Iranian-born director Asghar Farhadi is among an exclusive group of filmmakers to win the Best Foreign Language Oscar twice. For his latest film, Everybody Knows, he’s cast Spanish-born Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, with Focus Features opening the largely Spanish-language film stateside this weekend to begin a slow roll out. Also among the weekend’s new Specialty lineup is Kino Lorber documentary The Gospel of Eureka by Donal Mosher and Michael Palmieri, centering on the inhabitants of a queer and Christian friendly town in the Arkansas Ozarks. The Orchard is opening Under The Eiffel Tower with Matt Walsh, Judith Godrèche, Reid Scott, and Good Deed Entertainment is opening To Dust, starring Géza Röhrig and Matthew Broderick.
Director-writer: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darín
Distributor: Focus Features
Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi has won Best Foreign Language Oscars for A Separation (2012) and The Salesman (2016). His latest, Everybody Knows starring Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, is primarily in Spanish. Focus picked up the Cannes 2018 opening night film out of the festival for North America and a number of other territories.
“Everything he does visually keeps you so involved and then having Penelope and Javier on screen together is so powerful,” said Focus Features president of Theatrical Distribution, Lisa Bunnell. “He has a big ingrained following.”
Everybody Knows centers on Laura, a Spanish woman living in Buenos Aires, who returns to her hometown outside Madrid with her two children to attend her sister’s wedding. But unexpected events bring secrets into the open.
“Every year around this time, the Oscar hangover is [palatable],” said Bunnell. “By now, there have been movies that have played for a long time in art house theaters, so people are waiting for them to be over. To bring in a great, quality movie is important. I think it’ll be very well received. It’s a psychological drama and we feel this is a good time for its [roll out].”
In Spain, the feature has grossed $3.5M. Focus has been targeting its messaging to fans of the stars along with art house stalwarts and Spanish-speaking audiences. “We’ve been doing marketing with Telemundo and we believe there’s definitely an audience beyond the art house for this,” noted Bunnell. “We’ve been advertising the film that way and have released Spanish-language and English-language trailers.”
Everybody Knows will open at the Landmark 57 West and Angelika theaters in New York as well as the Arclight and The Landmark in Los Angeles Friday. The title will then head to the top ten markets in leading art house venues in those locations.
Added Bunnell: “We’ll start out in the Specialty houses and then broaden out later in some theaters that have [a track record] with Spanish language [audiences]. [We want to] get it out in the marketplace first and then we’ll test out the broader markets.”
The Gospel of Eureka
Directors: Donal Mosher, Michael Palmieri
Distributor: Kino Lorber
Doc filmmakers Donal Mosher and Michael Palmieri’s The Gospel of Eureka began with their short documentary Peace In the Valley, made in partnership with non-fiction production company Field of Vision, founded by Laura Poitras and Charlotte Cook. Their experience in the artsy Ozark town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, lead them to explore the characters for a feature-length film.
“We went there over a period of three years,” said Palmieri. “It was pretty clear who we would be [working with] early on.”
Narrated with homespun humor by Mx Justin Vivian Bond, this lushly photographed documentary spotlights the space where the town’s seemingly contradictory factions intersect: Lee and Walter, out and proud husband-owners of a local gay bar they liken to a “hillbilly Studio 54,” talk about their deep faith; a Christian T-shirt designer describes his love for his gay father; and everything comes together in a show-stopping mash-up of a spectacular passion play and raucous drag show. The result, according to the official description, is a “joyously offbeat slice of Americana that breaks down the red-state-blue-state divide.”
While Field of Vision financed the short, the filmmakers financed most of the feature themselves. The former came in later along with funding from Sundance Institute to give the feature its final push. “At the end, they provided a grant that was hugely helpful for us to get across the finish line,” said Palmieri.
The filmmakers tapped songwriter-author-performance artist Justin Vivian Bond to narrate the doc. “We always wanted to work with Justin Bond,” noted Mosher. “We felt from the beginning of the [project] it was important to have someone who was a storyteller.”
One particularly interesting aspect of shooting took place during the town’s Passion Play, one of the largest of its kind in America. Mosher and Palmieri took part in the performance dressed as shepherds, and had cameras under their garments. “We were dressed on stage,” said Mosher. “It’s how we were able to get shots from behind the scenes.”
