Going for those maternal instincts, Screen Media Films will roll out the star-packed Mothers And Daughters over the Mother’s Day Weekend, the title joining a crowded field of newcomers hitting theaters ahead of the summer blockbuster season. Paladin will open Rob Reiner’s Being Charlie, which it says is the actor/filmmaker’s most personal movie in years. The title is also one of his lowest budgeted films. Just ahead of next week’s start of the Cannes Film Festival, IFC Films will give a traditional rollout to 2015’s Palme d’Or winner Dheepan by French filmmaker Jacques Audiard, while Sony Classics is capitalizing on this weekend’s Kentucky Derby with its Sundance Audience Award-winner Dark Horse. And Menemsha Films will open what it believes will be an evergreen doc, Rabin In His Own Words, on both coasts.
Among other films opening in limited release Friday are Fox Searchlight’s A Bigger Splash, starring Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes in four New York and L.A. locations, as well as Janus Films’ Dragon Inn, Well Go USA’s Phantom Of The Theatre and Rialto’s 2016 re-release of Band Of Outsiders.
Director: Rob Reiner
Writers: Matt Elisofon, Nick Reiner
Cast: Nick Robinson, Morgan Saylor, Common, Cary Elwes, Devon Bostick, Susan Misner, Ricardo Chavira, Jared Shipley
Toronto premiere Being Charlie is one of Rob Reiner’s lowest budgeted films, and one of his most personal, according to the title’s distributor. The feature follows Charlie, a troublesome 18-year-old given an intervention by his parents and forced to go to rehab. There, he meets the beautiful but troubled Eva and does battle with drugs, elusive love and divided parents.
“It’s a low budget film by his standards, but it’s the most personal of all the films he has made,” said Mark Urman, who heads Paladin, which will release Being Charlie today. “The movie is not autobiographical, but there is a lot of accuracy and authenticity because [Reiner and son Nick Reiner] have been through much of this.” Urman added that the Reiners, along with producer Johnson Chan, wanted the movie “taken seriously and given the same attention” as Reiner’s previous work. “It was a labor of love.”
Urman said that CAA facilitated the filmmaking team in meeting with Paladin. From the outset, the distributor worked with Reiner and team on every detail of how the film would be presented and released. “I spent a lot of time working with [Chan’s] Jovra Productions and [Reiner’s] Castle Rock, weighing every choice, every theater we booked,” said Urman. “Everything has Rob, Johnson and [Nick Reiner’s] fingerprints all over it. The publicity campaign has been off the charts. I can’t recall in distant memory any low budget independent movie that has gotten so much media attention.”
Urman added that both Reiners have provided “unusual candor” in their interviews. He added that major print, radio, morning and late-night as well as popular podcasts have all promoted Being Charlie leading up to the weekend release. “It’s created an opportunity for the kind of press that’s engaging,” added Urman. “It’s not just a celebrity talking. Rob and Nick have found a different way of talking about the film that is emotional, informative and touching. We have an opportunity and they have capitalized on it.”
Being Charlie will open at the Regal Union Square in New York as well as Arclight Santa Monica, Laemmle Fine Arts and Laemmle Town Center Encino in the L.A. area this weekend. Urman said the opening theaters speak to the geographic and demographic cross-over potential as the title continues its run.
The Reiners will participate in post-screening Q&As Friday in New York and will fly to L.A. for Saturday showings. Being Charlie will head to the Bay Area, Austin, Portland and select Florida locations May 13 ahead of bows in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Phoenix and other markets the following week. The title will head to further cities in subsequent weeks.
Mothers And Daughters
Director-writer: Paul Duddridge
Writer: Paige Cameron
Cast: Susan Sarandon, Selma Blair, Christina Ricci, Courteney Cox, Sharon Stone, Eva Amurri Martino, Mira Sorvino, Paul Wesley, Elizabeth Daily, Luke Mitchell
Distributor: Screen Media Films
Welsh-born television producer/writer/director Paul Duddridge wrote a short story that he sent to Susan Sarandon several years back. After she agreed to film the sketch, the scene took on momentum to become Mothers And Daughters, a collection of vignettes starring a slew of name actors including Selma Blair, Christina Ricci, Courteney Cox and Sharon Stone.
