[EDITORS NOTE: This is a new column from indieWIRE, covering films debuting this week in theaters.]
Any indie filmmaker would love to have an Oscar winning actress hyping their new film; the presence of a celebrity can command serious media attention. This week, actress and activist Jane Fonda has been making the media rounds, from Good Morning America, Larry King Live, and The View, to an appearance at the IFC Center on Monday. While she is also hawking a paperback version of her recent memoir, Fonda has also been talking a bit about David Zeiger's "Sir! No Sir!", the acclaimed documentary that attempts to set the record straight about the GI movement to end the war in Vietnam.
"In my mind it takes a special kind of courage to risk your life in another country, for your own country," Fonda explained Monday night after a screening of the film at the IFC Center in New York, where the film opened this week (it also had a brief, recent two-week run in San Francisco). "The men and women who came back and spoke out were a special kind of hero," Fonda added. The actress, who drew considerable criticism for her opposition to the war at the time, met filmmaker Zeiger and veteran/activist David Cline at the Oleo Strut coffeehouse frequented by veterans in Texas, back in 1971. Decades later she appeared in the movie and continues to support it.
"This movie shows that [troops] were against the war," Fonda said Monday, "This was bedrock America." And she added, "It speaks to the men and women who are in Iraq now, it gives them courage."
Winner of the best documentary prize at last year's Hampton's International Film Festival and audience award winner for documentary at the Los Angeles Film Festival, the movie was also nominated for best doc at this year's Independent Spirit Awards. It made nearly $13,000 in its first week in San Francisco. It will head to Denver and Madison, WI next weekend, with bookings in Los Angeles, Nashville, Atlanta, Austin, D.C., Chicago, Boston and other cities scheduled for next month.
Greg Kendall of the film's distributor Balcony Releasing told indieWIRE that he was tipped off to the film by consultant Peter Broderick, an executive producer of the movie. He explained that the support from Fonda, and the additional media exposure, are a boon to the film, adding that he is targeting the film to activists. "It's not just a movie," Kendall explained, "They are trying to do much more -- it is a rallying point for activist groups, (which is) essential to the theatrical life of the film and [the] enormous non-theatrical life it's going to have as well."
Kendall explained that this is just the latest in a string of political and activist films that he and his partner Connie White (a seasoned film buyer) have released through Balcony. While Kendall explained that he and White don't exclusively pursue such films, filmmakers have been drawn to them following their successes with creating enhanced service deals for such movies as "Trudell," "Daughter From Danang," and "Stolen Childhoods."
"Finally, now this story can be told because it needs to be told," director Zeiger said Monday night at the IFC Center screening. "Had I made this film in the 1990s it would have fallen on deaf ears. It is a bittersweet situation -- I hope that the film plays a small part in people looking at the war today, and GI's today, in a different light."
"Abominable," directed by Ryan Schifrin (opening in Los Angeles)
Ryan Schifrin's "Abominable", starring Matt McCoy, Haley Joel, Paul Gleason, Jeffrey Combs, Lance Henriksen, and Dee Wallace-Stone, is the story of the infamous beast -- sasquatch, bigfoot or yeti? -- that is poised to go on a rampage, if it isn't stopped soon. (Freestyle Releasing)
"The Celestine Prophecy," directed by Armand Mastroianni
Armand Mastroianni's adaptation of the novel "The Celestine Prophecy" is a spiritual adventure that follows a man as he searches for an ancient Peruvian manuscript. (Celestine Films)
"Mongolian Ping Pong," directed by Ning Hao
"Mongolian Ping Pong" is Ning Hoa's story about two young boys who find an ping pong ball and attempt to track it back to it's source. (First Run Features)
"Sir No Sir," directed by David Zeiger
David Zeiger's documentary "Sir No Sir" is the first film to tell the story of resistance to the Vietnam war from within the military. (Balcony Releasing)
"Somersault," directed by Cate Shortland
Cate Shortland's "Somersault" is about a 16-year-old girl in Australia who must learn to control her reckless sexuality in the face of her burgeoning womanhood. (Magnolia Pictures)
"Standing Still," directed by Matthew Cole Weiss
Mathew Cole Weiss's comedy "Standing Still" is about a popular couple that's about to be married and have an ensemble of close friends coming to Los Angeles to reconnect for the wedding. (Freestyle Releasing)
"Stolen," directed by Rebecca Dreyfus
"Stolen" is Rebecca Dreyfus's documentary about the largest art heist in American history resulting in the loss of 13 famous paintings in 1990 that have still never been recovered. (International Film Circuit)