Park City Still Buzzing As Fest Heads Into Final Weekend
by Wendy Mitchell, Andrea Meyer, and Eugene Hernandez
Even as Sundance enters its final weekend, moviegoers and industry executives are still busy. Word of a Newmarket deal for Nicole Kassell's "The Woodsman" swept through the evening parties last night. The movie, produced by Lee Daniels, stars Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Benjamin Bratt, Mos Def, Eve, Michael Shannon, and David Alan Grier. It is playing in the dramatic competition at Sundance.
Also acquired Thursday was Christian Johnston's "September Tapes." First Look Media nabbed worldwide rights to the movie from Persistent Entertainment and Complex Media. The Sundance American Spectrum film stars George Calil and Wali Razaqi.
Other deals were pending late Thursday, with more anticipated ahead of Saturday's Sundance awards ceremony.
[indieWIRE will publish the winners of the 2004 Sundance Film Festival on Saturday evening.]
TIMONER'S BIG "DIG!"
It's been a crazy week for director/producer/editor Ondi Timoner. "I've been running around between breast feedings and press screenings," she said with a laugh. Timoner is here not only with her baby Joaquim but also with the documentary "DIG!," a competition entry that has offers on the table, according to sources close to the movie. The film follows more than seven years in the lives of two bands, the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols -- the former a respected but obscure rock act fronted by a mad genius named Anton Newcombe, the latter a more successful pop band led by the charismatic Courtney Taylor. The film explores the paths of the bands as they intersect and then veer in opposite directions.
I could never write characters like this," Timoner told indieWIRE. In addition to the usual scenes of musicians goofing off backstage and sniffing copious grams of cocaine, there are quite a few unexpected turn of events -- Newcombe kicking a fan in the head, the Dandys pissing off music video director David LaChappelle and much more. She decided that Dandy Warhols frontman Courtney Taylor would be the best narrator for the project. "Him telling the story gives it a kind of continuity," she said while dashing into a Thursday screening of "Napoleon Dynamite" at the Eccles with baby in tow. "It's about Anton, but it's also about Anton's influence on Courtney."
Timoner, who has directed music videos and worked on several docs and narrative scripts, spent seven years filming and editing the 1,500 hours of footage for "DIG!." Those many years are now paying off as the doc has played well for both audiences and potential buyers in Sundance.
"The Q&As and audience response have been out of control, it's been amazing," she said. "It's probably the most gratifying thing that has ever happened to me. Even without me in it, [the film] is still my story, it's my life."
Next, Timoner is finishing two documentaries, one about a dam in Africa and the other about a rare form of Portuguese bullfighting. Also, she said, "My truest dream is to direct a narrative feature, and I'm halfway through my third original screenplay. People here at Sundance have been supportive of that, so it looks like I may have that opportunity. It will be a long road but I'm used to long roads." [Wendy Mitchell]
Audiences expect no less than incendiary sex, complex political inquiry, and controversy from Bernardo Bertolucci. "The Dreamers," the latest film by the director of "The Conformist" and "Last Tango in Paris," had its American premiere Tuesday night in Park City and will go on to be released by Fox Searchlight uncut, with an NC-17 rating. Bertolucci's longtime producer Jeremy Thomas said at a screening Wednesday that the team is pleased about the rating. "There should be films for grownups that are meant to be seen by grownups," he said.
Something of a wet dream for film buffs, "The Dreamers" follows a bright-eyed American cinephile as he meets a sexy brother and sister in Paris during a demonstration protesting the firing of the director of the renowned Cinémathèque Française in early 1968. "They closed the gates and said it was a hotbed of dissent and political activism," Thomas said. "From there, the student protests followed and a national strike. It happened all over Paris, and it changed the world." Against this explosive backdrop, the young American gets caught up in a love triangle with the seductive and strangely codependent brother and sister.
Bertolucci was unable to attend Sundance due to back problems that prevented him from flying, but he held a satellite press conference on Thursday at Village at the Lift and sent a video to be shown at each screening of his film. "It's a long way from Rome to Park City... I tried to be wise and listen to what my body was saying. I know it's disappointing for somebody there, but it's more disappointing for me, especially because tonight is the opportunity to celebrate a little victory," he said in the video. "'The Dreamers' will be shown in its uncut version. As I've said before, I think that, after all, an orgasm is better than a bomb." [Andrea Meyer]
SONY CLASSICS PACTS
Sony Pictures Classics has announced deals for two new films, both outside of the Sundance festival. On Thursday, the company announced that it has acquired the Czech film "Zelary," directed by Ondrej Trojan. The film is the Czech entry for best foreign language film. Nominees in that category will be announced on Tuesday. Wednesday, the company said that it would release "Heights," a new film from Chris Terrio that they hope to take to Cannes this year. Ismail Merchant and James Ivory are among the producers of the film. [Eugene Hernandez]
CAMELOT NABS NEW FILM
Camelot Pictures, producers and financiers of the hit Sundance film "Garden State," have announced that they will finance and produce "The Box." The film is a thriller that will be written by Richard Kelly ("Donnie Darko") and Eli Roth ("Cabin Fever"). The two are finishing the script and Roth will direct later this year. Kelly and Sean McKittrick's Darko Entertainment will produce the movie with Camelot's Gary Gilbert and Dan Halsted. The film is described as the story of "an unhappy married couple who receive a small wooden box on their doorstep. At the push of a button, the box brings its bearer instant wealth but also instantly kills someone the bearer doesn't know." [Eugene Hernandez]