DAILY NEWS: Sony Gets Doc; Nantucket Fest Plans; Swedish Director Dies and Williamsburg Fest
by Eugene Hernandez, Anthony Kaufman and Brian Brooks/indieWIRE with a report from Richard Baimbridge
>> “Dogtown and Z-Boys” Skates with Sony Pictures Classics
(indieWIRE/05.08.01) — Stacy Peralta‘s skateboarding documentary “Dogtown
and Z-Boys,” which won the Audience Award and Directing Award at the 2001
Sundance Film Festival, has been acquired for North American and English
speaking territories by Sony Pictures Classics, it was announced by the
film’s producer Vans, Inc. yesterday. Narrated by Sean Penn and solely
financed by Vans, the film chronicles the overnight impact of the Zephyr
Team (“Z-Boys“) on skateboarding in the early 1970s, and the eventual
collapse of the team later in the same decade. Sony Classics plans to the
release the film in early 2002.
“We are both thrilled to be in business with Vans,” commented Sony Pictures
Classics’ co-Presidents Tom Bernard and Michael Barker in a prepared
statement yesterday. “This partnership looks to be very successful and we
look forward to working together for many years to come.” Sony Pictures
Classics’ most recent documentary releases include “One Day in September“
and “American Movie.” [Anthony Kaufman]
>> Nantucket World Premieres “American Rhapsody”; Lineup Announced
(indieWIRE/05.08.01) — Eva Gardos‘ writing-directing debut “An American
Rhapsody” (Paramount Classics), a Cold War drama about Hungarian immigrants starring Nastassja Kinski and Tony Goldwyn, will have its world premiere at the 6th Nantucket Film Festival, organizers announced yesterday. Running June 20 – 24, Nantucket’s island getaway fest will screen a total of 20
feature films, among them three additional world premieres (two locally
produced films, J. T. Petty‘s “Soft for Digging,” Michael J. Connelly and John Simpson‘s “Genteman from Boston,” and an as yet to be announced Closing Night feature). One U.S. premiere, Mani Ratnam‘s “The Waves,” will screen in a special collection of Indian films.
Notable East Coast premieres include the Polish brother‘s “Jackpot,” Alan Berliner‘s documentary “The Sweetest Sound,” Pierre Paul Renders‘ “Thomas in Love,” Lukas Moodysson‘s “Together,” and Allison Anders‘ “Things Behind the Sun.”
Once tagged “Where screenwriters inherit the earth,” the Nantucket festival
will also host Stanley Tucci, head of the screenwriting jury, a tribute to
scribe Walter Bernstein along with screenings of his films “The Front” and
“The Molly McGuires,” and staged readings of original screenplays.
In a prepared statement, Festival Executive Director Jonathan Burkhart
commented, “The Nantucket Film Festival is proud to be one of the few forums
that celebrates the work of screenwriters by presenting a slate of films
that truly represents their large collective contribution to the creative
community.” [Anthony Kaufman]
>> “Father of Swedish Documentaries” Dead at 84
(indieWIRE/05.08.01) — Oscar-winning director Arne Sucksdorff has died,
according to the Associated Press yesterday. Sucksdorff, considered “the
father of Swedish documentaries,” won the award for best short subject for
his 1949 doc, “Rhythms of a City,” which is about his hometown of Stockholm.
Mr. Sucksdorff lived in Brazil for almost 30 years teaching documentary
filmmaking for UNESCO and worked on behalf of poor children. His film, “My
Home is Copacabana” exposed the deplorable living conditions children lived
in. He returned to Sweden in the 1990s where he lived until his death in a
Stockholm hospital on Friday. He was 84. Details regarding funeral
arrangements were not available. [Brian Brooks]
>> At the 4th Williamsburg Film Fest: Good Films, Small Crowds
(indieWIRE/05.08.01) — What if they threw a film festival, and nobody came?
Sitting in a squeaky seat at the elegantly decaying Commodore Theater on the
south side of Williamsburg, day two of the 4th annual Williamsburg Film
Festival (May 1-6) in Brooklyn, my date and I savored the pleasure of having
the entire row to ourselves. Then again, the row ahead of us was also empty,
as was the row behind us.
As the festival announcer paced nervously in front of the screen in
anticipation of the next film, he began to run out of jokes and was soon in
the awkward position of standing before an audience with a live microphone
and absolutely nothing to say. “Well this is great, isn’t it?” he muttered,
finally breaking the silence. “I’m standing here in front of 12 corpses. You
guys are a barrel of laughs.”
Hours before the festival was scheduled to begin streaming video on their
site (www.wbff.org), Chinese hackers, seeking retribution for the loss of
downed pilot Wang Wei, broke into a server, shutting down several computers
including the one that hosted the WBFF site — also primary source of WBFF
information and ticket sales. Organizers scrambled to put together an
alternate site at www.brooklyntv.com, but with $600,000 worth of advertising
directing people to the disabled Web site, the damage had already been done.
It was the worst of what WBFF festival director Marco Ursino described as
“major problems,” including a foiled robbery at the box office, and posters
that arrived only three days before the festival began.
Other problems stemmed from the fact that a small, up-and-coming festival
tried to take on 80 films from 25 countries in six days. A noble effort, to
be sure, but as Anna Schneider, one of the festival organizers noted, “Just
putting together the program was a huge ordeal.”
I was one of about ten people in the audience Thursday night for a screening
of Duane Graves‘ “Up Syndrome.” The same MC from opening night, clearly desperate by this point, had resorted to telling jokes about leprechauns and
anal sex to keep the audience pacified.
The unfortunate thing about sitting alone in a theater at WBFF was that
there were some excellent films playing. “Up Syndrome,” a doc about a San
Antonio kid with Down Syndrome, is one of the best portrait docs I have seen
in memory. It cuts to the essence of what the whole DV revolution is about
— everyday people telling great personal stories with cheap cameras.
“Pigeon Within” an animated short by Emily Hubley, who did the animation sequences for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” was also pure genius. There are many others examples I could cite: Cynthia Wells “The Shadow of Doubt,” Patrick Smith‘s “Drink,” and Hans-Christian Schmid‘s “Crazy” — a modern day Herman Hesse tale about growing up in a German boarding school.
To be fair, the festival attendance did pick up significantly over the
weekend. By the time the closing film played Sunday evening, the theater was
nearly half full. Parties were usually more successful, as well.
Ursino says he is not sure if the festival will continue next year because,
for one, the theater may be sold and demolished. “We had some very bad luck
this year,” he admits, “But basically I’m happy with how the festival went,
despite its problems. Losing the Web s-te — that was really the crisis,
everything else was fine.” [Richard Baimbridge]
In our article “Los Angeles Fests’ Truths: Death, Music and Cuba are
Documentary Highlights,” published May 7, 2001, we incorrectly reported that
the “The Young and the Dead” was picked up for broadcast by HBO. “The Young
and the Dead” is an HBO original documentary, was funded and produced by the
cable network, and was already on the company’s slate. We regret the error.
>> YESTERDAY in indieWIRE DAILY NEWS: WGA/AMPTP Deal Details; and Sundance Lab Plans
(indieWIRE/05.7.01) — WGA and AMPTP talks continue today in Los Angeles; the 44th San Francisco International Film Festival announces its winners for its event which ended Thursday; the U.K.’s FilmFour and New York-based Hart Sharp Entertainment have formed a co-production alliance and Steve Carlis has joined BNNtv.com to head the company’s new digital film division.”
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