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Tailor-Made Distribution: Zeitgeist Celebrates 10 Years!

Tailor-Made Distribution: Zeitgeist Celebrates 10 Years!

by Maya Churi

In 1988, “independent film” took its first baby steps and since then, it
has taken off running, with independent distribution companies taking
to the streets, targeting the most discriminating and adventurous of
filmgoers. On top of the list is Zeitgeist Films Ltd. which is
celebrating its 10th anniversary this month. Founded by Nancy Gerstman
and Emily Russo, with $2,000 and a lot of good will, Zeitgeist (the
English translation of which is “spirit of the times”) has expanded the
definition of traditional “arthouse” fare by successfully developing
markets for the films they acquire. Their library includes films by
directors such as Atom Egoyan, Todd Haynes, Peter Greenaway, Derek
Jarman, Yvonne Rainer, Abbas Kiarostami, Deepa Mehta, among many more.

In an effort to identify new filmmaking talent and to distribute films
that weren’t being distributed effectively, if at all, Gerstman and
Russo began acquiring feature-length fiction and documentary films as
well as packaging together the cutting edge shorts by Apparatus
(Todd Haynes, Christine Vachon, and Barry Ellsworth). Ten
years later they have acquired and released over 65 feature films with
budgets ranging from $3,000 to $3 million. Their latest releases “The
Saltmen of Tibet
” by Ulrike Koch and “Taste Of Cherry” by Abbas
Kiarostami opened in New York and around the country to critical

The success of the company started with Bruce Weber’s Academy Award
nominated documentary “Let’s Get Lost” in 1989 followed by Atom Egoyan’s
Speaking Parts” in 1990. Since then the company has taken up with such
innovative films as Todd Haynes’ “Poison” in 1991, and Mark Achbar and
Peter Wintonick’s three-hour documentary “Manufacturing Consent: Noam
Chomsky and the Media
” in 1992. The next few years have included the
Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning “Silverlake Life: The View From Here
(1993) by Peter Friedman and Tom Joslin, Ernst Gossner and Jan
Svankmajer’s “Faust” (1994) and the re-release of a restored print of
Jacques Demy’s “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” in 1996. In 1997 they
released seven new films, including Olivier Assayas’ “Irma Vep,” Arnaud
Desplechin’s “My Sex Life…Or How I Got Into An Argument,” and Sandrine
Veysset’s “Will It Snow For Christmas?,” as well as Deepa Mehta’s
Fire,” which took New York by storm.

In celebration of this event The American Museum of the Moving Image
will present a weekend-long retrospective of Zeitgeist films featuring
an array of features, shorts, trailers, and appearances by guest
filmmakers. On Saturday, November 7th at 2:00 p.m., Todd Haynes will
introduce a screening of Jennifer Montgomery’s film “Art For Teachers Of
” (shown with Mary Herstand’s short “He Was Once”). Also on
Saturday, at 4:30 p.m., Christine Vachon will introduce Derek Jarman’s
Wittgenstein,” shown with Bruce Weber’s short “Backyard Movie” and
Shawn Dempsey’s “We’re Talking Vulva.” On Sunday, November 8th at 2:00
p.m., a surprise guest will introduce Olivier Assayas’ “Irma Vep” (shown
with shorts by Peter Greenaway and the Brothers Quay), and at 4:30 p.m.,
Canadian eccentric Guy Maddin will introduce “The Umbrellas Of
,” shown with Maddin’s short “Odilon Redon,” and the short
Long Way Down” by the Brothers Quay. Call 718.784.0077 for information,
or check the AMMI web site @

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