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February 2, 2020

‘The Assistant,’ Oscar Short Films, and Subtitles Rule Specialized Box Office

The awards titles still hold strong: “1917” is now in wide release, while “Parasite” and “Jojo Rabbit” stand out. However, new performers are starting to show up just as fresh blood is needed.

Among these is the annual compendium of short-film nominees, which launched with a nationwide release that earned more than $1 million. + start nationally, on par with past showcases. And several subtitled films debuted with respectable initial numbers.

Top limited opener is “The Assistant” (Bleecker Street), which had a promising New York/Los Angeles start ahead of what will be an elevated national expansion ahead of early 2020 specialized releases.

“Into the Absence” (Oscar nominated documentary short)

Opening

2020 Oscar-Nominated Short Films (Magnolia)

$1,100,000 in 460 theaters; PTA: $2,413

One unintended consequence of the shortened Oscar calendar was compressing the time that the annual Oscar shorts programs could play before the awards. (It’s hard to put this together before nominees are known). That resulted in a wider initial break, with the total gross higher for the opening than last year. The two-weekend release before the awards might depress the ultimate total, but this remains a strong result.

What comes next: At least one more strong weekend, with some afterlife as well.

The Assistant (Bleecker Street) Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Telluride 2019, Sundance 2020

$84,702 in 4 theaters; PTA: $21,176

The best limited opening so far this year at a time when most distributors prefer to hold off until after Sundance and the Oscars, this is a decent start for Kitty Green’s compelling portrayal of the pressures a young woman faces as she witnesses exploitation and abuse in the film business. It was the top grosser at three of its four top-end New York/Los Angeles theaters, with the Angelika less than its potential because of online sales issues.

What comes next: With specialized theaters needing fresh films as the awards season ends, this initial result will give it elevated entree in the weeks ahead as it expands.

Beanpole (Kino Lorber) Metacritic: 84; Festivals include: Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, New York 2019

$10,515 in 1 theater; PTA: $10,500; Cumulative: $14,197

Kantimir Balagov’s Oscar International Film semi-finalist from Russia is the best-reviewed film early this year. The Leningrad World War II hospital-set story had a strong initial response at its exclusive Film Forum/New York location. One of the top international festival films of last year, this should see strong interest at higher-end specialized locations ahead.

What comes next: Los Angeles starts the expansion February 14, with 50 dates already set.

“The Traitor”

The Traitor (Sony Pictures Classics) Metacritic: 63; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2019

$25,530 in 3 theaters; PTA: $8,510

Italian Marco Bellochio ranks with Jean-Luc Godard and Martin Scorsese among pre-1970 directors still active. His 1980s-set Mafia heroin wars drama was another International film submission that fell short. It opened in three New York/Los Angeles theaters to an adequate initial result for a subtitled film without extra boosts from top reviews or awards. It actually started better than the nominated “Les Miserables” a few weeks ago.

What comes next: This will get a measured national expansion that should reach most markets.

Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words (Independent) Metacritic: 47

$74,718 in 23 theaters; PTA: $3,249

This documentary, which solely focuses on interviews with the controversial Supreme Court justice and his wife, played well enough to the converted in a multi-city release. Its best results were Friday, typical for conservative-audience films, but numbers show the strength from this niche marker.

What comes next: Expect further interest.

Incitement (Greenwich) Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Toronto 2019

$21,750 in 2 theaters; PTA: $10,875

Strong initial results for this drama about the path to the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Rabin. Its two New York dates showed results at the higher end for most subtitled films. Greenwich notes that Bill and Hillary Clinton attended one of the screenings and joined in an impromptu q/a session after.

What comes next: Los Angeles starts the national expansion this Friday.

Jose (Outsider) Metacritic: 73

$10,200 in 1 theater; PTA: $10,200

Another promising foreign-language opening. This Guatemalan film focuses on a 19-year-old gay youth struggling to survive in a violent city. Decent reviews thrust this into a good initial New York response.

What comes next: Los Angeles this Friday starts the rest of the national release.

Week Two

The Last Full Measure (Roadside Atttractions)

$519,110 in 617 theaters (+3); PTA: $841; Cumulative: $2,085,000

Around a 50% second weekend drop for this story about the quest to give a Vietnam war hero proper recognition.

“Color Out of Space”

RLJ Entertainment

Color Out of Space (RLJE)

$114,452 in 68 theaters (-13); PTA: $1,638; Cumulative: $576,558

A decent second weekend hold for the latest soon-to-reach cult status Nicolas Cage film. Richard Stanley’s sci-fi riff is well-positioned for additional interest when it reaches home venues at the end of this month.

Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)

1917 (Universal) Week 7

$9,660,000 in 3,987 theaters (+50); Cumulative: $119,250,000

Another strong weekend for Sam Mendes’ Oscar frontrunner. This still looks like it might reach $200 million with top wins. Even if not, it will be at the higher end of recent top contenders. The closest comparison is “The Revenant,” which at the end of its fourth wide weekend was at the same gross (although over a week earlier on the calendar, and more playtime left before awards).

Parasite (Universal) Week 17; also streaming

$1,628,000 in 1,060 theaters (no change); Cumulative: $33,398,000

Now finishing its fourth month, as with every weekend since its first in the top 15, and heading to perhaps as much as $40 million, the biggest specialized subtitled film since “Pan’s Labyrinth” is even more impressive along side its strong home viewing tally. It currently is #2 on iTunes rental charts. That’s huge.

Jojo Rabbit (Searchlight) Week 16

$1,400,000 in 1,173 theaters (+13); Cumulative: $28,000,000

Taika Waititi’s film could have been on mainstream home venues three weeks ago. Instead, Searchlight pushed for more theatrical revenue. This boosted a film that looked like it might peak at around $25 million to a certain $30 million+.

Uncut Gems (A24) Week 8

$473,056 in 492 theaters (+2); Cumulative: $48,422,000

No Oscar nominations? No problem, as A24’s biggest-grossing release (even without Canada, which like the rest of the world outside the U.S. debuted this on Netflix on Friday) continues to add to its total.

"Weathering With You"

“Weathering With You”

GKids

Weathering With You (GKids) Week 3

$404,845 in 224 theaters (-234); Cumulative: $7,273,000

This well-regarded Japanese animated film is quietly amassing an impressive early 2020 total. Starting as a mid-week event showing, it continues to show decent results at sustaining and new dates.

Bombshell (Lionsgate) Week 8

$325,000 in 478 theaters (-118); Cumulative: $30,854,000

Oscar nomination completionists have one more week to catch up with this multi-category entry.

The Song of Names (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 7

$75,349 in 140 theaters (-42); Cumulative: $823,589

Nearing the end of its modest run, this post-World War II drama is still getting the typical SPC wide play but to minimal results.

Pain and Glory (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 18; also streaming

$67,253 in 59 theaters (-9); Cumulative: $4,429,000

Another post-nomination beneficiary, with Pedro Almodovar’s film extending its margin above his recent releases, even as it offers home alternatives.

Also noted:

Les Miserables (Amazon) – $41,156 in 61 theaters;  Cumulative: $277,315

Clemency (Neon) – $28,765 in 60 theaters;  Cumulative: $313,111

 

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Source: IndieWire film

February 2, 2020

Memo to Distributors: Buy These 2020 Sundance Film Festival Movies

This year’s Sundance market was filled with questions, but buyers didn’t waste any time. (Browse the full list of acquisitions here.) By the end of the first weekend, it already featured the biggest sale in the festival’s history (“Palm Springs,” to Neon and Hulu) as well as the biggest documentary sale (“Boys State,” to Apple and A24). Countless other buzzy projects landed homes at companies ranging from Searchlight (“The Night House”) to Sony Pictures Classics (“Truffle Hunters,” “I Carry You With Me”) and Magnolia (“The Fight,” “Assassins”). Nevertheless, with a lineup this vast, even the most aggressive distributors can only move so fast — and many of this year’s gems remain homeless. Here are the ones we think deserve to sell ASAP.

