IFC Films is scaring up a narrative on Frankenstein author Mary Shelley over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Mary Shelley the movie stars Elle Fanning as the writer, whose real-life story had its own dose of the bizarre. Also noteworthy is that the film is directed by Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour as the follow-up to her successful 2012 debut Wadjda.
Non-fiction newcomer The Gospel According to André by the filmmaking team behind hit doc The First Monday in May also joins the list of Specialty releases Friday. The title centers on maverick fashion editor André Leon Talley, and bows in New York and L.A.
Oscilloscope is opening Carla Simón’s Venice fest debut Summer 1993, which was Spain’s entry for Best Foreign Language Oscar consideration last year. And Cartilage Films is launching Bruce La Bruce’s latest The Misandrists.
Also among the weekend’s debuts is John Cameron Mitchell’s How To Talk To Girls at Parties from A24. The film will open at the IFC Center in New York and LA’s Arclight, with a planned expansion June 1. Mitchell will do Q&As in New York this weekend.
Other limited release titles include FilmRise’s Who We Are Now, Vertical Entertainment’s In Darkness and Well Go USA’s How Long Will I Love U.
Director-writer: Haifaa Al-Mansour
Writer: Emma Jensen
Cast: Elle Fanning, Maisie Williams, Bel Powley, Douglas Booth, Joanne Froggatt, Stephen Dillane
Distributor: IFC Films
Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour made a splash around the world with her 2012 film Wadjda, which grossed over $1.34M here in the States when it was released in 2013 via Sony Pictures Classics. Unlike that film, which was set at home, her latest, Mary Shelley, about the author of Frankenstein, takes place in a very different setting.
IFC Films had been tracking the film ahead of its debut at the Toronto Film Festival last year. “We had been looking out to do something with her after seeing Wadjda,” said IFC Film’s Arianna Bocco. “It’s a female driven project with the writer and the director, and Elle Fanning doing an amazing performance. I think it’s a story some people don’t know.”
The title centers around the real life story of Mary Shelley, and the creation of her immortal monster, a story nearly as fantastical as her fiction. Raised by a renowned philosopher father (Stephen Dillane) in 18th-century London, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Elle Fanning) is a teenage dreamer determined to make her mark on the world when she meets the dashing and brilliant poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth). So begins a torrid, bohemian love affair marked by both passion and personal tragedy that will transform Mary and fuel the writing of her Gothic masterwork.
“This is an optimal time to release this film, and I think there’s a real audience for this film,” said Bocco. “I do think we’ll get a younger audience in addition to an older arthouse audience. But bottom line it’s a great story.” Bocco touted its early reviews as Mary Shelley heads into the holiday weekend.
IFC Films is opening Mary Shelley exclusively in New York and Los Angeles this weekend, followed by an additional seven cities day-and-date June 1.
The Gospel According to André
Director: Kate Novack
Subjects: André Leon Talley, Anna Wintour, Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, Bethann Hardison, Valentino, Manolo Blahnik
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Fashion editor André Leon Talley has been featured in a number of documentaries set in the world of couture, but he has never been the subject of one until The Gospel According to André. The team behind the successful 2016 doc, The First Monday in May, noticed the appeal Talley had with audiences when promoting the earlier doc, sparking an idea.
“When we were doing Q&As for The First Monday in May, André was the moderator for the first several screenings at the Paris Theatre,” recalled producer Andrew Rossi, who directed The First Monday in May. “One thing undeniable was the response by audiences to André. Many were there to just hear and meet him after the screenings. We instantly made a mental note.”
Rossi and filmmaking partner (and spouse) Kate Novack contacted Vogue and arranged a lunch with Talley in late summer 2016. It did not take long for an André Talley doc to get underway. “We had a big lunch with everyone. André met Kate and she explained her vision of the film,” said Rossi. “It was clear we didn’t want to just see the public face of André, [which it does also include], but it’s not an exercise in celebrity worship and voyeurism. It’s told by him and it’s a great America success story.”
The Gospel According to André follows him from the segregated American South to the fashion capitals of the world. Talley’s life and career are on full display in a poignant portrait that includes appearances by Anna Wintour, Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, Bethann Hardison, Valentino, and Manolo Blahnik.
Within a week, Novack began filming, coinciding with Fashion Week in New York. The film is produced through their production company, Abstract Production.
“[We] started the financing to get enough material to put together a reel,” said Rossi. “We then went out to a handful of people I’ve worked with in the past and raised the money.” Filming took place through January 2017. The election proved a big narrative moment in the film. Interviews with Vogue editor Anna Wintour took place in May 2017.
“We started the edit early,” said Rossi. “Because of financing, we wanted to get the post process going as early as possible. That makes the overhead lower and then when editing, you can get a sense of things still needed.”
