Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch is having busy final months of 2016 with the roll-out of this weekend’s Cannes doc Gimme Danger, featuring rock band The Stooges and its frontman Iggy Pop, ahead of his next feature Paterson in December. An Amazon/Magnolia release, Gimme Danger is one of a few non-fiction features hitting theaters this weekend. Scottish filmmaker Anthony Baxter is opening You’ve Been Trumped Too, a follow-up of sorts to his 2011 feature You’ve Been Trumped, while prolific director Sidney Lumet is the focus of Nancy Buirski’s By Sidney Lumet, opening exclusively in New York today. Indian and Chinese films are also vying for audiences in the final weekend of October. FIP is opening Bollywood feature Ae Dil Hai Mushkil by Karan Johar, while China Lion is launching Mr. Donkey. And with Halloween in mind, Paladin and Grade Point Media are opening The Unspoken day and date in a number of cities as well as on-demand.
Director-writer: Jim Jarmusch
Subjects: Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, James Williamson, Steve Mackay, Mike Watt, Kathy Asheton, Danny Fields
Jim Osterberg, aka Iggy Pop, and filmmaker Jim Jarmusch met in the ‘90s, collaborating on Dead Man (1995) and Coffee And Cigarettes (2003). Their latest match-up, Gimme Danger, began with a call about six years ago, according to producer Carter Logan. “Iggy said he’d been approached by many people over the years interested in making films about him, but what he’d really like would be for Jim to make a documentary about The Stooges,” said Logan. “We’re huge fans of the band so without hesitation Jim said, ‘We’ll start now.’”
The film chronicles the story of band The Stooges, which emerged from Ann Arbor, Michigan amidst a counterculture moment. Their aggressive style of rock-n-roll blew a crater in the musical landscape of the late 1960s. Assaulting audiences with a blend of rock, blues, R&B, and free jazz, the band planted the seeds for what would be called punk and alternative rock in the decades that followed. Gimme Danger presents the context of the Stooges’ emergence musically, culturally, politically, historically, and relates their adventures and misadventures while charting their inspirations and the reasons behind their initial commercial challenges, as well as their long-lasting legacy.
Gimme Danger began with a two-day-long “interrogation” of Jim Osterberg in June, 2010, according to Logan. The project progressed with “small bursts” over the following years, wrapping-up the feature’s string of interviews in February, 2015, though extensive archival research continued.
“During this period of time, we also made Only Lovers Left Alive and Paterson,” said Logan. “We started out with Jim self-financing Gimme Danger, but we knew that plan would not be sustainable. Through Bart Walker at ICM Partners, we connected with Fernando Sulichin and his company New Element. Fernando shared our passion and came aboard to fully finance the doc.”
Gimme Danger debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May, followed by Toronto and New York. It continued on to the Mill Valley, Woodstock, Philadelphia and Austin film festivals, leading into the feature’s roll out this weekend.
“The festival run has been a wild ride, and our time in Cannes was particularly memorable,” added Logan. “We finished the film the week before the festival, no one had seen it…Iggy arrived in top form — gave his signature ‘two bird salute’ then dove into the wall of photographers at the photo-call, hit the red-carpet in a beautifully tailored suit with no shirt, and then he and Jim were introduced by Thierry Fremaux in a style usually reserved for heavyweight boxing events. They received one of the loudest standing ovations I’ve ever heard in the Palais.”
Magnolia, which is spearheading the Amazon title’s release, will open Gimme Danger at IFC Center and the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York as well as the the Detroit Institute of Art this weekend. The feature will head to about three-dozen more cities the following week, including the Nuart Theater in L.A. and Embarcadero Center Cinema 5 in San Francisco. The film will continue to add markets into early December.
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil
Director-writer: Karan Johar
Writer: Niranjan Iyengar
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Fawad Khan
FIP is coinciding its debut of Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (frequently referred to by the acronym ADHM) with the Indian New Year, known as Diwali, this weekend. The studio began its Bollywood film distribution business with My Name is Kan (2010) by Karan Johar, which grossed $40M worldwide.
“The box office numbers are high during this festive period and that is the reason why we are releasing ADHM this coming weekend,” noted Fox Star Studios’ head of International Sales & Distribution Rohit Sharma. “ADHM is the quintessential Bollywood film which has a superb director along with a great star cast, good music and the story has the right elements of drama and romance for the family audience.”
