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by Peter Knegt
May 4, 2009 2:03 AM
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A "Crude" Acquisition

Joe Berlinger's "Crude," which premiered at Sundance earlier this year, has been acquired for North American release by First Run Features. The film will have its North American theatrical premiere on September 9th at New York's IFC Center, followed by Los Angeles on September 18th and San Francisco on September 25th. More cities are slated to open shortly thereafter.

Berlinger is best known for acclaimed docs such as "Brother's Keeper," "Paradise Lost" and "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster." His "Crude" tells the story of one of the largest and most controversial legal cases on the planet, a case pitting 30,000 indigenous and colonial rainforest dwellers in Ecuador against the U.S. oil giant Chevron. "'Crude' was a conscious attempt to return to my roots making 'Brother’s Keeper' almost 20 years ago (made with my frequent collaborator Bruce Sinofsky)," Berlinger told indieWIRE at Sundance. "As we did back then, I just dove into a subject that I wanted to film without worrying about how we were going to pay for it or who was going to show it."

The First Run Features deal, which includes North American theatrical, non-theatrical, home video and internet distribution, began as a chance encounter between First Run topper Seymour Wishman and Berlinger when the two sat next to each other on a plane home from the Berlin Film Festival. "When Seymour and I started talking, it just made perfect sense to work together," Berlinger explained in a statement. "I have been making independent documentaries for almost twenty years, and First Run has been successfully marketing this kind of specialty film better than anyone for more than three decades."

"We're tremendously excited to be working with Joe Berlinger, one of the true legends in the world of documentary film," said Wishman, the President of First Run Features in a statement. "He and his team have crafted an important film that audiences are sure to embrace."

Additionally, Sundance Channel has acquired domestic broadcast rights to the film. "Sundance Channel has enjoyed working with Joe on 'Iconoclasts' for the past four years, he is a fantastically talented filmmaker and we are delighted to be able to feature Crude in our programming strand THE GREEN," said Sarah Barnett, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Sundance Channel, in a statement.

Vancouver-based Horizon Motion Pictures is representing Crude for foreign sales and is in negotiation with several TV buyers for broadcast deals, including in Germany and Japan.

The film has enjoyed a strong international festival run since Sundance, picking up numerous awards along the way, including Grand Jury Prizes at the Independent Film Festival of Boston and the Yale Environmental Film Festival; the World Wildlife Fund Award at Thessaloniki; the Human Spirit Award at the Nashville Film Festival; and the Best Editing prize at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.

Deals with First Run, Sundance Channel and Horizon Motion Pictures were negotiated by Berlinger, Netflix's Kelly Merryman and Victoria Cook of Frankfurt, Kurnit Klein & Selz.

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