"Blue" Doc, "Godzilla" and "Samurai" Deals, Micro DVDs, Vail Fest, & More
by Wendy Mitchell
INDUSTRY MOVES: Producers Braxton Pope and Andrew Weiner have launched film and TV production company Ithaka Entertainment, which is funded by an L.A.- based investment group. Ithaka is "in discussions" with Lions Gate for a strategic alliance; the company's first project is a supernatural thriller written by Andrew Klaven ("Don't Say a Word") and director Richard Brandes.
Andrew Maltz has been named as the first director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' new Science and Technology Council. He is the former president and CEO of Avica Technology Corporation.
MIRAMAX DIVES "DEEP": Miramax has acquired North American rights to "Deep Blue," a British/German doc that, in the words of an announcement, "explores life above, below and far beneath the ocean's surface." The family-friendly film was inspired by the "Blue Planet" series. It features a score from composer George Fenton with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and is narrated by Michael Gambon.
GODZILLA RETURNS: Rialto Pictures has licensed the 1954 classic version of "Godzilla" from Toho International, and Rialto will offer the first U.S. release of the original, uncut Japanese version in spring 2004. The theatrical run will mark the film (and the character's) 50th anniversary. The film, directed by Ishiro Honda and starring Takashi Shimura, includes 40 minutes of footage that was cut during the original U.S. release. Rialto will offer new 35mm prints with a new translation and subtitles.
SAMURAI SOLD: In other acquisitions news, Empire Pictures has picked up "The Twilight Samurai," this year's Japanese submission for the foreign language Oscar. Empire has all U.S. rights and will release the film, which swept the 2003 Japanese Film Academy Awards, in spring 2004. The film follows the life and work of a low-ranking samurai (Hiroyuki Sanada) in the late 19th century. "The Twilight Samurai" marks the 77th film of director Yoji Yamada. Satoko Ishida and Masaki Koga of Shochiku and Empire's Edward Arentz finalized the deal at MIFED.
MICRO DVDS: San Francisco's Microcinema International is starting an indie DVD label and distribution catalog. The company said it will feature "compilations of international short film, video and moving image arts, and underground feature films." Microcinema's new Blackchair Label will include two lines of compilations: The Blackchair Sessions (an artist designed and curated collection) and the Independent Exposure compilations and singles, featuring works from the nine-year old screening series of the same name. The first Sessions release is "Synesthetics," nine short films by Kasumi, and the first Exposure releases will be a children's compilation, a greatest-hits package, and the documentary "Icarus of Pittsburgh" by Evan Mather and Kirk Hostetter. Microcinema has also obtained rights to distribute titles from Other Cinema Digital, as well as select titles from micro labels such as Peripheral Produce, D-Fuse, Reline, O. Ltd., Berserker Rage, and Lowave. For details and online shopping, visit http://www.microcinema.com.
VAIL FEST LAUNCHING: If Sundance doesn't present enough ski opportunities for you, the Vail Film Institute is launching the first Vail Film Festival, which will be held April 1-4. Founders are filmmakers Scott and Sean Cross and Denis Jensen; and sponsors include the town of Ail and Vail Resorts. The festival said it will promote "independent filmmaking, with a special focus on new and innovative filmmakers." Features, docs, shorts, and student films will be screening, and other special offerings include an extreme sports showcase, a TV pilots program, seminars, workshops, and a Gershwin Showcase, described as "a short-film contest sponsored by the Gershwin Foundation, which grants indie filmmakers the rights to Gershwin songs for the first time." For submissions info and other details, visit http://www.vailfilmfestival.org.
SUNDANCE HOSTS: Filmmaking family scions Zooey Deschanel and Jake Gyllenhaal have signed on to host the 2004 Sundance Film Festival awards show. The Sundance Channel will broadcast the show live from Park City on January 24 at 9 p.m. (with reruns later). Deschanel will also be at Sundance with Michael Clancy's "Eulogy," about a dysfunctional family gathering for a funeral. Jake's sis Maggie previously hosted the show, as have notables such as Steve Zahn, Stockard Channing, and Donal Logue.
BACK TO SCHOOL: The critics have spoken... well, just the College Critics Association, but still, they've spoken... and they had the good sense to name "Gigli" the worst movie of the year. Other notable awards from the group (sponsored by Movies.com) are "Whale Rider" (best foreign), "28 Days Later" (best horror), "Raising Victor Vargas" (best movie that nobody saw), "Swimming Pool" (sexiest movie), "American Splendor" (movie most likely to end up in a college curriculum), and "Lost in Translation" (movie that most stands for the CCA generation).
HOLIDAY CHEER: The Christmas party season is halfway over, with events earlier this week for Fine Line Features (don't get us started on the coat check!), AIVF, Killer Films, ContentFilm and more. The party circuit will still be in full swing next week, so BUZZ will publish a comprehensive recap of the holiday hurrahs in next Friday's edition. Yes, we know there will be sleepless nights waiting for that hard-hitting piece of journalism.