Kino Lorber has landed all north North American rights to Alex Gibney’s Finding Fela, the prolific documentary-maker’s latest film, which had its world premiere at Sundance. The theatrical rollout will begin August 1 at NY’s IFC Center, adding Washington DC the next week and Boston and Atlanta the week after that. In addition, Kino Lorber will book Finding Fela in more than 75 additional markets where Fela!, The Musical, attracted big crowds; it will also screen at Tennessee’s Bonnaroo music fest June 13, where Fela’s son, musician Seun Kuti, will appear for a Q&A and performance.
Related: Alex Gibney To Receive AFI’s 2014 Guggenheim Honors
Finding Fela tells the story of the life of the Nigerian music and political icon Fela Kuti, whose Afrobeat (a fusion of Jazz, traditional West African rhythms, Funk, Highlife, and psychedelic rock) creation brought audiences closer to his fight against the dictatorial Nigerian government of the 1970s and 1980s. He was twice a Presidential candidate in the ’80s, after his socialist political views led to a government-sanctioned attack on his commune in 1977, which led to his arrest and the death of his mother. Read More »
Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney will receive the American Film Institute‘s 2014 Charles Guggenheim honors this June at the org’s annual nonfic filmmaking confab. The prolific Taxi To The Dark Side filmmaker has knocked out feature docus We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks, The Armstrong Lie, and Finding Fela in the past two years alone and next has James Brown documentary Mr. Dynamite, which sneak-screened at Tribeca. He’ll be feted with a presentation of his work and Q&A at the National Archives during the 12th AFI DOCS Charles Guggenheim Symposium held June 18 to June 22 in Washington, D.C. and Silver Spring, MD. The event draws filmmakers and policy leaders alike and has in past years honored Charles Guggenheim (2003), Barbara Kopple (2004), Martin Scorsese (2006), Jonathan Demme (2007), Spike Lee (2008), Albert Maysles (2009), Frederick Wiseman (2010), Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker (2011), Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (2012) and Errol Morris (2013). Read More »
Two more music documentaries have joined the lineup for next month’s Tribeca Film Festival, which kicks off with previously announced Nas rap doc Time Is Illmatic. The fest will present special screenings of Alex Gibney’s in-progress Untitled James Brown Documentary, about the legendary soul singer’s life, and Björk: Biophilia Live, a concert docu following the avant-garde musician’s eighth studio album, directed by Nick Fenton and Peter Strickland. Tribeca runs from April 16-27.
Brett Ratner came to Winter TV Press Tour 2014 to talk about his ESPN soccer documentary and to remind TV critics the Hercules movie that just opened anemically at the box office is not his Dwayne Johnson-starring Hercules movie.
Ratner is among the directors for ESPN’s documentary series 30 for 30 Soccer Stories premiering in April, including a mix of feature length and shorter 30-minute documentaries.
“I honestly feel ESPN is one of the greatest brands” enthused Ratner, who shared the stage with documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney and ESPN Films director of development Libby Geist.
Related: Between ‘Hercules’ Set-Ups, Brett Ratner Becomes Media Mogul With Eye On China
Ratner said he’s been obsessed with the sports network’s 30 for 30 documentary franchise and had been trying to find a way to get involved when someone at his company hit on an idea. “One of my passions and one of the opportunities that I’ve never gotten is to make a film that has Nazis in them. All my contemporaries, from Quentin Tarantino to, you know, obviously Spielberg, and all these guys have made their Nazi film, and I haven’t been able to tackle it yet.” Read More »
Not a bad week for Jehane Noujaim’s film about Egyptian activists battling the establishment. The Square scored the Best Feature trophy tonight at the 29th annual IDA Documentary Awards, three days after it made the Oscar shortlist. The film, which also is up for a Spirit Award, is the first documentary picked up by Netflix. Other winners announced at the ceremony hosted by Paul Provenza at DGA headquarters in Los Angeles included Slomo for Best Short, PBS’ Independent Lens for Best Continuing Series and CNN’s Morgan Spurlock-hosted Inside Man for Best Limited Series. Alex Gibney, who won an Oscar for Taxi To The Dark Side and was nominated for Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room, received a Career Achievement Award. Here is the full list of winners at the 2013 IDA Documentary Awards, presented by the International Documentary Association:
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Sony Classics has unveiled a trailer for Oscar-winner Alex Gibney‘s The Armstrong Lie, about cyclist Lance Armstrong’s comeback from cancer and subsequent doping scandal. Gibney inserts his own unusual perspective into the docu by chronicling the fibs Armstrong told him as he interviewed the athlete pre-scandal, as well as Armstrong’s own explanation of his deceit after the truth came out. The film opens November 8 in NY and LA:
Jonathan Demme’s ‘Fear Of Falling’ To Premiere At Rome Fest
Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme‘s Fear Of Falling will have its world premiere at the eighth annual Rome Film Festival in November. The film is based on a theater production — performed only a few times to friends — created for the stage by the actor-filmaker André Gregory, based on Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder, translated and adapted by actor-playwright Wallace Shawn. Gregory and Shawn also star in the film. Fear of Falling is produced by Rocco Caruso. The Rome fest runs November 8-17.