“Black Bear”

Aubrey Plaza and Christopher Abbott appear in Black Bear by Lawrence Michael Levine, an official selection of the NEXT program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Rob Leitzell.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited

“Black Bear”

Sundance

Lawrence Michael Levine’s razor-sharp comedy “Black Bear” is a big step forward for the indie stalwart: a clever, twisted black comedy that skewers both contemporary culture and the film industry in two distinctly different (but related) parts. Fans of Levine’s wife Sophia Takal’s work will vibe to what Levine’s throwing down, as “Black Bear” would make a hell of a companion piece to Takal’s “Always Shine” (which Levine wrote and appeared in). Both films involve stories about creative types pulled into dark spaces while stuck in the middle of nature’s great splendor. Levine is gifted with three game performers in stars Christopher Abbott, Aubrey Plaza, and Sarah Gadon, assembled here as a long-time couple and an unexpected interloper (and no, our resistance to saying who plays who is entirely on purpose; such is the wicked pleasure of Levine’s feature). To say much more about the script-flipping that happens halfway through the film would be to rob audiences of a true delight, but it’s a story-expanding trick that allows the film, its big ideas, and its performers to dig even deeper. A clever distributor looking for an indie comedy toplined by some of the festival world’s favorite performers could have some major fun with the film, which often defines simple explanations but is a total scream with an engaged audience. —KE

Sales Contact: CAA

“Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets”

Michael Martin in "Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets"

Michael Martin in “Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets”

At first glance, “Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets” unfolds as a brilliant work of cinema verite. Bill and Turner Ross’ boozy hangout movie captures the last raucous night at the Roaring Twenties, a grimy bar on the outskirts of the Vegas strip where various inebriated outcasts bury their sorrows in a blur of anger and poetic laments. It’s late 2016, and with the presidential election about to change the world, the pub serves as a fascinating microcosm of America’s fractured, browbeaten underbelly on the verge of self-destruction.

But here’s the thing. The Roaring Twenties is in New Orleans, not Vegas, and the characters populating its interior didn’t just wander in. Though nothing in the movie acknowledges as much, the Ross brothers cast people to populate the bar, recording the drunken antics of their chosen performers throughout a debaucherous night. The result is both a grand cinematic deception and a bold filmmaking experiment from two of the most intriguing directors working in non-fiction today. Tapping into a kind of alienation to which much of 21st Century America can relate, “Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets” may not be the straight-faced documentary it looks like, but it’s a sober-eyed document of our times nonetheless. The movie would work wonders in the hands of a savvy distributor able to play up its fact-versus-fiction concept while presenting its raucous narrative as the crowdpleaser everyone can enjoy. —EK

Sales Contact: Cinetic

“The Dissident”

“The Dissident”

Director Bryan Fogel’s followup to Oscar-winner “Icarus” makes up for its conventional approach with the pressing nature of its subject. When Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, the global outrage was instantaneous. Nevertheless, a year and a half later, the murky circumstances behind his death remain a source of constant speculation, and despite the Saudi Arabian government’s decision to execute several unidentified men for the crime, it remains unclear just how much justice has been served. Fogel’s somber, eye-opening account works overtime to correct the record, with explosive revelations about Saudi hackers targeting exiled activists with direct links to Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS, as he’s often known, seems to have played a key role in hacking Jeff Bezos’ phone). “The Dissident” is both a continuation of Khashoggi’s work and a trenchant exposé of the forces that conspired to take him down; it’s essential viewing that deserves a distributor with the guts to take on its target before more damage can be done. —EK

Sales Contact: UTA

“Farewell Amor”

Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, Zainab Jah, and Jayme Lawson appear in Farewell Amor by Ekwa Msangi, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Bruce Francis Cole.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“Farewell Amor”

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Bruce Francis Cole.

The reunification of war-torn families is a stirring and familiar tale, but Ekwa Msangi has a different take: What happens the morning after, when people long separated by circumstance must contend with each other and who they have become? “Farewell Amor” is a story that’s been hiding in plain sight, and this directorial debut announces Msangi as a fresh new voice. The cast also deserves note: It’s the feature debut of Jayme Lawson as a teen who can communicate lifetimes with an eyeroll; she’s also a stunning dancer, and will be featured in next year’s “The Batman.” Ugandan actor Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine (“The Chi”) creates empathy as Walter, a hard-working cabdriver who’s confused and overwhelmed when his dreams come true, and Zaniab Jah (“Deep State,” “Homeland”), as a long-suffering wife and mother, understands the complexity of immigration first hand. (She emigrated from Sierra Leone to the UK as a child.) “Farewell Amor” takes an emotional tale and delivers it with honesty and without melodrama. While this is the work of a first-time filmmaker, it also represents a ground-floor opportunity: We will hear much more from Ekwa Msangi in the years to come. —DH

Sales Contact: Film Constellation (international), Endeavor Content (North America)

“On the Record”

On the Record

“On the Record”

Omar Mullick/Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Let’s get the messy stuff out of the way: Just days before its scheduled Sundance premiere, executive producer Oprah Winfrey pulled her support (and its accompanying Apple TV+ deal) from Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s latest searing exploration of sexual assault, leaving the documentary (and its subjects, many of whom lay bare horrifying details about their alleged assaults in the film) open to serious questions (and plenty of derision). Yet the vast majority of people who saw the film at Sundance walked away with a different set of questions, few of which centered on the veracity of the claims or Dick and Ziering’s methodology, mainly: why the hell did Oprah abandon this project? The film is primarily centered around the accusations leveled at Russell Simmons by former Def Jam A&R executive Drew Dixon in a 2017 New York Times article, which included similar claims of sexual assault by two other women. That article was meticulously veted, and Dick and Ziering’s film only adds more evidence to the many accusations against Simmons, from Dixon and elsewhere. The film also bravely (and smartly) expands its reach to touch upon other issues related to reporting sexual misconduct within the music industry, which has proven to be more resistant to change than the film world, and what it means that so many of Simmons’ alleged victims are black. —KE

Sales Contact: UTA

“The Mole Agent”

A still from The Mole Agent by Maite Alberdi, an official selection of the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Alvaro Reyes.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“The Mole Agent”

There’s a certain immersive thrill that comes from documentaries that hide themselves, and “The Mole Agent” epitomizes that appeal. Chilean director Maite Alberdi’s delightful character study unfolds as an intricate spy thriller, in which a sweet-natured 83-year-old widower infiltrates a nursing home at the behest of a private detective. The plan goes awry with all kinds of comical and touching results, so well-assembled within a framework of fictional tropes that it begs for an American remake. But as much as such a product might appeal to companies hungry for content, it would be redundant from the outset, because “The Mole Agent” is already one of the most heartwarming spy movies of all time — a rare combination of genres that only works so well because it sneaks up on you. This movie works for many audiences, young and old, with a range of sensibilities; a savvy distributor (and one capable of navigating a tricky situation with the film’s broadcast rights) would be able to transform “The Mole Agent” into the word-of-mouth phenomenon it deserves to be. —EK

Sales Contact: Dogwoof

“The Nowhere Inn”

Annie Clark and Carrie Brownstein appear in The Nowhere Inn by Bill Benz, an official selection of the Midnight program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Minka Farthing Kohl.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“The Nowhere Inn”

