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Breaking Film Industry News — Awards, Acquisitions, Festival Buzz, Grants, and More

Everything industry insiders need to know this month at the movies, from newly announced awards to festival lineups, acquisitions and more.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

“The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind”

Ilze Kitshoff / Netflix

March 15

– SFFILM has announced that that Closing Night of the 2019 San Francisco International Film Festival is IFC Films’ “Official Secrets,” Gavin Hood’s gripping retelling of the story of Katharine Gun, a British intelligence officer who leaked a confidential memo sanctioning the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Official Secrets will screen at the historic Castro Theatre on Sunday, April 21 at 8:00 pm. Director Gavin Hood, subject Katharine Gun, and journalist Martin Bright are expected to attend the event and participate in a Q&A.

“The Bay Area has long championed resistance to injustice, and this extraordinary new film from Gavin Hood—the current master of the thoughtful political thriller—pairs great performances with real-life heroes who try to stop a war that continues to haunt us today,” said SFFILM Executive Director Noah Cowan. “We are honored to have these exemplars of press freedom and whistleblower justice in attendance at our Closing Night screening and celebrate their courage and tenacity.”

– Cinema Guild has announced the acquisition of U.S. distribution rights to “The Wandering Soap Opera” (La telenovela errante), co-directed by the late Chilean master Raúl Ruiz with his widow Valeria Sarmiento. The film made its world premiere at the Locarno Film Festival and had its U.S. premiere as part of Film Society of Lincoln Center’s retrospective of Ruiz’s work last year. It will open at Anthology Film Archives in New York City on May 17 before expanding to theaters across the country.

– The RiverRun International Film Festival today announced the full lineup of films for the 21st anniversary Festival, running April 4 – April 14. This year RiverRun will screen 172 films, including 71 features and 101 shorts from 47 countries. “Our 2019 RiverRun International Film Festival features a diverse collection of over 170 films from nearly four dozen countries across the globe,” said RiverRun Executive Director Rob Davis. “Each of these films is reflective of our mission to engage our audiences in an exploration of new and divergent cultures and perspectives through the art of film.” Find out more information right here.

– Samuel Goldwyn Films has acquired U.S. rights to Jesse V. Johnson’s action thriller “Avengement.” The film stars Scott Adkins, Craig Fairbrass, Nick Moran, Thomas Turgoose, Kierston Wareing, and Louis Mandylor. The film will be released in theatres and on digital May 24th. Bleiberg Entertainment produced the film through its Compound B genre label and is handling worldwide sales. The film was directed by Jesse V. Johnson, from a screenplay he wrote with Stu Small. The film was produced by Ehud Bleiberg and Joe Karimi-Nik; and executive produced by Nicholas Donnermeyer and Scott Adkins.

Per its official synopsis, “While released on furlough from prison, a lowly criminal evades his guards and returns to his old haunts to take revenge on the people that made him a cold-hearted killer. It’s an epic, bloody battle to search for the soul he lost years ago on the streets of an unforgiving city.”

– The Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA), the Chicago-area print, online and broadcast critics group that celebrates the art of film and film criticism, has announced the first seven films selected for the 2019 Chicago Critics Film Festival. First titles include the Sundance Film Festival smash hit, “The Farewell,” by Lulu Wang and starring Awkwafina. Passes are now on sale for the event, May 17 – 23 at Chicago’s historic Music Box Theatre; more information on the first selected films, plus festival passes, is available here.

"Amazing Grace"

“Amazing Grace”


March 14

– The 21st Annual Roger Ebert’s Film Festival, co-founded and hosted by Chaz Ebert and also known as “Ebertfest,” announced today that Alan Elliott’s “Amazing Grace” will open this year’s festival. “Amazing Grace” is the highly-anticipated concert film presenting Aretha Franklin’s live performance at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Los Angeles in January 1972.

Director Alan Elliott and producer Tirrell D. Whittley will be in attendance to discuss the film. Following the screening, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir will perform live on stage at the Virginia Theatre.

“Most years our Opening Night film has been a 70 mm celluloid, but this year it will be 70mm of soul,” said Chaz Ebert, co-founder and host of Ebertfest, in an official statement. “Instead of ending this year’s Ebertfest with a musical, as per tradition, we are opening it on a glorious, gospel-infused high note, thanks to Alan Elliott’s pristine restoration of the Sydney Pollack-directed film chronicling the gospel performance of the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin over two days in 1972. Amazingly, the ‘Amazing Grace’ footage sat in a Warner Bros. vault for 35 years before Elliott made it his mission to ensure the film’s release, a journey that took 11 years. We are thrilled to be presenting the film at Ebertfest as it finally receives a theatrical release in the U.S.”

