This week, Justin Chon’s Ms. Purple will make its Los Angeles debut at the Nuart, attempting to gain some traction when it expands to New York and other markets in the following weeks. The film premiered at Sundance to critical acclaim and was acquired by Oscilloscope shortly after. The intimate storytelling of Ms. Purple, which tells the tale of two estranged siblings in L.A.’s Koreatown, matches that of his previous film Gook, also a celebrated Sundance favorite.
Also opening this weekend is Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s documentary Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice from Greenwich Entertainment, chronicling the life of the iconic singer, her activism and how she became one of the most prominent voices in the music industry.
Although the weekend will be busy with the opening of the Toronto Film Festival, there will be plenty to watch at the Specialty box office with a pair of racecar documentaries including Paul Taublieb’s Blink of an Eye and Roger Hinze and Michael William Miles’ Rapid Response.
For more Bollywood flair, Nitesh Tiwari’s college reunion Chhichhore is set to open in India and select theaters in the U.S. while the you-are-never-too-old-to-follow-your-dreams drama Edie will bow in theaters September 6.
Director: Justin Chon
Writers: Justin Chon, Chris Dinh
Cast: Tiffany Chu, Teddy Lee, James Kang, Octavio Pizano
Distributor: Oscilloscope Laboratories
Ms. Purple is the follow up to Justin Chon’s critically acclaimed 2017 film Gook. Both premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and explore the dynamics of familial relationships — which is why they are two parts of a trilogy of family dramas Chon had mapped out. While Gook navigated the relationship between two brothers, Ms. Purple sheds light on an Asian American sister and brother, Kasie (Tiffany Chu) and Carey (Teddy Lee). Raised and now planted in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, the two were abandoned by their mother and brought up by their father. The pair have drifted apart as they deal with the emotional wounds from their rocky upbringing. Their father (James Kang) is now on his deathbed and Kasie struggles to care for him while working as a doumi girl (karaoke bar hostess). She reaches out to her estranged brother for help and as they reunite over their father, they come to terms with their past and try to rebuild what’s left of their sibling relationship.
Chon, who is currently filming Blue Bayou, the third installment of his family drama trilogy, said that the motivation for Ms. Purple came while he was on ABC’s Deception. The show was in limbo and he was already working on Blue Bayou and didn’t know if it would be ready in time.
“I had always wanted to tell a story about the sibling relationship that focused on the brother/sister dynamic,” Chon told Deadline. “As a director, I want to be constantly getting back in the seat and doing my reps as a filmmaker. I also knew that the scope of this film is something we could produce and make without compromising artistry and wouldn’t have to wait for permission. Everyone told me not to do another micro-budget [film] but I knew if I couldn’t tell this story now, it would be much harder later on.”
Ms. Purple followed a similar financing structure to Gook which raised money from friends and family. “I’m so grateful to have amazing people around me who support what I’m trying to do as a filmmaker,” said Chon. As supporters saw his artistic vision, the generosity continued to Ms. Purple. After production, they started a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign which received a flood of donations. They raised over $70K, covering most post-production costs, and had funding from investors.
Casting the leads was another challenge for Chon. “As a filmmaker, it’s always rewarding to discover new faces and I was fortunate to have had two amazing stars in Tiffany Chu and Teddy Lee,” remarked Chon. “We rehearsed almost every day for five weeks during prep and then the filming process was about six weeks. Another difficulty was shooting in Koreatown especially with our budget. It was very tough not only controlling locations but even getting owners on board with filming there.”
Deadline broke the news that Oscilloscope acquired the title in March after the film debuted at Sundance. Talks with the indie distributor founded by the late great Adam Yauch began shortly after its premiere, a good fit for the film and Chon’s own sensibilities as an artist. “I love their company ethos and that they’re punk rock,” said Chon. “Out of all our discussions during and after Sundance we felt they really understood our film and shared our plans for a theatrical release.”
Ms. Purple enters the cinematic landscape as Hollywood’s diversity and inclusion conversation continues to be top of mind. With Asian American narratives, Crazy Rich Asians broke through the mainstream and told the industry that people want to hear these stories. But like The Farewell, Ms. Purple tells an Asian American narrative on a smaller scale and does not have the big studio backing of a Crazy Rich Asians. Even so, these stories are important to the conversation about representation.