Some 40 years after “This is Spinal Tap,” the prospect of another mockumentary on self-involved rock stars might not sound so appealing. Fortunately, “The Nowhere Inn” goes beyond the call of duty with a mesmerizing seriocomic descent into the madness of modern fame. This unclassifiable whatsit from singer-songwriter St. Vincent and BFF Carrie Brownstein works overtime to reinvent itself every step of the way, in a hilarious (if sometimes baffling) means of illustrating its outré point. On its surface, “The Nowhere Inn” centers on St. Vincent’s road trip as she struggles to reconcile her onstage persona with her more grounded identity as Annie Clark. It’s a journey that’s absurd and eerie, ridiculous and deep. Pitched somewhere between traditional rockumentary tropes and a heap of zany Adult Swim shorts, it dips into the deadpan folksy satire of Brownstein’s “Portlandia” before veering into a shapeshifting psychological thriller worthy of vintage De Palma. Fans of St. Vincent’s vivid rock compositions won’t find much new information about her persona, but the movie provides a welcome extension of her artistry nonetheless — and should win her some new fans as a result. A smart distributor would be able to bring “Nowhere Inn” to anyone eager to get their St. Vincent and/or Brownstein fix while exploiting the weirder aspects of the narrative to craft a midnight-movie phenomenon. —EK

Sales Contact: Endeavor/Paradigm

“The Painter and the Thief”

A still from The Painter and the Thief by Benjamin Ree, an official selection of the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Barbora Kysilkova.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“The Painter and the Thief”

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Director Benjamin Ree just happened to be researching art thefts in Norway when two of painter Barbora Kysilkova’s new works were stolen from an art gallery. When Kysilkova sees her thief, a drug addicted Karl-Bertil Nordland, in the courthouse and decides she wants to paint him, it sparks an intense, rollercoaster relationship between two lost souls. The movie oscillates between their dueling perspectives as it dives deeper into the nature of their bond and what it says about the way we tell our own stories. It’s a relationship being performed for the camera to some degree — but the magnetic pull between these two fascinating characters is captured with such raw intimacy, vulnerability, and formal beauty that it transcends the characters’ own desire to control the narrative. With Ree there from day one, we watch as Barbora and Bertil bond over three years, resulting in a twisty yarn that’s deeply engaging throughout. A surprising two-sided detective story, “The Painter and the Thief” has the potential to become a genuine word-of-mouth discovery however it gets out into the world. —CO

Sales Contact: Autlook Films

“Time”

A still from Time by Ursula Garrett Bradley, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“Time”

For those who have followed Garrett Bradley’s work over the last few years, this Sundance breakout moment is as deserved as it is inevitable. In telling the story of Fox Rich’s arc toward activism – fighting to get her husband out of jail while raising their six children – Bradley has found the perfect partner and canvas for her unique political poetry. A story of a seemingly impossible love, “Time” is a film stripped down to its cinematic and spiritual essence, allowing the audience an emotional window into the deep pain of our rotting justice system and the resilience it demands to survive it. Weaving Rich’s treasure trove of DV home movies with her own distinct black and white compositions, Bradley finds a structure that lets Rich’s story flow like water. By tapping into a major social justice issue through an exciting and fresh cinematic lens, “Time” stands a good chance at becoming one of the year’s genuine breakouts.  —CO

Sales Contact: Cinetic

“Tesla”

Ethan Hawke appears in Tesla by Michael Almereyda, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“Tesla”

Cara Howe

Before the lights went down at the world premiere of “Tesla,” writer-director Michael Almereyda said that his unconventional biopic of the famously enigmatic futurist was inspired by “Derek Jarman, Henry James, and certain episodes of ‘Drunk History.’” He wasn’t kidding. What starts as an earnest (if lyrical) profile of the man who invented Elon Musk soon explodes into something more appropriately postmodern when Nikola Tesla (Ethan Hawke) and Thomas Edison (Kyle MacLachlan) get into a heated ice cream fight, and a woman’s voice comes over the soundtrack to inform us that it probably didn’t happen this way.

Working from a script that he first wrote in 1983 (and has obviously updated since), “Hamlet” director Almereyda reunites with his favorite leading man for a scientist biopic so anachronistic and unmoored that it makes his “Experimenter” seem like a Ken Burns documentary by comparison. “Tesla” adheres to the same kind of emotional logic as that 2015 effort, likewise retrofitting a playful structure over the life of a decidedly serious man. “Experimenter” was a tough sell — grossing only $224,145 worldwide — but an engaged distributor should have no trouble surprising that with “Tesla.” Between the current value of the inventor’s brand, an increasingly broad interest in his life, and a handful of ultra-memeable scenes that should drive plenty of interest long after the film leaves theaters, Almereyda’s latest could spark a tidy profit in the right hands. —DE

Sales Contact: Millenium Films

“Shirley”

Elisabeth Moss and Odessa Young appear in Shirley by Josephine Decker, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Thatcher Keats.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“Shirley”

When the news first broke that “Madeline’s Madeline” filmmaker Josephine Decker would be making a starry movie about the author Shirley Jackson, it was hard not to be disappointed (or at least caught by surprise) that one of the most feral, elastic, and vividly singular artists of contemporary American cinema was following her first masterpiece with something that might be classified as a biopic. Shudder. Not to worry: For one thing, the sawtoothed and delirious “Shirley” is no more of a biopic than “Bright Star,” “An Angel at My Table,” or “Shakespeare in Love.” For another, the best elements of this movie — its poisoned eros, its secrets in shallow focus, its steadfast determination to distill the “thrillingly horrible” process of a young woman’s self-awakening — conspire to embarrass the idea that Decker wouldn’t be able to explore her truth in someone else’s fiction.

Adapted from the Susan Scarf Merrell novel of the same name, Decker’s film takes place sometime after “The Lottery” has become the most controversial story ever published in The New Yorker, as a young woman named Rose (Odessa Young) and her academic husband (Logan Lerman) come to stay with Jackson and her menacing husband Stanley (Michael Stuhlbarg) for the semester. Comfortably inhabiting all sorts of haggard makeup that she wears like a layer of cobwebs, Elisabeth Moss embodies the author as an irritable grandma who’s been cooped up for long enough to haunt her own house. But Rose unlocks something in the reclusive writer, and vice-versa, and these two “lost girls” make each other visible in unexpected ways. No simple portrait of empowerment, “Shirley” is a dizzying, complex, and frequently toxic piece of work that may prove a harder sell than its cast and subject first suggest. But there could be ample rewards for anyone who takes up the challenge, as the film will surely resonate with readers, continue to pick up rave reviews, and stir well-deserved awards buzz for its actors, creative team, and transportive below-the-line talent (especially cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen). —DE

Sales Contact: Cornerstone Films

“The Social Dilemma”

“The Social Dilemma”

Perhaps the single most lucid, succinct, and profoundly terrifying analysis of social media ever created for mass consumption, Jeff Orlowski’s “The Social Dilemma” does for Facebook what his previous documentaries “Chasing Ice” and “Chasing Coral” did for climate change (read: bring compelling new insight to a familiar topic while also scaring the absolute shit out of you). Constructed from interviews with the very concerned people who designed these platforms, and laced with funny scripted segments that illustrate the effects of social media on a more life-sized scale, Orlowski’s well-argued doc breaks down how a free-to-use business model has become an existential crisis for all civilization, and why logging off might be the only way to save us from ourselves.

