As titles like Jojo Rabbit, Parasite and Judy continue to slay the Specialty box office and gain awards season momentum, more titles are hitting the fall seasonal circuit. This week, it’s the Mihal Brezis & Oded Binnun-directed The Etruscan Smile starring award-winning actor Brian Cox and produced by three-time Oscar winner Arthur Cohn.
Documentary Gay Chorus Deep South will be in limited release so it can qualify for award season contention before its nationwide expansion. In addition, Tom Cronin’s docu The Portal looks to bring a meditative stillness to the world while the indie Inside Game puts a spotlight on the great NBA betting scandal of 2007.
Also opening this weekend in the Specialty space is American Dharma, which includes an interview between Errol Morris and divisive figure Stephen K. Bannon. Bannon talks about his background, beliefs and, of course, Trump. The film opens today in New York at the Film Forum and at the Alamo Drafthouse and Laemmle in Los Angeles on November 8.
The Etruscan Smile
Based on the bestselling book La Sonrisa Etrusca by Jose Louis Sampedro, The Etruscan Smile follows the rugged and reluctant Rory MacNeil (Brian Cox) who leaves his isolated life in Hebrides to head stateside to San Francisco for medical treatment. While there, he lives with his estranged son and his life unexpectedly begins to change after he develops a new love for his baby grandson.
The film was adapted by Michael McGowan, Michal Lali Kagan and Sarah Bellwood and is produced by legendary producer Arthur Cohn, who has won not one, not two, not three but six Academy Awards. He’s earned Oscars for The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, Dangerous Moves, One Day in September, American Dream, Black and White in Color as well as Sky Above and Mud Beneath. With Cox starring and Cohn producing, the ingredients are all there to make this an award season contender — particularly for Cox, who has never been nominated for an Oscar or won a Golden Globe.
“We have a star whose time has come,” said Arnie Holland, CEO, Lightyear Entertainment of Cox. “A long career of great acting, and now as a movie, TV and Broadway star he deserves recognition. The competition is indeed very stiff in the actor category, but we think Brian should be considered.”
Holland first saw the film at the Palm Springs Film Festival and thought very highly of Cox and the ensemble cast which includes Rosanna Arquette, JJ Feild, Thora Birch, Treat Williams, Tim Matheson, Peter Coyote and Emanuel Cohn. “The issues that are touched upon are important to me personally — ‘Do what you love before it’s too late’ is actually my mantra,” said Holland. “I only distribute films that I love, and I have no intention of ever retiring. The stress between Brian’s character and his son touches me too. I have two sons, and it’s not always easy to be a dad.”
The film opens today in New York and Los Angeles.
Gay Chorus Deep South
MTV Documentary Films
As the nation works through its differences, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus is taking a different approach to the divisiveness plaguing the country — particularly the anti-LGBTQ laws. The Bay Area-based choir decided to take its music on the road. But instead of going on a coastal tour, they took their voices on an unlikely route: the Deep South. Thanks to director David Charles Rodrigues, it was all chronicled in the docu Gay Chorus Deep South.
Joined by the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir and led by conductor Dr. Tim Seelig, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus traveled through an area of the country that isn’t exactly a hotspot for LGBTQ acceptance. The tour was in response to the 2016 election and instead of fighting hate with anger, the group opted to bring a musical message of love and acceptance — with a little drag along the way.
The docu, which is Rodrigues’ feature debut, is the latest MTV Documentary Films title under Sheila Nevins, who told Deadline that the film “gives insight into the lack of freedom LGBTQ Americans suffer.” She adds, “The oppressive laws facing the Supreme Court and State Legislators make the chorus’ songs for freedom all the more poignant.”
Nevins’ roster of films at MTV Documentary Films include the Davy Rothbart-directed 17 Blocks as well as Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan-directed short documentary St. Louis Superman.
Gay Chorus Deep South is in limited release for award season contention. It is currently playing in Los Angeles at the Laemmle in Santa Monica. It opens today at the Metrograph in New York and will open in San Francisco on November 22 at the Roxie. This will be followed by a national rollout.
Let’s face facts: we are living in a time which many people would say is a massive mess of divisiveness, Twitter-driven rants and people yelling just to hear themselves get angry. Many would refer to this moment in time as a “dumpster fire.” That said, the world could use some stillness, clarity and mindfulness. Enter The Portal, a new documentary directed by Jacqui Fifer and written and produced by Tom Cronin.