“It creates a counter-programming to the bigger studio films that require much more of a four-quadrant release strategy and has to cater to a wider audience,” Chon points out. “Our voices are unaltered, we get to tell the stories we want and what we feel is real and what represents us. We are able to explore many more subcultures and give exposure to the underrepresented while telling a story that feels very authentic.”
Ms. Purple opens September 6 in L.A. at the Nuart and in New York on September 13 at The Quad. The film will then open in the top 10 markets the week of September 20.
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice
Directors: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
Distributor: Greenwich Entertainment/1091 Media
Music icon Linda Rondstadt gets a long overdue documentary about her life and career thanks to documentarians Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. From The Times of Harvey Milk to The Celluloid Closet to Howl to Lovelace, the filmmaking pair has always brought prominent and subversive voices in arts and culture to the screen. With Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, Epstein and Friedman shed light on a voice that burst onto the 1960s folk rock music scene and then took the world by storm as Ronstadt sold out stadiums, set the record as the highest paid female artist in rock and challenged herself by tackling new musical styles such as opera, jazz and Mexican folk.
Outside of music she was an advocate for same-sex marriage and fought against the inhumane treatment of undocumented immigrants — showing that she was outspoken on and off the stage. Her fanbase remains loyal even as it grows to include newcomers. Greenwich Entertainment’s Ed Arentz points out that music documentaries have been connecting as “older audiences reconnect with the music while younger audiences have an opportunity to experience these performers in their prime and understand their appeal.”
Arentz said that he and the Greenwich team first saw Ronstadt at the Tribeca Film Festival and shared the sentiment of “you’ll fall in love with her all over again” that one reviewer wrote. Greenwich has an affection for music documentaries as they also have Echo in the Canyon on their slate. The feature docu follows The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, and The Mamas & the Papas and how they launched the beginnings of the Laurel Canyon music scene in California. However, Arentz said that they saw Ronstadt before Echo in the Canyon. “Clearly, [Echo in the Canyon’s] success gave us some optimism for a doc about one of the central figures in L.A.’s music scene in the ’70s and beyond.”
“In some respects Linda’s story is a bit of a continuation of the Echo story as she arrived in L.A. in 1964 as the Laurel Canyon scene was coalescing around a melding of folk, rock and country, the sound that she, along with her former backup band The Eagles, would have the greatest commercial success within the following decade,” Arentz told Deadline. “Of course, Linda would also go on to explore and have great success with opera, pop, American Songbook, mariachi, jazz, and roots country.”
Ronstadt retired in 2011 and in 2012 was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease — but she is still very active and is very much involved in promoting the film. “Despite being limited by health considerations, [Ronstadt] has been been very supportive in doing numerous interviews either in-person at her home in San Francisco or via phoners and email,” said Arentz. “She’ll be making a couple appearances in the Bay Area on opening weekend and we hope she’ll travel to her hometown of Tucson the following weekend.”
Arentz adds, “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of my Voice may be as close as we’re going to get to that farewell tour.”
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of my Voice opens in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco on seven screens with an additional 150 screens across the country starting September 13. It will expand to additional theaters on September 20 and 27.
Director: Nitesh Tiwari
Writers: Piyush Gupta, Nikhil Mehrotra, Nitesh Tiwari
Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Shraddha Kapoor, Varun Sharma, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Naveen Polishetty, Tushar Pandey, Saharsh Kumar Shukla, and Prateik Babbar
In the Hindi-language film Chhichhore, director Nitesh Tiwari (Dangal) introduces the world to a different kind of college life. With the exuberance and fun of a Bollywood film, we meet Anni and Maya as well as their friends Sexa, Derek, Mummy, Acid, and Bevda. With their unique names, they take the audience on a hilarious — but true — journey between the past and present that makes for a memorable reunion.
Filming began nearly a year ago and will be released theatrically in India on September 6 as well as over 190 theaters across the U.S. Tiwari looks to match or even best his previous film Dangal, which set the record for the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time.
Blink of an Eye
Director: Paul Taublieb
Filmmaker Paul Taublieb is best known for his documentaries Unchained: The Untold Story of Freestyle MotoCross (which nabbed an Emmy) as well as Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau which was part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series. Now, with Blink of an Eye, he takes his in-depth storytelling abilities to the world of NASCAR.
