Consistent with previous weekends, Friday launches a new pack of Specialty titles in a crowded market. Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman and Alicia Silverstone are among the stars of Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer from A24, opening in New York and L.A. Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions are debuting Todd Haynes’ latest, Wonderstruck, following recent stops in Venice, Telluride and the New York Film Festival. Also off the festival circuit is The Orchard’s BPM (Beats Per Minute), France’s submission for Oscar foreign language consideration. The title is making its bow in New York before heading to the West Coast in the coming weeks.
National Geographic Studios is heading out with documentary Jane by Brett Morgen. The film spotlights famed primatologist Jane Goodall and recently had an event showing at the Hollywood Bowl. And Sundance Selects is opening doc Dealt by Luke Korem on celebrated magician Richard Turner.
Also in limited release this weekend is Reliance Films’ Golmaal by Rohit Shetty, bowing in 265 North American theaters. Freestyle Digital Media is opening The Bachelors with J.K Simmons, Josh Wiggins and Julie Delpy in 10 markets. Other openers include Music Box Films’ Aida’s Secret, Vertical Entertainment’s Never Here and The Strange Ones as well as Resurrected Victims from Well Go USA.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Director-writer: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writer: Efthymis Filippou
Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Alicia Silverstone, Raffey Cassidy, Barry Keoghan, Bill Camp, Sunny Suljic, Megan Chelf Fisher
While working on The Lobster, filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos says he had an idea for another project. He gave his producing team including Ed Guiney a one-and-a-half page outline. “He had a very clear sense of the film, and we commissioned the script with FilmFour’s backing,” said Guiney. “He had a script ready to go around the time The Lobster premiered in Cannes.” In addition to FilmFour, an equity firm in London as well as the Irish Film Board provided resources. A24, which released The Lobster, pre-bought rights.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer centers on Dr. Steven Murphy, a renowned cardiovascular surgeon who presides over a spotless household with his wife and two children. Lurking at the margins of his idyllic suburban existence is Martin, a fatherless teen who insinuates himself into the doctor’s life in gradually unsettling ways. Soon, the full scope of Martin’s intent becomes menacingly clear when he confronts Steven with a long-forgotten transgression that will shatter his domestic bliss forever.
“Casting came together quite easily,” explained Guiney. “Colin and Yorgos worked together on The Lobster, and Yorgos had been in touch with Nicole Kidman. He’s always been a fan of hers, so he reached out and she immediately said yes.” A longer search took place to find the actors to play the kids in the film. After casting Raffey Cassidy and Sunny Suljic, the next challenge was finding a hospital location.
“There wasn’t a specific location [initially] but Yorgos decided to shoot in the states,” said Guiney. “It made sense to have a wealthy doctor family in the U.S. — that feels more American. Of course it is hard to find a hospital, but then we [discovered] an orthopedic hospital in Cincinnati. Orthopedic care is often elective, so it wasn’t so busy in the summer. The Cincinnati Film Commission was very helpful. Also there is a tax credit in Ohio as well as good local crew and infrastructure.”
The Killing of a Sacred Deer shot over seven weeks in the late summer and early fall of 2016. Guiney said Yorgos Lanthimos preferred natural light as often as possible. The feature shot on 35mm film. “We spent more time shooting the movie rather than setting up to shoot the movie,” he added. “The natural light in Cincinnati in late summer/early fall is quite beautiful.”
After shooting, Lanthimos began preparation to shoot The Favourite but then turned back to The Killing of a Sacred Deer after the filmmaking team watched footage and figured the feature could be finished in time for a premiere at Cannes, where the filmmaker’s previous films The Lobster and Dogtooth debuted.
“It felt exactly like the place we should be,” said Guiney. “The great thing about Cannes is that for one day, all the eyes of the film world are on your film. There were some naysayers, but it does divide people. Happily, most people loved it.”
The Killing of a Sacred Deer will open in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles Friday before expanding to the top 10-plus markets on October 27. A further expansion will take place November 3.
Director: Todd Haynes
Writer: Brian Selznick (book, screenplay)
Cast: Oakes Fegley, Millicent Simmonds, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Jaden Michael, Lauren Ridloff, Cory Michael Smith, James Urbaniak
Distributor: Amazon Studios/Roadside Attractions
Wonderstruck filmmaker Todd Haynes was finishing up his previous project, Carol, when he read through a script that came his way via his longtime costume designer, Sandy Powell. The feature is based on the book by Brian Selznick, who adapted the story to a screenplay.
