. Yes, that’s with around 75 percent of the U.S./Canada total open. (Nearly all theaters are open in Canada, while stateside is closer to 70 percent.) Alas, closed theaters in New York and Los Angeles account for a disproportionate share of the potential gross. But even if it were 100 percent, that would still come to under $20 million.
The biggest factor depressing box office remains a lack of titles. Of course, the pandemic and reluctance among many to go to indoor locations is also major. But if grosses are off by close to 90%, that comes from the lack of product. The three new titles last year grossed about $70 million. No new titles now means nothing to replace that $70 million, with no other recent top holdovers beyond “Tenet.”
No question business is awful. That matters as theaters struggle to survive. But the lack of new films is the biggest reason — along with key theaters not open — and the current mess doesn’t necessarily prove that theaters are doomed as long as they survive this period.
“Tenet” fell 26 percent this weekend to gross $4.7 million. That brings it to a hard-fought $36 million domestic so far through three weekends, consistent with the rest of the Top Ten in either dropping less than 30 percent, or in cases where a large number of dates were lost, the per theater average also holding in that range. That the overall gross dropped as little as it did with so little new product reinforces the sense that, though it’s still slow, more of the public is returning to theaters.
Worldwide, “Tenet” is now up to $250 million. Most of the world outside of South America has opened. Japan in its debut had a strong $4.3 million result. That is ahead of the opening weekends of both “Interstellar” and “Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan’s two most recent releases. Most of its best-grossing territories dropped around 25 percent or less, again above average. (China’s third weekend, at $5.6 million, still leads the world, falling 46 percent, consistent with studio film performance there.) With additional countries and more of the U.S. still to come, and anticipating continuing steady grosses, an ultimate theatrical gross of $350 million for “Tenet” looks possible. That would be impressive under the circumstances, irrespective of what that means for Warner Bros.’ bottom line.
On the domestic side, the biggest boost for “Tenet” comes from California theaters (Orange County has opened), even as Los Angeles and many surrounding area indoor cinemas remain closed, as do those in San Francisco. In fact, six of 10 and 10 of 20 top grosses are in California. That’s a strong portent of what could happen when closed areas reopen.
The best result for “Tenet” this weekend comes from Canada. Now in its fourth weekend, it dropped there only 14 percent. Again, a positive sign for those wanting to see hints that over time most audiences will return. (That country also is responsible for two other Top Ten Titles, “After We Collided” from Voltage, and “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” from Paramount, neither with any U.S. play at the moment.)
“Infidel” (Cloudburst) was the only new wide release, placing third with $1.5 million. It had a per theater average under $1,000, like all but three of the Top Ten (two slightly better in more limited release). The first narrative feature produced by right-wing polemicist Dinesh D’Souza, who has scored well with several political documentaries, it fell from an initial second place opening day showing to third behind Disney’s “The New Mutants.” “Infidel” stars Jim Caviezel in another Christian martyr role as the believer held by Iranians, with his State Department wife fighting to rescue him.
It has a specialized tie-in. Its director is Cyrus Nowrasteh, best known for “The Stoning of Soraya M.” That film, like “Infidel” and most of the director’s television work, centers on the impact of Islamic extremism. The initial gross, though small in normal times, stands out this week in showing that there remains a core faith-based audience that can be drawn to theaters.
Specialty titles falter
Bleecker Street, a leading specialized company, attempted a release for adult audiences. “The Secrets We Keep,” a thriller starring Noomi Rapace and Joel Kinnaman, grossed $89,955 in 471 theaters. Consistent with Canada showing more strength than the U.S., 30 percent of the gross came from there, more than three times the normal share.
Overall this is obviously not a good result, but most major theaters spurned the title because of its planned premium VOD release in a few weeks. Even with an ongoing lack of product, and a distributor that was willing to delay the film’s home viewing from day and date, most theaters continue to be inflexible, even when distributors try to prioritize them first.
A handful of other limited titles debuted. IFC opened well-reviewed “The Nest” starring Jude Law and Carrie Coon. The Sundance drama, director Sean Durkin’s first film since “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” grossed only $62,000 in 301 theaters. IFC has been the busiest independent distributor during the pandemic. This time, they chose to delay their VOD release (November) and give theaters first crack. Again, adult specialized audiences are nowhere to be found.
