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Film Acquisition Rundown: Grasshopper Film Gets ‘Escapes,’ Amazon and IFC Films Date ‘City of Ghosts’ and More

Keep up with the wild and wooly world of indie film acquisitions with our weekly Rundown of everything that’s been picked up around the globe.

city of ghosts

“City of Ghosts”

Courtesy of Sundance

Keep up with the wild and wooly world of indie film acquisitions with our weekly Rundown of everything that’s been picked up around the globe. Check out last week’s Rundown here.

– Grasshopper Film has announced the acquisition of all U.S. distribution rights to Michael Almereyda’s new documentary “Escapes,” a dynamic portrait of Hampton Fancher, executive produced by Wes Anderson. “Escapes” will open in theaters this summer followed by a VOD and Home Video release in the fall.

“Escapes” showcases the storytelling talents of Hampton Fancher, flamenco dancer, film and TV actor, and the unlikely producer and screenwriter of the landmark sci-fi classic “Blade Runner,” as well as screenwriter on the upcoming sequel “Blade Runner 2049.”  Fancher’s running commentary – with a little help from Philip K. Dick and Ridley Scott – works in concert with extensive archival footage as Fancher relates death-defying escapades from a remarkable life.  Romantic misadventures, two brief marriages, and wayward acts of jealousy, chivalry and friendship are mirrored in a parallel universe where Fancher plays cowboys, killers, fops, cads, and the occasional hero.

Many years in the making, “Escapes” screened as work in progress in the San Francisco International Film Festival, the Viennale in Austria, and the Rotterdam International Film Festival.

– Amazon Studios and IFC Films have announced that the U.S. theatrical release date for Matthew Heineman’s stunning documentary “City of Ghosts” will be July 14, 2017. Additionally, the film will have its initial New York premiere at next month’s Tribeca Film Festival.

Directed, produced, and filmed by Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Matthew Heineman, the film “is a singularly powerful cinematic experience that is sure to shake audiences to their core as it elevates the canon of one of the most talented documentary filmmakers working today. Captivating in its immediacy, ‘City of Ghosts’ follows the journey of ‘Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently’ – a handful of anonymous activists who banded together after their homeland was taken over by ISIS in 2014. With astonishing, deeply personal access, this is the story of a brave group of citizen journalists as they face the realities of life undercover, on the run, and in exile, risking their lives to stand up against one of the greatest evils in the world today.”

“False Confessions”

– Big World Pictures will release Luc Bondy’s final feature film as director, “False Confessions.” Isabelle Huppert commands the screen as Araminte, the wealthy widow who unwittingly hires the smitten Dorante (Louis Garrel) as her accountant. Secrets and lies accumulate as Dorante and his accomplice, Araminte’s manservant Dubois (Yves Jacques), manipulate not only the good-hearted Araminte, but also her friend and confidante, Marton (Manon Combes).

Filmed in part on-site at the Théâtre de l’Odéon, the film blurs the distinction between stage and screen, offering a new turn on this classic take on the psychology of love.

Big World’s Jonathan Howell noted, “The combination of this stellar cast, Marivaux’s text and the opulent setting results in an experience that’s equally stimulating for the emotions, the mind and the eyes. We’re pleased to be able to work with Doc & Film again on such a rewarding project.”

–  The Orchard has announced that the company will release director Pat Healy’s feature debut “Take Me,” starring Taylor Schilling opposite Healy. The Duplass Brothers serve as executive producers while Mel Eslyn and Sev Ohanian serve as producers of the film, which will have its world premiere at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, followed by a theatrical and digital release in May.

The acquisition marks an ongoing relationship with the Duplass Brothers and The Orchard as part of an output deal. The Orchard has worldwide theatrical, digital rental and sales, cable/satellite VOD, airline, DVD and soundtrack rights. Netflix will be releasing the film on its worldwide streaming platform later this year.

In the film, “Ray is in the boutique simulated abduction business. An understandably threadbare market, he jumps at the chance when a mysterious call contracts him for a weekend kidnapping with a handsome payday at the end. But the job isn’t all that it seems. A black comedy that threads the needle between crime thriller and slapstick farce, ‘Take Me’ is as twisty as it is funny.”

