Director Sebastián Lelio is revisiting a character that charmed audiences back in 2014. Gloria Bell, starring Oscar winner Julianne Moore, is the English-language reimagining of the filmmaker’s box office hit Gloria. A24 is opening the title in New York and L.A., which should be the headliner among the weekend’s specialty newcomers. Fellow Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons stars in drama I’m Not Here, heading out day-and-date from Gravitas Ventures. Documentary Ferrante Fever is doing exclusive showings in New York starting Friday before heading to L.A. later in the month, and KimStim is opening Golden Horse winner An Elephant Sitting Still by the late Chinese filmmaker Hu Bo.
Among other limited releases opening this weekend is Lionsgate’s The Kid starring Ethan Hawke, and the U.S. debut of Franco Rosso’s 1980 film Babylon is having its U.S. bow at BAM in Brooklyn.
Director-writer: Sebastián Lelio
Cast: Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cera, Caren Pistoruys, Brad Garrett, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Rita Wilson, with Sean Astin, Holland Taylor
Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Lelio’s 2014 feature Gloria was a critical and box office hit stateside back in 2014, grossing more than $2.1M in theaters in North America via Roadside Attractions. He went on to direct Best Foreign Language Oscar winner A Fantastic Woman followed by Disobedience. He circled back to a reimagined Gloria, swapping out Santiago for L.A. and Spanish for English. Julianne Moore stars as the free spirit at the center of the film, opening Friday via A24.
Gloria Bell centers on a middle-aged divorcée who spends her days at a straightlaced office job and her nights on the dance floor, joyfully letting loose at high-end dance clubs around Los Angeles. After meeting Arnold (John Turturro) on a night out, she suddenly finds herself thrust into an unexpected new romance, filled with both the joys of budding love and the complications of mature dating.
After seeing the original Gloria, which starred Paulina García in the title role, Moore asked to meet with Lelio. “I wasn’t thinking of remaking the film,” the filmmaker said. “She and I met in the summer of 2015. [Moore] said she was interested in doing it only if I would direct it, and I said I’d only do it if she was in it. I thought this could be a new life for a universal [story].”
Lelio adapted the story into English and then went on to direct his other projects. He and Moore reconnected after he completed Disobedience. “She finished her other projects and we had a window in 2017,” said Lelio. “We put financing together very quickly and built a ‘family’ around Julianne including John Turturro and Michael Cera. I’ve always loved John Turturro’s work.”
Gloria Bell shot mostly in L.A. in addition to Las Vegas over six weeks. “We were looking for more layers of complexity and subtlety,” said Lelio about revisiting the story of Gloria. “It was a bit of déjà vu, but only like how musicians plays a song they love. [Gloria] is like an old melody I love so much, but it’s coming out in a new context, channeled by this great group of actors.”
A24 boarded for the title’s release prior to its Toronto 2018 debut. Gloria Bell bows today at AMC Lincoln Square and the Angelika in New York and the Landmark and Arclight in L.A.
I’m Not Here
Director-writer: Michelle Schumacher
Cast: J.K. Simmons, Sebastian Stan, Maika Monroe, Mandy Moore, Max Greenfield, Iain Armitage
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Producers Randle Schumacher and Eric Radzan were in discussions with filmmaker Michelle Schumacher about drama I’m Not Here at the project’s inception, having been attracted to the story’s take on addition.
“It is truly such a relatable story,” noted Radzan. “Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons was first on board, and that helped attract some great actors.”
I’m Not Here centers on Steve who is haunted by his past as every object in his home, every sound he hears, reminds him of a specific event in his life. Steve connects the events of his life to discover how he ended up alone and broken. As he relives each significant memory, he understands the generational issues that have held him captive like his father before him. Simmons, Sebastian Stan and Iain Armitage play Steve in various stages of his life.
I’m Not Here shot over 23 days primarily at Riverfront Stages and DC Stages in Los Angeles. “For a small budget film, we are incredibly grateful to [casting director] Mary [Vernieu] for the caliber of actors we landed,” offered Radzan. Added Schumacher, “We spoke to a lot of private equity investors who wanted to participate and ultimately selected the ones who were the best fit.”
Schumacher said I’m Not Here had received other offers from traditional distributors, but they ultimately went with Gravitas Ventures, which will open the title day-and-date, with two dozen theaters slated around the country.