While “The Social Dilemma” is relevant to every person on the planet, and should be legible enough to even the most technologically oblivious types (the Amish, the U.S. Senate, and so forth), its target demographic is very online types who think they understand the information age too well to be taken advantage of — zoomers, millennials, and screen junkies of any stripe who wouldn’t have the faintest interest in a finger-wagging documentary about how they should spend more time outside. The question for potential distributors is “how do you reach them?” A traditional theatrical release has its appeal, as the promise of people sitting in a dark and room and watching the same content together would help resist how the internet has siloed us all into our own realities. On the other hand, this is a movie that needs to hit its audience where they live: on the internet. But any algorithmically-driven platform would be too hypocritical, so Netflix and other major streamers are out. Unless… Netflix isn’t hypocritical enough. Apple could always be an option, but it would be amazing if Orlowski could find a financially sensible way to release “The Social Dilemma” directly on Twitter and Facebook. Post it as an endlessly segmented story on Instagram! Release it as 200 Tik Toks! Break the internet once and for all. —DE

Sales Contact: Submarine/UTA

“Worth”

Michael Keaton and Stanley Tucci appear in Worth by Sara Colangelo, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance

“Worth”

Sundance

One part character study, one part journey through bureaucratic bullshit and political machinations, Sara Colangelo’s sturdy legal drama “Worth” brings to life the story of lawyer Ken Feinberg (Michael Keaton) and his seemingly unwinnable mission to compensate the victims of 9/11. Portrayed by Keaton in an unflashy, wholly impressive turn, Feinberg is a reason-driven legal wonk who, despite not believing that anything can ever be truly fair, still thinks the law and rational thinking can get people at least part of the way there. He’s joined by the ever-reliable Amy Ryan as his slightly more emotive legal partner and Stanley Tucci as a heartbroken widower who sees flaws in the so-called ” September 11th Victim Compensation Fund” that hurt more than help the very people it aims to serve.

Along with a supporting cast made up of less well-known standounts, including Laura Benati, Chris Tardio, Tate Donovan, and Shunori Ramanathan, the film offers up plenty of sterling acting to bolster its very human stakes. It’s not just the appearance of Keaton that makes the film — only Colangelo’s third and already her best — feel like a companion piece to Best Picture winner “Spotlight,” it’s the intelligent writing, deeply emotional center, and disinterest in dumbing things down for an adult audience that set it a cut above. Any distributor looking for a satisfying and smart mid-tier drama with some serious awards potential would do themselves a big favor by snapping the film up right now, and ramping it up through the 2020 awards season. —KE

Sales Contact: MadRiver Pictures

Source: IndieWire film

February 2, 2020

Sundance Has a New Leader: Tabitha Jackson Will Replace John Cooper as Festival Director

The Sundance Film Festival has a new leader. Tabitha Jackson, who spent six years at the Sundance Institute as director of the documentary film program, will take over from outgoing festival director John Cooper at the end of this year’s edition. Jackson previously worked at Channel 4 Television in London before joining Sundance, and brings 25 years of experience in the arts and non-fiction film. She is the first woman, the first person of color, and the first person born outside the United States to head the festival. Sundance announced the news Saturday, to coincide with the 2020 awards ceremony.

Jackson will report to Sundance Institute CEO Keri Putnam and oversee director of programming Kim Yutani and her team as well as the operations of the Park City gathering, which brought 125,000 people to the cozy ski town for its 36th edition this year. Jackson finalized her deal for the position during the 2020 edition, while Cooper celebrated the end of his 11-year run.

“You walk around with new eyes thinking how beautifully everything is running and hoping you can live up to everything that’s already been created,” Jackson said in an interview this week ahead of the announcement. “I’m looking forward to digging in with the team to see what they made of this festival and what opportunities they see going forward. My head is full. That’s for sure.”

Jackson’s hiring follows an extensive search that began last summer. Putnam said she received 700 applications for the position, and opened up the process to a panel of board members and colleagues to interview finalists by mid-fall. “While certainly not every applicant was qualified, we ended up with a great pool,” Putnam said. “I wanted to make sure we had an inclusive process. Tabitha just kept rising to the top.”

Putnam ticked off several attributes that cemented the decision. “Her orientation to lead with what artists need right now was really important,” she said. “The head of the Sundance Film Festival leads a curatorial team, and Tabitha has great taste. And there was her leadership. I’ve watched her and managed her as she’s led a team for six years, but also watched how she’s inspired across the Institute. She respects the people she works with and shares a vision that actually goes beyond the people in the organization to inspire stakeholders across the field.”

For her part, Jackson said she had settled into a role as Sundance’s documentary guru, where she was widely respected by the non-fiction community. “I was perfectly happy doing the job I was currently doing and engaging with artists in the messy business of documentary filmmaking,” she said. She had started to get involved with programming off-screen events at the festival when a producer in the business asked her if she planned to apply for the position. “Then it was like a little brain worm,” Jackson said. “What won out was what gets me out of bed in doing this work. Arts as a public good and as a catalytic force as a deeply necessary thing in understanding the human condition. Why wouldn’t I want to be given the trust to run a festival like this, which is a huge opportunity to direct people’s attention to exciting new voices?”

And there was one other factor: “Not to throw my hat in the ring would’ve been cowardly.”

The role certainly brings its challenges. As IndieWire reported last summer, Sundance faces serious questions about its future that epitomize many of the larger issues in the independent film community. As 83-year-old founder Robert Redford recedes from serving as the festival’s figurehead, declining box office and ever-changing models for financing and distributing films continue to fuel uncertainty about the role Sundance can play in supporting films with the Institute’s labs and festival programming alike.

Jackson acknowledged the daunting task ahead. “I think we need to find a consistent, stable, safe place for this work to be shown and championed,” Jackson said. “The community aspect of Sundance is notable. In doing this difficult work, and the vagaries of the marketplace being purely about sales, we think our role is having this strong community, inspirational work, hungry audiences, and an industry that feels we are still resonating with what they need. There’s a lot we can’t control, but those are the things we can and should.”

Jackson is the latest Sundance veteran to take on the director role after Cooper, who held 18 jobs at the festival over 20 years before replacing longtime festival head Geoff Gilmore in 2009. Sundance has a reputation for promoting from within, though Putnam considered many outside candidates for the role. “There were a lot of people who had great ideas, but a lot them were nuts-and-bolts ideas,” Putnam said. “Tabitha had them, too. But she also had a charisma and vision, humor and depth of connection to the purpose we served. I looked inside and out and chose the candidate I thought was best for the job together with a really thoughtful group of stakeholders.” She added that, compared to Cooper’s 30 years at the festival, Jackson was a relative newcomer to the Sundance world. “I hired Tabitha from outside six years ago,” she said.

In her role as director of the Documentary Film Program, Jackson doled out grants to countless filmmakers while overseeing the Institute’s Edit and Story Lab. These efforts ingratiated her to the documentary film community in one of its biggest growth periods, though they differ from the vast practical challenges of overseeing a massive festival. Putnam shrugged off those concerns, citing director of operations Ralph Rivera and Yutani for their management experience. “The whole group who runs the festival already has a great thing going,” Putnam said.

Tabitha Jackson at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival

Sundance

At the same time, Putnam said she was intrigued by Jackson’s off-screen programming at the festival. “She is extremely interested in the live event,” Putnam said. “The care and attention she will pay to every detail to that is going to stem from her deep commitment to making sure that the event itself reflects the values of the purpose of the festival.”

Jackson said her emphasis on “values” for the future of the festival came from an interview she conducted with Redford for the director position. “I asked him what he was looking for in the next festival director and he said a commitment to independence and embrace of change,” she said. “That was the founding vision. The animating impulse of the Institute and this festival was responding to certain conditions of the time, and although we’re responding to other conditions, there are certain similarities.” She added: “I don’t want to get into the details before we establish what the bigger picture is.”

Jackson brings a lively flair to the position, reflecting an energy unique to the documentary community. That puts her in line with Cooper, whose giddiness and down-to-earth attitude marked a dramatic shift from his straight-faced predecessor, and loosened up the Sundance environment for much of its creative community. While Sundance did not make Cooper available for comment on Jackson’s hiring, he addressed the imminent announcement earlier in the festival. When asked what he hoped his replacement would bring to the role, Cooper said, “Them being as silly as me,” and chuckled. “I do think I set people at ease here,” he said. “I tend to not take a little of the important shine off of stuff, but I let the event feel real.”

