An astronaut, a famous restaurateur, a documentary and nonfiction in two parts as well as a comical farce about Osama bin Laden are among the specialty films opening this weekend. Eugene Cernan, the final human to touch the surface of the lunar landscape way back in 1972, is the spotlight of — appropriately titled — The Last Man on the Moon in a day-and-date release beginning Friday. After initially being picked up ahead of its U.S. debut at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2013, the Dutch title was put on hold and then re-acquired by Kino Lorber. The film is both a doc and a making-of a film, with the final product unspooling in Part 2. Sundance Selects will launch Erika Frankel’s doc King Georges about maverick Philly chef Georges Perrier, while Reliance Entertainment is opening Tere Bin Laden – Dead Or Alive, a comical follow-up to 2010’s Tere Bin Laden, which grossed $2.2 million in India.
Also opening this weekend theatrically is Saban Films’ Backtrack, starring Adrien Brody, Sam Neill and Robin McLeavy. The film premiered January 28 exclusively on DirecTV and will begin its big-screen run in 10 markets coinciding with a wider rollout via digital/VOD. Said Saban Films’ Jonathan Saba, “Additional theatrical expansion will be predicated on performance, but our focus is holistic success this weekend and beyond.”
The Last Man On The Moon
Director-writer: Mark Craig
Writer: Eugene Cernan
Subjects: Eugene Cernan, Alan Bean, Charles Duke, Richard Gordon, Christopher Kraft, Jim Lovell
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures/Mark Stewart Productions
Filmmaker Mark Craig was at a party 10 years ago when he met Andrew Smith, author of Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth, which reawakened his longtime fascination with the space race. Later he read astronaut Eugene Cernan’s book The Last Man on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and America’s Race in Space, which brought on an idea. “It really leapt out to me,” said Craig. “I just knew I had to reach out. I sent a letter to his publisher in 2006 and [later] established email communication between ourselves. Then I heard he would be in London for a space convention and was available to meet for lunch. He was interested in what I had in mind.”
Craig explained to Cernan that his position as the longtime last person to step foot on the moon was interesting. Cretan left his footprints and his daughter’s initials in the lunar dust before leaving in December 1972. That helped form the backdrop of the documentary, though Craig was also interested in Cernan’s personal story and charisma.
The two spent about 18-20 months building trust, according to Craig, even visiting the astronaut and his family at a Cernan family event in Washington, D.C. “I came back with a short interview with him that I was able to show my producing partners at MSP,” said Craig. “Once we knew we’d be working together, Eugene absolutely opened up his world to us that we didn’t imagine. It helped pave the way to key locations and that was the enjoyable part of the process.”
The documentary unveils a wealth of rare archival footage and takes Cernan back to the launch pad at Cape Kennedy (now NASA Kennedy Space Center); to the Arlington National Cemetery; and to his Texas ranch, where he tries to find respite from a past that refuses to let him go. The film features exclusive interviews with former astronauts, such as Apollo 12 crew members Alan Bean and Dick Gordon and Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell, as well as NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz and Director of Flight Operations Chris Kraft.
Private equity came in to fund the project, which mostly had been rejected by the UK’s common funding sources through television and the British Film Institute. The feature came together through four shooting blocks over six months with about six weeks of total filming time. “Along the way I just said, ‘Think out loud’ and that’s how the story came out,” said Craig.
The Last Man On The Moon debuted at the UK’s Sheffield Documentary Film Festival in June 2014, followed by SXSW and Sarasota stateside in 2015. Sales company Submarine facilitated the title’s acquisition by Gravitas. The film is having a day-and-date release in select theaters and on-demand this weekend.
Director-writer: Paul Verhoeven
Writer: Kim van Kooten
Cast: Peter Blok, Robert de Hoog, Sallie Harmsen, Gaite Jansen, Ricky Koole, Carolien Marie Elisabeth Spoor, Jochum ten Haaf, Pieter Tiddens, Ronald van Elderen
Distributor: Kino Lorber Films
Originally, D Street Films had picked up U.S. rights to Tricked, Dutch director Paul Verhoeven’s self-described “user-generated” film, ahead of its North American premiere at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival. The company had planned a release that fall, according to a a press report ahead of the film’s Tribeca bow. “Something happened that made it fall through,” Kino Lorber VP Marketing & PR Rodrigo Brandão told Deadline. “We had tracked this film internally before, so when it fell through, we jumped in. We wanted to work with Paul Verhoeven, especially on this film. It’s an intriguing experiment and proposition.”
Brandão elaborated that the “intrigue” behind the film is how it was conceived and finally executed. The feature is actually set in two parts. Starting off, Tricked is like a documentary of how Verhoeven utilized crowd sourcing and collaborative filmmaking to gather the help of thousands of semi-collaborators.
“It was like collaborative filmmaking on major drugs,” said Brandão. “The [first part of the film] speaks to the metaphor of the very nature of filmmaking itself. [But] the second part feels very much like a Paul Verhoeven film. He was able to put his personal imprint on it. Verhoeven fans will feel an affinity to it similar to his previous films like Black Book.”
The fiction part of the story centers on real estate tycoon and womanizer Remco (Peter Blok). During his 50th birthday party, thrown by his wife Ineke (Ricky Koole), his successful and frivolous lifestyle takes a turn for the worse. His business partners are scheming behind his back to sell him out. And to make matters worse, his current mistresses (Merel and his former office-fling Nadja) show up uninvited – with one of them pregnant.
