EXCLUSIVE: Oscilloscope Laboratories is cleaning up when it comes to acclaimed documentaries. The film production and distribution founded by the late great Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys announced today that they have acquired the North American rights to a trio of docus: Stephen Wikes’s documentary about photographer Jay Maisel Jay Myself, Hassan Fazili and Emelie Mahdavian’s award-winning Midnight Traveler and Jon Kasbe’s debut documentary feature on the ivory trade, When Lambs Become Lions.
Jay Myself marks Wilkes’s feature documentary debut. The film bowed in 2018 at DOC NYC and will open in New York on July 31 with national expansion over the following weeks.
The documentary documents the monumental move of renowned photographer and artist, Jay Maisel, who, in February 2015 after 48 years, begrudgingly sold his home; the 35,000 square- foot, 100-year-old landmark building in Manhattan known simply as “The Bank.” Wilkes, also an artist and photographer who was Maisel’s protege, takes a look at his life through an intimate lens, showing Maisel’s remarkable journey through as an artist, mentor, and man; a man grappling with time, life, change, and the end of an era in New York City.
“It was a thrill to premiere Jay Myself, my first documentary, at DOC NYC and to share Jay Maisel’s unique perspective of the world with its first audience,” said Wilkes. “I’m equally thrilled to partner with Oscilloscope to bring this very personal film to audiences across the country. Jay’s vision teaches us to see the things in life we so often overlook, and Oscilloscope’s films consistently reflect the same values—asking audiences time and again to see the world in a different light. It’s an honor to be their partner on the journey of Jay Maisel.”
The film was produced by Bette Wilkes, Henry Jacobson, and Emma Tammi; executive produced by Doug Blush (Period End of Sentence, 20 Feet From Stardom) Michael Hirschmann, and Jennie Wilkes. The film was written by Josh Alexander. ICM Partners negotiated the deal on behalf of the filmmakers.
The second film on Oscilloscope’s list is the riveting Midnight Traveler from Fazil and Mahdavian which premiered earlier this year at Sundance and won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for No Borders. It also won special mentions from the Peace Film Prize Jury and the Ecumenical Jury in the Panorama Section at the 2019 Berlin International Film Festival. Oscilloscope will release the film in theaters later this year.
When the Taliban puts a bounty on Afghan director Hassan Fazili’s head, he is forced to flee the country with his wife and two young daughters. Capturing the family’s uncertain journey firsthand, Fazili documents their harrowing trek across numerous borders revealing the danger and uncertainty facing refugees seeking asylum juxtaposed with the unbreakable love shared amongst the family on the run.
“I’m very happy our film is with Oscilloscope,” said Fazili. “After all the risks we took to make the film, I feel they are the right company to bring our story into the world and help us create dialogue that can inspire change.”
The film was produced by Emelie Mahdavian and Oscar-nominated producer Su Kim.
Rounding out the trio is Kasbe’s debut documentary feature When Lambs Become Lions. The film premiere in 2018 at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it nabbed the award for Best Editing in a Documentary Film. Oscilloscope is looking to release the film in theaters later this year.
When Lambs Become Lions follows a small-time ivory dealer in the Kenyan bush who is fighting to stay on top while forces mobilize to destroy his trade. When he turns to his younger cousin, a conflicted wildlife ranger who hasn’t been paid in months, they both see a possible lifeline. The plummeting elephant population in Africa has captured the attention of the world, and as the government cracks down, both poachers and rangers face their own existential crises. Kasbe followed the documentary subjects over a three-year period, gaining an extraordinary level of access and trust on both sides of the ideological and ethical spectrum as he became part of their everyday lives. The result is a rare and visually arresting look through the perspectives and motives of the people at the epicenter of the conservation divide.
“We’re honored Oscilloscope is embracing the dark complexities we discovered on the front lines in Kenya,” said Kasbe. “Oscilloscope’s films have long inspired us and we’re so excited their team recognizes the value of turning the traditional poaching narrative on its head.”
The film was produced by Jon Kasbe, Innbo Shim, Tom Yellin, and Andrew Harrison Brown. Cinetic Media negotiated the sale on behalf of the filmmakers.