Down but not out, Harvey Weinstein once again emerged as a key figure this week at the Toronto International Film Festival. A few months ago he was thwarted from buying Miramax Films from Disney, but just days ago Weinstein's company boldly made its presence known at the festival by nabbing Abe Sylvia's first feature, "Dirty Girl," while it was still screening at its premiere. That was the first of a few deals involving Weinstein.
Renowned for shaping the modern independent film movement behind the scenes, Harvey Weinstein will soon be on the big screen in -- "Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project" -- a documentary that promises to be a warts and all look at his life and career. The new film, set for next year, has landed a preemptive deal with IFC Films as this year's Toronto fest heads into its final weekend.
Harvey Weinstein has requested a screener from filmmaker Barry Avrich. A request that apparently hasn't been met. IFC's Jonathan Sehring said today that "Unauthorized" offers a balanced portrait of the mogul.
Sehring and IFC have a long history of working with Weinstein over the years and former top Miramax staffers now work for the distribution company, which currently has the popular portrait of comedian Joan Rivers, "A Piece of Work" among other titles in release.
"If it were an unfair portrayal we wouldn't really be interested," IFC Entertainment president Jonathan Sehring told indieWIRE this afternoon after boarding a plane back to New York from Toronto. "I think it's a very fair portrayal of not only Harvey but the history of independent film."
The film is nearly completed, Sehring said today, adding that Avrich is still planning to conduct a couple of more interviews for the documentary. He added that IFC is targeting a day & date release in theaters and on VOD during the first half of 2011.
Weinstein did not offer a comment on the film or today's IFC deal for the movie.
Directed by Barry Avrich and funded by a pair of Canadian TV networks, "Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project" looks at the rise of Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob, including their relationships in the industry. It is said to include interviews with a variety of people including a look at the "complex relationships" involving those who have worked with him, dating all the way back to people from his childhood and up to the present.
The new documentary is described as, "a powerful, uncensored, no-holds-barred account that traces Weinstein's path from concert promoter on the cold streets of Buffalo, NY to his first trip to the Cannes Film Festival, where he arrived with one pair of pants and closed his first movie deal, to winning an Oscar, and breaking the bank with his first $100 million film.
The film initially stirred media attention about six months ago when the filmmaker did an interview about the project with The New York Times.
"There are those that say making a documentary film on Harvey Weinstein is career suicide or, in fact, personally dangerous," Avrich said in a treatment about the project, according to Times piece, "Others have warned me that Harvey will never allow the film to get distribution.”
“If some of Harvey Weinstein’s lawyers find something to sue me about in this film, I say, ‘Bring it on,’ ” Mr. Avrich told The New York Times' Michael Cieply.
Such buzz generated considerable interest within film industry circles, including among some of Weinstein's rivals at other companies.
"I've gotten more calls and emails about this than I did about the Herzog acquisition," IFC's Jonathan Sehring said today, boasting that the Harvey Weinstein film and the Herzog doc, "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" -- which he acquired yesterday here in Toronto -- will be, "two of the best docs of 2011."