TrustNordisk Sells ‘We Are The Best!’ In Australia, Italy, Taiwan
TrustNordisk has closed multiple deals on Lukas Moodysson’s We Are The Best!, which premiered at Venice premiere and screened at Toronto. The Swedish teen punk film has sold to Australia (NewVision Films), Italy (Bim Distribuzione) and Taiwan (Maison Motion), with talks ongoing for other territories. We Are The Best! revolves around three young outsiders in 1980s Stockholm who find unity in music and form a punk band without having any instruments. Lars Jönsson for Memfis Film produced the film, which bows October 11 in Sweden.
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Oscar winner Alex Gibney followed Lance Armstrong for four years chronicling his return to cycling after retirement as he tried to win his eighth Tour de France. Unexpectedly, the documentary filmmaker was also there last year when Armstrong admitted to doping following a series of probes that led USADA’s CEO Travis Tygart to conclude that Armstrong’s team had run “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” The resulting docu, The Armstrong Lie, will be released by Sony Pictures Classics, the studio said today. Gibney, Frank Marshall and Matt Tolmach produced it. This pic offers access to Armstrong’s former teammates, doctors, and professionals, as well as unprecedented access to Armstrong. Said Marshall and Tolmach: “We set out to make a movie about a comeback — with unlimited and unprecedented access to Armstrong and the inner-workings of the Tour de France. Along the way, we ended up chronicling the collapse of one of the greatest myths and legends of our time.”
EXCLUSIVE: Oscar-winning documentary maker Alex Gibney just returned the serve the United States Tennis Association made on Friday when it sued the makers of a documentary about Venus and Serena Williams. The USTA told the U.S. District Court in New York that Venus And Serena uses film footage that infringed the organization’s copyrights including scenes — presumably Serena’s tirade at the 2009 U.S. Open — that are “not in the best interests of the sport.” Gibney, the film’s executive producer, says the USTA is trying to “censor this film about America’s most inspiring female athletes.” His colleagues “were entirely within their legal rights to use a small amount of widely seen footage” citing the ”fair use” doctrine, which enables filmmakers and others to use copyrighted material without permission when it serves the public interest. The concept “is vital to filmmakers trying to tell truthful stories and embodies the essence of the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution,” he says. “Indeed, without the fair use doctrine, copyright itself would be unconstitutional. By its actions, the USTA is assaulting the very principle of free speech.” Read More »
Alcon Television Group, the television division of Alcon Entertainment, and Frank Sinatra Enterprises are teaming to produce an as yet untitled documentary about the life and music of Frank Sinatra to premiere on HBO. Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney will direct the four-hour mini-series docu described as an up close and personal examination of Sinatra, his life, his music and his legendary career. Never before seen footage, including industry and home movies, as well as private and professional performances, will be featured. Frank Marshall, Nancy Sinatra, Charles Pignone, Alcon Television President Sharon Hall, and co-CEO’s Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove are executive producers. Kennedy-Marshall Company and Jigsaw Productions also are partnering on the project.
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
The scope of the devastation wrought by abusive members of the clergy took center stage at TCA this afternoon during a panel on the HBO documentary Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God, which premieres on the network February 4. The doc from writer-director Alex Gibney examines the abuse of power in the Catholic Church through the stories of four deaf men who were involved in one of the first cases of young sexual abuse victims exposing their abusing priest. One of those interviewed in the piece, a former Benedictine monk and mental health counselor named Richard Sipe, has spent most of his life researching and serving as a crusader in the field. Now 80, he discussed how his piercing the denial of abuse in the United States was initially wildly unpopular. The first indicators were studies conducted of the 1966 and 1972 graduating classes of the major seminary of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. “Thirty percent of the two classes (had engaged) in the sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church”, Sipe said. “It was just so unique to find this among a group of men whom we say are entirely sexually safe, who do not practice sex in any form at any time. And that is the myth that I have had to be faced with in my life”.
Related: Q&A: Director Alex Gibney On ‘Mea Maxima Culpa’, Sex Abuse & Taking The Film To Italy Read More »
Alex Gibney won an Oscar for his 2007 documentary Taxi To The Dark Side about U.S. policy on torture and interrogation. He was also nominated for 2005’s Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room. His latest film, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God, taps into a subject that has, in various forms, increasingly made headlines this year. As allegations of the sexual abuse of minors by trusted figures have continued to surface — think the Penn State scandal and the ongoing crisis over BBC kids’ show host Jimmy Savile — Gibney’s film is a damning investigation into pedophilia in the Catholic Church. Shining a light on what it calls “an international conspiracy of silence” that reaches all the way to the Vatican, the documentary “teaches us that we must recognize that the worst predators often consciously use their own personal charisma and the prestige of their institutions to commit and cover up their crimes,” Gibney says.
