Horror Buys, "Friedmans" Questions, "Rana's" Deal, Polanski's Retrospective & More
by Wendy Mitchell
ANSWERING THE FRIEDMANS: BUZZ was at a Friday night screening of "Capturing the Friedmans" at Lincoln Plaza (no, we don't always mooch off of free screenings and open bars), and the audience was lucky enough to have someone on hand to ask the many, many questions prompted by this provocative documentary. Film editor Richard Hankin was eager to talk about the film, a good thing since there were more impassioned questions from these audience members than for any screening at any film festival I've been to all year. Hankin defended the filmmakers' motives and process, explained how the project evolved, and also answered one woman's query about whether or not David Friedman's clown business has suffered now that his family's accusations of child molestation have been explored on the big screen. "It's only been one week [since the movie was released theatrically]," Hankin said, "But we haven't heard about a rash of birthday party cancellations or anything. The most obvious question on anyone's mind was whether or not the Friedmans did molest children, and one audience member asked if the filmmakers thought Arnold and Jesse were guilty or innocent. Hankin wasn't about to trek down that road: "We wanted the audience to be like the jury."
RANA FINDS A GROOM: AFD Theatrical, the newly formed theatrical distribution arm of Arab Film Distribution, announced that it has acquired "Rana's Wedding: Jerusalem, Another Day" from Dutch production company Augustus Film. Hany Abu-Assad's feature film about a bride-to-be Palestinian bride in war-torn Jerusalem won the 2003 Nestor Almendros Prize for courage in filmmaking from the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival. The film premiered during Cannes 2002, and has shown at festivals in Montreal, Rio, Cairo, and London, not to mention Marrakesh, where Clara Khoury won the best actress award. In the past 13 years, Arab Film Distribution has worked with home video and institutional showings of films including James Longley's "Gaza Strip," Nabil Ayouch's "Ali Zaoua" and many others. The company said it hopes to do theatrical runs for two to three titles per year for the first two years. AFD said "Rana's Wedding" should hit theaters starting in July and August. Wesley Hottot, formerly of the Virginia Film Festival and OFFScreen, is Arab Film's new director of theatrical sales and promotion.
FRIGHT NIGHTS: The indie horror streak continues... Artisan Pictures announced that it has acquired theatrical distribution rights for two "edgy new horror films," Uwe Boll's "House of the Dead" and "Alone in the Dark." Based on the Sega videogame, "House of the Dead" is about college students who go to an island rave and encounter killer zombies. It stars Jonathan Cherry, Tyron Leitso, Clint Howard, and others. Artisan will release the Boll KG Entertainment/Mindfire Entertainment production in fall 2003. "Alone in the Dark" is also based on a videogame, and it follows several days in the life of a paranormal detective. Boll and Brightlight are producing "Alone," which goes into production in July in Vancouver. Artisan Entertainment executive VP Patrick Gunn negotiated the deal with Uwe Boll.
BOXING DAY: Okay, here's a news item of interest to those of us who loved "Silver Spoons" in 4th grade. Rick Schroder is writing and directing (and making a cameo appearance in) "Black Cloud," a story about a Native American boxer training for the Olympics. The film stars country music stud Tim McGraw (making his acting debut) along with Russell Means, Wayne Knight, Peter Greene, and newcomer Eddie Spears in the titular role. McGraw will also write original songs for the film's soundtrack. High Maintenance Films' Karen Beninati and David Moore are producing alongside Schroder. Some Native American tribes helped finance "Black Cloud." The flick is shooting now in Chinle, Arizona and Las Vegas.
DVD THREAT: Our pals at FilmThreat have started a distribution company for DVDs (filmthreat.studiostore.com) and they have signed on for a future DVD of fest circuit favorite "Getting Out of Rhode Island," directed by Christian de Rezendes. This distribution model is unique: filmmakers don't assign any rights to FilmThreat, but FilmThreat just acts as a marketing partner. Current FilmThreat DVDs include the parody "JAR JAR: The F! True Hollywood Story," the sexy web series compilation "Agent 15 - Volume 1," and the bizarre coming-of-age tale "April Is My Religion."
POLANSKI'S PAST: It's only fitting that after Polanski's first Oscar win, he's now getting his first major New York retrospective (but don't hold your breath for him to show up for any Q&A sessions!). From June 14-29, the American Museum of the Moving Image will present Dark Dreams, Dangerous Places: The Cinema of Roman Polanski. The program will include 11 features and his acclaimed student shorts. Several films will be shown from new prints. For details, visit http://www.movingimage.us.
PARADISE STILL LOST: Alex Steyermark, whose debut feature "Prey for Rock & Roll," about an all-girl band, is due in September, has signed for something completely different. He's on board to direct "West Memphis Three," currently in development for writer/producer Curt Johnson ("Thoth"). Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, co-directors of the award-winning HBO docs "Paradise Lost" and "Revelations: Paradise Lost 2," will executive produce. The film, with a budget of under $10 million, is set for a fall shoot in Texas and Arkansas. The film is based on the true story of the 1993 murders of three young boys from West Memphis, Ark., and the three young men convicted of the killings. Confirmed to star at this point are Doug Hutcheson ("The Green Mile," "The Salton Sea"), Michael Pitt ("Murder by Numbers," "Hedwig and the Angry Inch"), and Jacob Reynolds ("Gummo"). The filmmakers are also going after William H. Macy, Edie Falco, and Jason Lee. For details about the film or the case, visit http://www.wm3.org.