Putnam singled out Jackson’s own leadership traits. “There’s a kind of electricity to Tabitha in the questions she asks and the provocations she’s willing to bring,” Putnam said. “She’s iconoclastic, and I like that.” (At a farewell event for Cooper during the festival, Jackson popped up in a video tribute to the outgoing director to lip-synch a few lines from “Baby, Please Don’t Go.”)

Jackson was honored by DOC NYC at its Visionaries Tribute in 2018, where she invoked her unique upbringing. “As an adopted mixed-race child of divorced parents raised in a small village in rural England, I’ve come to enjoy inhabiting the edge of things, the in-between space,” she said. “It began as a survival mechanism. It’s now my most comfortable place. But now, tucked under the wing of Sundance, enfolded in the capacious bosom of the documentary community, I feel gratefully and perhaps for the first time that I’ve found my family and my home.”

Jackson’s hiring coincides with a notable uptick of interest in the documentary market, particularly from deep-pocketed streamers. At this year’s festival, “Boys State” sold to Apple and A24 in a joint deal reported at $10 million, the highest amount spent on a documentary in the festival’s history. (Some insiders said the actual figure was much higher.) However, Putnam downplayed Jackson’s specific documentary experience as central to her new role. “I wouldn’t want to convey that this is some sort of message about documentary suddenly having greater emphasis for us,” Putnam said.

Jackson stressed that point in a separate interview. “Of course my background is nonfiction, but in this role, the commitment is to independent cinema,” she said. “The money that’s coming into the non-fiction field is good in terms of sustainability. What we want to do, therefore, is to also provide a space and support for work that the market doesn’t know it wants yet, and for makers to come from particular perspectives talking about things you may not know you want to see.”

Nevertheless, Jackson beamed about a legacy of supporting more expansive approaches to documentary. “The stranger elements of stories are getting into theaters and finding wide distribution on streamers,” she said. “It can make people who thought they’d never watched a documentary open to it.” She was especially proud of the Institute’s support for documentarian Remell Ross, whose expressionistic “Hale County, This Morning, This Evening” premiered at the festival and landed an Oscar nomination last year. The movie originally received support from Sundance’s Art of Nonfiction Fellowship. “In terms of experimental work getting to a mainstream moment, I was particularly pleased with that,” Jackson said.

"Hale County This Morning, This Evening"

“Hale County This Morning, This Evening”

Jackson walked a more delicate line than her predecessor when discussing Sundance’s marketplace, which Cooper tended to regard with ambivalence. “If nothing ever sold at the festival, it would mean we’re not resonating in an industry that we deeply need to further this storytelling for different audiences,” Jackson said. “When the stories are written about the number of deals that are being done — which is relevant in the sense that it’s an expression of how this work might meet audiences — our definitions of success or failure are not necessarily the market definitions alone.”

Jackson’s 2020 festival experience was unique on several fronts. In addition to finalizing the deal for her new job, she got married on the first day of the festival to filmmaker and documentary cinematographer Kristen Johnson, whose intimate diary film “Dick Johnson Is Dead” premiered at the festival. Jackson admitted that it would be the last time Johnson, whose “Cameraperson” was a Sundance breakout in 2016, would screen at the festival during her new wife’s tenure. “Kristen Johnson is an incredible filmmaker and legendary cinematographer,” Jackson said. “Unfortunately, because we just got married — which is the good news — we’ve made the agreement that she can’t submit work to the festival, which is deeply distressing, but definitely the right thing to do.”

Fortunately, Jackson added, she felt there was no shortage of talent at her programming disposal.

“Our pathos is also about elevating and amplifying voices that we feel should be brought to people’s attention,” she said. “The festival is not just a marketplace; it’s a gathering place. It is the public square.”

Source: IndieWire film

February 2, 2020

Sundance Film Festival 2020 Award Winners: ‘Minari’ Takes Grand Jury Prize

The 2020 Sundance Film Festival is coming to a close in Park City, and that means that this year’s award winners have been announced. The awards spotlight standout films across the festival’s various categories, including U.S. films spanning fiction and documentary, as well as foreign-made films, and NEXT and Midnight selections.

This year’s fest brought a bounty of riches that are continuing to attract buyers, including high-profile pickups from Neon and Hulu (“Palm Springs”), Sony Pictures Classics (“I Carry You With Me,” “Charm City Kids”), Searchlight Pictures (“The Night House”), and more. The 2020 Sundance Film Festival broke a number of records, from diversity in its programming to sales. Culled from 15,000 submissions, the 2020 edition offered up a range of timely, boundary-pushing documentary and narrative storytelling, promising new voices and satisfying new heights from established filmmakers. (Check out IndieWire’s roundup of the best 15 films out of Sundance here.)

Netflix, which owned this year’s Academy Awards nominations, is the distributor that came to the festival with the most titles, including the high-profile Taylor Swift documentary “Miss Americana” from director Lana Wilson as well as Sundance regular Dee Rees’ latest effort, the Anne Hathaway-starring Joan Didion adaptation “The Last Thing He Wanted” (which was unfortunately excoriated by critics).

Still, there are plenty of other buzzed-about titles up for grabs to the highest bidder from across Sundance’s sections, like “Shirley,” a psychodrama from “Madeline’s Madeline” director Josephine Decker starring Elisabeth Moss and Michael Stuhlbarg as author Shirley Jackson and her husband. Meanwhile, Miranda July debuted her first film in nearly a decade, “Kajillionaire,” currently in final talks for distribution from A24. Hulu has set its sights on Justin Simien’s ’80s-set horror satire “Bad Hair.” Elsewhere, the festival’s most controversial title, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s “On the Record,” focused on a former music executive’s accusations of sexual assault against Russell Simmons, and it’s still on the prowl for a buyer after former executive producer Oprah Winfrey backed out of the project, which was set for release on Apple TV+. That distribution deal is no longer.

Sundance 2020 winners are listed below.

Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize: “Tesla”

Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing: Carla Guttierez and Affonso Gonçalves

Producers Award: Huriyyah Muhammad, “Farewell Amor”

Short Film Grand Jury Prize: “So What If the Goats Die,” Sofia Alaoui

NEXT Audience Award: “I Carry You With Me,” Heidi Ewing

NEXT Innovator Award: “I Carry You With Me,” Heidi Ewing

World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing: “Softie,” Mila Aung-Thwin, Sam Soko, and Ryan Mullins

World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography: “Acasa, My Home,” Mircea Topoleanu and Radu Ciorniciuc

World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling: “The Painter and the Thief,” Benjamin Ree

Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary: Iryna Tsilyk, “The Earth Is Blue as an Orange”

World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary: Hubert Sauper, “Epicentro”

World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting: Ben Whishaw, “Surge”

World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Visionary Filmmaking: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, “This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection”

World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Screenplay: Fernanda Valadez and Astrid Rondero, “Identifying Features”

Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic: Maïmouna Doucouré, “Cuties”

World Cinema Grand Jury Prize World Dramatic: “Yalda, A Night for Forgiveness,” Massoud Bakhshi

Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary: “The Reason I Jump”

Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic: “Identifying Features”

Audience Award: U.S. Documentary: “Crip Camp”

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker: Arthur Jones, “Feels Good Man”

Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic: “Minari,” Lee Isaac Chung

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, and Eli Despres, “The Fight”

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Innovation in Nonfiction Storytelling: Kirsten Johnson, “Dick Johnson Is Dead”

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing: Tyler H. Walk, “Welcome to Chechnya”

U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast: “Charm City Kids”

U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Auteur Filmmaking: Josephine Decker, “Shirley”

U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Neorealism: Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Edson Oda, “Nine Days”

Directing Award: U.S. Documentary: Garrett Bradley, “Time”

Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic: Radha Blank, “The 40-Year-Old Version”

U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary: “Boys State,” Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine

U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic: “Minari,” Lee Isaac Chung.