“I was in post-production for Carol and when I began reading the script. I could tell right away from the first page that it was very cinematic, visual and auditory,” said Haynes at the recent New York Film Festival. “The film doesn’t rely on dialog. I had to wait until my head was clear so I could give it the attention it deserved — and when I did, I thought what a unique film it would be in every conceivable way.”
Wonderstruck follows Ben and Rose, children from two eras who secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known, while Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a clue in his home and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both set out on quests that unfold with mesmerizing symmetry.
“It’s a [film] that speaks to an audience I’ve never really addressed in my work,” said Haynes. “It follows this line between the imagination of young people, the language of cinema and the theme of deafness, but all find relevance with each other.”
“Todd assembled these wonderful films for us to watch,” said Julianne Moore. “I watched silent films, since my character is a silent film actress, as well as iconic films from the ‘70s. I watched a wonderful documentary about the  blackout in New York.”
The film includes a number of deaf actors, including the female child lead Millicent Simmonds, who said she was given a number of films to watch. Her character is seen in the film primarily in the New York of the 1920s.
“I am deaf and understand what it’s like,” she signed. “I could understand my character’s journey. It’s not easy to communicate with people who don’t sign, so I took those frustrations to find [my character] Rose. It’s hard to control your vocal quality. When you’ve never heard what words sound like, it’s hard to emulate them. I watched a lot of movies from the ‘20s Todd gave me. He’d always tell me, ‘Bring Rose to life.’ That inspired me.”
Amazon and Roadside Attractions are opening Wonderstruck at the Arclight Hollywood and The Landmark in Los Angeles as well as Lincoln Plaza and Angelika Film Centers in New York Friday. The film will then go to the top ten markets the following weekend, followed by the top 25 markets November 3 and top 60-plus on November 10. “Roadside is very proud to be releasing this film by the brilliant Todd Haynes in partnership with Amazon,” said Roadside Attractions co-president Howard Cohen in an email. “The film is a work of great film art and is a stunning experience to watch.”
BPM (Beats Per Minute)
Director-writer: Robin Campillo
Writer: Philippe Mangeot
Cast: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Adèle Haenel, Arnaud Valois, Antoine Reinartz
Distributor: The Orchard
Distributor The Orchard caught French drama BPM (Beats Per Minute) at its Cannes premiere. The film follows Nathan, a young man who joins an AIDS activist group in 1990s Paris. As he attends the weekly meetings, he learns that some members prefer a more radical approach to their protests.
“We were immediately taken with how engaging and emotional BPM is,” said The Orchard EVP Film and TV, Paul Davidson. “Robin Campillo did an amazing job balancing the emotional romance and the tactical behind the scenes of how Act Up communicated to Paris in the ‘90s. I think what’s so fascinating too is Robin was a part of this group. These roles are composites of what he experienced. We realized that a bit after we had a chance to talk to him. Most people who experience the film are taken by it. You don’t have to be apart of a particular group to be moved by the story. We felt that passionate about it and we did the deal in Cannes.”
BPM is France’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Oscar consideration. The Orchard is working with various LGBT groups to spread the word in the lead-up to this weekend’s release, but it is also broadening the campaign. “We’re going wide and broad,” said Davidson. “The buzz has been amazing. It received one of the longest standing ovations at the New York Film Festival.”
Robin Campillio has been taking part in tastemaker screenings in New York and L.A. The Orchard is touting the film’s positive reviews. “When it became the official selection that was great, but that only solidified our feeling about it. We’re completely invested in doing this,” he added. “The craft and story are broader and obviously there’s an historical element. It’s a foreign film that we believe and hope is a contender for this year.”
The Orchard is opening BPM at the Angelika and Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York this weekend. BPM will then head to San Francisco next weekend, followed by Los Angeles and Philadelphia on November 3. The title will slowly roll out to 150-plus theaters through this year and into 2018.