The film will be released in April 2019, thank to Neon. The 21st Anniversary of Ebertfest will be held April 10 – 13 at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign, IL with related talks and panel discussions to be held at the Hyatt Place in Champaign and at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

– The Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) announced today the selected screenwriters, screenplays, and mentors for the 19th annual Screenwriters Lab, which will take place April 5 – 7, in East Hampton, New York. The Lab pairs rising screenwriters with established and knowledgeable screenwriters, directors, and producers for a weekend of one-on-one mentoring sessions. The three selected screenplays for 2019 are Barbara Cigarroa’s “El Otro Lado (The Other Side),” Sontenish Myers’ “Stampede,” and Kirsten Tan’s “Higher.”

“Over the years our annual Screenwriters Lab has become a wonderful opportunity for writers to explore the possibilities of their work and receive guidance from some of the industry’s most prolific storytellers,” said David Nugent, Artistic Director of the Hamptons International Film Festival, in an official statement.

This year’s mentors include Michael H. Weber and Caroline Kaplan. Oscar-winning screenwriter Jim Taylor and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Tamara Jenkins will lead this year’s screenwriting Master Class, which is open to the public. The Master Class will take place at 6:00PM on Saturday, April 6, at the Ross School in East Hampton. Check out more information about the festival and its newly announced participants right here.

March 13

– The Sarasota Film Festival has announced that the documentary “Mike Wallace Is Here” will serve as the Opening Night Film for the 2019 Sarasota Film Festival, and “Phil,” the directorial debut of Academy Award-nominated and Emmy Award-nominated actor Greg Kinnear, will make its World Premiere at the festival as the Closing Night Film. Kinnear and Belkin will both be in attendance at the festival. The festival will also screen Noble Jones’ “The Tomorrow Man” as the Centerpiece film, starring Emmy Award-winning and Tony Award-winning actress Blythe Danner.

During the Awards Ceremony on Saturday, April 13, prior to the Closing Night Film in the historic Sarasota Opera House, Danner will receive the festival’s SFF Icon Award, and Emmy Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated actress Anne Heche will receive the festival’s SFF Career Tribute Award. Belkin, Kinnear, Danner, and Heche will all participate in the festival’s popular In Conversation With series.

A still from Mike Wallace Is Here by Avi Belkin, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by CBS NewsAll photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“Mike Wallace Is Here”

– CineLife Entertainment, the event cinema division of Spotlight Cinema Networks, has teamed with Reel Plan to bring Big Screen Shorts, a four-part series of curated short films from around the world, to select theatre across the country beginning March 15. Big Screen Shorts will include documentaries, comedies, dramas, and animated short films. The inaugural U.S.-based theatrical release showcase features eight selected shorts, that range from a Cuban comedy, to a touching tale of loss, to an adrenaline-filled look at an inner-city police officer’s evening.

Each shorts series will have a thematic bent, working to unify the films as part of a single cohesive showcase, with several films having won awards at film festivals around the world, as well as some films having been Oscar shortlisted. In addition, each program of short films will also be introduced by a noted film critic, journalist, or luminary. The first showcase will be presented by Ann Hornaday, chief film critic at The Washington Post, and author of “Talking Pictures: How to Watch Movies.” Big Screen Shorts is created and curated by veteran film festival programmer and taste maker, Jon Gann, Executive Producer, Reel Plan, and founder of DC Shorts Film Festival.

Big Screen Shorts kicks off in several markets, including: Alabama (Prattville), Florida (Fleming Island and Miramar Beach), Illinois (Bloomington and North Pekin), New Jersey (Cranford), Ohio (Columbus), Pennsylvania (Allentown and York), and Wisconsin (Fitchburg). Find out more information right here.

– Hot Docs has announced the 20 projects that will be presented during this year’s Hot Docs Forum. Recognized as North America’s essential market for the international documentary community, the Hot Docs Forum will take place the mornings of Tuesday, April 30 and Wednesday, May 1, during the 2019 edition of Hot Docs. This year’s projects represent 18 different countries and were selected from over 325 submissions. Returning for a third year will be the first look Pitch Prize, which will award the top projects with a total of $100K. Combined with the program’s other two prizes — the Corus-Hot Docs Forum Pitch Prize of $10K and the Cuban Hat Award — the Hot Docs Forum is one of the most highly-funded programs of its kind.

The Hot Docs Festival runs this year from April 25 – May 5. Find out more information about the Hot Docs Forum and the rest of the festival right here.

– The full schedule and final film lineup for the sixth annual Freep Film Festival, which will be held April 10 – 14, has been announced as individual tickets go on sale today. Nearly 90 films and 100 programs, parties, and performances will highlight the five action-packed days.

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