Tuesday’s suicide of Malik Bendjelloul, director of the Best Documentary Feature Oscar winner Searching For Sugar Man, became a topic at two Cannes press conferences today. At this afternoon’s session with the competition jury members, fellow Scandinavian director Nicolas Winding Refn called it “a very tragic affair. I read about it this morning. He was a wonderful filmmaker, and I feel very sorry for what he’s left behind. It’s a terrible thing. Life is a beautiful gift.” Another of this year’s jurors, Mexican actor-director Gael Garcia Bernal also was shaken up by the news. “I met him last year at the Oscars,” he said. “It’s very shocking news. I am very sad that it has to end like that.”
Related: R.I.P. ‘Searching For Sugar Man’ Oscar Winner Malik Bendjelloul
Read More »
UPDATED, 2:58 PM: Malik Bendjelloul‘s older brother Johan told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet today that the filmmaker’s death was a suicide.
PREVIOUSLY, May 13: The Oscar-winning filmmaker behind Searching For Sugar Man was found dead today in Stockholm. Malik Bendjelloul was 36. No cause of death was reported, but local police told the newspaper Expressen that it was not being treated as suspicious. Bendjelloul won the Academy Award for Best Documentary last year for Sugar Man, about a personal search for the reclusive musician Sixto Diaz Rodriguez. He recorded a pair of LPs in the early 1970s as Rodriguez that went nowhere in the U.S. but were huge and influential in South Africa. But Rodriguez was unaware of the albums’ overseas success, and he faded completely from public view for decades. Searching For Sugar Man is about fans’ personal search to find him. Bendjelloul directed, produced, edited and co-wrote the pic, which opened Sundance in 2012 and went on to win the Audience Award. The film also would score documentary honors from the DGA, PGA, WGA, BAFTA, NBR and many other groups and festivals.
Related: Cannes: ‘Searching For Sugar Man’ Director’s Suicide Hits Hard
Read More »
When it comes to Oscar savvy we often hear Harvey Weinstein talked about as the kingpin of the game, but when you look at the success of Sony Pictures Classics you realize it rivals Weinstein, Searchlight, Focus and other comers in consistently, and annually, releasing and nurturing one contender after another in the quest for the elusive statuette of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Since the company was founded in December 1991, key to its success has been its co-Presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard who first worked together in similar specialty divisions at United Artists and Orion and now continue to run one of the most stable indie shops in the industry. But with a total of 25 Oscar wins and 109 nominations just at SPC they clearly have the Midas touch, and that includes a slew of Best Picture nominations for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (their biggest hit to date), Howard’s End, Capote, An Education, Midnight In Paris and this year’s Amour which won the Palme d’Or in Cannes and has amassed five Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film, only the fifth film in Academy history to be named in both categories. With writing and directing nods for Michael Haneke as well as a realistic Best Actress bid for star Emmanuelle Riva the film looks to be another strong contender for the pair who continue to be one of the few high profile companies that still champions foreign language films. SPC serves up a wide variety of specialty fare of all types and always seems to find a footing in the Oscar race which has become an important part of their business plan. With two contenders for Best Documentary and two for Best Foreign Language Film in addition to the Best Picture bid, the pair are fixtures at every major film festival and are once again making lots of noise in their high season. I spoke to both late last week about the upcoming Oscars and what it means to their bottom line.
Deadline: How important is this Oscar business to the actual business of Sony Pictures Classics?
Bernard: It’s part of the business for Sony Pictures Classics because we can get movies, or have movies, that won’t get the recognition that they deserve any other way. And if they get that recognition what we have found is that the boxoffice and ancillary and profits of these movies get much better. We can go all the way back to Camille Claudel when we had Isabelle Adjani and somebody close to her suggested that you should run a campaign for her for Best Actress and we said ‘it will never happen, no one will watch the movie. We can’t get them to the theatre. And the person said ‘well why don’t you send out VHS cassettes to the Academy’ so we did and sent them to the actors branch and lo and behold we got a nomination. And it took that movie to a level it would have never gotten if it didn’t happen. Read More »
Ari Karpel and David Mermelstein are AwardsLine contributors
From the homemade, unpolished qualities of 5 Broken Cameras and The Gatekeepers to the journalism of How To Survive A Plague and the investigations of The Invisible War and Searching For Sugar Man, this year’s documentary feature nominees traverse challenging and rewarding territory. Here’s a look at the films from which voters must choose.
5 Broken Cameras
The homemade quality that permeates 5 Broken Cameras is its greatest strength. For what this plainspoken documentary lacks in polish, it makes up for in heartfelt emotion. The film centers on the life of its filmmaker, Emad Burnat, a Palestinian resident of Bil’in, a village in the occupied West Bank near the Israeli border. It opens with the birth of Burnat’s son Gibreel in 2005. Then, paralleling the first few years of Gibreel’s life, the film charts the hardships endured by the village as it copes with the erection of a barrier, built by Israel, that separates Bil’in from its olives groves.
RELATED: Documentary Rule Changes Leave Members A Little More Optimistic
“I just started to film and document my people’s nonviolent struggles in the village in 2005”, Burnat says, speaking recently by phone from Bil’in. “I decided to take part with my camera. I used it for many purposes. I was the only one in my village with a camera. I used it to … Read More »
Searching For Sugar Man was named best feature tonight at the International Documentary Association Awards at the Directors Guild in Los Angeles. The film directed and written by Malik Benjelloul also made this week’s list of 15 finalists for the Oscar nominations for documentary feature. Another Oscar shortlister honored tonight was David France’s How To Survive A Plague which took the Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Filmmaker Award.
Sugar Man, which chronicles South African fans’ efforts to find out what happened to American singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez, also was named best documentary earlier this week by the National Board of Review. Last month the Producers Guild of America also nominated the film for Best Documentary, along with another of tonight’s winners, Jon Shenk’s The Island President, which took the Pare Lorentz Award. Read More »
The Sony Pictures Classics documentary Searching For Sugar Man got a spectacular shot in the arm with a full 60 Minutes segment on the film’s subject, the rediscovered singer Rodriguez. If you didn’t get to watch the segment last night, it’s worth a look because Rodriguez’s story has to be seen to be believed: