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DAILY NEWS: New This Week; More San Sebastian Film News; and Kawanishi at Miramax

DAILY NEWS: New This Week; More San Sebastian Film News; and Kawanishi at Miramax

DAILY NEWS: New This Week; More San Sebastian Film News; and Kawanishi at Miramax

by Eugene Hernandez and Anthony Kaufman/indieWIRE

>> NEW THIS WEEK: Big Indies Battle for Teens

(indieWIRE/08.29.01) — Much has already been written about “O,” Tim Blake
‘s “Othello“-in-high school teen picture, which was originally a
Miramax-Dimension product, and is finally being released this weekend on a
whopping 1,500 screens through Lions Gate Films. Originally slated for
distribution two years ago, “O” went into suspended animation as a result of
the Columbine massacre, and repeat high school shooting incidents throughout
the months that followed. Miramax, in efforts to kiss up to corporate parent
Disney or stave off the likes of controversy incurred by previous releases
like “Priest” and “Kids,” finally let the movie go to Lions Gate. In April,
Lions Gate’s Tom Ortenberg told indieWIRE, “It was very much a standard
acquisition for us.” And as for the controversy, he said, “I don’t think
it’s a controversial film, it is modern day pop entertainment. Any perceived
controversy will end up being much ado about nothing.”

Ortenberg’s description of the film as “pop entertainment” is dead-on:
starring starlets Josh Hartnett, Julia Stiles, and Mekhi Phifer, the movie is reconfigured Shakespeare for mass consumption, with reductive depictions of class, race, and sexuality, perfect for teen audiences looking for one
more diversion before heading into their own bullet-laden classrooms in the
weeks to come. For indieWIRE to even consider the film in this column is a
bit of a stretch: there isn’t much indie-ness about it. Amidst all of the
industry press surrounding the picture — that Nelson’s film has suffered
under the twin pressures of cultural prurience and corporate domination —
few have mentioned that it’s just a manipulative melodrama for the teen set
(which nabbed an Entertainment Weekly cover, no less).

Similarly targeted to the teen audience, MGM‘s specialty division UA will
follow its low-key, quirky arthouse sleeper, “Ghost World,” with a picture
that reeks of the company’s concern for the bottom line, “Jeepers Creepers,”
a standard fright-fest written and directed by Victor Salva (1995’s
Powder“), opening wide this weekend. Starring young newcomers Gina Philips and Justin Long as a sister-brother duo stalked by the evil Creeper, the
film is being released as part of UA’s distribution pact with Francis Ford
‘s American Zoetrope (upcoming Zoetrope-UA releases include Roman Coppola‘s “CQ” and Hal Hartley‘s “No Such Thing.”)

Let’s hope that new UA chief and former October Films co-founder Bingham Ray finds better films for the distributor than the carbon copy horror variety,
more in line with the company’s esteemed heritage. For example, a
retrospective at New York’s Film Forum called NYPD recently screened the
1974 UA release, “The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3,” Joseph Sargent‘s smart
thriller, which follows a band of terrorists who take a New York subway car

While “Pelham” was surely marketed as a studio blockbuster in its day, with
a killer-jazz score by Academy Award-winning composer David Shire, and stars Walter Matthau, as a transit cop, and Brit Robert Shaw, as the criminal
mastermind, it is a sobering reminder of how intelligent and skillful films
made within the system used to be. If the new vanguard of independent
distributors are to hold their own, they ought to take lessons from the
past: when wide release movies weren’t synonymous with a 10th grade reading
level. [Anthony Kaufman]

>> San Sebastian Names Opening and Closing Titles

(indieWIRE/08.29.01) — The San Sebastian Film Festival has announced the
opening and closing night movies for its 49th installment.

The official selection will open on September 20th with the debut of Rose
‘s “The Safety of Objects.” The film stars Glenn Close, Dermot Mulroney and Jessica Campbell in an adaptation of a collection of short stories by A.M. Homes. It will close on September 29th with Carlos Saura‘s “Bunuel y La Mesa del Rey Solomon” (Bunuel and King Solomon’s Table).

The Festival’s Zabaltegi section will open with Jean-Pierre Jeunet‘s
Amelie” and close with the Coen Brother‘s latest, “The Man Who Wasn’t
.” Also announced was the news that Alfonso Cuaron‘s “Y Tu Mama
” will close the Festival’s Made in Spanish section.

>> Kawanishi Joins Miramax as PR VP

(indieWIRE/08.29.01) — Hiromi Kawanishi, a well known publicist in the indie
community, has joined Miramax as Vice President of Publicity, based in New
York City. Kawanishi was recently a VP at Magic Lantern.

“Hiromi’s exceptional relationships with media, filmmakers, and festivals
make her an extraordinary addition to an already terrific team,” commented
Janet Hill, the company’s acting head of PR. “We’re proud that she is
joining Dan Scheffey, Robin Jonas, Teri Kane, Liz Berger, Weiman Seid, Karen Paul and the rest of our accomplished, hard- working and dedicated publicity staff.”

Kawanishi previously worked at Kahn & Jacobs and Samantha Dean & Associates. Among her first assignments will be to handle PR for Yuen Wo Ping‘s “Iron Monkey,” Lone Scherfig‘s “Italian for Beginners” and Majid Majidi‘s “Baran.” [Eugene Hernandez]

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