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil follows two characters, Alizeh and Ayaan as they navigate friendship, heartbreak and love – often together and sometimes apart. Alizeh is a fiercely independent girl, still reeling from the effects of the collapse of her relationship with a former love. Ayaan is a straight edged, preppy boy, with no remarkable experience in love or heartbreak, but nurturing a hidden desire to sing. They meet one night in New York, and a mutually life changing bond forms between them, that is ridden with humor, angst and a shared love of everything Bollywood. As they steer through life, their encounters and experiences shape their understanding of life, passion, love…
FIP is targeting Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi-descended audiences in North America with its promotional campaigns on Indian pay TV channels along with radio and Indian digital platforms. Johar is a leading director in the Indian film industry, having delivered a steady stream of Bollywood blockbusters for 20 years.
Added Sharma: “His last directorial film, Student of the Year, released with newcomers in 2012 went on to become a big hit worldwide and launched three new stars in Bollywood – Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt and Siddharth Malhotra.”
ADHM will be the widest release in North America for an Indian Bollywood genre film, according to Sharma, who explained: “The response from the exhibitors and the buzz from the audiences has been great and we are looking forward to a good opening weekend in North America.” ADHM will bow in 302 locations across North America.
You’ve Been Trumped Too
Director: Anthony Baxter
Subjects: Donald Brump, Anthony Baxter, Molly Forbes, Michael Forbes, Sheila Forbes
Scottish filmmaker Anthony Baxter first covered Donald Trump in his 2011 documentary You’ve Been Trumped, which takes a look at Scottish homeowners who take on Trump as he buys up one of Scotland’s last wilderness areas to build a golf course. “When you do these stories, you can’t just let it go when you finish,” said Baxter. “So I continued to go up there and film.”
You’ve Been Trumped Too explores the troubling confrontation between a feisty 92 year-old Scottish widow and her family and the billionaire hoping to become the most powerful man in the world. Trump has long fought with residents living alongside the golf course in Balmedie on the Aberdeenshire coast because he wants to expand.
“There’s this 92 year-old who still doesn’t have a proper water supply [after many years] because of Trump,” said Baxter who met Molly Forbes while working on the first Trump doc. “The residents [near the golf course] who stood up to him have been harassed. Trump came to Scotland in June boasting that he vanquished his neighbors the way he tossed off [his primary opponents]. I thought it was appalling that after treating this ‘salt of the earth’ family so outrageously over the years, he’d actually arrive and declare victory.”
Baxter lives about 40 miles from Balmedie, and he continued to make trips to the town even as he worked on other projects. The filmmaker noted that Trump had made grandiose promises about the golf course years ago, though what has actually been delivered is an entirely different story.
“Five years after Trump began [the golf course], we see the facts,” said Baxter. “He promised [the project] would create 6,000 jobs, but in fact it created 95, and the estate he acquired to build it was environmentally sensitive and he destroyed it…It has been troubling to see what’s he’s now promising the American people.”
Initially, Baxter saw this follow-up as a short film, but events morphed it into a feature. In the third act, Michael and Sheila Forbes travel to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. You’ve Been Trumped Too received funding from Creative Scotland, as well as an agency in Northern Ireland where the title was edited. The feature also has a Kickstarter campaign.
“The point now is to show this to as many people in the U.S. as possible,” said Baxter. “It’s made with a theatrical audience in mind, but at the same time we want it to just get out there so we’re currently scrambling to find the best [digital] platform for that… You’ve heard what he says, now see what he does.”
Abramorama head Richard Abramowitz is spearheading the doc’s exclusive New York theatrical launch this weekend. Added Baxter: “We’re hoping to build momentum. It’s Trump’s backyard and we think it’s important that people see what he’s done in Scotland.”
By Sidney Lumet
Director: Nancy Buirski
Subject: Sidney Lumet
Distribution: Augusta Films/American Masters
Filmmaker Nancy Buirski partnered on a previous project, Afternoon of a Faun, with American Masters and was asked if she’d be interested in doing a documentary on prolific director Sidney Lumet using footage shot in 2008 by filmmaker Daniel Anker, who passed away in 2013.
“I looked at all of Sidney’s films chronologically and I watched 18 hours of the interview [by Anker],” said Buirski. “It’s a deep, broad interview, but it didn’t have a particular coherence. My challenge was to find a storyline in that. [At the time I thought if] I couldn’t find that, then I didn’t [want to do it].”
After viewing Lumet’s films and watching the interview footage, she did in fact find a through-line that allowed her to take on the project. In By Sidney Lumet, the film reveals what matters to him on a human and artistic level. The feature shows clips from many of Lumet’s 44 films to create a portrait of the work and life of one of the influential filmmaker. By Sidney Lumet focuses on Lumet’s moral tales, which, it argues, capture the dilemmas and concerns of a society struggling with “how one behaves to others and to oneself.”
“I sensed the story had to do with his denial that he was making films that have a moral message,” said Buirski. “He said that he didn’t set out to do that, but if you look at his films and listen to him carefully, the films resonate today and embody [morality].”