Focus Features’ documentary “The Way I See It,” also on VOD, took in $25,000 in 124 theaters. “Foster Boy” (Gravitas Ventures), a drama about a lawyer fighting for an abused youth, grossed $6,100 in one Atlanta drive-in (the top specialized location this weekend) ahead of its VOD and further theater play next Friday.
Our box office chart is culled from the best information available. It includes one title not seen elsewhere because we list the unreported estimated Canadian results for “After We Collided” (VVS), which will be released in the U.S. by Open Road on October 23. The Top Ten domestic always has included all of North America. Even if a distributor plans to hold them back until both countries are open, the numbers should be reported now.
The Top 10
1. Tenet (Warner Bros.) Week 3; Last weekend #2
$4,700,000 (-26%) in 2,920 theaters (+110); PTA (Per theater average): $1,609; Cumulative: $36,100,000
2. The New Mutants (Disney) Week 4; Last weekend #2
$1,600,000 (-23%) in 2,518 theaters (-186); PTA: $635; Cumulative: $17,710,000
3. Infidel (Cloudburst) NEW
$1,500,000 in 1,724 theaters; PTA: $870; Cumulative: $1,500,000
4. Unhinged (Solstice) Week 6; Last weekend #3 2365
$1,300,000 (-15%) in 2,324 theaters (-41); PTA: $559; Cumulative: $15,700,000
5. The Broken Hearts Gallery (Sony) Week 2 ; Last weekend #5
$800,000 (-29%) in 2,221 theaters (+12); PTA: $360; Cumulative: $2,407,000
6. After We Collided (Voltage) Week 2; Last weekend #4
$(est.) 280,000 (-55%) in 263 theaters (no change); PTA: $(est.) 1,065; Cumulative: $(est.) 1,300,000
7. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run (Paramount) Week 6; Last weekend #8
$210,000 (-7%) in 261 theaters (-6); PTA: $792; Cumulative: $4,241,000
8. Alone (Magnolia) NEW; also available on Video on Demand
$190,000 in 174 theaters; PTA: $1,092; Cumulative: $190,000
9. Bill & Ted Face the Music (United Artists) Week 4; Last weekend #6; also available on Video on Demand
$(est.) 175,000 (-40%) in 607 theaters (-200); PTA: $(est.) 288; Cumulative: $(est.) 3,103,000
10. Words on Bathroom Walls (Roadside Attractions) Week 5 ; Last weekend #7
$149,425 (-35%) in 797 theaters (-206); PTA: $187; Cumulative: $2,192,000
Source: IndieWire film
September 20, 2020
The film industry needed TIFF to happen in this challenging pandemic year, and the Toronto International Film Festival obliged, despite logistical as well as financial hurdles. In March the festival let go all part-time staff and 30 full-time employees, with more layoffs to follow in June. But with support from the Canadian government’s subsidy program and some loyal sponsors, TIFF mounted a slimmer, hybrid 45th edition, September 10-20, which kicked off with Spike Lee’s ebullient David Byrne concert film “American Utopia” and wrapped Saturday night with a drive-in showing of Mira Nair’s “A Suitable Boy.”
TIFF also launched a sales market, screening an array of fiction and nonfiction titles to the press and industry online, and to the public in both indoor (limit 60 people) and more expansive outdoor venues in Toronto, and virtually across Canada.
“As we talked to industry and press and filmmakers and sponsors,” said TIFF co-head Joana Vicente, “people needed us to have this event. They wanted a platform for the films. They wanted some hope.”
The Oscar Race
The films in play and likely to pop up throughout the season include universally beloved road odyssey “Nomadland” (Searchlight), which scored the People’s Choice Award after winning Venice’s Golden Lion and is now the frontrunner in the 2021 Oscar race. And well ahead of the festival, TIFF co-heads Vicente and Cameron Bailey selected this year’s TIFF Tribute Awards, including “Nomadland” director Chloé Zhao, Best Actress contender Kate Winslet, star of Francis Lee’s lesbian romance “Ammonite” (Neon), and Anthony Hopkins, whose moving performance in Florian Zeller’s stage-to screen drama “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics), a Sundance 2020 debut, puts him front and center in the Best Actor race. The TIFF Tribute Awards were broadcast across Canada on CTV and ctv.ca, and streamed internationally to the rest of the world by Variety.
