The 2015 AFI Fest is lining up some big, Oscar-buzzed-about films for its world premieres. Organizer the American Film Insitute just announced that the world premiere of Sony Pictures’ Concussion, which stars Will Smith, will be a centerpiece gala and bow November 10 at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood. The film, written and directed by Peter Landesman, is a dramatic thriller based on the true story of American immigrant Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic neuropathologist who made the first discovery of CTE, a football-related brain trauma, in a pro player and then had to fight to let his medical discoveries become known.
The impact of concussions on the human brain and subsequent personality changes of those suffering cumulative trauma to the head is now publicly available, but at the time that Omalu discovered this, he presented his medical findings and was shut down and discredited by the NFL. His story was featured on 60 Minutes which, in many ways, helped to push the story and his medical findings to the foreground. The Columbia Pictures/LStar Capital/Village Roadshow film doesn’t bow in theaters until Christmas.
The film’s high-profile booking comes the same month that Sony and Landesman went on the attack to defend the pic from a New York Times Page One news story that conjectured that Concussion was neutered because of pressure by the powerful NFL — something both the studio and Landesman categorically deny happened. The NYT report, based in part on emails hacked from Sony servers last fall by cyber-terrorists, came before anyone had seen the film. That aspect at least will change as of November 12.
“We are privileged to have been chosen as the Centerpiece Gala,” said Ridley Scott, one of the film’s producers. “Concussion is a powerful and uncompromising film about an issue that was ignored for far too long and continues to play out today. It’s a story that had to be told, and we were determined to tell it right.”
This is the third big film to get its world premiere at the AFI Fest. The opening night gala will see the world premiere of the Angelina Jolie-Pitt directed By The Sea on November 5 and the closing night gala will host the world premiere of The Big Short from director Adam McKay on November 12.
The full festival lineup and schedule will be unveiled in October. The 29th edition of AFI Fest takes place November 5-12 with screenings at the TCL Chinese Theatre, the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres, Dolby Theatre, the Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre at the Egyptian and the Hollywood Roosevelt.
Concussion was produced by Scott, Giannina Scott, David Wolthoff, Larry Shuman and Elizabeth Cantillon. The film is based on the GQ article “Game Brain” by Jeanne Marie Laskas, and was executive produced by Michael Schaefer, David Crockett, Ben Waisbren, Bruce Berman and Greg Basser.