Source: IndieWire film

February 1, 2020

Concordia Studio Took ‘Boys State’ From Two-Page Pitch to Record-Breaking $12 Million Sundance Deal

As audiences embrace documentaries for their gripping and bingeable truths, another trend has developed in parallel: Oscar-winning documentary directors who launch studios devoted to producing multiple high-quality nonfiction works. There’s Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Prods., Morgan Neville’s Tremolo Prods., and now there’s Concordia Studio, launched by Davis Guggenheim (“Waiting For ‘Superman’”) with Jonathan King (and backing from Laurene Powell Jobs’ social impact-focused Emerson Collective).

However, filmmakers who have worked with Concordia say the company is unique: Its principals have such faith in directors’ vision, skill, and instincts that they will back riskier documentaries that can’t promise what the movie will be when they’re done.

“We said, ‘Look, we’ve got these great kids but we don’t know what’s going to happen in this one-week experience,’” said Jesse Moss (“The Overnighters”) who co-directed “Boys State” with Amanda McBaine. Their documentary focused on three high school students as they navigated the politics and personal struggles that surface during a mock government program. “But they took a chance and they saw that opportunity. I’ve never in 25 years of documentary experience had somebody upfront be willing to take the risk and finance a verite film like this — that’s extraordinary to me.”

Concordia funded development of “Boys State” based on a two-page pitch, just months before the annual Texas program was set to begin. The risk paid off: It premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews, and left with a reported $12 million sale to Apple and A24 — a new record for a Sundance documentary.

Although Concordia announced its launch right before the festival (complete with an animated logo designed by Language Media, the same group that created the A24), its team has been in place for two years and already has a 2020 Oscar nomination for producing Laura Nix’s short “Walk Run Cha Cha Cha,” one of five it produced last year. (Concordia’s first credited title was “The Price of Free,” which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance 2018.)

Nicole Stott, executive VP nonfiction, came to Concordia from Passion Pictures, producer of the Oscar-nominated documentary “Searching for Sugarman;” Shannon Dill, executive VP nonfiction physical production, had just produced the Oscar-winning “Free Solo;” and Rahdi Taylor, executive VP of Concordia’s nonfiction artists in residence program, spent a decade as head of the Sundance Documentary Fund, where she supported five Academy Award-nominated films, including “Hale County This Morning This Evening.”

“People talk about brand, but we’re focused on films,” said president of nonfiction Jonathan Silberberg, who produced the 2011 Oscar-nominated documentary “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory.” “That’s the only way we know how to think.”

All told, Concordia had four films in Sundance’s US Documentary Competition: “Boys State,” “Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets,” “Time,” and “A Thousand Cuts.”

While the company financed and produced “Time,” director Garrett Bradley said some of the company’s most valuable support came on an emotional, creative, and professional level. Like how they connected her with editor Gabriel Rhodes (“Matangi/Maya/M.I.A”); previously, Bradley edited her own work.

“It wasn’t so much a company coming into finance, as it was really being able to identify areas of development that could help elevate my work. I think that was a crucial part of the process,” said Bradley, who was also Concordia’s first artist in residence. “It’s been incredible to be able to work with them in that capacity. I think they’re coming from a perspective that’s really creatively oriented and filmmaker oriented and tailored to each filmmaker.”

That ethos extends to the film’s subjects — or as Stott calls them, “collaborators.” “Time” subject Fox Rich and her family were on hand at Sundance for the film’s premiere, dressed to the nines, as Rich passionately explained how Bradley was the person she had been waiting for to help tell her story.

Bradley initially envisioned the film as a companion short to the New York Times Op-Docs Oscar-shortlisted “Alone,” which focused on Aloné Watts, whose boyfriend proposed to her when he was incarcerated. Rich is briefly featured in the short. But as shooting wrapped on “Time,” Rich provided Bradley with a trove of diary-style home movies that led Bradley to reconceptualize the film as a feature — Concordia was on board with the money and support needed to pull it off.

“When I laid eyes on Garrett, she was just such an amazing spirit,” Rich said. “It was kind of like love at first sight with her. She was just one of the hardest-working filmmakers I had seen. As we were telling Aloné’s story, I had been recording our story for 20 years, knowing that I wanted to be able to share with the world what my family had gone through because after we entered the system, I had clearly understood that I was not alone, that I was one of millions of families that were going through this experience. I think I just latched on to Garrett and was like ‘Please, please, pick up this story.’”

Concordia often gets involved in films early on, but Bill and Turner Ross’ “Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets” was an exception as Concordia provided a small investment near the film’s end stages. Executives say they couldn’t resist supporting the form-bending project and hoped the show of faith would encourage the brothers to work with Concordia again in a full-fledged collaboration.

Steven Garza, Jesse Moss, Rene Otero, Amanda McBaine, Ben Feinstein. Steven Garza, from left, director Jesse Moss, Rene Otero, director Amanda McBaine and Ben Feinstein pose for a portrait to promote the film "Boys State" at the Music Lodge during the Sundance Film Festival, in Park City, Utah2020 Sundance Film Festival - "Boys State" Portrait Session, Park City, USA - 24 Jan 2020

“Boys State” subjects Steven Garza, Rene Otero, and Ben Feinstein, with directors Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine.

Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Moss and McBaine said Concordia struck the perfect balance of “fast and slow” — an immediate greenlight, followed by rare patience during post production. When the filmmakers said they were done with the film, Concordia execs encouraged them to keep working on it.

Even now that the film is in the hands of Apple and A24, Stott said the collaboration will continue as Concordia works with the distributors to plan event screenings and help introduce the boys — now young men — to the world.

“It’s incredibly important to us, and to Jesse and Amanda, that those young men from the film are true collaborators in the next year of bringing this film to audiences,” Stott said. “These boys, a year-and-a-half later, they’ve changed, they have different perspectives. We want that to be part of the process. We want them to be talking about what that week meant for them … This is the most resonant year for the film to come out in terms of engaging younger voters and young people in the political debate.”

Currently in production is Questlove’s directorial debut, “Black Woodstock;” soon, more films and TV shows will move into production. (Concordia’s first series was Netflix’s three-part “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates,” which Guggenheim also directed.) Meanwhile, King is working on Concordia’s scripted slate.

“The reason why Jonathan joined with us and is a cofounder with me, is that we share the same idea, which is you can’t start with a business deal, you start with a great filmmaker and a great story that has to be told,” Guggenheim said. “Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, that’s the principle we share.”

Source: IndieWire film

January 31, 2020

Title Design Competition: 2019 SXSW Film Festival Selections [Video]

The Features and Episodic Premieres Lineup is here! While you wait for 2020 Shorts Program, revisit some of the Title Sequences that played at SXSW 2019.

The Title Design Competition is inspired by an essential part of the theatrical experience, these are works of art in their own right.

If you want to indulge in more shorts, take a look at our SXSW Film Festival Vimeo Channel.