Also building momentum was the harrowing grief drama “Pieces of a Woman” starring Venice Best Actress winner Vanessa Kirby, which was acquired by Netflix. Building steam in Toronto after its Venice debut was one of Amazon Studios’ biggest contenders of the year, Regina King’s feature directorial debut “One Night in Miami,” the first runner-up for the People’s Choice Award.
When most of these movies will actually open is another question. Expect these films to be a continued part of the chatter from now up until the Academy Awards ceremony. But given the delayed Oscars date of April 25, they have a long way to go.
Courtesy Cannes Film Festival
Films picking up buzz with recent acquisitions out of Toronto include Neon’s Ivory Coast Oscar submission “Night of the Kings,” which is in the running for the Best International Feature Oscar, along with Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg’s Cannes-would-have-been “Another Round” (Samuel Goldwyn Films), starring Mads Mikkelsen, assuming it is submitted. Still seeking distribution is “New Order,” Mexican Michel Franco’s vision of social chaos.
Several documentaries grabbed attention out of TIFF, including archive dive “MLK/FBI,” which sold to IFC Films and moves on to the New York Film Festival, Hulu’s Greta Thunberg portrait “I Am Greta,” and “Notturno” (Magnet Releasing, meaning no theatrical), Francesco Rossi’s latest immersive immigration saga.
While the festival co-heads were initially worried that the noise generated by the festival would be muted this year, the combination of live and virtual screenings generated buzz that was transmitted across social media, building anticipation for such popular titles as “One Night in Miami” — its Twitter conversation blew up with five million participants — and indigenous Canadian filmmaker Tracey Deer’s personal odyssey “Beans,” which might not have garnered as much attention in another year.
“Even if we didn’t get all the titles we wanted,” said Vicente, “we still put together an amazing selection and which gave us an opportunity to give prime slots to underrepresented voices.”
The TIFF Market
TIFF’s industry platform welcomed 3,926 international professionals digitally this year. Early on, the TIFF team was hoping for a return to theaters in September, but it became clear in the summer that it was not going to happen. With security concerns in mind, TIFF negotiated with sellers for 48-hour windows on New Zealand screening platform Shift72 (also used by NYFF) for the market titles, some national, some international. Many were in the official selection, plus about 30 more.
“Every film was a snowflake,” said Vicente. “Every negotiation was different. We were constantly moving and adjusting.” The TIFF co-heads also shared information with other festivals, Telluride (which could not go forward), Venice, and New York. “We collaborated in a way we never have done before.”
Streamers dominated the big deals at Toronto. Netflix plunked down some $60 million for three films, “Malcolm & Marie,” “Pieces of a Woman,” and director Halle Berry’s “Bruised,” which screened as a work in progress, as she wanted more time to finish her edit, said Bailey. “She wanted to keep going.”
After a heated auction, Solstice Studios grabbed Reinaldo Marcus Green’s Mark Wahlberg-starring “Good Joe Bell” for $20 million for worldwide rights, announcing an awards campaign for its second major release. (Solstice pleased exhibitors with its early, modestly successful theatrical outing for Russell Crowe vehicle “Unhinged.”) The tearjerker is written by Oscar winners Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana (“Brokeback Mountain”).
Also sold at TIFF were “Shadow In the Cloud” (Vertical Entertainment), “Shiva Baby” (Utopia), and “Summer of 85” (Music Box Films), with many other sales continuing to be negotiated for films in and out of selection. Films still on the hook for distribution out of TIFF and beyond, but earning raves, include the Wuhan coronavirus lockdown documentary “76 Days” and Idris Elba urban western “Concrete Cowboy,” which played at a downtown LA drive-in as well as a special Toronto screening for 500 invited frontline workers on Monday, September 14.
Looking at TIFF 2021, said Bailey, “Audiences are going to want something available at home from now on. We’re looking at all of that. We have no idea what the landscape will be next September.”