“Take Me”

– The Orchard has also acquired worldwide distribution rights to director Kevin Phillips debut feature “Super Dark Times.” The film, which debuted at the Rotterdam Film Festival in January, will screen at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. Starring Owen Campbell, Charlie Tahan, and Elizabeth Cappuccino, the film was written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, produced by Richard Peete, Jett Steiger, and Edward Parks, with executive producers Cameron Lamb, William Hall, Niraj Bhatia and Dan Burks. The Orchard plans a theatrical release for the film later this year.

The film “is set in the mid-1990’s and centered on teenage best friends Zach and Josh. When a gruesome accident leads to a cover-up, the secret drives a wedge between the two boys and propels them down a rabbit hole of escalating paranoia and violence.”

– Orion Pictures and Samuel Goldwyn Films have acquired the worldwide rights to “Tracktown,” the feature film debut for Alexi Pappas and Jeremy Teicher, who co-wrote and co-directed the coming-of-age dramatic comedy. The film, which had its world premiere at the 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival, stars Pappas and Chase Offerle with Rachel Dratch  and Andy Buckley. The film will be released in select theaters, and On Demand nationwide on May 12.

The film “follows famed, but lonely distance runner Plumb Marigold (Alexi Pappas), as she prepares for the biggest race of her life: the Olympic Trials. Temporarily sidelined by an injury, Plumb wanders into a bakery and catches the eye of an aimless boy (Chase Offerle) working behind the counter.”

– Cohen Media Group has announced that CMG has acquired all distribution rights in North America to “Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait,” a compelling new documentary written and directed by Italy’s Pappi Corsicato and produced by Valeria Golino, which chronicles the personal life and public career of the celebrated painter and filmmaker Julian Schnabel, whose acclaimed work has turned him into an icon of the international art and cinema worlds.

A theatrical release is planned for the film in May of 2017 at the newly re-launched, iconic New York City theater, the Quad Cinema.


– Breaking Glass Pictures has acquired North American rights to the LGBT/drama “Handsome Devil” from Irish writer/director John Butler. The film held its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, and its U.S. premiere at NewFest. It went on to play a number of festivals, both nationally and internationally, including Glasgow Film Festival, the AFI European Showcase, and will play the Miami International Film Festival in 2017.

Breaking Glass is planning a limited theatrical in June followed by a VOD and DVD release.

– Freestyle Digital Media, the recently-acquired digital film distribution division of Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios has acquired the North American rights to the LGBTQ comedy feature, “Landline.” The film debut on VOD through Freestyle Digital Media on April 4. Freestyle Digital Media VP of Operations, Bill Vergos, negotiated the LANDLINE deal with the filmmaker, writer/director/producer/actor Matthew Aaron.

The film “tells the story of a huge Chicago Cubs fan who works as a public relations executive, Ted Gout. Ted loses a big promotion to a new college graduate who has the upper hand when it comes to technology. Ted soon embarks on a low-tech, old school journey to find himself. He decides to literally give up his cell phone and disconnects. With his husband and friends in tow, Ted experiences the pros and cons of modern technology before finding a way to win his promotion back so he and his husband can buy their dream home.”

The film was written, produced, and directed by its lead actor, Matthew Aaron.

– In related distribution news, Richard Abramowitz and Karol Martesko-Fenster of Abramorama and Giancarlo Canavesio of Mangusta Productions have announced a partnership to bring films that celebrate “consciousness,” more traditionally referred to as “mind, body, spirit,” to the theatrical marketplace.

The first film in the new deal is the feature length documentary “The Last Shaman,” directed by Raz Degan. The film, executive produced by John Battsek, Luca Argentero, Lapo Elkhann, Francesco Melzi, Ran Mor, Ron Rofe and Giancarlo Canavesio, will open at the Sunshine Cinema in New York City on May 12, with Los Angeles, San Francisco and other markets to follow.

Directed by Raz Degan, The Last Shaman is the story of James Freeman, a young man who decides to take matters in his own hands when faced with incurable depression.  He undergoes a life-changing journey in the Amazon jungle that brings him a deeper understanding and acceptance of self.  Along the way he experiences the healing properties of the tribal plant medicine Ayahuasca and the world around it.

Abramorama’s Richard Abramowitz and Karol Martesko-Fenster said. “Our relationship with Mangusta and Giancarlo has developed organically – exactly right given the nature of this venture. We’re very excited about merging our approach to “tribal” audiences with his knowledge of this space to bring out “conscious” movies, something we need now more than ever.”

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