Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Indiewire
March 21, 2002 2:00 AM
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DAILY NEWS: Avatar Sings "Tosca," Roy Named New Programming Director at Hamptons Fest and Finally,

DAILY NEWS: Avatar Sings "Tosca," Roy Named New Programming Director at Hamptons Fest and Finally, "Happy Hour" in New York



with articles by Eugene Hernandez and Brian Brooks/indieWIRE



>> Avatar Takes on "Tosca"



(indieWIRE/03.21.02) -- New York-based film distribution company Avatar
Films
has acquired French director Benoit Jacquot's ("A Single Girl")
"Tosca," the film company announced yesterday.


The film, an adaptation of Puccini's opera, features three notable
opera stars, Angela Gheorghiu, Roberto Alagna, and Ruggero Raimondi. Avatar Films specializes in foreign films and documentaries; its
previous releases include "Kandahar" and "Nico and Dani."


The company plans to release the film this summer, according to
the announcement yesterday. [Brian Brooks]


>> Rajendra Roy Named Director of Programming for Hamptons Festival


(indieWIRE/03.21.02) -- Rajendra Roy has been named the new Director of
Programming for the Hamptons International Film Festival, organizers
announced yesterday. Roy is currently the Film and Media Arts Program
Manager at the Guggenheim and has continued working in film festival
programming and production since 1994. Additionally, he served as Executive
Director of the MIX Festival, the New York-based experimental gay and
lesbian event which takes place in downtown Manhattan in November. Roy has
also organized numerous touring film programs internationally with festival
screenings in Mexico, Brazil, Portugal, Belgium, Austria and online. Since
working at the Guggenheim, he has managed the creation of seasonal film
exhibitions and programs in New York as well as at the museum's other
facilities overseas. Roy will continue to work at the Guggenheim on a
project basis.


Lynda Hansen and Linda Blackaby previously served as directors of
programming for the Hamptons Fest.


HIFF has championed issue programming in its "Conflict and Resolution"
section, which Roy told indieWIRE will change focus for the Festival this
year (October 16 to 20). Last year, "Conflict and Resolution" presented
films dealing with the conflict in Yugoslavia, while a year earlier,
Israel-Palestine was the focal point of the program. This year, "the impetus
on conflict [is] going on a global scale," Roy said, adding the sidebar will
demonstrate a "cinema [in which] international relations can foster conflict
or foster resolution."


"We are very excited about Raj's joining us as Director of Programming,"
commented HIFF Executive Director Denise Kasell in a prepared statement. "As
we embark upon our 10th event, Raj's impressive programming background and
his strong connections among the studio, indie and international film
community will provide a terrific opportunity for this anniversary festival
to be the most exciting yet."


Founded to celebrate American independent film and to promote what
organizers call, "a unique and varied spectrum of international films and
filmmakers to its audiences," HIFF will commemorate its first decade with
what Roy calls "an occasion for how [the Festival] can deliver for
filmmakers." [Brian Brooks]


>> Chaiken, Leber and Ellenbogen Celebrate "Happy Hour"; NYC Indie Hits Cinema Village More Than A Year After Sundance


(indieWIRE/03.21.02) -- "Don't believe the hype" is probably the best piece
of advice any indie filmmaker with a film at Sundance can hear. Just ask
Ilya Chaiken and the folks behind the 2001 Sundance entry, "Margarita Happy
Hour
." After getting into the Festival, insiders told the filmmakers that
big things were right around the corner. And once the positive reviews began
rolling in, a distribution deal seemed like the logical next step.


"Our experiences fell a little short of expectations," said writer,
director and editor Chaiken in a conversation with indieWIRE, who was joined
by producers Susan Leber and Michael Ellenbogen. But the story has a happy ending (it opens tomorrow in NYC). One that can serve as a lesson for other
indie filmmakers hoping for a distribution deal.


Set in New York City's East Village, "Margarita" follows a group of women
struggling with the transition to new chapters in their downtown lives.
After debuting at Sundance, the movie went on to screen at the Los Angeles
Film Festival
, the Gen Art Film Festival and in Toronto last fall where it
was hit with a Sept. 12 screening date, among other fests.


After Toronto, the group (Chaiken calls it "the three-headed decision making
body") decided to take a Sundance Channel offer to premiere the film on the
network in January of this year. The move came after distributors remained
wary of taking on a film without star-power, according to the trio.


Ellenbogen explained that they decided to keep the Sundance Channel window
small enough "so that the film still had punch for a theatrical release
which we decided to handle ourselves." The general strategy is one that has
been employed by other filmmakers. Witness this week's debut of "The
Believer
" on Showtime, preceding a release by IDP in May, or consider this
week's news that "The Cockettes" will have a sneak preview on Sundance
Channel before Strand releases it in theaters this year.


"It became more practical to handle (the release) on our own," explained
Leber, who offered that the folks at Cinema Village in New York "were
enthusiastic about the picture."


"For my part, I feel grateful for as far as we've come," commented Chaiken,
"We had about as much success as we could hope for in terms of festivals."
Financially speaking, she offered, "We're not making a killing, but we're
not in debt, which is exciting for all of us, and were opening in New York,
which is huge for me."


To get the word out about this week's release, the group have tapped into a
network of organizations here in NYC. And they've done it without hiring
outside PR. It will host a launch party at Spa tonight to benefit Cinewomen
NY
, and it has also tapped rsvpNYCity and The Reel Roundtable to help create momentum for the debut. The team is also tapping friends by email and
relying on cast and crew to get the word out in a grassroots way with postcards and posters around town.


"The industry has been frustrating," added Leber, "We don't have stars, (or
an) easy log line." Despite the setbacks, the team remained determined to
get the film in theaters. "Whether or not that is fool hardy or not," she
explained, "The theatrical is where our heart is, we really want to have
that theatrical presence." After opening in New York, the movie will screen
at Facets in Chicago in May, along with other dates that have yet to be
announced.


"The stereotypes of the evils of the movie industry and 'commercial
viability' have proven all to be true," Chaiken told indieWIRE,
"It also has a lot to do with good and bad timing." [Eugene Hernandez]


[For more information on the film].

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