Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
Rob Zombie, Francois Ozon, Ricky Jay and life in prison are among this weekend’s Specialty newcomers. Zombie will capitalize on publicity surrounding a new book and album to, hopefully, funnel his legions of fans to his new thriller, The Lords Of Salem. French filmmaker Francois Ozon, whose newest project secured a place in the Cannes Official Selection Thursday, will open his previous film In The House Stateside. Kino Lorber will bow Deceptive Practice, hoping to capitalize on Ricky Jay fans’ enthusiasm at the box office. And doc Herman’s House takes a look at an unusual creative collaboration between an artist and a prisoner who lived for decades in solitary confinement.
Anchor Bay acquired The Lords Of Salem out of last year’s Toronto International Film Festival where it debuted. The thriller follows Heidi, who is sent a box containing a record — a “gift from the Lords”. Its sounds triggers flashbacks of Salem Massachusetts’ past. The film comes out just as rocker/filmmaker/author Rob Zombie’s book came out last month and his latest album is about to be released. “It’s the perfect storm”, said Anchor Bay’s Bill Lewis. “It’s great synergy between the three, which has been wonderful. We worked it altogether along with Rob’s management and the cross promotions have been tremendous and we also have a great online campaign”. Zombie went on Howard Stern this week and will be doing Q&As at various LA locations this weekend. “Is my mom and father going to go see it? No, they’re not going to. But my 25-year-old son will be going out and so will I”, said Lewis.
The film, which had its U.S. premiere at last month’s SXSW Film Festival, will roll out in 350 locations in over 60 markets this weekend. Added Lewis: “It has everything working for it and will expand and grow in following weeks… It’s a blast working with him. You think of him as a big rocker, but he’s a bright visionary man and has great foresight”.
Paris-based sales company Wild Bunch screened French filmmaker Francois Ozon’s In The House for Cohen Media Group two years ago after the company’s Charles Cohen had asked what they had on tap, hoping to become involved with something early on. “I have followed Ozon’s career. He’s very prolific and has a personal stamp on filmmaking”, said Cohen. “In The House is very mischievous, intriguing and insightful. I was blown away and I think it’s his best film.” The film revolves around a gifted 16-year-old who goes into the house of a fellow student and writes about it for his French teacher. The gifted and atypical student reinvigorates the teacher’s enthusiasm for his work, but the boy’s invasion also sets up a series of uncomfortable events.
“We think it’ll be our best performing film. It’s exciting for us to be involved with world class talented filmmakers and bring this title and others”, said Cohen. “We think audiences are craving intelligent insightful work”. Incidentally, Ozon’s most recent project, Jeune et Jolie, was included in today’s Official Selection lineup announcement at next month’s Cannes Film Festival. In The House will open at Lincoln Plaza and the Sunshine Theaters in New York as well as the Landmark in LA this Friday and will roll out further over the next several weeks.
Kino Lorber saw the film following its New York Film Festival premiere after New York sales outfit Submarine reached out to the fellow NYC-based distributor. The documentary centers on renowned magician and author Ricky Jay, whose voice gives an insiders view of the secretive world of magic and the small circle of eccentrics who are its devotees. “Jay is an amazing character and the film has great access”, said Kino Lorber exec Gary Palmucci. “When we viewed it, it seemed very fresh. Film Forum showed it before we actually acquired it and has programmed it”.
Ahead of its weekend outing, Jay has hit the talk show circuit including The View and an appearance on Letterman set for April 24. He will also take part in Q&As at Film Forum in New York where it opens this weekend. In the coming weeks, Deceptive Practice will also open in Landmark Theaters around the country, hitting nearly every market the exhibitor has screens. “They’ve pretty much booked it across their spectrum”, added Palmucci. It will open in L.A. May 17th.
Herman’s House focuses on the widely used practice of solitary confinement in US prisons. The film captures the creative journey and friendship between Herman Wallace, one of the so-called Angola Three, who were put in solitary for decades in Angola Prison, Louisiana after the death of a prison guard. Director Angad Bhalla had known Jackie Sumell, an artist, since college. After a gallery featured correspondence between Wallace and Sumell, Bhalla decided to do a film centered on their creative collaboration. “What was cool was the friendship that they built and it was a way of doing a prison film that was different”, said Bhalla. “It also re-frames prisons differently as living places”. As a current prisoner, Wallace does not appear in the film and the two had to rely on Wallace’s phone privileges to help carry the story. “The calls are limited to 15 minutes and it was unpredictable when he’d call,” said Bhalla. “I set up devices for when he’d call me. Sometimes things would work out and that’s the nature of the documentary. Usually, you’d sit down with someone for a number of hours, but there was none of that. He even lost phone privileges during periods of the three and a half to four years of filming”.
First Run came on board to distribute the film last fall. Herman’s House premiered at the True/False Film Festival in 2012 followed by a number of spring festivals. First Run will open the film at Cinema Village in New York this weekend and will proceed to additional cities ahead of its broadcast premiere on PBS’ POV July 8th.