At the outset, the story is told from the point of view of four deaf men who attended a Milwaukee Catholic boys school in the 1950s and ’60s where Father Lawrence Murphy abused them as well as what is believed to be over 200 others over time. Interweaving the boys’ saga, which the now-adult men recount in sign language voiced over by actors Chris Cooper, Ethan Hawke, Jamey Sheridan and John Slattery, the story travels to two of the world’s most Catholic countries: Ireland and Italy. There, stories of similar sex abuse cases are revealed as well as the actions of members and friends of the Holy See. Mea Maxima Culpa debuted in Toronto and won the documentary feature prize at the recent London Film Festival. It was released in NY and LA on Friday for its Oscar-qualifying run and will air on HBO on February 4. It was also, surprisingly given the subject matter, picked up for distribution in both Ireland (Element Pictures) and Italy (Feltrinelli), although it was refused by recent Italian festivals. I recently had the chance to catch up with Gibney and our conversation follows: Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Former Universal co-chairman Marc Shmuger next month opens the doors on his new producing venture. Global Produce will be the name of his new Universal-based company, and I’m told that Shmuger has hired Tom McNulty to be his top production executive. McNulty was the longtime president of Shawn Levy’s Fox-based company 21 Laps, and his producing credits include Date Night and The Rocker. He left and became an independent producer, but will return to the executive fold when Shmuger opens offices in Santa Monica in June. Shmuger came to Universal as president of marketing in 1998, rose to vice chairman before spending nearly four years as co-chairman alongside David Linde (who’s launching his new company, Lava Bear). They left in fall, 2009. Shmuger’s Global Produce already has its first project: back in January, Shmuger teamed with Oscar-winning documentary director Alex Gibney and they are now four months into a feature docu about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Universal is funding the film and Shmuger and Gibney are producing together.
Magnolia Pictures acquired North American rights to Magic Trip, a look back at the psychedelic 60s cross-country bus tour taken by Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters. The feature documentary was co-directed and co-written by Alex Gibney and Allison Ellwood, and produced under History Films. History Network holds broadcast rights.
Deal comes just after Magnolia acquired North American rights to TrustNordisk’s adaptation of the Jo Nesbo novel Headhunter, directed by Morten Tyldum.
Magnolia will release the film on a VOD platform before a theatrical release, which the distributor used on Gibney’s Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Elliot Spitzer. Gibney and Ellwood got access to raw footage of 16 mm stock which Kesey and the Pranksters intended to turn into a documentary but never did. They worked with the Film Foundation, History and UCLA Film Archives to restore over 100 hours of footage that went into chronicling a psychedelic 60s movement captured by Tom Wolfe in his book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. A movie adaptation of that book has been in development with Gus Van Sant at the helm and Richard Gladstein producing.
EXCLUSIVE: The Hurt Locker screenwriter Mark Boal and Management 360 have partnered with financier/producer Megan Ellison to option The Boy Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, an article about WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange in The New York Times Magazine written by the newspaper’s executive editor Bill Keller. Ellison, an exec producer of True Grit, will finance the film through her Annapurna Pictures and she, Boal and Management 360 will produce. Boal might write the film, but that will depend on if he has time. In addition to the Kathryn Bigelow-directed Triple Frontier with Tom Hanks, Boal is collaborating with Bigelow on a drama that might go sooner, about a secret Middle East mission movie. If Boal is going to write the Assange script, he will have to do it quickly.
His is just the latest in a growing number of Julian Assange/WikiLeaks movies that should continue to swell as more books about the controversial figure get published. I’ve heard DreamWorks is circling Inside WikiLeaks, a book that will be released February 15. It is written by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Assange’s number 2 at WikiLeaks who defected because he wanted WikiLeaks to apply journalistic discretion in the dispersal of secret government documents while Assange wanted to release as many as he could get his hands on.
There is also the $1.5 million memoir by Assange. Movie/TV rights will be handled by CAA for lit agency … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Oscar-winning documentary director Alex Gibney has found his next hot-button film subject. Universal Pictures has just acquired a documentary that Gibney will direct about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The film will be the first project involving Marc Shmuger since he left the chairman post at Universal. Shmuger and Gibney are producing.
Whether it’s Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, or the Jack Abramoff documentary Casino Jack and the United States of Money, Gibney usually tells his stories with input from his subjects. Will Assange cooperate? I’m told it’s inconclusive. Universal confirmed the deal but wouldn’t elaborate. The WikiLeaks docu follows a deal announced yesterday by feature producers who optioned an upcoming book about Assange. There are plenty of those in the works, including a memoir Assange is writing to defray his massive legal fees. The Gibney/Shmuger documentary is the first film to involve a major studio. The studio component came through Shmuger, who is expected to reemerge as a producer at Universal.
Since launching his whistle-blower website in 2006, Assange has revealed some of the most serious secret government documents since The New York Times published The Pentagon Papers. They range from footage of an Apache helicopter’s firing fatally on journalists and civilians in Baghdad to last November’s deluge of diplomatic cables that left the U.S. government red-faced and outraged. Assange … Read More »