By Brian Brooks | Indiewire August 17, 2009 at 8:59AM
Festivals films, including a number of documentaries, have a growing television outlet with the expansion of on demand offerings from the Rainbow's Sundance Channel and IFC. Spike Lee's "Passing Strange The Movie" will launch the Sundance Channel's "Sundance Selects" series, an ongoing video-on-demand program, which kicks off on August 26. The film, which will also have a theatrical release, is based on a the musical develped at the Sundance Theater Lab and Directors Lab that had its world debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
The film tells the semi-autobiographical story of a young black man who leaves behind his middle-class church-centered life upbringing in the 1970s for a trip to Europe in search if his "artistic and personal identity. Sex, drugs, politics, and art await him in Amsterdam and a very militant Berlin.
Sundance Selects creates a new national platform for independent documentary and world cinema titles, marking the first time a transactional on-demand platform has existed for feature documentary films. The service will feature one premiere per month on demand, with tentative plans to increase the schedule to two monthly debuts. Other theatrical releases will be on a case-by-case basis. Along with "Passing Strange," the series will include: Alexis Dos Santos's drama "Unmade Beds" (September 9); Academy Award-winner Adam Elliot's animated film "Mary and Max," which opened the 2009 Sundance Film Festival (October 14); and Chris Wiatt's documentary "A Complete History of My Sexual Failures" (January 2010). The service will also release Kief Davidson's documentary "Kassim the Dream," which premiered at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival (November 4), and Tom Thurman's documentary "Nick Nolte: No Exit" (December 16).
"The hallmark of the Sundance brand is creating an environment of discovery, for both artists and for audiences," commented Sundance founder Robert Redford in a statement. "Sundance nurtures new, independent voices in the creative realm, and is committed to bringing their work to larger audiences in new ways. Sundance Selects is a perfect complement to this mission and I am really energized about working with Sundance Channel and Rainbow Media on this new venture."
"After purchasing the Sundance Channel last year, Rainbow has been exploring relevant and appropriate growth opportunities for the brand," said Rainbow Media president Joshua Sapan in a statement. "We are lucky to have the wisdom and taste of Robert Redford to guide us in the development of the service, and believe we share a vision of this as an exciting opportunity to bring unprecedented exposure and opportunity for this genre of films and filmmakers."
IFC Films will continue to release six to eight titles per month on VOD across its Festival Direct and IFC in Theaters platforms. Rainbow Media Holdings LLC is a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corporation.