Just in time for Mother’s Day, Mothers And Daughters features interwoven stories looking at what it means to be a mom. The tales are tied together via single woman Rigby Gray (Blair), a rock photographer who’s riding a career high when an unlikely and unexpected pregnancy forces her to look inward. As Rigby slowly comes to terms with her situation, she looks with fresh eyes to her relationship with her estranged mother.
“After the first scene was filmed, we brought on Paige Cameron to write the script about mothers and daughters [talking] via Skype,” said Duddridge. “It then became apparent that it could become a fuller story. Because they are vignettes, we were able to shoot for just a few days, then we’d shoot the next vignette on subsequent days. We could take a hiatus and start editing two or three together, so then we could see what was lacking. Traditionally you shoot a story four to six weeks, but this was relatively more organic in a sense.”
As with Sarandon, the filmmaking team reached out to its other stars through official channels. Sarandon’s initial participation gave the production “credibility,” according to Duddridge. “She brought enormous authenticity to the project. We could have made this so much faster had we used no-name actors. This was a low budget film, so we couldn’t afford to keep re-taking scenes. It’s a false economy to try and make something like this on the cheap. Every bit of footage was usable and then you have that choice in the edit.”
Duddridge’s producers raised financing through private equity. Mothers And Daughters shot over a four-year period, with edits taking place between shoots. The final piece focuses on Selma Blair’s character, who ties the five vignettes together.
“It’s an editors’ movie,” said Duddridge. “They used the footage to tell the story.” Screen Media came aboard the project for the U.S. release about a year ago. Mothers And Daughters will open in 38 cities across North America today with additional markets added the following week.
Director-writer: Jacques Audiard
Writers: Thomas Bidegain, Noé Debré
Cast: Jesuthasan Antonythasan, Kalieaswari Srinivasan, Claudine Vinasithamby, Vincent Rottiers
Distributor: IFC Films
French filmmaker Jacques Audiard won the Grand Jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival for A Prophet, but it was Dheepan, his fourth film to screen in competition there, that won the coveted Palme d’Or. Though France passed over Dheepan for Oscar’s Foreign Language category last year, the title is getting a fitting Stateside release this weekend just ahead of the 2016 Festival de Cannes.
Dheepan centers on a Sri Lankan Tamil soldier who poses as the husband and father of two other refugees to escape their ravaged homeland. Arriving in France, the makeshift “family” sets about establishing a new life—only to find themselves once again embroiled in violence, this time on the mean streets of Paris.
“We bought [Dheepan] off of the script. We had been wanting to work with Jacques Audiard since [his 2005 film] The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” said IFC president Jonathan Sehring. “We were left off the chart too many times, so we wanted to make sure we were the date to the prom this time.” The now defunct distributor Wellspring opened The Beat That My Heart Skipped in July ’05, eventually grossing over $1M at the box office. Sony Pictures Classics cumed nearly $2.1M on 2010’s A Prophet, which won multiple Césars and the BAFTA for non-English language film. SPC also released the director’s previous big screen feature Rust And Bone starring Marion Cotillard in 2012, grossing $2.06 million.
“Audiard fans are going to go and like this film,” said Sehring, adding that IFC didn’t see the pic until it screened at Cannes. “It works on so many different levels…We’re counting on reviews [to help drive interest], but we’ve also been supporting it heavily to the art house audience.”
IFC Films will open Dheepan in two locations this weekend and add more cities in coming weeks.
Director-writer: Louise Osmond
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
No surprise that SPC docudrama Dark Horse is hitting theaters this Kentucky Derby weekend. Though the feature is set in the UK, the story is universal, according to filmmaker Louise Osmond. Dark Horse takes place, in part, in a former mining village in Wales. The true account follows a group of friends from a working men’s club who decide to take on the elite ‘sport of kings’ by breeding a racehorse. Raised on a “slagheap” allotment, their foal grows into an unlikely champion, beating the finest thoroughbreds before suffering a near fatal accident. Nursed back to health by his loving owners, the horse makes a remarkable recovery, returning to the track for an inspirational comeback.