His latest docu is based on Michael Waltrip’s New York Times bestselling book of the same name. It chronicles the relationship between Waltrip, who has been seen as an underdog, and the revered NASCAR icon Dale Earnhardt.
During the Daytona 500 at the inception of the 2001 season, Waltrip broke his 462-race losing streak in epic, but heart-breaking fashion, in what is considered the Super Bowl of motorsports. Triumph turns into tragedy, as Waltrip’s best friend and team owner, Dale Earnhardt, crashed in the final lap. This created a shocking debt that is paid back in the most dramatic — and emotional — way possible when Waltrip goes to Daytona to race with Dale’s son, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“As a filmmaker, every once in a while you hear a truly great story, and this is one of those,” Taublieb tells Deadline. “On one hand it’s a sports film, but in reality it’s so much more – it’s about friendship, perseverance and determination, universal themes that transcend sports and the inherently both tragic and triumphant elements of this story. It was a gift of a story and I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to tell it thanks to the generosity of Michael and the NASCAR community in honestly sharing their experiences.”
The sport of NASCAR is more than just cars racing around the track. Taublieb points out that we rarely see the compassionate and down-to-earth side of perhaps their most famous driver, Dale Earnhardt, who was often called “the intimidator.” He adds that the film “illuminates the hidden human side of the sport through the relationship that Dale had with Michael Waltrip, an unlikely pair who could be called ‘the odd couple’.”
Waltrip remarks that the film speaks to the legacy of NASCAR by spotlighting it as a family sport. “Most kids grew up watching their dads or big brothers race and wanting to be just like them,” he adds. “I wanted to be a racer just like my big bro. Making it to the NASCAR big leagues was my dream. That will never change. There have been unbelievable wins and unthinkable losses. But NASCAR is why, as a kid, I dreamed and for that, I’m forever thankful.”
Taublieb adds that the film brings to life “the halcyon era of the sport, while also showcasing universal themes of determination, friendship and the complex nature of winning that is relatable for fans of the sport.” But it also “shows how the sport is a microcosm of life and what it takes to succeed when you never give up.”
The documentary will make its world premiere in New York and Los Angeles on September 6 and will go nationwide on September 12 in a partnership with Fathom Events.
Directors: Roger Hinze, Michael William Miles
Distributor: Atlas Distribution
In another racing documentary, Roger Hinze and Michael William Miles chronicle another side of the sport: the story of medical and safety professionals who refused to accept the high mortality rate among American race car drivers. This fundamentally alters the history of motorsports.
Rapid Response follows medical student and racing fan Stephen Olvey. While volunteering at the Indianapolis 500, Olvey saw fatal accidents with a very disappointing lack of medical care. And from this, he knew something had to change. He went on a 30-year journey to make this change happen in the world of motorsports. With a team of gifted safety and medical professionals, Olvey took motorsports from being one of the most deadly sports to one of the safest.
The docu features interviews with Dr. Olvey and Dr. Trammell as well as Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser, Al Unser, Parnelli Jones, and Rick Mears.
The film is set to open in select theaters in Texas, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, Indiana and Illinois. It will expand in the following weeks.
Director: Simon Hunter
Writer: Elizabeth O’Halloran
Cast: Sheila Hancock, Kevin Guthrie, Amy Manson, Paul Brannigan, Wendy Morgan
Distributor: Music Box Films
The British drama from director Simon Hunter and screenwriter Elizabeth O’Halloran debuted in 2017 at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and has since made its way through the festival circuit, garnering a good reception. The film is ready for the masses as it will make its world premiere on September 6.
Edie follows the title character played by Sheila Hancock whose husband has died. She has finally broke free from his control and aims to be her own woman after refusing her daughter’s request that she go into assisted living. Instead, she embarks on long-for adventure: a trip to the Scottish Highlands to climb the world-famous Mt. Suilven. While living her best life she hires young camping shop owner Jonny (Kevin Guthrie) to be her guide. Despite the generational differences, Jonny encourages Edie to fulfill her dream.
Edie is set to open in seven theaters in New York, Arizona, California and Florida with a rollout in the following weeks.