American Masters’ Susan Lacey commissioned the original interview, which was acquired for this project from the Anker estate. Buirski viewed the footage in July, 2014. The project is a co-production with American Masters as well as production company Augusta Films and Matador Content, which came in with finishing services. Buirski began work on By Sidney Lumet in September and had a cut ready for Cannes in May.
“If it were a print, it would have been wet,” said Buirski about the quick finish ahead of its debut in Cannes. “We did make some changes after Cannes. We tightened and added scenes. It was a much tighter version by the time it screened at Tribeca [the following year].” Producer and editor Anthony Ripoli worked closely with Buirski to get to the final edit.
Exec Gary Palmucci is booking the title in theaters, before it plays on American Masters in 2017. By Sidney Lumet will open at Lincoln Plaza in New York Friday before heading to Los Angeles on November 4.
Directors-writers: Zhou Shen, Liu Lu
Cast: Ren Suxi, Da Li, Liu Shuailiang, Pei Kuishan, A Runa, Han Yanbo, Bu Guanjin, Wang Kun
Distributor: China Lion
China Lion worked with Beijing production company Mahua FunAge on Goodbye Mr. Loser last year, which grossed over $1.3 million on this side of the Pacific. The company said it was eager to get its next film. “When Mr. Donkey popped up, we fought to get it,” said China Lion’s Robert Lundberg. “Halloween isn’t a widely celebrated holiday in China…so we anticipate our first-language Chinese speakers will be looking for an alternative to what their Western counterparts will be doing and Mr. Donkey fits the bill.”
Set in the Republic of China in the 1940s, a group of college teachers build a school in a poor and rural village. The dean, meanwhile, arrives with Zhang Yiman, Pei Kuishan, Zhou Tienan and his daughter Sun Jia. The biggest problem they face is drought, so they must use a donkey to deliver water from a very distant area. They come up with an idea that they report to the Education Bureau that they have an English teacher called Lv Deshui (Mr. Donkey) in order to use the salary to raise the real donkey and buy some daily necessities. But one day, a commissioner from the Education Bureau wants to see Mr. Donkey and attend his lecture. In this emergency situation, the teaches find a coppersmith with the idea of making him Mr. Donkey.
Though the company’s core audience is its first-language Chinese speakers, China Lion has opened up Mr. Donkey to advance previews from what it said are “Western critics” in order to leverage positive reviews in order to tap the art house audience.
“Mr. Donkey is a very smart film based on a famous play in China with some great universal themes,” said Lundberg. “It’s a dark comedy that has something for ex-pats as well as Westerners. While the writer/director duo are not the same people who were involved with Goodbye Mr. Loser, they are part of the same theater/production company, so we’re emphasizing the connection to the Mahua FunAge team as well as the vast popularity of the stage performance.”
Mr. Donkey will also be opening this weekend in China. Lundberg noted the Chinese distributor added some preview dates, so they’re expecting positive word-of-mouth to “roll over” to North America.
Added Lundberg: “While we’re not expecting the same result as Goodbye Mr. Loser, we’re confident of our audience’s interest, so we’ll be following the same platform rollout. We’re opening up Mr. Donkey in 20 theaters — we opened Goodbye in 22 — and we’re looking to push that reach out to another 25 to 30 in the second weekend.”
Director-writer: Sheldon Wilson
Cast: Neal McDonough, Jodelle Ferland, Sunny Suljic, Pascale Hutton, Anthony Konechny, Jonathan Whitesell, Jake Croker
Distributor: Paladin/Grade Point Media
Thriller The Unspoken, a sinister tale of haunting and murder, is set in 1997 and centers on the close-knit Anderson family, who vanished from their country home without a trace or explanation. No bodies were ever found and for 17 years the house has remained undisturbed…until now.
“This is a flat-out genre film, but it’s also a first-time filmmaker and is low budget,” said Paladin chief Mark Urman. “[The Unspoken] is not a good example of something that would be a wide-release. The film is great fun and has some wonderful scares, and from a casting standpoint, there are people who bring a particular talent.”
Urman said the release team eyed the Halloween period, though they’re expecting the theatrical release will fuel its on-demand release via Starz Digital. “We felt the timing would be good in the build-up to the holiday because people will want to be able to see it in the basement…,” said Urman. “We’re showing it to critics etc., but the advertising and marketing is targeted toward the core genre fanbase.”
Urman added that a lot of time was spent on the title’s promotional materials and trailer, saying that it’s necessary to respect the genre audience. “There are different ways to suggest what a film has in store, but here we went very classy. The poster is up market and classy and not schlocky,” said Urman. “This is a well informed fanbase that can smell a rat far away so you can’t condescend.”
The Unspoken will open at Cinema Village in New York and Noho 7 in Los Angeles in addition to locations in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis Orland and others.