Last week boasted a couple of Specialty narrative releases with A-listers, even if those titles mostly came up short at the box office, while a pair of docs — albeit one centered on a famous filmmaker — thrived, at least initially. This weekend’s newcomers mostly lack marquee names, but perhaps that’s an enticement for luring audiences seeking summer alternatives. Sundance favorite Tickled heads to theaters via Magnolia Pictures, taking a peek into the creepy world of a fetishistic tickle “competition” circuit. Outsider Pictures is opening the 2015 Cannes Camera d’Or winner Land And Shade from Colombia in New York, while Wolfe Releasing is bowing Toronto’s Indian-produced Parched, which is a departure from Wolfe’s primarily LGBT focus. And First Run Features is debuting veteran filmmaker Carlos Saura’s doc Argentina.

Also opening this weekend is Dimension thriller Clown in a 100-theater limited release ahead of its on-demand run. Magnolia is taking Norwegian adventure drama The Last King to theaters, while Momentum Pictures is opening No Stranger Than Love with Alison Brie and Colin Hanks in a day and date release.

tickled
Magnolia Pictures

Tickled
Directors: David Farrier, Dylan Reeve
Subjects: David Farrier, Dylan Reeve, David Starr, Hal Karp
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

A favorite on such festival circuit stops as Sundance, True/False, Sarasota, Cleveland, San Francisco, Hot Docs, Montclair and more, Magnolia’s doc Tickled heads into theaters just as such documentaries as De Palma and The Music of Strangers have drawn audiences outside the studio tentpoles.

Tickled seemingly centers on a fetish. After stumbling on a “competitive endurance tickling” video online, in which young men are paid to be tied up and tickled, reporter David Farrier reaches out to the company with an interview request. The reply is strange. The sender mocks Farrier’s sexual orientation and threatens extreme legal action should he dig any deeper. Undeterred, Farrier travels to the hidden tickling facilities in L.A. and uncovers a vast empire. As he investigates, he discovers secret identities, criminal activity and an organization given to “harassing and harming the lives of those who protest their involvement in these videos.”

“[Directors] David Farrier and Dylan Reeve came to me in late 2014 after they had discovered the story and had already been subject to litigation and threats,” said producer Carthew Neal. “I realized it wasn’t just a news story and that it could be a film. What I saw in it was mystery, intrigue and humor. So we continued on with the journey.”

A wiz at the internet, according to Neal, co-director Dylan Reeve began investigating the company behind the videos, and found people claiming mistreatment, setting the two filmmakers off on a trip around the country meeting people who had run-ins with the fantasy-peddling company.

They had begun initial shooting following an early Kickstarter campaign. The project also received funding from the New Zealand Film Commission and MPI Media Group. “The film is not critical of fetishes, but just this particular case,” said Neal. “After an initial shoot in 2014, they shot over three weeks in 2015 in addition to some pick-ups. Post took three months.”

While applying for festivals, sales company Submarine came on board to rep the film before its Sundance premiere. The festival debut didn’t close-out the Tickled story, however. “One of the representatives from the company who tried to stop David from telling the story came to the screening,” said Neal. “People in the audience began realizing it was him…There was quite a buzz after that.” In March at the True/False Film Festival, the screening had to be stopped mid-way when people, likely from the company, were seen filming the film and refused to stop. “Cops had to come to remove them,” said Neal, who noted that a defamation lawsuit is pending.

Magnolia Pictures is opening Tickled at the Nuart in L.A. and Sunshine Cinema in New York this weekend. The feature will head to locations in Berkeley, Irvine, San Francisco, Chicago, Cambridge, MA, Toronto and Montreal the following Friday, with over a dozen cities added ahead of the 4th of July weekend. Tickled will expand around North America throughout July.

Land and Shade
Outsider Pictures

Land And Shade
Director-writer: César Augusto Acevedo
Cast: José Felipe Cárdenas, Haimer Leal, Edison Raigosa, Hilda Ruiz, Marleyda Soto
Distributor: Outsider Pictures

Colombia’s Land And Shade won the Camera d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and was a Grand Jury Prize winner at AFI Fest last November. The film follows Alfonso, an old farmer who has returned home to tend to his gravely ill son. He rediscovers his old house, where the woman who was once his wife still lives with his daughter-in-law and grandson. The landscape resembles a wasteland, with vast sugar cane plantations producing clouds of ash. Seventeen years after abandoning his family, Alfonso tries to fit back in and save them.

“[The filmmaker] is a friend of one of our producers, Paola Andrea Perez. He presented his script to our film company Burning Blue Productions. It was strong, but we decided it needed more work. But from the beginning you can see it was emotional and heartbreaking,” said producer Jorge Forero. “César had never made a film before, so over a year he made a short film and developed the script.” Writer-director César Augusto Acevedo headed to Spain and the film labs in Rotterdam to work on the script. Development began in 2012. While he was in Europe, the producers focused on fundraising, finding sources in France, Holland, Chile and though the Colombian Film Commission, and later, Brazil.