“I went to the races outside of London as just a social thing, after hearing about a syndicate of races that didn’t appeal to the upper classes,” said Osmond, speaking from Churchill Downs in Kentucky, site of this weekend’s Kentucky Derby, where she is promoting the film to horse racing fans. “I came across this story by just reading it in [the program] and asked my producers to contact the owners of this horse.” Osmond and her producers discovered that the story had already been optioned by another filmmaking team, but that project eventually collapsed. After securing the rights, they went forward with a hybrid approach.
“There was remarkably little footage, so we had to find a way to [make the movie in part] through ‘illustrative storytelling,’” said Osmond. “A family member had actually filmed a lot of what had happened, but then recorded over it…but I knew these were great characters who are so emotionally connected.”
The project received resources through the British Film Institute (BFI) in addition to private sources. Production began in 2013, and the title premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival where it won the Audience Award in the World Cinema Documentary competition.
Osmond gave kudos to editor Joby Gee for putting together the documentation with the feature’s constructed elements, acknowledging that wedding the two could have been the project’s undoing. “The editor had a very intense experience trying to put together the [filmed] footage and illustrative story. There’s always a ‘paper-thin line’ of something like that working and not working.”
SPC opens Dark Horse — which fittingly had its New York theatrical premiere presented by the Thoroughbred Stock Exchange at the Regal Cinemas Union Square Wednesday evening — at two New York locations as well as one theater in L.A. this weekend. It will head to about another half-dozen cities next week, including Louisville, before expanding throughout May.
Rabin In His Own Words
Director: Erez Laufer
Subject: Yitzhak Rabin
Distributor: Menemsha Films
Menemsha Films picked up doc Rabin In His Own Words after seeing the title at the Haifa Film Festival last fall. The feature is an autobiography of sorts, told entirely in Rabin’s own words. Through a combination of rare archival footage, home movies and private letters, his personal and professional dramas unfold from his childhood as the son of a labor leader before the founding of the state of Israel, through a change of viewpoint that turned him from a farmer into an army man who stood at some of the most critical junctures in the country’s history.
The film continues through his later years during which he served as Prime Minister and made moves that enraged a large portion of the public, until the moment when his political career and life were suddenly brought to an end.
“We think this film is a classic,” said Menemsha Films’ Neil Friedman. “We met [filmmaker] Erez Laufer at the festival, and two days later we were at his home and sat around a table and made the deal.” Friedman said he called the Academy to ask if there was still time to qualify the feature in Oscar’s documentary category, but it had just missed the cut-off. “Whether it will make it this year — we’ll see,” added Friedman. “Rabin was one of those ‘one in a hundred years’ leaders who could move a country in a certain way through the force of his personality. He’s like our JFK, Lincoln or Roosevelt. He was in the midst of making a deal to see if everyone could live in peace and harmony and of course he was murdered.”
Friedman said Rabin In His Own words is a critic-driven film, though it’s not a “sexy” documentary since it is a straightforward telling of the story. Menemsha, which has worldwide rights to the title, says it is banking on a long-tail existence for the film. “We’re looking at it as evergreen,” said Friedman. “This is the document that reflects the man. We also have a film called Rape Of Europa. It’s a classic in that it still sells a lot of DVDs ten years after its release. I think there will be more films about Rabin in the future, but this will be the seminal [movie]. It’s true and honest. There’s no way to sensationalize this film. It’s not meant to be anything other than straightforward. [The viewer] feels an intimacy with him.”
Menemsha Films will open Rabin In His Own Words in New York at Lincoln Plaza and at the Royal in Los Angeles in addition to several locations in south Florida. It will bow in Encino at Laemmle Town Center May 13.
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