BUZZ for February 7, 2003: A Victory for "Fat Girl"; MoMA and HBO Parties; and "The Singing Detective" on DVD
by Wendy Mitchell, Eugene Hernandez and Brian Brooks
INDUSTRY MOVES: Tim Spencer has been promoted to VP of international sales for Focus Features, based in the company's NYC offices. He reports to EVP of sales and distribution, Glen Bansner.
Matthew Ross has joined FILMMAKER Magazine as the managing editor, replacing Kevin Murphy. Ross had been a senior editor for indieWIRE.
Producer John Daly has been named chairman of Miracle Entertainment, and he will head the company's new film distribution arm, Miracle Film Distribution. William Randy Slaughter will serve as a consultant to the company. Miracle plans to release 10-12 films per year.
THE SKINNY ON 'FAT GIRL': Cowboy Pictures announced that the Ontario Film Review Board has approved "Fat Girl" for uncensored distribution. Cowboy had appealed the board's November 2001 decision to ban the film in Ontario. It will open at two theaters in Toronto on February 21. "Fat Girl," directed by French provacateur Catherine Breillat, opened to strong reviews in the U.S. in October 2001. It had been banned for distribution in Ontario due to its depiction of adolescent sex. "We view this as a complete and unmitigated victory," said Cowboy's John Vanco. "With its invitation to re-submit the film uncut, the Government fully acknowledged that the Board had erred in its application of the law."
HBO EXPLORES "SLAVE NARRATIVES": About four years ago, HBO's head of doc programming Sheila Nevins saw an article about the Library of Congress' slave narratives, 10,000 pages of interviews with more than 2,300 former slaves conducted in the 1940s. The article inspired an idea, later driven by HBO's Jacqueline Glover, for a doc project exploring the narratives. "Unchained Memories, Readings from the Slave Narratives," airing this month on HBO, was created in association with the Library of Congress and was unveiled Monday night during a special screening at the New York Public Library's Celeste Bartos Forum. The evening included remarks from Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies and the W.E.B. DuBois Institute at Harvard. Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, the film includes readings from the narratives by an all-star cast, including Angela Bassett, Michael Boatman, Don Cheadle, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Robert Guillaume, Samuel L. Jackson, Courtney B. Vance, Oprah Winfrey, and Alfre Woodard. Williams, Woodard and Davis were among the actors who attended Monday's special screening and dinner.
"GERRY" LEAVES CROWD THINKING: ThinkFilm, which is releasing Gus Van Sant's "Gerry," and the Museum of Modern Art, hosted a New York premiere for the challenging new film on Tuesday in Manhattan. Audiences were buzzing about beauty and risk of Van Sant's experimental new film that follows actors Casey Affleck and Matt Damon (who each refer to each other as "Gerry") on a journey into the desert. With the striking visuals akin to a James Benning film, "Gerry" perplexed some and wowed others who gathered at Sciuscia on Park Avenue after the screening. Van Sant, Affleck, Jyette Jensen from MoMA and ThinkFilm's Mark Urman were among those who celebrated the release as well as the museum's screenings of some of the filmmaker's early work.
THE DETECTIVE SINGS AGAIN: With the lackluster response to the premiere of "The Singing Detective" at Sundance, fans of the original BBC series will be glad to hear that it's coming to DVD on April 15. That 1986 series has been called "the best dramatic work ever written specifically for television." BBC Video will release the three-disc collector's edition of the remastered episodes. The DVD will also boast a doc on writer Dennis Potter, commentary tracks by director Jon Amiel and producer Kenneth Trodd, and other features.
WOMEN GET MOVIES: Women Make Movies announced that it has acquired two new docs, Anat Zuria's "Purity," about how Jewish religious laws affect women, and Charlotte Lagarde and Lisa Denker's "Heart of the Sea," about a female surfing legend who battled breast cancer. In other news, the group plans a theatrical run for Lourdes Portillo's "Senorita Extraviada," a festival fave that we enjoyed on PBS' "P.O.V." last year. The doc, about the unsolved murders of women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, will play in L.A. starting February 21, and will then move to San Diego starting February 28.
SUNDANCING: The Sundance Institute announced that Susannah Ludwig (associate producer, "Our Song") has been selected as the recipient of the 2003 Mark Silverman Fellowship. The fellowship helps indie producers with a film project that is moving into production. Ludwig will be awarded a cash grant of $5,000 to be used for costs related to pre-production. Additionally, an advisory committee of five working professionals will advise her throughout her fellowship year and then Ludwig will also attend the 2003 Sundance producers conference.
SXSW PREVIEW: The 10th annual South by Southwest Film Festival, to be held in Austin from March 7-15, has announced several films in its line-up. Highlights include "Dummy" starring Adrien Brody, "Assassination Tango" directed by Robert Duvall, Ron Mann's Woody Harrelson doc "Go Further," "The Hard Word" starring Guy Pearce and Rachel Griffiths," and Bob Odenkirk's "Melvin Goes to Dinner," which recently screened at Slamdance. For more information, visit www.sxsw.com.
QUOTABLE: "It's just kind of berserk. The 'independent' should be taken out of 'independent cinema'; commerce and capitalism have pretty much taken over." Sony Pictures Classics' Tom Bernard talks to the L.A. Times.