“Having the physical [signs] of having worked in the fields was important to him,” said Forero. “During casting, we quickly found the [female lead] who ended up being a professional actress, but it was very hard to find the male character. We eventually found him in the [sugar cane growing region] Valle del Cauca where we shot. So we had some professional and non-professional cast.”

Forego tapped revered Brazilian acting coach Fatima Toledo (City of God, Central Station), who he had met while living in Brazil years before, to help with the project. After reading the script, she agreed to travel to Colombia and worked with the team over five weeks. “Her process is very intense,” added Forero. The 2014 shoot took place primarily on a portion of a working farm. The owner allowed the production to burn the sugar cane, which produced the ubiquitous ash seen in the feature.

Land And Shade became the fourth consecutive feature for Burning Blue Productions to screen in Cannes. “We’ve had great luck showing there and we love Critics Week,” said Forero. “We thought we might have a good chance to win something because the jury and critics in the screening were crying and coming up to us afterward.”

Forego noted that non-studio films in Colombia have a challenge, though Land And Shade had 50K entries during its release there, a large number for “an independent film,” he said. “The reviews were very good, but journalists in Colombia are not very interested in non-studio films,” he added. Land And Shade arrives at the Village East Cinema in New York Friday with additional markets added in the coming weeks.

Parched

Director-writer: Leena Yadav
Writer: Supratik Sen
Cast: Radhika Apte,Tannishtha Chatterjee, Surveen Chawla, Lehar Khan
Distributor:

parched
Wolfe Releasing

Primarily a distributor of LGBT content, Wolfe Releasing went outside its usual niche to pick up Indian-produced Parched. The company caught the title at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, where it was a standout for the company. Oscar-winning cinematographer Russell Carpenter (Titanic) shot the film.

Set in a parched landscape of rural India, the film follows four women: traditional Rani, a young widow; lively Lajjo, who lives in an abusive marriage; outcast Bijli, a dancer and prostitute who becomes friends with Rani and Lajjo; and Janaki, a young teenager in a miserable arranged marriage to Rani’s son Gulab. The unlikely friends unapologetically talk about men, sex and life as they struggle with their individual boundaries and their inner demons. Gradually, they begin to question the old traditions that have kept them locked in servitude. One fateful night, the women come together and take a bold step that will change the trajectory of their lives.

“Of the 30 films I saw [at TIFF], it was my favorite movie. I could not get it out of my head,” said Wolfe’s Jim Stephens. “I had met the sales agent and made an offer…Even though it’s not LGBT, we thought it could be relatable.” Stephens noted that Parched isn’t the company’s first non-LGBT release, but said that audiences who regularly see Wolfe titles will find an affinity with characters who are “so strong and empowered.” “We have a strong female customer base at Wolfe, so that will be some of our traditional customers, but we’ll also reach out to the Indian communities,” he added. “We’re working with Indian press based in the U.S. Also a lot of the coverage the film has received in India reaches [targeted] Indian audiences here.”

Stephens added that filmmaker Leena Yadav is known for her Bollywood-centric themes, but had set out to make a film to “get some conversations going.” She received an “Impact” award at the Stockholm Film Festival in addition to a prize at the L.A. Indian Film Festival. Parched will open in the U.S. ahead of its Indian release, which has been pushed back to later in the year.

Wolfe Releasing will open Parched in New York at the AMC Empire 25 and Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles. It will later head to two locations in the Bay Area. Parched will be available via digital on-demand and DVD in August.

Argentina
First Run Features

Argentina
Director-writer: Carlos Saura
Subjects: Pedro Aznar, Juan Falú, Marian Farías Gómez, Gabo Ferro
Distributor: First Run Features

Argentina is the latest film from Carlos Saura, the veteran Spanish director of Carmen and Flamenco. It explores the heart of traditional Argentine folklore via a series of choreographed tableaux retracing a history abundant in original culture. The feature spotlights the theatrical staging of dance mixed with “awe-inspiring” traditional song. Described as “poetic, riveting and moving,” Argentina is itself a live performance choreographed by Saura recalling the history of a country, set to the tune of guitars and accordions.

“[French sales agency] MK2 Films pitched us the film. We’ve always been huge fans of Carols Sauras,” said First Run Features VP Marc Mauceri. “His films have typically gone to bigger distributors, but it was our dream to work with him.”

First Run said the Spanish-born filmmaker’s distinct style is mostly present in Argentina, and expects the film will appeal to his core fans of moviegoers who have turned out for his previous releases. “The film shows his documentary feel. They’re essentially staged performances…in the same format he’s followed with his past music films, but this is a bit more esoteric,” added Mauceri. “He has a core fan group, but whether it will expand beyond that, we’ll just have to see.”

First Run is expecting reviews to drive interest and has been spreading the word through traditional ad buys. Argentina will open in New York at Lincoln Plaza, which has been home to Saura’s previous films, and it will head to the Royal in Los Angeles July 1.