Director: Brett Morgen
Subject: Jane Goodall
Distributor: National Geographic Studios
A treasure trove of footage of celebrated British primatologist Jane Goodall was rediscovered by National Geographic in 2014 by producers looking for some footage of the woman who made a home in the mid-20th century in an African chimpanzee habitat. Though the footage had been cataloged and was easily located, it hadn’t been viewed in several decades. Its rediscovery prompted the film.
“What struck everyone was that it was an intimate look of Goodall,” said Jeff Hasler, EVP National Geographic Studios. The president of National Geographic Channel suggested reaching out to Brett Morgen in 2015.
Through archival footage, the documentary focuses on a young and untrained Goodall as she challenges the male dominated scientific community and revolutionizes people’s understanding of the natural world.
“Initially, [Brett Morgen] said, ‘Why would I do a film about Jane Goodall,’” recalled Hasler. “He thought that everything had been said about Jane, but after seeing the footage, his position was transformed. Jane also had a similar reaction at first. She said, ‘Why another film about me?,’ but when we talked about it more and then she spoke to Brett, she was 100% on board.”
Jane took two years to make. Hasler said Morgen used facial recognition technology to identify the chimps that Goodall became familiar with during her years in the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. Her first husband, Hugo van Lawick, had shot much of the footage.
“Brett poured himself into this film like no other filmmaker has poured into a film before,” praised Hasler. “The craftsmanship Brett brought to the project is beyond the pale. Every bit of sound, every twig snap was painstakingly put in by Brett. He had to do the detective work to figure out which chimps were which and match the sounds. The technical side of this film is a towering achievement.”
The film debuted at the Toronto Film Festival last month before going to the New York and Mill Valley festivals. The title also had a Hollywood Bowl screening, playing to 15,000 spectators. “People stood up and treated her like a rock star,” said Hasler. “The film resonates to so many people.”
NatGeo will open Jane in New York and Los Angeles Friday before expanding the title nationally in the coming weeks.
Director-writer: Luke Korem
Writer: Bradley Jackson
Subjects: Richard Turner, Johnny Thompson, Max Maven
Distributor: Sundance Selects
Filmmaker Luke Korem’s father is a professional magician, and was familiar with Richard Turner growing up. Korem lives in Austin, while Turner resides in San Antonio.
“I went and watched his show. He is blind and shuffled the cards so that they ended up in numerical order. My jaw dropped,” said Korem. “My dad told me he is the best in the world and I thought that this was an amazing story.”
One of the most renowned card magicians of all time, Richard Turner astounds audiences around the world with his legendary sleight of hand. What they may not even realize – and what makes his achievements all the more amazing – is that he is completely blind. Charting Turner’s colorful life from his tumultuous childhood to the present, Dealt reveals how through determination and force of will he overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to rise to the top of his profession. It’s both a tantalizing, up-close look at the secretive world of magic and a candid, awe-inspiring portrait of a man who lives beyond his limitations.
The filmmaker said that Richard Turner had a couple of other production companies circling the magician to make a film, but Korem’s ace in the hole was having a background in magic. “He showed my first film to an [entertainment professional friend of his], so I went through a vetting process,” said Korem. “We first met about three-and-a-half years ago and then we began working on the film about six months later.”
Korem received financing for Dealt via angel investors who typically put money into tech and real estate. “I pitched it as a start-up and had Richard perform for them and they were impressed,” said Korem. “You hear all the time that you go into a documentary thinking it’ll be one thing and then it turns into another. We started filming and then his life started to change. Previously he didn’t want people to know he was blind and a conflict with his family was starting to come to the surface. So it is a present-day vérité story but [the film] also dips into his past.”
Dealt shot over two-and-a-half years. The film debuted at the SXSW Film Festival where it won the Audience Award for Best Documentary. “Richard came on stage to a standing ovation,” added Korem. “It also screened at the Magic Castle in L.A. There’s something about this film that makes people look at themselves and think about their potential. He lives so beyond what you think would be possible. He’s a six degree black belt and has climbed cliffs. It’s very inspiring.”
IFC Films picked up the title out of SXSW, releasing via its Sundance Selects label day and date on-demand and iTunes Friday. It opens theatrically in New York this weekend, followed by L.A. on October 27. It will hit about two dozen markets around the country. Richard Turner will take part in select post-screening Q&As Friday and Saturday nights in New York.