2019 SXSW Title Design Competition Selections

A Handful of Dust / Company: Its Got Stealth / Title Designer: Jordan Turner

Aquaman / Company: Filmograph / Title Designers: Aaron Becker, Simon Clowes

Babylon Berlin / Title Designer: Saskia Marka

Black Panther Main on End Title Sequence / Company: Perception / Title Designers: John LePore, Russ Gautier, Justin Molush, Alex Rupert, Sekani Solomon

Bonanza Festival Titles 2018 / Company: Clemens Wirth Motion Design / Title Designer: Clemens Wirth

Bucketheads / Company: Its Got Stealth / Title Designer: Jordan Turner

Castle Rock / Company: Imaginary Forces / Title Designer: Jeremy Cox

Curtiz – Title Sequence / Company: JUNO11 Pictures / Title Designers: Emil Goodman, Tamás Yvan Topolánszky

Deadpool 2 Main Titles Sequence / Company: Method Studios / Title Designer: John Likens

La Casa de las Flores / Company: Diecinueve36 / Creative Director: Maribel Martinez

Lost In Space / Company: Imaginary Forces / Title Designer: Karin Fong

Mowgli / Company: MOMOCO / Title Designers: Nic Benns, Miki Kato

Novoland Eagle Flag / Company: Linmon Digital Images / Title Designer: Lei Han

OFFF CDMX Title Sequence / Company: Framestore / Title Designer: Sharon Lock

Personality / Title Designers: Ethem Cem, Enes Özenbaş

Phenoms / Company: Coat Of Arms / Creative Directors: Clara Lehmann, Jonathan Lacocque

Sacred Games / Company: Plexus Post / Title Designer: Vijesh Rajan

Semi Permanent 2018 – Opening Titles / Title Designer: Joyce N. Ho

Smoke / Company: Plexus / Title Designer: Yashoda Parthasarthy

Spider-Man Homecoming Main On End Titles / Company: Perception / Title Designers: John LePore, Doug Appleton, Chris Carboni, Handel Eugene

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Main on End Titles / Company: Alma Mater / Title Designers: Brian Mah, James Ramirez

Take Your Pills / Company: Blue Spill / Title Designers: Allison Brownmoore, Anthony Brownmoore, Joe Nowacki, Oliver Weinfeld

TEDx Sydney 2018: Humankind / Company: Substance / Title Designer: Scott Geersen

Touch of Class / Title Designer: Yorgos Karagiorgos

The Darkest Minds / Company: Imaginary Forces / Creative Director: Michelle Dougherty

Unspeakable / Title Designer: Harshit Desai

Veneno: The First Fall (Dominican Republic) / Company: La Visual Sonora / Title Designer: Marc Cordoba, MODAFOCA

Other Title Sequences that were part of the SXSW 2019 program, but are not yet available to watch on Vimeo include:

  • Game Night / Company: Aspect / Creative Director: Jon Berkowitz, Title Designer: Kimberly Tang
  • Motherland / Company: Picturemill / Title Designers: Cecilia DeJesus, William Lebeda
  • Villains / Company: Star Thrower Entertainment, The Realm / Title Designer: Matt Reynolds

Join Us for SXSW 2020

Discover what’s next in film with a 2020 SXSW Film Badge. From March 13-22, 2020, experience 10 days of conference sessions, screenings, exhibitions, networking events, mentor sessions, and much more. All attendees will receive primary entry to programming associated with their badge type, in addition to enjoying secondary access to most other SXSW events.

Sign up for SXSW Event Updates and read SXSW News for programming features, registration information, and more.

Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook for the latest SX coverage.

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The post Title Design Competition: 2019 SXSW Film Festival Selections [Video] appeared first on SXSW.

Source: SxSW Film

January 30, 2020

Beth B Discusses Her Retrospective on Lydia Lunch – SXSW Filmmaker In Focus

The 2020 SXSW Film Festival is almost here! Before you make your way down to Austin, TX, get to know films from our lineup a little bit better with our Filmmaker In Focus series.

Dive into our Q&A with director Beth B as she tells us about her film Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over, which will screen in 24 Beats Per Second.

In your own words, what does this film mean to you?

Beth B: As New York City’s preeminent No Wave icon from the late 1970s, Lunch has forged a lifetime of music and spoken word performance devoted to the utter right of any woman to indulge, seek pleasure, and to say “fuck you!” as loud as any man. In this time of endless attacks on women, this is a rallying cry to acknowledge the only thing that is going to bring us together: art, the universal salve to all of our traumas.

What motivated you to tell this story?

BB: I’ve known and worked with New York No Wave legend Lydia Lunch since the late ’70s when we broke boundaries, confronting audiences with uncensored poetry, music, and films. Reflecting on the groundbreaking defiance Lydia has personified for over 30 years, she is a survivor who creates a dialogue of universal truth through her music and spoken word performances.

In 1984, she penned the subversive and prescient spoken word piece Daddy Dearest, defying the gag order, and spoke out about the sexual abuse she suffered as a young girl at the hands of her father. Women and children have been compelled to hide the abuses perpetrated against them, and/or have been re-victimized for speaking out.

With the current explosion of women stepping out of their silence regarding sexual harassment in the workplace, Lunch continues to expose the patriarchy, sexual abuse, the cycle of violence, and corporate greed with stubborn resistance.

What do you want the audience to take away?

BB: My documentary films are social, political, and personal investigations — home movies focusing on people I know or have come to know. Lydia was 19 and I was 23 when we met in the late 70s New York music/film/art scene and brought our radical visions to the underground where we broke boundaries, simultaneously shocking and enticing our audiences with our uncensored music and films.

I want people to understand that voicing the unheard and seeing the unseen creates dialogue, community, and a place for self-knowledge and acceptance. There is power in creating and claiming a new vision of woman.

What were you doing when you found out you were coming to SXSW?

BB: I was furiously working on my film, trying to raise funds to finish the film, and received a beautiful email from Janet [Pierson].

What made you choose SXSW to showcase your film to the world?

BB: As Lydia Lunch – The War Is Never Over focuses on the music and life of Lydia Lunch, it seemed the perfect fit for SXSW. It is not only a music film, but has a powerful message about the times we are living in and the voices that need to be heard again and again. The platform that SXSW offers for filmmakers and musicians is unique. They also invited her to perform live, which showcases not only the film, but Lydia Lunch in the flesh.

Add Lydia Lunch – The War Is Never Over to your SXSW Schedule. Stay tuned as we share more interviews with our SXSW 2020 filmmakers!

Join Us for SXSW 2020

Discover what’s next in film with a 2020 SXSW Film Badge. From March 13-22, 2020, experience 10 days of conference sessions, screenings, exhibitions, networking events, mentor sessions, and much more. All attendees will receive primary entry to programming associated with their badge type, in addition to enjoying secondary access to most other SXSW events.

Sign up for SXSW Event Updates and read SXSW News for programming features, registration information, and more.

Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook for the latest SX coverage.

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Lydia Lunch – The War Is Never Over – Photo by Kathleen Fox

The post Beth B Discusses Her Retrospective on Lydia Lunch – SXSW Filmmaker In Focus appeared first on SXSW.

Source: SxSW Film

January 30, 2020

Stories to Celebrate Black History Month

Celebrate Black History Month by listening to stories of black identity, struggles, and excellence in America.

As a bonus, because February 2020 marks the 150th Anniversary of the 15th Amendment, we’ve put together a special collection featuring themes of representation, universal suffrage, and Civil Rights. The 15th Amendment, one of the cornerstones of Civil Rights, granted men of all races the right to vote in 1870.

Want even more stories? Sign up for our Story of the Week newsletter to discover a new voice every week.
 

The 150th Anniversary of the 15th Amendment

story


"I was 15 years of age when I first started having my own private sit-ins."

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Dion Diamond: Reflections on 60 Years of Civil Rights Activism

Dion Diamond recalls his activism and resistance, that began at the young age of 15. He shares how he got started challenging a segregated society while growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s, through sit ins and peaceful protests.

Originally aired January 12, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition. Read the full transcript here.

 

story


"I'm not so sure the Civil Rights Act would have been passed had there not been a St. Augustine"

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Remembering a Civil-Rights Swim-In

JT Johnson and Al Lingo were two of the several protesters who jumped into a “whites only” pool at the Monson Motor Lodge in St. Augustine, Florida. The protest escalated quickly, and is often remembered as a tipping point that led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

Originally aired January 18, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition. Read the full transcript here.

 

story


“I sat up in my bed and I was immediately engulfed in fear."

