Another Chapter of "Dirty Dancing," Vail Scores Linklater's "Sunset" & More
by Wendy Mitchell
INDUSTRY MOVES: Canadian distributor TVA Films has named Joanne Senecal as VP of distribution. Senecal previously worked at Film Tonic in Montreal, Alliance Vivafilm, and Behaviour Distribution.
Richard Propper has been elected president of the International Documentary Association (IDA). He is the founder and president of non-fiction licensing and distribution company Solid Entertainment.
NOBODY PUTS BUZZ IN THE CORNER: A few weekends ago, BUZZ decided it might be fun to attend the New York press junket for "Dirty Dancing Havana Nights." No, this isn't the most independent flick of 2004, but it is a Miramax/Lions Gate release, we were huge fans of the original back in our adolescent days, and... well... it's worth losing all indie cred to spend a Saturday afternoon in a room with Diego Luna. This time our mis-matched, gyrating young lovers are living in revolutionary Cuba in 1958, as young American bookworm Katey (Romola Garai) moves to Havana with her parents and ditches the country club set to hang out with hot poolboy Javier (Luna). When he needs cash to support his family, she suggests they secretly enter the big dance contest -- Afro-Cuban rhythms and PG-13 sex scenes ensue. At the junket, actress Garai ("Nicholas Nickleby," "I Capture the Castle") admitted she took the role because she thought it "would be a laugh. It was a fun script and I really wanted to work with Diego after I saw 'Y Tu Mama Tambien.'" Luna said he signed on to the project because it was a chance to play a lead character (and a "smart young person") in an English-language film. He continued, "My character is a very political guy, and I hope young people become more political and get involved in changing the reality they live in, or at least analyze where they are." Picking up some new dance moves was a side benefit -- Luna said he's not a born dancer. "I'm a terrible dancer," he said. "I had to be really drunk... it was a way of getting close to a girl without having to speak. If I ever opened my mouth, they would leave, so this was a way to keep them close (laughs)." After two months of training, the young pair more than hold their own in the big dance numbers.
The film is partly based on the life of choreographer JoAnn Jansen, who lived and loved as a teenager in Cuba. Director Guy Ferland told indieWIRE, "I call it a companion piece [to the original hit]. It's not a sequel or a prequel or a remake. It's a retelling or reimagination, it's a chapter in a book of Dirty Dancing stories." (Fans of the original will be happy to see an aging but nimbile Patrick Swayze making an appearance in "Havana Nights.") I asked Ferland, whose "Telling Lies in America" played the New York Film Festival in 1997, if he had any horror stories after working with not one, but two, formidable film companies on this film -- Miramax and Artisan (now Lions Gate). "Everybody wants to make a really good movie, that's first and foremost," he said. "When you've got that energy, and people expect to collaborate, it's not a bad experience at all... I knew exactly what I was getting into it. It was nothing like the Biskind book." The flick opens today.
GAEL GOES GRAND: In part two of this week's installment of Stalking the Stars of "Y Tu Mama Tambien," BUZZ trekked over to the Soho House last Thursday to see Gael Garcia Bernal host a Grand Classics screening, presented by The Week magazine and sponsored by International Concepts. Bernal's film pick was Tomás Gutiérrez Alea's "Memorias Del Subdesarrollo" (Memories of Underdevelopment), a 1968 doc-fiction hybrid about an aspiring writer who stays in Cuba while his family and friends flee to Miami. After introducing the film, Bernal joined revelers in the White Room of the Soho House for some red wine. Attendees for the evening included Arcane Pictures' Meg Thompson (who produced Bernal's film "Dot the I"), Sofia Sondervan from ContentFilm, Gill Holland of CineBlast, Merchant/Ivory producer Richard Hawley, Indyssey Entertainment heads (and the night's hosts) Katrina Pavlos, Vanessa Wingate, and Andrew Saffir, plus a slew of young socialites with hyphenated names and fashionista outfits.
UN-VAILING "SUNSET": The inaugural Vail Film Festival has scored the North American premiere of Richard Linklater's "Before Sunset," which recently bowed in Berlin to rave reviews. The "Before Sunrise" sequel, also starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, will screen in Vail on April 3 (the fest runs April 1-4). It is the first film slated for release from Warner Independent Pictures, which plans a late June opening.
TLA'S CUB SCOUTING: TLA Releasing announced that it has acquired the U.S. and Canadian theatrical and home video rights to the Spanish film "Cachorro" (Bear Cub), at the start of the American Film Market in Santa Monica. Miguel Albaladejo's sixth feature film is a comedy-drama about "unexpected gay parenting." TLA acquired the film from Media Luna Entertainment on behalf of Star Line Productions, and it will release the film theatrically in late 2004. TLA Releasing was represented by TLA partner and director of acquisitions Richard A. Wolff, and Media Luna was represented by managing director Ida Martins. TLA and Media Luna also worked together on David Gleeson's "Cowboys and Angels."
In other TLA news, TLA and Funny Boy Films said they finally found a theatrical inroads in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the Mormon gay romantic comedy, "Latter Days." The film will start its theatrical run there on March 26 at either the Broadway Centre Cinemas or the Tower Theatre, venues operated and programmed by the Salt Lake Film Society. A previously scheduled engagement from Madstone Theatres was pulled.
LATINO CONFERENCE: The five-year-old National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) will hold its fifth conference this weekend in Santa Barbara, Calif. More than 400 film and TV producers are expected to attend the event which this year has the theme, ""Reel Change: Framing the Future." The event will explore ways to establish a greater presence for Latinos in film and television. At the NALIP Gala Awards this weekend, the organization with honor Richie Perez with an advocacy award, while Dr. Alda Barrera will be honored with a producing award for his work on the first Latino children's television program, "Carrascolendas." Salma Hayek will be honored with a producing prize as well. Committee chair hosts for this years conference are doc filmmaker Hector Galan and UCLA professor Dr. Chon Noreiga.
NEW "CITY": Here's the perfect soundtrack for you Oscar party (mute the TV when they start talking about their accounting firm or something): Lakeshore Records has released two volumes of "City of God Remixed," which takes the great Brazilian music from the film (which can also be found on the original soundtrack, also a winner) and puts it in the hands of Brazilian DJs who give it an electronica edge. You'll feel like you've jumped into the film's fabulous scene of Benny's goodbye party.
"UNSPEAKABLE" DEAL: RS Entertainment, headed by Randy Slaughter, has acquired U.S. theatrical distribution rights to Thomas J. Wright's "Unspeakable," produced by Pav Films. MGM will handle domestic TV and DVD/home video, 20th Century Fox International Television will handle foreign/worldwide pay TV rights, and Artist View Entertainment will handle all other foreign rights. The thriller stars Dennis Hopper, Pavan Grover, Dina Meyer, Lance Henriksen, and Jeff Fahey.
DIRECTOR'S VIEW WINNERS: The Director's View Film Festival in Connecticut has unveiled winners of its fifth-annual event. They are: Steven Gillilan's "The Fall Before Paradise" (grand prize, narrative); Fred Newman's "Nothing Really Happens" (first prize, feature); Julius Sevcik's "51 Kilohertz," (first prize, short), Michael Epstein's "None Without Sin: Miller, Kazan and the Blacklist" (grand prize, doc); Ferne Pearlstein's "Sumo East and West" (first prize, doc), and Wendy Oser's "Let's Face It - Women Explore Their Aging Faces" (first prize, doc short).