Kino Lorber Films picked up the title following its SXSW Film Festival premiere last year. Said Palmieri: “We worked with [Kino Lorber’s] Wendy Lidell for a while. She also independently released our film October Country. We were fortunate out of SXSW to gain a distributor and [found homes non-theatrically] with POV and Amazon as well.” The Gospel of Eureka opens exclusively at The Quad in New York Friday, while L.A. is set for March 8, with engagements in Chicago, Portland, Seattle, Miami and others also on tap.
Under The Eiffel Tower
Director-writer: Archie Borders
Writer: Judith Godrèche
Cast: Matt Walsh, Judith Godrèche, Reid Scott, Michaela Watkins, Dylan Gelula, Gary Cole, David Wain
Distributor: The Orchard
The Orchard provided full funding for romance Under The Eiffel Tower with actors Matt Walsh and Judith Godrèche attached along with Archie Borders as director. The company had worked with Godrèche in The Overnight and became aware of the project early on.
“We were excited by the ensemble cast… the international setting and the romantic comedy elements,” commented The Orchard’s Paul Davidson. “We felt it would appeal to younger and older audiences alike. Since we produced and funded the film, we are distributing it on a worldwide basis.”
Under The Eiffel Tower stars Walsh as a bourbon salesman pushing 50 who unexpectedly proposes to and is rejected by his best friend’s 24-year-old daughter under the Eiffel Tower. The soul-crushing event sparks a wine-fueled “coming of middle age” jaunt across the French countryside, a surprising friendship with a local footballer and sparks romantic possibilities with a beautiful and independent French woman.
“Each of the key cast members bring with them a different, unique audience. Because we have somewhat of a mini-Veep reunion here — Matt Walsh, Reid Scott and Gary Cole — the film comes with a built in audience timed to the final season of the HBO series. The rest of the cast brings with them unique but passionate followers, which bolsters the word of mouth opportunity for the film, and the international romance at the heart of the film will appeal to older demographics as well. Between TV appearances and press with the cast, digital marketing focusing on the cast and setting of the film and word of mouth screenings with older demos, we are hitting all key audiences.”
The film and television division of The Orchard was sold to 1091 Media recently and a new name for the distributor is pending. Davidson noted that the company plans to release between 8 and 10 theatrical titles this year.
Under The Eiffel Tower will bow in the top ten markets theatrically this weekend, followed by a digital release on Tuesday. Further theatrical expansion will continue based on performance.
Director-writer: Shawn Snyder
Writer: Jason Begue
Cast: Géza Röhrig, Matthew Broderick
Distributor: Good Deed Entertainment
Good Deed is going for “counter-programming” with its weekend release of drama To Dust, which it saw at the Tribeca Film Festival last year.
“[We] fell head over hooves for it,” explained Good Deed’s Nikki Justice. “We only acquire titles that we both love and feel have a shot at breaking out theatrically and found that To Dust fit the bill. It is an original and very unique film unlike anything we’ve seen before and are thrilled to be distributing it.”
Shmuel, a Hasidic cantor in Upstate New York, is distraught by the untimely death of his wife Rivkah. As he struggles to find solace in his religion, which proffers a stringent timeline for grief, Shmuel grows increasingly haunted by visions of Rivkah’s decomposing corpse. Convinced that her soul will suffer until her body returns to dust, Shmuel decides that to stop his feverish spiral he must seek an understanding of the physical processes of her decay – despite the blasphemy inherent in any scientific inquiry. Risking discovery and expulsion, Shmuel tip-toes outside his enclave, where his search leads to Albert, a bumbling biology professor at the local community college. Soon, Albert is unwittingly seduced into an odd world of homespun forensic research and begins to guide Shmuel through outrageous experiments that aim to approximate a timeline for Rivkah’s dissolution. As amateur scientists practicing imperfect science and incompetent criminals on progressively absurd outings, the two find themselves neck-deep in genres in which neither of them belongs.
“We’ve found the core audience [for To Dust] to be highly educated 55-plus, secondary 35-plus with a 50/50 split on male/female,” said Justice. “We have an extensive media campaign with online, mobile, social print, email and digital components. This includes National and Field PR with extensive support in NY, LA and 30-plus additional expansion markets. We are also utilizing hyper targeted grass root efforts and a highly targeted influencer campaign.”
Good Deed is expecting to release up to a dozen titles theatrically this year. To Dust is opening at Village East in New York as well as Laemmle Royal in L.A. and Laemmle Town Center in Encino.