Cronin and Fifer are meditation experts and are looking for a way to shift the way we look at things through meditating daily. To do this, The Portal follows six people and a robot (yes, a robot) and shows how meditation can bring about personal enrichment and change but can also shift the trajectory of our planet and humankind.
“I think most of us are starting to feel a sense of instability on the planet and are deeply concerned about our future,” Cronin tells Deadline. “We face a number of different risks from environmental, nuclear, the development of AI and the impact of technology and social media on our health and happiness.”
Cronin breaks down the stats and shares that a recent poll by Gallup surveyed 155,000 people in 140 different countries and the results showed that we are angrier and sadder than ever before. “The Portal addresses some of these major issues on a personal and collective level and will leave the audience pondering after they see the film whether there is a simple solution that is staring us in the face,” he adds.
The film features people from all walks of life. There is a retired U.S. serviceman navigating PTSD, Ron ‘Booda’ Taylor; human rights expert Amandine Roche; Vietnamese refugee Due Quach; athlete Heather Hennessy; Rabbi Ronnie Cahana and neurosurgeon James R Doty MD. Cronin said that they wanted to feature diverse stories that cover global themes and “would still touch the audience on an individual and personal level.”
Cronin said that they initially thought The Portal would speak directly to meditators and yogis, but after screenings in Australia, Cronin said that it’s reaching an unexpected audience.
“The youth of the world are deeply resonating with this film and we feel it is through this vocal and proactive generation, the Greta Thunbergs of the world, who deeply care about their future and the future of the planet, could be the key to this film reaching the masses,” he said. “We did specifically make this film an experiential film that touches people’s hearts, because no matter what your background, who you are, what your story is, we all want to feel love in our heart. It is this that we hope will inspire people to share it.”
The Portal will open today at the Laemmle Monica Film Center in Los Angeles and on November 15 at The Village East Cinema in New York City. The film will also rollout to additional theaters in the San Francisco Bay Area, Portland and Seattle. The film will also be released in Australia and New Zealand around the same time.
Directed by Randall Batinkoff, Inside Game takes us back to 2007 when the NBA was thrown into a betting scandal in which referee Tim Donaghy (Eric Mabius) leveraged his relationships with other referees, coaches, and players to bet on games. All was kept under wraps until the FBI discovered the scam while they were doing an unrelated mob investigation. To no surprise, all parties went to prison.
The true story was adapted by Andy Callahan and also stars Scott Wolf and Will Sasso as Donaghy’s buddies who help him scam the system. Michael Pierce from Raw Milk said that Inside Game is the first time this story has really been told because it was so embarrassing to the NBA that they buried it.
“It is the only known example of a referee caught influencing games he was refereeing in a North American professional sports league,” said Pierce. “Given the subjective nature of most rule enforcement, people have a right to know how easy it is for referees to influence the outcomes of games.”
In order to tell the story, they were able to have a direct connection to someone involved. The real-life Tommy Martino (played by Wolf in the film) was one of Donaghy’s buddies and happened to be the cousin of one of the film’s producers Paul Martino. They were able to obtain his life story rights and told the story from his perspective.
The film marks the first piece of branded content for Raw Milk which Pierce said will be a content platform that stands for authentic and truthful entertainment. Raw Milk aligned itself with iDreamMachine because they are on the same page when it comes to storytelling.
“iDreamMachine produces and distributes films that entertain, provoke thought, stir emotion and inspire ideas,” said Zeke Zelker from iDreamMachine. “We believe in taking risks and with Inside Game we’re taking a calculated risk taking the film national by focusing on NBA cities. It’s a film with a lot to offer and we’re grateful to be bringing it to audiences everywhere.”
Pierce adds, “With the advent of legalized sports betting in 11 States and 42 more in the process of doing so, the story is very topical with a large segment of the population. It doesn’t just appeal to sports fans. We also know it is a good time to release because since we started our marketing plan eight weeks ago, the referee at the center of the story, Tim Donaghy has done 62 TV and radio interviews to discuss the movie! Clearly the world wants to hear this story.”
The film also stars Lindsey Morgan and Michael O’Keefe. Pierce and Martino produced the film alongside Randall Batinkoff and Robert Capelli. Inside Game is set to open on over 100 screens in more than 20 of the top NBA markets.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.