Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions have jointly acquired writer-director Justin Simien‘s debut feature Dear White People, which snagged the Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent at Sundance in January. Dear White People takes a satirical look at racial politics among the student body at a fictional Ivy League school where four students navigate issues of black militancy, post-racism, and the commodification of black culture on campus. Tyler James Williams (Everybody Hates Chris), Tessa Thompson (Veronica Mars), Teyonah Parris (Mad Men), and Brandon P Bell (Hollywood Heights) star. Simien made a splash in Park City with the pic, which pays homage to predecessors like Spike Lee’s School Daze and Robert Townshend’s Hollywood Shuffle. Ahead of a planned fall 2014 release, Dear White People is set to screen at this weekend’s New Directors/New Films.
The Sundance Institute today announced an expansion of its labs program into television and online content, establishing the first Sundance Institute Episodic Story Lab, to be held this fall at the Sundance Resort in Sundance, Utah. Norman and Lyn Lear …
Sundance Awards: ‘Whiplash’ & ‘Rich Hill’ Win Grand Jury Prizes; Dramatic Directing Goes To Cutter Hodierne For ‘Fishing Without Nets’
It was the first major deal of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and tonight Whiplash was the big winner at the fest’s Awards Ceremony. The Damien Chazelle-directed film about a young drummer, played by Miles Teller, and his demanding teacher, played by JK Simmons, took both the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury prize and the Audience Award. “This is awesome, thanks so much,” said Chazelle accepting the pic’s Audience Award earlier in the evening. Little did he know the fest hit would go on to win Sundance’s top dramatic prize. The U.S. Documentary Award went to the Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos-directed Rich Hill, about three small town Missouri boys seeking better from their sometimes bleak environment. Also making waves with buzzy Sundance awards tonight were first-time director Justin Simien, whose conversation-sparking Dear White People nabbed a Special Jury Prize for Breakthrough Talent; the Ethiopian World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award winner Difret, exec produced by Angelina Jolie; and the Nick Cave docu 20,000 Days On Earth which snagged both Best Directing and Best Editing in the World Cinema Documentary category.
Hosted by Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally, this year’s Awards started over 30 minutes later than its scheduled 6PM PT kick-off time. Once things got going, after a lurid but lame routine by the hosts, it moved fast. Like last year when Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who had his own directorial feature debut Don Jon premiere at Sundance 2013, hosted the awards ceremony, Offerman and Mullally both have films at the festival. The Parks & Recreation star fronted Nick Offerman: American Ham, which premiered on January 23 in Salt Lake City, and Mullally is one of the voices in the English-language version of the animated pic Ernest & Celestine, which was screened January 18 as part of the new Sundance Kids selection. Offerman and Mullally opened with a monologue that centered more on their sex life than indie film. “In short, we have seen your movies and we have found them arousing,” deadpanned Offerman.
Sundance buzz title The Babadook has been acquired by IFC Midnight, which snagged U.S. and Latin America rights to the chiller from Aussie newcomer Jennifer Kent. Essie Davis stars in the pic as a widowed single mother who connects with her troubled son (then six-year-old Noah Wiseman) by reading a bedtime storybook that unleashes a shadowy monster in their home. Kent wrote and directed the Sundance Midnighter selection which also stars Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West, and Ben Winspear. Causeway Films’ Kristina Ceyton produced with Kristian Moliere, with backing from Screen Australia. Jonathan Page, Michael Tear, Jan Chapman, and Jeff Harrison exec produced the pic which earned raves from critics in Park City and put Kent on the map as a helmer to watch.
UPDATE: Magnolia Confirms Domestic Deal At Sundance For ‘Frank,’ The One That Has Michael Fassbender Wearing The Giant Head
UPDATE, 3:16 PM: Magnolia Pictures has confirmed news that Deadline broke yesterday: It has acquired North American rights to Frank, starring Michael Fassbender. Read the full release below the original story.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, THURSDAY AM: Magnolia is zeroing in on a low seven-figure domestic deal for Frank, the Lenny Abrahamson-directed film about a band that is led by an eclectic genius lead singer who, everywhere he goes, wears an oversized head, even on stage. Now, this has been one of the most intriguing titles, given that the actor playing him is Michael Fassbender, the hunky Irishman who was just Oscar-nominated for his role in 12 Years A Slave.
The film also stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy and Domhnall Gleeson and the vantage point is a fledgling musician who joins the band. The film is repped by WME Global, and while the deal flow has been a bit on the slow side, that agency has managed to close a deal through all of the six days of the fest. I wrote about how Graham Taylor’s Sundance team of Mark Ankner, Liesl Copland and Alexis Garcia got minted as partners, and maybe that was the extra motivation, but they bagged the fest’s first big deal on the opening night film Whiplash, and haven’t let up. Frank first premiered last Friday night at the Eccles Theater.
UPDATE, 2:58 PM: Sony Pictures Classics has confirmed Deadline’s report from yesterday, acquiring Ira Sachs’ Sundance pic Love Is Strange for North America, Germany and Scandinavia. Read the release below after the original story.
PREVIOUS, THURSDAY AM: Sony Pictures Classics is acquiring Love Is Strange, the film scripted and directed by Ira Sachs that stars Alfred Molina, John Lithgow, Marisa Tomei, Cheyenne Jackson, Darren Burrows and Charlie Tahan. The timely film is about two longtime gay lovers who finally get married. One of them then gets fired and is unable to pay the rent. The couple must move in, separately, with a nephew and his family in Brooklyn and the two gay cops next door. The film got a strong response when it premiered last Saturday at the Eccles Theater. The deal is being made by WME Global. The film also got a French distribution deal with Pretty Pictures right after its premiere. SPC previously acquired the opening-night film Whiplash, and then the comedy Land Ho!
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, 1:00 am PST: It took awhile, but the Sundance deals are now moving faster as the festival heads toward its final weekend. …