Ryan Lattanzio contributed reporting to this story.
Source: IndieWire film
September 20, 2020
Chloé Zhao’s beloved road odyssey “Nomadland” took home the coveted Toronto International Film Festival 2020 People’s Choice Award on Sunday, often a precursor to an eventual Best Picture Academy Award nomination. Last year’s People’s Choice Award went to Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit,” which sealed the deal at the 2020 Oscars with a Best Adapted Screenplay win, along with a Best Picture nomination. Over the last eight years, every top TIFF winner has gone on to be nominated for Best Picture. “Nomadland” also won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival — making it the first film in history to win both festival prizes. Searchlight will release the movie on December 4.
All this year’s winners were directed by women. The first runner up was “One Night in Miami,” directed by Regina King. The second runner up was “Beans,” directed by Tracey Deer. The TIFF 2020 People’s Choice Documentary Award winner is “Inconvenient Indian,” directed by Michelle Latimer. The TIFF 2020 People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award winner is “Shadow in the Cloud,” directed by Roseanne Liang.
“TIFF 2020 was a year we won’t soon forget,” said Cameron Bailey, TIFF Artistic Director and Co-Head. “Over the last 10 days, we have experienced community in the truest sense. The pandemic hit TIFF hard and we responded by going back to our original inspiration — to bring the very best in film to the broadest possible audience and transform the way people see the world through film. We heeded the urgent calls for greater representation of under-represented voices. And we watched as audiences embraced cinema’s ability to transport them through screens of all sizes by joining us online from all over this country — something that we would never have seen in previous years. TIFF delivered on its promise to provide Festival-goers and the industry with impactful programming. We are very proud of what the TIFF team accomplished.”
The 2020 Changemaker Award is awarded to “Black Bodies,” a short film by Kelly Fyffe-Marshall.
The three Amplify Voices Awards presented by Canada Goose winners are as follows.
Amplify Voices Award for Best Canadian Feature Film: “Inconvenient Indian,” dir. Michelle Latimer
Special Mention: “Fauna,” dir. Nicolás Pereda (Canadian Film)
Amplify Voices Award: “The Disciple,” dir. Chaitanya Tamhane
Amplify Voices Award: “Night of the Kings,” dir. Philippe Lacôte
Special Mention: “Downstream to Kinshasa,” dir. Dieudo Hamadi
Source: IndieWire film
September 20, 2020
In recent years, the plights of migrants have yielded many grim cinematic portraits, from “Mediterranea” to “Fire at Sea.” Given that track record, writer/director Ben Sharrock’s “Limbo” provides a welcome alternative. In this quirky, deadpan portrait of a Syrian refugee trapped in an asylum center in the remote Scottish island chain of the Outer Hebrides, the backdrop often provides the punchline to an ironic joke. Omar (Amir El-Masry), a young Syrian refugee intent on pursuing his musician dreams, gazes out at the vast, empty landscapes with a constant befuddled look that always says: That’s it?
Yet “Limbo” doesn’t have fun at Omar’s expense. Sharrock’s charming and insightful second feature justifies its title by using the droll backdrop to explore how the young man comes to terms with his nomadic status. Guided by El-Masry’s tender, understated performance and a tone that hovers between playful and sincere, “Limbo” manages to turn its downbeat scenario into a sweet and touching rumination on the quest to belong in an empty world.
Still, it takes some time to sort through what kind of movie “Limbo” wants to be. Its hilarious opening number finds a pair of zany locals educating the refugees about appropriate behavior on the dance floor, and Sharrock returns to that training room several more times. But the filmmaker’s deadpan style is soon undercut by the more muted, melancholic look at Omar’s routine: In between shrugging off the friendly overtures of his new roommate Farhad (Vikash Bhai) and gazing out at the unforgiving sea, Omar has morphed into a sad shell of his old self. He still carries around his grandfather’s oud (a Middle-Eastern instrument that resembles a guitar) but can’t seem to recall how to play it. (“A musician who doesn’t play his instrument is dead,” he recalls being told.) His only connection to his family comes from the island’s solitary phone booth, where he calls his judgmental parents, and their voices come to him like echoes of a distant path. And his older brother, who chose to remain in Syria and join resistance fighters there, serves as a constant source of guilt.