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Remembering the Assassination of Civil Rights Leader Edwin Pratt

Miriam Pratt recalls the assassination of her father Edwin Pratt, the head of the Seattle Urban League, who dedicated his life to fighting against employment, housing, and education discrimination.

Originally aired March 22, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition. Read the full transcript here.

 

story


"They intended to get all of us January the 10th, 1966."

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Remembering the KKK Killing of a Voting Rights Activist

During the 1960’s Vernon Dahmer dedicated his life to ensuring that African American persons had the right to vote, making him the target of many Ku Klux Klan hate crimes. Ellie and Bettie Dahmer reflect on the traumatic incident that resulted in the death of husband, father and Civil Rights Leader Vernon Dahmer.

Originally aired January 13, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition. Read the full transcript here.

 



A More Perfect Union

Theresa Borroughs reflects on her relentless efforts to become a registered voter, despite being of age, during the Jim Crow era in the rural South.

 

More Voices

story


"I truly think everyone should do what they can to sustain their country."

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Olivia J. Hooker, Pioneer and First Black Woman in the Coast Guard

Amongst her other achievements, Dr. Olivia J. Hooker was the part of the first class of African American women in the Coast Guard in 1944 during WWII, as part of the SPARS program.

 Read the full transcript here.

story


"It was like driving an automobile at a hundred miles an hour and running into a stone wall."

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Memories from an Air Force Test Volunteer

In the mid-1950s, before NASA existed, Alton Yates was part of a small group of Air Force volunteers who tested the effects of high speeds on the body. His contribution aided the process of sending Americans into space.

Originally aired August 29, 2014, on NPR’s Morning Edition. Read the full transcript here.

 



Driven

Wendell Scott, the first African American person to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, began his career in 1952, during the end of Jim Crow era. Despite not having the recognition, fame, or resources of his competitors, he won countless races, serving as an embodiment of perseverance and passion.

 

story


“Being in a place like that, I didn’t feel like we was human.”

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The Leesburg Stockade Girls

story


"When all the parents leave, it goes crazy…"

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“When all the parents leave, it goes crazy…”

story


"All I wanted to do was get revenge."

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“All I wanted to do was get revenge.”

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"My grandmother used to take my brother and myself to the south every summer…"

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“My grandmother used to take my brother and myself to the south every summer…”

Want even more stories? Sign up for our Story of the Week newsletter to discover a new voice every week.

Source: SNPR Story Corps

January 30, 2020

Why Go Platinum?

SXSW is an event packed full of conference sessions, showcases, screenings, startup competitions, exhibitions, tacos (so many tacos), networking events, interactive art, awards ceremonies, mentor sessions, and beyond.

A Platinum Badge gives you the ultimate freedom to experience all of SXSW spontaneously – so go with the flow, try something new, and make the most of the 10 days of SXSW from March 13-22, 2020.

Best Chance for High-Demand Events

While we do our best to accommodate all badgeholders, the extreme popularity of some events makes it infeasible to ensure that everyone interested can be ensured entry.

When you go Platinum, you always have Primary access, which puts you in front of any Secondary access lines, and increases your chances of accessing your desired events. SXSW events include:

Learn more about Event Access and explore the complete lineup of 2020 programming on the SXSW Schedule to begin adding events to your Favorites list which is automatically updated with date, time, and venue information once available.

Access Parties, Mentor Sessions, & Round Tables

If you review the Badge Access Chart, note that some parties, Mentor Sessions, and Round Tables are only open to select badge types. Enjoy all that SXSW has to offer with a Platinum Badge, which provides Primary access to ALL of these events (capacity permitting):

Extra SXXPress Pass Each Day

SXXpress (South by Express) Passes allow badgeholders to request priority access to individual Conference sessions and parties, Music Festival Showcases, Film Festival Screenings, and Comedy Festival Showcases. Best of all, they’re free to all registrants!

When you go Platinum, you receive one extra SXXpress Pass per day, for a total of three passes per day. SXXpress Pass holders may proceed to the front of the Primary access line for priority entrance.

Explore more resources for navigating the event on the Attendee Services Hub.

Closing BBQ & Softball Tournament

The SXSW Closing Barbecue and Softball Tournament is the traditional closing social event of SXSW. Music and Platinum Badges can claim one free meal per badge. Enjoy an authentic Texas barbecue spread with all the trimmings (vegetarian options as well).

Platinum and Music registrants can also sign up to play in the SXSW Softball Tournament. Come on out and wrap up your SXSW with a friendly game and some delicious bites!

Upgrade to Platinum

Already registered for a SXSW 2020 Interactive, Film or Music Badge? For only $330, you can upgrade to Platinum at any time. Contact reg@sxsw.com to upgrade your badge to Platinum today and get ready to experience all that SXSW 2020 has to offer.

See you in March!

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Photo by Aaron Rogosin

The post Why Go Platinum? appeared first on SXSW.

Source: SxSW Film

January 29, 2020

Check Out These Free, Open to the Public SXSW Expos

With SXSW less than two months away, there’s no better time than the present to sit down and plan out your schedule during those amazing ten days. While our Platinum, Interactive, Film, and Music badges give access to all of our Conference sessions and Festival events, a handful of our SXSW Exhibitions are free and open to the public so everyone can take part in the SXSW experience.


SXSW Wellness Expo presented by Seedlip

Palmer Events Center | March 14-15, 2020 | 11:00am-6:00pm

The SXSW Wellness Expo returns to SXSW to fuel your mind, body, and soul. Occurring over two days at the Palmer Events Center, this free event brings thousands of SXSW attendees interested in healthy living together with companies in the continually-growing wellness industry. In 2019, the SXSW Wellness Expo showcased more than 150 enlightening companies from the wellness industry. The Expo features engaging areas such as the Wellness Expo Stage, the Fitness Stage, and the Conscious Conversations area.
With over 110 exhibitors (and counting!) from all sectors of the wellness industry, there’s something at the Wellness Expo for everyone to enjoy.

View Wellness Expo Exhibitors

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Flatstock 73 presented by the American Poster Institute

ACC, Exhibit Hall 4 | March 19-21, 2020 | 11:00am-6:00pm

Flatstock 73 displays the works of the world’s top gig poster artists. The best concert posters have always captured both the essence of the music they promoted and the spirit of the time in which they were produced. Flatstock 73 provides an ongoing series of opportunities to see fine poster art in person and to meet the artists who created it.
The Flatstock Stage is the perfect spot to check out up-and-coming acts and unwind in between your poster pursuing — be sure to stop by and enjoy performances from some of the Music Festival’s most talented official Showcasing Artists.

View Flatstock Exhibitors

Presented by the American Poster Institute, the API is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to serving the poster artist community and promoting the art form. The Flatstock 73 shows provide the American Poster Institute with a way to present poster artists collectively while showcasing the breadth of styles they represent.

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SXSW Marketplace

ACC, Exhibit Hall 5 | March 19-21, 2020 | 11:00am-6:00pm

Located adjacent to Flatstock 73, the SXSW Marketplace takes place inside the Austin Convention Center and is open to all. Featuring dozens of local, national, and global brands, SXSW Marketplace is the spot to get some of the freshest trends in clothing, accessories, art, and more. Think of it as a collection of pop-up shops from unique brands at the center of SXSW.

View Marketplace Exhibitors

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The fun doesn’t have to stop there – make plans to check out other SXSW Expos such as the SXSW Trade Show, Virtual Cinema, and hundreds of other events, activations and conference sessions.

Register today for a Platinum Badge, Interactive Badge, Film Badge, or Music Badge and book your hotel to begin your SX adventure! With expanded access to events for all SXSW Badges, attendees receive primary entry to programming associated with their badge type and enjoy secondary access to most other South By® events.

Flatstock – Photo by Lauren Lindley

The post Check Out These Free, Open to the Public SXSW Expos appeared first on SXSW.

Source: SxSW Film