EXCLUSIVE: Ever since its debut at the Telluride Film Festival over the Labor Day weekend, Fox Searchlight‘s 12 Years A Slave has been annointed, at least by some eager-to-call-the-race-early media members, as the movie that could take it all at the Oscars. Though it is far too early to say that with any conviction (it doesn’t open in theaters until next week and hasn’t even played its official Academy screening yet), it continues to register strongly on the Fest circuit. It hit the New York Film Festival Tuesday night where the cast led by Chiwetel Ejiofor, director Steve McQueen and other key creative players received a standing ovation, just as they did in Telluride and Toronto. Next week the film hits the BFI London Film Festival on October 18th, home turf for its British star and director, but telling a very American story. Searchlight clearly would be more comfortable not to be shackled with the front-runner label before the movie is able to catch its boxoffice wind. It’s always a perilous position as there is nowhere to go but down (just ask Social Network about that), but the film has drawn critical raves wherever it’s played and early audiences are clearly moved. The subject matter however is not easy, often gut-wrenching to watch, and needs to be carefully nurtured by Fox Searchlight which plans a slow rollout beginning next Friday. READ MORE »
BREAKING: Andrew Dosunmu will direct Focus Features’ drama with music Fela Kuti, which is currently in development. Focus CEO James Schamus and co-CEO Andrew Karpen announced the hiring. This is the film that has been developed with Chiwetel Ejiofor attached to star, and while a deal hasn’t gone down and nothing is definitive, he is hot stuff coming off the lead role in 12 Years A Slave. The film is separate from the Broadway musical. Focus has its own feature rights package that include Fela’s music, rights gathered by producers Lydia Pilcher and Leigh Blake.
Fela, considered Africa’s answer to Bob Marley, is as famous for his Afrobeat musical style — a fusion of jazz, funk and West African drums — as he was for speaking out against government oppression in Nigeria. He was a larger-than-life figure, had 27 wives, and his outspoken nature proved costly when his house was raided and his 78-year-old mother thrown to her death from a second-story window. He deposited the coffin on the steps of the Nigerian leader’s home.
FILM ROUNDUP: Steve McQueen & Chiwetel Ejiofor Join ‘Twelve Years A Slave’, Film Movement Buys ‘Corpo Celeste’, ‘Straight A’s Lands Leads
Steve McQueen and Chiwetel Ejiofor are going to be seeing a lot of each other. McQueen has come aboard to direct Twelve Years a Slave, which will star Ejiofor in a true story about a New York man who was kidnapped in the mid-1800s and forced to become a slave on a Louisiana cotton plantation. Brad Pitt’s Plan B is producing. The news comes more than a year after Deadline told you that McQueen and Ejiofor are teaming on a Focus Features film based on the Broadway musical Fela!, about African musician-activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Ejiofor has learned to play piano and saxophone for that role. It’s unclear which of these movies will be made first. McQueen — who made waves with his debut film Hunger, about the Irish hunger strike that starred Michael Fassbender and earned the helmer the Camera d’Or at Cannes in 2008 — will premiere his latest feature, Shame, this fall in Venice. …
Film Movement has acquired North American rights to the Cannes Film Festival drama Corpo Celeste, the Italian-language feature that played in the Directors Fortnight sidebar. Alice Rohrwacher’s debut feature follows a 13-year-old girl’s coming-of-age in the poor southern Italian province of Calabria. The company plans a first-quarter 2012 theatrical launch day and date with VOD, with a national rollout to follow.
The Isle of Man-based equity investor has announced its first TV drama, a six-part thriller for the BBC. Until now CinemaNX has invested in features, covering up to 100% of the budget. Company Pictures (Skins) is making The Shadow Line, starring …