Demme Film Acquired; MTV's Cinematographers; Sayles' Song, Stover's Baby & More
by Wendy Mitchell
INDUSTRY MOVES: Sandra den Hamer has been appointed as general director for the International Film Festival Rotterdam as of March 1, 2004. She is currently the fest's co-director alongside Simon Field. After the 2004 festival, Field will return to London after eight years in Rotterdam.
Linda Blackaby has been appointed director of programming for the San Francisco Film Society and the San Francisco International Film Festival. Blackaby replaces Carl Spence, who is now pursuing other interests. Before joining the SFFS as associate director of programming in 2001, Blackaby had worked at the Asian American Film Festival, the Hamptons International Film Festival, the Neighborhood Film/Video Project, and the Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema.
Daphne Dentz has been named VP of business development for Kodak subsidiary Cinesite. Dentz joined Cinesite in August 2000 as a visual effects producer.
DEMME'S LATEST ACQUIRED: THINKFilm has announced its acquisition of Jonathan Demme's latest film, "The Agronomist." The movie, which is having its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, will also screen at Deauville and have its North American premiere next month at the Toronto International Film Festival. In an announcement yesterday, THINKFilm head of distribution Mark Urman confirmed that the company will release the movie in 2004. "Agronomist," the story of Haitian national hero Jean Dominique, is described in a company announcement as "a labor of love" for Demme, who met Dominique in 1987. "I've been a huge Mark Urman fan for quite some time and have observed and admired what he and his colleagues at THINKFilm have done," Demme said in a statement. "I'm thrilled that they have so much enthusiasm for our movie. It's a dream come true to be working with them on a picture."
KILLING FIELDS: In other acquisitions news, First Run Features has acquired U.S. and English-speaking Canadian rights to Rithy Panh's doc "S21 The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine," which is slated to play in Toronto and at the New York Film Festival. A theatrical release date hasn't been set yet. The film explores a Phnom Penh detention camp where prisoners were tortured and murdered during the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s.
PR POWERHOUSE: Jeanne Berney, the PR wiz most recently of Rogers & Cowan, has joined forces with P&F Communications to form P&F Communications/The Berney Group, a public relations, promotions, and marketing agency. Berney will be a partner in the venture along with P&F's Barbara Pflughaupt and Raymond Forsythe.
WORKING IT: It's been a while since we've dropped the name Tanita Tikaram, so we were very grateful for the Kodak luncheon honoring this year's best cinematography nominees for the MTV Video Music Awards. This year's lunch recognized Michael Bernard for Missy Elliott's "Work It," the late Jean-Yves Escoffier for Johnny Cash's "Hurt" (which left BUZZ, somewhat embarrassingly, nearly crying in her filet mignon), Karsten "Crash" Gopinath for No Doubt's "Underneath It All," and Fred Reed for Radiohead's "There There." The lifetime achievement award went to Jeff Cronenweth, who has worked with Nine Inch Nails, Macy Gray, Eels, and many more. Attendees took in the grand views at Guastavino's restaurant and watched previous VMA cinematography winners' videos from 1984 onwards. Highlights included plenty of Madonna, R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts," and the aforementioned one-hit wonder Ms. Tikaram with "Twist in My Sobriety." Alas, Kodak also screened Robbie Neville's "C'est La Vie," a song we'd rather have left in the vault forever.
IT'S A BOY: Congratulations to indie producer Susan Stover ("High Art," "Habit," "Laurel Canyon"), her partner, photographer JoJo Whilden, and filmmaker & dad Bill Oliver on the birth of their son. William Porter Stover-Whilden was born in good health on Tuesday, August 26th at 7:45 p.m. at Tisch hospital in Manhattan. The parents report that he weighed in at a "whopping" 9 pounds, 3.4 ounces and added that "his hair is ginger and his eyes are blue."
STAINING CHICAGO: The Chicago International Film Festival, slated for October 2-16, will open with Robert Benton's "The Human Stain," starring Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris, and Gary Sinise. The fest's opening night events will pay tribute to Benton ("Kramer Vs. Kramer," "Bonnie and Clyde"). His latest is an adaptation of the Phillip Roth novel of the same name, which chronicles an academic's shattered life when he is accused of racism. Among the other Chicago highlights already announced are Nuri Bilge Ceylan's "Uzak" (Distant), Lone Scherfig's "Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself," Campbell Scott's "Off the Map," Claude Chabrol's "Flower of Evil," Raoul Ruiz's "That Day," and more.
SINGING SAYLES: John Sayles wrote more than just the script for his forthcoming film "Casa de los Babys," he also co-wrote a song featured in the movie. Along with composer Mason Daring, Sayles co-wrote the song "Quien Sera?" (Who Will Be?), performed by Rita Moreno in the film. He also selected Latin-flavored tracks that fill out the soundtrack, including songs by Lhasa, Ruben Blades, Los Zafiros, and others. Hybrid Recordings, in partnership with IFC Films, will release the soundtrack on September 23.
DINNER SERVED: Bob Odenkirk's "Melvin Goes to Dinner," which has been attracting positive attention since it debuted at Slamdance 2003, has finally found a home. Sundance Channel and Sundance Home Entertainment acquired TV and home video rights to the comedy; a DVD/VHS release is planned for December 16, with a Sundance Channel airing to follow early in 2004. "Melvin," about a bizarre dinner party, is the directorial debut from "Mr. Show"'s Odenkirk.
SUNDANCING WITH NEWMARKET: Bob Berney, president of Newmarket Films, has been tapped by Sundance Channel to work with the network on expansion plans for its four Sundance Channel Film Series titles: Emilio Martinez-Lazaro's "The Other Side of the Bed," Michael Winterbottom's "In This World," Mark Decena's "Dopamine," and Mark Rucker's "Die Mommie Die." Berney will consult with Sundance Channel's Kirk Iwanowski and Paola Freccero on taking the films beyond their initial two-week, 10-city runs. Berney told indieWIRE that he will advise the Channel once grosses for the movies begin to come in. The Sundance Channel series kicks off today with the release of the Spanish musical "The Other Side of the Bed." To celebrate, a screening was held on Wednesday night, followed by a night of tapas and yummy sangria at a New York Kenneth Cole store.
MORE SHORTS: DVD and theatrical distributor Film Movement has started a program to distribute select short films made by subscribers to the service. The first selection under the new program is Annette Solakoglu's "Border," about an old man and a goose, which has screened at more than 25 festivals. "I am pleased to be able to give back to our members and will review any film from a member for distribution," said company head Larry Meistrich. In addition to its other features and shorts, Film Movement plans to distribute up to 12 member-made shorts per year. To submit, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIG "MAMBO": When Samuel Goldwyn Films releases "Mambo Italiano" on 85 prints on September 19, it will mark the largest opening ever for a gay-themed film. Goldwyn says it will be the largest gay-themed opening since "In & Out." The comedy flick is about an Italian family with one member struggling to come out of the closet. Luke Kirby, Paul Sorvino, Ginette Reno, and Peter Miller star.
LIMELIGHT BUYS: Hollywood-based Limelight Films, founded by Charlie's granndaughter Kiera Chaplin, has acquired Vladimir Alenikov's "The Gun" and Dusan Kovacevic's "The Professional," both of which are playing in competition at Montreal.
[Eugene Hernandez contributed to this report.]