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Magnolia Boards the “Magic Trip”

Magnolia Boards the "Magic Trip"

North American rights to Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood’s “Magic Trip” have been picked up by Magnolia Pictures, the company announced from Berlin. The film, a freewheeling portrait of Ken Kesey and the Merry Prankster’s fabled road trip across America, was produced under HISTORY’s feature documentary banner, HISTORY Films, and the network will follow the film’s theatrical and home video release by Magnolia with a television broadcast premiere. Gibney produced along with Will Clarke, founder of Optimum Releasing, and Alexandra Johnes, another frequent Gibney collaborator.

Magnolia SVP Tom Quinn negotiated the pact with Cinetic’s John Sloss and Magnolia will release the film this summer as part of its Ultra VOD program, premiering the film on VOD platforms a month prior to its theatrical release.

Magnolia’s description of the film: In 1964, Ken Kesey, the famed author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” set off on a legendary, LSD-fuelled cross-country road trip to the New York World’s Fair. He was joined by “The Merry Band of Pranksters,” a renegade group of counterculture truth-seekers, including Neal Cassady, the American icon immortalized in Kerouac’s “On the Road,” and the driver and painter of the psychedelic Magic Bus. Kesey and the Pranksters intended to make a documentary about their trip, shooting footage on 16MM, but the film was never finished and the footage has remained virtually unseen. With “Magic Trip,” Gibney and Ellwood were given unprecedented access to this raw footage by the Kesey family. They worked with the Film Foundation, HISTORY and the UCLA Film Archives to restore over 100 hours of film and audiotape, and have shaped an invaluable document of this extraordinary piece of American history.

“Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood have done a masterful job piecing together this incredibly amazing footage,” commented Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles in a statement. “It is truly like a taking a trip in a time machine back to the cultural beginning of the sixties.”

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tara ball: turn on tune in drop out…..

Tara Ball

I saw this film at Full Frame and it is HORRIBLE. It’s a thoughtless, cartoonish portrait that does not even scratch the surface – you certainly don’t get to know Kesey at all. This film suggests nothing of the essence of what the Pranksters were about or the transcendence that LSD can stimulate. It plays into the dumbest stereotypes about hippies, the 60’s and LSD. It’s full of the neurotic pairing of archival footage with almost every single word in the script that’s a hallmark of Gibney’s work, which is not art at all, just glorified television. And there’s TERRIBLE voiceover by actors who sound like actors plucked from some midwestern community theater. Yes, go ahead and ask Alex Gibney if he’s taken LSD. Of course he has. But it was so long ago that he can’t really remember a thing about it. If he could, he wouldn’t have made such a shallow, silly film that reeks of his own ego. It’s a shame that this excellent raw footage was wasted in this way.

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