Noted Schumacher: “[They] gave us the flexibility to control the messaging and overall marketing strategy which is becoming increasingly important in the indie space. We hired PMK for PR and Think Jam to handle social media and are thrilled with the strategy we collectively developed to support the release.”
Director-writer: Giacomo Durzi
Writer: Laura Buffoni
Distributor: Greenwich Entertainment
Greenwich Entertainment’s Ed Arentz saw the documentary Ferrante Fever by Giacomo Durzi at the MIA market in Rome. He had not read the work of the author at the center of the feature, Elena Ferrante, but said he nevertheless found the film “entirely engrossing in its exploration of this publishing phenomenon, the city of Naples that gave birth to the work and the effect the work had on a diverse range of readers.”
Set between Italy and the U.S., Ferrante Fever fetes the “faceless writer” whose novels have sold millions of copies worldwide. The film is not looking to uncover the truth behind the pseudonym. Instead, it hopes to discover the secret to her success and the nature of the fever that conquered the world over the course of 12 years. Exceptional witnesses including Hillary Clinton, Roberto Saviano and Jonathan Franzen provide answers, but so do the writer’s own words and the places and the protagonists in her novels.
“It was strangely moving to hear people relate how deeply these books had affected them and how fresh the books felt on the subject of female friendship,” noted Arentz. “I guess it’s kind of a grand book club meeting in the form of a documentary, and thankfully it wasn’t just talking heads. Giacomo Durzi, found a number of ways to visualize Ferrante’s world including extensive clips from feature adaptations of two of her older novels.”
Greenwich is hoping to tap Ferrante’s legion of readers in North America as the title heads to theaters today, though the company said that targeting Ferrante fans isn’t so easy. “Our social media agency has come up with some approaches that will help focus our message and reach Ferrante readers,” Arentz said. “We’ve also done a fair amount of grass-roots outreach with postcards and bookmarks for bookstores and libraries. The publisher of Ferrante’s books Europe Press has been helpful in targeting Ferrante hot spots.” Additionally, the company is going old school with print ads in
The New York Times and Los Angeles Times.
Greenwich Entertainment will open Ferrante Fever exclusively in New York at the Quad in addition to some shows at the New Plaza Cinemas. It will head to Los Angeles on March 29, followed by Miami and San Francisco on April 12. Added Arentz, “There will be a mix of regular engagements and one-off screenings depending on the market.”
An Elephant Sitting Still
Director-writer: Hu Bo
Cast: Zhang Yu, Peng Yuchang, Wang Uvin
Distributor KimStim’s Ian Stimler first saw late Chinese filmmaker Hu Bo’s drama An Elephant Sitting Still at the Berlin International Film Festival last year. The title is the only feature film from the novelist, though it has received praise from a number of veteran Chinese filmmakers including Ang Lee and Jia Zhangke. It also took Best Picture and Best Screenplay at Taiwan’s 55th Golden Horse Awards.
An Elephant Sitting Still centers on 16 year-old Wei Bu, who finds trouble after pushing a dangerous school bully down a staircase for tormenting his friend. Wei escapes the scene and later learns that the bully is hospitalized and gravely injured. Wei’s neighbor, the 60-year-old Wang Jin, is estranged from his family and, with nothing to lose, decides to join him. Later the pair is joined by Huang Ling, Wei’s classmate. She is bedeviled by a destructive affair with a married school official.
“I found it incredibly powerful even with the situation that’s quite grim,” said KimStim’s Ian Stimler. “It’s never dull, though the length of the film is quite long. It is a challenge on the distribution side because it scares a lot of exhibitors. We’re telling them to give it a chance for a few times over a weekend. … We’re trying to be flexible.”
Stimler said the company has been pushing the praise the film has received from the Chinese film establishment through social media platforms popular with Chinese groups in North America including WeChat in addition to working with the China Institute and the Beijing Contemporary Art Institute, which has helped with placing ads.
“We’ve teamed up with folks tied into the Chinese communities in New York and L.A. especially student groups,” said Stimler. “And with its win at the Golden Horse, [the Chinese community] is aware of it. And [the film’s star] Zhang Yu is well known among Chinese film fans.” Yu also is taking part in promotion on this side of the Pacific.
An Elephant Sitting Still is playing the Film Society of Lincoln Center and TIFF’s Bell Light Box in Toronto this weekend. It heads to the Laemmle in L.A. on March 22 followed by the Gene Siskel Theater in Chicago. Other cities will be added slowly.