However, there’s a happier world just beyond Omar’s experiences, and “Limbo” excels whenever people reach out to its sad-eyed protagonist to invite him in. At the small home he inhabits with fellow refugees, he spends off-hours watching old episodes of “Friends” with Farhad, a peppy, mustachioed Freddie Mercury super-fan who insists he’ll become Farhad’s agent and take him on the road. (Farhad, who steals a chicken from the nearby farm and names it “Freddy Jr.,” deserves his own spin-off.) White locals seem keen on connecting with a new face in the lonely setting, and a Pakistani grocery store owner educates Omar about racist English terms. Little by little, “Limbo” constructs a vivid world of characters united by vacant world around them, and happy to fill it in with friendly vibes.
The movie could easily fall into a bland sentimental routine from there, but Sharrock’s irreverent tone turns Farhad’s journey into a strange and involving one. It’s a bit too imitative of the filmmakers who excel at this sort of approach, most notably Elia Suleiman and Aki Kaurismaki, whose use of long, stationary takes and extended silence can turn a quiet moment of private reflection into comic gold. “Limbo” follows a similar trajectory with mixed results, and sometimes tries too hard. But Sharrock’s script excels at piercing the whimsical story with astute observations as various characters push Omar to stop wallowing in self-pity. “You walk around like that case is a coffin for your soul,” Farhad tells Omar, gesturing to his instrument. And it may as well be: The oud provides Omar with his only tangible connection to a world of musical bliss beyond his reach.
Having established this involving conundrum, “Limbo” arrives at a rushed, inevitable climax that falls short of the more sophisticated set of experiences leading up to it. Even then, however, the sweeping imagery of open fields and the yawning ocean provide a fascinating visual motif for the complex paradoxes of migrant experiences. Omar has found his way to a beautiful, welcoming place where people are eager to start from scratch. But “Limbo” allows for the possibility that some people prefer to keep searching, even when the solution presents itself. Omar doesn’t want a new home; with his musical talent and the memories of the world he left behind, he’s found an internal one by the very first scene. That keen observation gives “Limbo” more wisdom than all of its ironic asides combined.
“Limbo” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. It is currently seeking U.S. distribution.
Source: IndieWire film
September 19, 2020
The earliest deals were huge, with streamers snapping up worldwide rights for two Black Oscar-winning actresses’ directorial debuts. Netflix is reportedly close to closing a near-$20-million deal for Halle Berry’s MMA drama “Bruised,” ahead of its online and drive-in TIFF premiere as a “work in progress” Saturday. The streamer also picked up Venice winner “Pieces of a Woman,” and Sam Levinson’s secretly shot quarantine film “Malcolm and Marie” starring Zendaya and John David Washington out of the TIFF marketplace for a whopping $30 million.
Amazon, meanwhile, made the first eight-figure deal of the season when it bought Regina King’s “One Night in Miami” more than a month ahead of its Venice premiere.
It’s unlikely festival acquisitions will get much more headline-grabbing. Amid so much uncertainty and a TIFF lineup just one-fifth the size of last year’s, sales activity during the pandemic has been spread out over the last six months, with still-announced deals and un-produced projects waiting in the wings.
“Even though most films are exhibited virtually right now, being at a festival is still a huge badge of honor. It helps brand a movie, gives it laurels. That said, for producers and financiers seeking distribution, the process is not as reliant on festivals as it once was,” UTA independent film group sales agent Mikey Schwartz-Wright told IndieWire at the beginning of the month.
Meantime, sidebars at Venice and TIFF, in addition to other market activity around the festivals, means acquisitions won’t be limited to official selections.
Buyers and agents are expecting this year’s fall festival sales environment as a “wait-and-see” market, one where streamers are likely to set the agenda. But Netflix, Amazon, and Apple’s appetite for commercial fare has increased during the pandemic, and with few star-driven English-language titles of the “Brusied” ilk available in the festivals’ smaller lineups, acquisitions of smaller films and international titles are set to define the season.