“It’s a film for the digital age. It will be day-and-date with Fandor and iTunes,” noted Brandão. “Our idea is to exploit the film digitally going forward.” Tricked nevertheless will have a theatrical component. It opens exclusively at Cinema Village in New York this weekend. Kino Lorber will add additional runs including Los Angeles and select markets in the coming weeks.
Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive
Director: Erika Frankel
Subject: Georges Perrier
Distributor: Sundance Selects
Erika Frankel is a veteran producer of documentaries, but she decided to take on the director role when she heard in 2010 that a famous restaurateur from her hometown of Philadelphia was planning to close down.
At the time, Le Bec-Fin had been considered one of the finest French restaurants in the country. The 67-year-old owner, Georges Perrier, nearly as iconic as his landmark eatery, is preparing to sell the restaurant after more than four decades in business. The original idea was to film Perrier as an era-ending tribute. Perrier, however, had other plans. As filming proceeds, he decides to withdraw the sale and reinvent Le Bec-Fin by hiring a new protégé, Nicholas Elmi, who achieved national fame on Top Chef. Perrier wants to pass the business to Elmi but finds he has trouble letting go of the spatula. Over a three-year period, Frankel captures this mercurial, passionate, quixotic force of nature as he struggles to preserve his sumptuous Gallic dishes in an era where casual attitudes and lighter fare are taking hold.
“In 2010, when I heard he was thinking of closing the restaurant, my ears perked up,” said Frankel. “I got in touch with him and explained how I wanted to do a film about how he turned Walnut Street into the 5th Avenue of Philly. After 15 minutes of talking, he said, ‘Yes yes.’ We started filming soon after that. … A lot of my producing projects were work for hire, but this was organic and I felt close to it.”
Frankel was able to quickly tap a small crew to start the project, including Dior and I director Frédéric Tcheng, who served as cinematographer. Financing came through private sources in addition to Frankel’s own resources. “I was also working on other projects, so that fed the beast to a degree,” Frankel said. Georges set no limits, though Frankel said he was often hard to pin down, so the filmmaker had to track down those close to Perrier.
“The film is about letting go and an ending,” said Frankel. “In winter 2014 I got a Google Alert that the chandeliers from the restaurant were going up to auction, so I saw a ‘moment.’ I got in touch with the auction house, and they agreed to let me film. That felt like a milestone — and it’s sad. But I wanted to see where the vérité part of the story would end.” After finding her end, Frankel circled back to get interviews from Perrier’s circle of celebrity chefs. “We had a screening at the Stranger Than Fiction [series in New York] and his daughter was part of the Q&A and she said, ‘I think we found a medium for my father.’ He fills the big screen.”
King Georges had its world premiere at Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in April, and Sundance Selects picked up the feature coinciding with the Doc NYC festival in October. Sundance Selects will open the film at IFC Center in New York and the Arena Cinema Hollywood as well as Pennsylvania locations in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lancaster this weekend. It’s also available via iTunes and other platforms this weekend.
Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive
Director-writer: Abhishek Sharma
Writers: Pradhuman Singh, Neha Sharma
Cast: Manish Paul, Pradhuman Singh, Sikandar, Piyush Mishra, Sughanda Garg, Ali Zafar
Distributor: Reliance Entertainment
Reliance Entertainment will bow Indian satirical comedy Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive in 54 North American theaters this weekend, coinciding with its release in India and other territories. It’s the second installment of 2010’s Tere Bin Laden, a satire on the post-9/11 world. This film is not a conventional sequel but can be called a spinoff, according to Reliance. This time it’s operation ‘Osama Dead or Alive?’ Set against Osama bin Laden’s mysterious death followed by counter-reports claiming he is living — stirring the biggest controversy in the world — the U.S. wants to prove to the world that its forces shot him dead, while the Taliban wants the world to believe he is alive.
Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive transpires amidst this desperate tug of war between the U.S. and the Taliban. Stuck in this distressed crossfire is Sharma (Manish Paul), a budding Bollywood director looking for a big break. He gets hired by U.S. agent David Chaddha (Sikander) under the pretext of making a Hollywood film on bin Laden using his doppelgänger Paddi Singh (Pradhuman Singh). The hidden motive is to shoot a fake tape to prove his death. This top-secret operation boomerangs, however, when the Taliban’s arm dealer Khalili (Piyush Mishra) hijacks their idea to “prove” bin Laden is alive.
“Over the years we have distributed films in all genres, comedy being one of them. We feel Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive is a correct fit in terms of our overall offering of films,” said Sumit Chadha, North American head of Reliance Entertainment. “Tere Bin Laden, which released in 2010, was a satire and was hugely successful in that genre. The makers of Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive approached us after they completed shooting, and we have joined hands with them for the marketing and distribution of the film.”
The first Tere Bin Laden grossed about $2.2 million in India. It had a deferred release in August, 2010 three weeks after its bow in India, grossing about $40,308 in 12 theaters. “Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive will appeal to all sections of audience and is not limited to any specific community,” added Chadha. “Over the years our distribution team has released more than 200 films and created a name for itself as the most ideal partner in terms of global distribution for Indian films.”