Along the way, the filmmaking team brought on sales company Submarine co-head Josh Braun as a producer, who showed the material to Magnolia Pictures, which had released The First Monday in May. In the meantime, the filmmaking team rushed to get a cut of The Gospel According To André to Toronto documentary programmer Thom Powers in June.
“We were thrilled to get into Toronto,” said Rossi. “We finished the color correct and the sound mix the Friday before Toronto and brought the DCP on the plane with us. With films I’ve done with HBO or Participant, there’s more systemization because resources are in place, but with [a film like this] you still have to convince people that a fashion film can be appealing.”
One person who didn’t need convincing was Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Roger Ross Williams, who Rossi met at the Savannah Film Festival in 2016. He joined the project as an executive producer. Said Rossi: “He had known of André when he was living in New York City during college in the 1980s. His support for the project and belief that André’s story was worth telling meant a lot to us.”
Magnolia Pictures will open The Gospel According to André at the Angelika and Landmark 57 West theaters in New York as well as The Arclight Hollywood and The Landmark in Los Angeles this weekend. The feature will then add cities through June. Added Rossi: “It’s been given a good ‘runway’ in theaters.”
Director-writer: Carla Simón
Cast: Laia Artigas, Paula Robles, Bruna Cusí, David Verdaguer, Fermín Reixach
Summer 1993 debuted in the youth section of Berlin’s Generation sidebar where writer-director Carla Simón won the best first feature prize and distributor Oscilloscope caught the film. Though the film features young leads, the company is expecting to lure an older arthouse crowd as it heads into release this weekend. Summer 1993 was also Spain’s Oscar Best Foreign Language entry this past year.
In the film, six-year-old Frida looks on in silence as the last objects from her recently deceased mother’s apartment in Barcelona are placed in boxes, readying herself for life with her aunt, uncle and younger cousin Anna. Though they welcome her with open arms, it takes time for Frida to get used to her new home in the Catalan countryside. Punctuated by moments of youthful exuberance and mature rumination, this coming-of-age drama, set amongst summery hues, is an extraordinarily moving snapshot of being a child in an adult world, anchored by a flawless performance by its young star.
“In terms of messaging and marketing, the children are front and center,” commented Oscilloscope’s Andrew Carlin. “It’s their story, they’re the stars of the film. Carla did an amazing job working with these young actors, coaxing mature yet incredibly endearing performances out of them.”
Carlin noted the film’s 100% ‘Fresh’ on RT. Oscilloscope decided on a May release when the film ultimately didn’t get an Oscar nomination in the foreign language category
“We gave some thought to opening in February to coincide with the awards. The foreign language category is such a crapshoot though and, without a nomination, there’s a high probability your film gets lost amid all the other foreign entries,” noted Carlin. “May ultimately seemed like the better release window and we knew Lincoln Center would be a great, supportive partner. Also, we think counter-programming against Han Solo is going to pay huge dividends.”
In addition to New York, the title will bow in L.A. and Washington, D.C. Friday in exclusive engagements. Oscilloscope expects Summer 1993 will be in the top 25 markets by the end of June.
Director-writer: Bruce La Bruce
Cast: Susanne Sachße, Viva Ruiz, Kembra Pfahler, Caprice Crawford
Distributor: Cartilage Films
Dramedy The Misandrists is the latest feature from Canadian punk-queer filmmaker Bruce La Bruce. The title has had an extensive festival run since its Berlin International Film Festival bow, playing mainline, thriller/horror and LGBT festivals around the world, including Rotterdam, Guadalajara, Moscow, Raindance as well as Tel Aviv LGBT and Sitges.
“We’re big fans of Bruce. He’s an iconic punk rock filmmaker and after we saw [Misandrists] at its premiere in Berlin, we were taken aback,” said Jasper Basch, president of Cartilage Films. “We were ready to pounce. We finished the acquisition [at last year’s] Toronto International Film Festival.”
The film follows an injured male leftist on the run who discovers the remote stronghold of the Female Liberation Army — a radical feminist terrorist group whose mission is to usher in a female world order. One of the members takes pity on him and hides him in the basement. However, the man in the basement is just one of many secrets threatening to disrupt the FLA’s mission from within.
“We’ve been working with Bruce a lot on the release — he’s been instrumental,” said Basch. “He knows his audience and they’re anxious to see his film.” Basch noted La Bruce boasts a sizable, loyal following who’ve been seeing his films for years and are tuned into him on social media. Cartilage has also been doing local partnerships where the film will screen. In New York, a local bar near Village East cinema, where the film will open stateside, is promoting the film and offering drink specials.
Following its exclusive start in New York, it will head to the NuArt in Los Angeles next weekend en route to 25 – 30 cities over the summer, with a mix of one-night engagements and week-long runs as well as some LGBT Pride-centered screenings. Bruce La Bruce will also take part in elect screenings with cast in New York this weekend.