Expect more activity like Neon’s early September pickup of Philippe Lacôte’s “Night of the Kings,” which premiered at the Venice Horizons sidebar and will screen at TIFF and NYFF. But the jury’s still out on whether streamers’ interest will expand to include the types of films usually reserved for theatrical distributors.
Here’s everything that’s been picked up, with more to unfold in the coming weeks.
Title: “Good Joe Bell”
Buyer: Solstice Studios
Solstice Studios picked up Reinaldo Marcus Green’s tearjerking drama “Good Joe Bell” for a reported $20 million. Based on a true story, the film stars Mark Wahlberg as a father reckoning with the suicide of his gay son, who was bullied by his classmates. It’s written by the Oscar-winning “Brokeback Mountain” team of Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana.
Title: “Shadow in the Cloud”
Festival: TIFF (Midnight Madness)
Buyer: Vertical Entertainment and Redbox Entertainment
Roseanne Liang combines action, horror, and historical drama for “Shadow in the Cloud.” Chloë Grace Moretz stars in the World War II-set film, which centers around an Allied all-male crew confronted by a female officer who boards their plane carrying a suspicious package. Strange happenings and holes in her backstory lead to paranoia surrounding her true mission, while an evil presence lurks aboard the flight. The distributors are planning a multi-platform release, including theatrical next summer.
Title: “The World to Come”
Buyer: Bleecker Street
Mona Fastvold’s period drama stars Katherine Waterston and Vanessa Kirby as two disaffected farm wives who share an intense love in the mid-19th century American frontier.
Festival: Telluride selection, TIFF (Docs), NYFF (Main Slate)
Buyer: IFC Films
Based on newly declassified files, prolific documentarian and Spike Lee-collaborator Sam Pollard’s latest film examines FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s campaign of surveillance and harassment against Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebrated as a hero today, King’s past as a target of US government intervention is less known, making Pollard’s work a welcome addition to today’s discourse around racism and anti-racist activism. IFC Films will release the documentary on January 15, ahead of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Holiday, timing that sets it up for an awards run.
Title: “Malcolm and Marie”
Festival: TIFF Market
The “Marriage Story”-like drama was filmed in California between June 17 and July 2. Netflix reportedly scooped it out of the marketplace based on a promo.
Title: “Pieces of a Woman”
Festival: Venice, TIFF
Vanessa Kirby won the Best Actress prize at the Venice Film Festival for her turn opposite Shia LaBeouf as one half of a Boston couple in crisis after the death of their child during a home birth gone wrong.
Title: “Shiva Baby”
Festival: TIFF (Discovery, Next Wave)
Buyer: Utopia Media
Emma Seligman’s debut feature forces star Rachel Sennott to navigate hilariously uncomfortable social situations during a post-funeral gathering. Utopia Media landed worldwide rights ahead of the premiere.
Title: “Night of the Kings”
Festival: Venice Horizons, TIFF (Contemporary World Cinema), NYFF (Main Slate)
Côte d’Ivoire director Philippe Lacôte’s visual stunner follows an incarcerated young man who is forced to spend a whole night recounting a story if he hopes to survive. Neon bought U.S. rights after its Italian premiere.
Title: “The Boy from Medellín”
Festival: TIFF (Special Events)
Latin Grammy-winner J Balvin, the “Prince of Reggaeton,” is the subject of Matthew Heineman’s latest documentary, which saw worldwide rights acquired by Amazon a few weeks ahead of its TIFF premiere.
Title: “Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams”
Festival: Venice (out of competition)
Buyer: Sony Pictures Classics
Director Luca Guadagnino tapped his “Call Me By Your Name” standout Michael Stuhlbarg to narrate the documentary about the life of fashion designer Salvatore Ferragamo. Sony Classics bought worldwide rights, excluding Italy.
Title: “One Night in Miami”
Festival: Venice (out of competition), TIFF (Gala)
Regina King’s directorial debut, based on the play Kemp Powers, who also wrote the story for the screen, explores the Civil Rights movement and Black celebrity through a fictionalized story of Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) gathering to celebrate Clay’s victory against Sonny Liston. Amazon bought worldwide rights after a bidding war this summer.
Source: IndieWire film