In the last 36 hours, we’ve learned that the film will screen at 2 of the world’s most prominent film festivals (the Toronto International Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival), where, on an annual basis, films that will very likely be awards season contenders are typically showcased. It’s especially true for “black films” (or films that tell stories that center primarily on people of African descent). In recent years, think films like “12 Years a Slave,” “Girlhood,” “Belle,” and a few others. It doesn’t mean that they always all go on to win every award they are nominated for. But these tend to be the year’s *top-tier* releases.
And this year probably won’t be any different.
There are still more announcements to come from Toronto, in terms of films that will screen at the festival this year, so there might be 3 or 4 more “black films” that make the cut, when the complete lineup is revealed. Venice’s program is set, however.
Until we know more, and despite my lack of an appetite for another film about child soldiers within the African continent (the danger of a single story), “Beasts of No Nation” should be on your Oscar 2016 predictions lists, if it’s not already. In what categories exactly, I can’t yet say, because the film hasn’t been publicly screened yet. But we can speculate that co-star Idris Elba just may snag a Best Supporting Actor nomination; director Cary Fukunaga may be a shoo-in for Best Director; the screenplay may get some attention; and maybe even the film itself for Best Picture (or Best Foreign Language Film).
Netflix picked up “Beast of No Nation” earlier this year, after a bidding war that ended with the streaming platform paying a reported hefty $12 million for rights to release it. The film will debut Friday, October 16, 2015 worldwide on Netflix, in all territories where the service is available, and on the same day in select USA theaters, in a partnership with distribution company Bleecker Street.
“Beasts of No Nation” is based on the highly acclaimed novel by Nigerian author Uzodinma Iweala, bringing to life the gripping tale of Agu, a child soldier torn from his family to fight in the civil war of an unnamed African country. Newcomer Abraham Attah stars as Agu, while Elba plays the role of Commandant, a warlord who takes in Agu and instructs him in the ways of war.
When the Netflix deal was announced, Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said “Beasts of No Nation” is a powerful film that unfolds beautifully in the hands of director Fukunaga, adding that Idris Elba delivers what he called a “career-defining performance.”
As you might recall, following last year’s declaration that they will boycott Netflix’s first feature film – a sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” which the streaming company plans to release both on its website and in theaters simultaneously – major theater chains, AMC, Regal, Cinemark, and Carmike, maybe not surprisingly, announced earlier this year that they will also boycott the theatrical release of “Beasts of No Nation.”
In a statement, a rep for Regal said: “… at Regal we will not participate in an experiment where you can see the same product on screens varying from three stories tall to [three inches] wide on a smart phone. We believe the choice for truly enjoying a magnificent movie is clear.”
But not all are anti-Netflix’s disruption of staid industry practices. IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond has defended the company’s decision to partner with Netflix on a simultaneous video-on-demand and movie release of the “Crouching Tiger” sequel, saying, last year, that he believes the IMAX release will still be successful because of audiences in China, where Netflix is currently unavailable (although the company continues to try to push into that country of billions), and where IMAX theaters are not operated by the American chains AMC, Regal and Cinemark. Gelfond also emphasized that Netflix, with its new movie model, may be on to something.
The same goes for “Beasts of No Nation,” as the Alamo Drafthouse indie chain of theaters with 19 nationwide, although gradually expanding, said it will buck the trend and run the film.
Said Tim League, the company’s CEO and founder, “I’m agnostic about this sort of thing […] I look at films I want to play and I play them regardless of the release strategy […] I don’t look at myself as a competitor to Netflix. I think that argument is a little bit of a red herring. I watch a lot of movies at home, but there comes a time where I want to get out of the house. I look at cinemas as one of those options that compete with restaurants or baseball games or all of those things I can’t do in my living room.”
I think he speaks for millions of Americans, including yours truly.
Adding to the conversation, Amy Kaufman, producer of “Beasts of No Nation” said: “It could be a game changer… This has the potential to change the way people perceive how movies and art are delivered to them.”
Well, yes, it does. In fact, it already has!
The novel “Beast of No Nation” is a complex tale, explicit, in that it doesn’t shy away from the harsh stuff – a confrontational, immersive first-person narrative. With Fukunaga’s name and pedigree, I’m sure it will continue to attract much press and critical attention. Idris is certainly no slouch either. Little is known at this time about newcomer Abraham Attah, who plays the child soldier (his feature film acting debut), but I’m sure he’ll be someone to watch as well.
A first teaser trailer for “Beasts of No Nation” has surfaced and it’s embedded below: