Brian Brooks is managing editor of MovieLine.
IFC Films’ Sleepwalk With Me appears to be on track to be the specialty rollout winner of the weekend at least in terms of per screen average, although the title bows in only one location Friday. Latin American features Hermano and Neighboring Sounds arrive in U.S. theaters, and distributors Box Films and Cinema Guild, respectively, are going after fans of Latino cinema as well as the traditional art house audience. Oscilloscope’s epic doc Samsara traveled a long path to the screen and will debut in limited release initially.
Sleepwalk With Me
Director: Mike Birbiglia, Seth Barrish
Writers: Mike Birbiglia, Joe Birbiglia, Ira Glass, Seth Barrish
Distributor: IFC Films
As Sleepwalk With Me rolls out in just one New York location, it is nevertheless looking like a very strong performer amongst the specialties and possibly one of the biggest indie openers of the summer. The potential hit, which IFC Films picked up out of Sundance earlier this year where it won an Audience prize, revolves around a burgeoning stand-up comedian who struggles with the stress of a stalled career, a stale relationship and frequent episodes of sleepwalking. “We are working in close collaboration with Mike Birbiglia and Ira Glass to get market and publicize this film,” IFC Films exec Ryan Werner said. “We are selling it as the first film from the creators of This American Life (created by writer Ira Glass). We are also capitalizing on the fact that Mike Birbiglia and a cast of up-and-coming and established comics are heavily featured in the film.” They’ve also collaborated with publicists Adam Kersh at Brigade Marketing and James Lewis and have landed some high-profile endorsements from Judd Apatow and Joss Whedon who created a video that went viral, according to Werner. Mike Birbiglia and Ira Glass will also be at every show at New York’s IFC Center where it opens exclusively.
“Ira has also been pushing the film on This American Life and we have also been working with local NPR stations to push out the news that the film is coming,” said Werner. “We have set up a series of targeted screenings including Gawker, WGA, etc.” The film will head to Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Portland, Seattle and more in coming weekends. It will be on 22 screens by August 31st. 140 theaters have been booked so far. “We think this film has crossover potential but the core audience are comedy fans and also fans of This American Life and NPR in general.
Writer-director: Ron Fricke
Distributor: Oscilloscope Laboratories
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Samsara was created over five years in 25 countries on five continents, traveling to sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial complexes and natural wonders. The feature’s unorthodox approach — there is no narration or dialogue, only music — proved its biggest potential obstacle and only time would show whether it would all work. “I think that the challenges were making a film that doesn’t have a traditional screenplay or structure ahead of time and trusting that you’ll find the film as it’s made,” said writer and producer Mark Magidson. “We had a structural bookend that’s created and destroyed at the beginning and end of the film. Once we had that, it was a big relief. The film came together in the editing process.”
The other challenge came with simply holding the project together for half a decade, although securing some distribution rights kept things going and the filmmaking team had the success of their past projects working in their favor. “Sustaining this for over five years was always a challenge,” said Magidson. “We’ve had a good track record since [making documentary] Baraka over 20 years ago, and so we were able to use that leverage to get financing for this film. We had good foreign distribution which also helped.” Oscilloscope will open Samsara, which it picked up at the Toronto International Film Festival, in New York and Seattle Friday and will head to Los Angeles August 31st followed by a national rollout.
Venezuelan director Marcel Rasquin did not go through usual channels making his feature. which proved a popular film at home. Rasquin skirted the usual government channels for domestic filmmaking and collaborated on the writing process with Australian Rohan Jones. He also studied in Australia. “The film has an international outlook,” said exec Ed Arentz from Hermano’s U.S. distributor Music Box Films. “The story is about a family that finds a boy in a slum and the two [borthers] grow up together and aspire to be professional football (soccer) players. They are also drawn back to the criminality of where they grew up.”
Hermano had its world premiere at the Moscow International Film Festival in 2010. Music Box first saw the film in December 2010 in Buenos Aires at the Ventana Sur film market. “We were moved,” said Arentz. We saw it as a City of God with a soccer background, but not as anthropological as that film.” Music Box is targeting Latino audiences in the U.S. and have concentrated on marketing that targets Spanish-language audiences. They’re also incorporating outreach with actual Venezuelan soccer players. “It will also go to art house venues down the road,” said Arentz. “We’ve screened at enough festivals and other events to know the art house crowd will like it. It’s more a matter of getting the art house exhibitors to go along.” Hermano will open in 51 locations in 12 markets, primarily in California and other states along the southern border of the U.S. It will also open in New York and Chicago.
Brazilian film Neighboring Sounds debuted under the radar at the International Film Festival Rotterdam last winter, but it picked up a Critics Week prize, elevating its prospects and awareness. “We heard about the film right after Rotterdam,” said Ryan Krivoshey, director of distribution at Cinema Guild. “We asked for a screener and we were totally blown away.” The programmers at New York’s New Directors/New Films series also took notice and slotted the feature that looks at the changes a middle-class Brazilian neighborhood undergoes after the arrival of an independent private security company. “There’s a real love of cinema and movie history coming through in the film”, Krivoshey added. Director “Kleber Mendonca Filho is a movie critic in Recife, and he has a big knowledge of movie history.”
While Krivoshey certainly sees the art house crowd as a natural audience, “the genre element in the film lends it to a potentially larger reach.” And he’s also hoping to attract fans of Latin American cinema as well. The Film Society of Lincoln Center (which organizes the annual ND/NF event with MoMA) featured Neighboring Sounds‘ trailer prominently before screenings of its recent Latin Beats film series. The movie also received a sizable feature in the Arts & Leisure section of the New York Times. Cinema Guild will open the film at Film Society’s Elinor Brunin Munroe Film Center and IFC Center in New York. The film will expand to 10 other markets including Detroit, Seattle and Florida locations in the coming weeks and will be available via DVD and VOD in early 2013.
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