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Drafthouse Films’ Evan Husney Departing Creative Director Post

By | Wednesday April 16, 2014 @ 9:00pm PDT

Evan Husney DrafthouseDrafthouse Films‘ Evan Husney is stepping down from his post as Creative Director after nearly three years at the upstart distribution label. New York-based Husney, 27, will be shifting focus to producing and is working with directors Jason Eisener (Hobo With A Shotgun) and Todd Rohal (The Catechism Cataclysm) on their next features. Husney helped develop the specialty distro arm of Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas from the ground up when company founder Tim League tapped him to run creative ops in 2011. Shortly thereafter Drafthouse Films scored an Academy Award nomination with one of its first acquisitions, director Michaël R. Roskam’s Belgian drama Bullhead, which vied for Best Foreign Film at the 2012 Oscars. Last year Husney and the Drafthouse team mounted their second Oscar campaign in three years for Best Documentary nominee The Act of Killing, director Josh Oppenheimer’s critically-acclaimed documentary about Indonesian death squad leaders.

Related: Drafthouse Films Embracing Risks With Genocide Doc ‘Act Of Killing’

Since its inception the label has acquired a variety of specialty releases spanning genre, action, drama, comedy, foreign, and repertory titles, plucking often-challenging fare from the lineups of Austin’s Fantastic Fest (which League founded) and SXSW. “When [Drafthouse Films] started we wanted to acquire movies we loved and films we thought are great, utilize our backgrounds as programmers and approach distribution with a curatorial quality – a real cinephiles for cinephiles label,” Husney told me. Read More »

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Oscar Docs ‘The Square’ & ‘Act Of Killing’ Take Political Causes To The People

By | Tuesday February 25, 2014 @ 3:34pm PST

the squareUPDATED: Two politically-charged Oscar-nominated documentaries, Jehane Noujaim‘s The Square and Joshua Oppenheimer‘s The Act of Killing, have taken their awards push to the international stage as balloting closes today, both attempting to effect real world change by reaching the very audience they depict onscreen. Noujaim’s The Square tracks the ongoing Egyptian Revolution of 2011 through 2013 through the eyes of four Egyptians at ground zero and was released theatrically and on Netflix in October. The Sundance Audience Award-winner was blocked from release in Egypt and had been pirated so much internationally that the filmmakers opted to release an Arabic-language stream via Distrify earlier this month. Yesterday Noujaim & Co. went one step further, making The Square available in Egypt for free on YouTube, circumventing censors whose refusal to rule on the pic’s admissibility had prevented a proper release in the country.

Related: OSCARS: With Ballots Due Today, Campaign Ad Blitz In Full Force For Final Hours

“This is a film that was born in Tahrir Square, by 40 Egyptian filmmakers who all met in the square and quickly saw the dark story that was forming once the international news cameras left. We knew that we had to make sure our story would be told to the world by us,” said Noujaim via email.

“It was crucial to release the film before the Oscars,” she continued. “It is the first nomination for a film from Egypt, and is a voice for freedom and democracy when there have been almost 30,000 people arrested since July, and among them many journalists and activists. The police brutality and killings in Egypt reported by Amnesty in the last 6 months have been unprecedented. In a time when the power structure is trying to white wash history and squares around the world are rising up with people claiming their rights it is crucial to to show the many who continue to fight for basic freedoms that their voices will be heard.”

The filmmakers will continue to try to pass The Square through Egypt’s censors so the the film can be legally released in the country. “It was important for us to continue this effort because this will be a major step in the direction toward support of freedom of speech in Egypt, because it will be the first time the government allows a piece of work to exist whether or not they agree or disagree with what it says,” said Noujaim.

The Act Of Killing OscarsDrafthouse Films’ The Act of Killing similarly encountered obstacles in reaching its subject audience – the people of Indonesia, whose government has historically ignored the acts of death squads that murdered an estimated 1M people in the nation’s politically-motivated genocide of 1965-66. Director Oppenheimer worked for eight years with the families of victims and the perpetrators of the killings which were carried out decades ago but have never been publicly acknowledged by the current regime. Despite the fact that the film could not openly screen in Indonesia, the film’s Berlin, BAFTA, and numerous critics awards propelled the ongoing issue of impunity for these war crimes into the global conversation. The Act of Killing has been seen in thousands of underground screenings in the country and in September, Drafthouse teamed with VICE and VHX to offer a free download geotargeted for Indonesian users; offered on BitTorrent in December, the film was downloaded over 3.5 million times. After the film was nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar, the Jakarta Globe addressed the genocide on its January cover story in which a spokesman for the Indonesian president acknowledged “the issues of our bleak past.” Read More »

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‘Act Of Killing’ Passes 3.5M Downloads On BitTorrent

By | Thursday January 23, 2014 @ 12:47pm PST

The Act Of Killing OscarsThe total for the Oscar-nominated documentary is three times bigger than the audience it has reached on YouTube, BitTorrent says in a blog post. The firm launched its bundle on December 31, in collaboration with Drafthouse Films. The Act Of Killing profiles the death squad leaders who committed mass murders in Indonesia in the 1960s. Some re-enact their murders for the camera, which leads at least one to start to come to terms with the  severity of the crimes. In addition to the film, the BitTorrent package includes interviews, essays, and stills from director Joshua Oppenheimer, and executive producers Werner Herzog and Errol Morris as well as TEMPO Magazine‘s account of the film’s impact on Indonesia. Drafthouse plans to return the film to theaters on February 7.

Related: OSCARS: Drafthouse Embracing Risks With ‘The Act Of Killing’

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Deadline’s Best Film Stories Of The Week

Catch up on Deadline’s best film stories of the week:

wonder womanEmerging Star Gal Gadot Set To Play Wonder Woman In ‘Batman Vs. Superman’
By Mike Fleming Jr. – Warner Bros and Zack Snyder have found their Wonder Woman. They’ve cast Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot in the iconic role and she will be part of Batman Vs. Superman, the film that will see Henry Cavill square off with Ben Affleck.

Paul Walker’s Manager Matt Luber Looks Back On 18 Years Growing Up Together
By Mike Fleming Jr.EXCLUSIVE: When they help build a Hollywood star career, agents and managers know it can all end in a moment. That usually comes in the form of a phone call, informing them that client has dropped them for another rep. While that is hard to bear, I have been imagining how much worse it has been for Luber Rocklin Entertainment’s Matt Luber. His 18-year run with Paul Walker ended with a Saturday phone call as Luber and his daughter were leaving a sports bar to attend a college football game in Phoenix. That is when Luber learned that Walker had died instantly at age 40 in a tragic car crash.

affleckBen Affleck On Playing Batman, And How Not To Accept An Academy Award
By Mike Fleming Jr. – For Playboy’s 60th anniversary issue, the magazine needed an iconic subject for the Playboy Interview, and I hit the lottery. I got to talk with actor-writer-director-producer Ben Affleck about his life and the remarkable second act that he wrote for himself as writer-director of Gone Baby Gone and The Town, which culminated in the Best Picture Oscar for Argo. Read More »

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OSCARS: Drafthouse Films Embracing Risks – And Hoping For Change – With Genocide Documentary ‘The Act Of Killing’

The Act Of Killing OscarsSpecialty distributor Drafthouse Films opened shop in 2010 and scored a surprise Oscar nomination with its third release, the Belgian Best Foreign Pic contender Bullhead. Now Drafthouse is back in the awards game with Joshua Oppenheimer’s startling Indonesian genocide documentary The Act Of Killing, a provocative pic backed by Werner Herzog and Errol Morris that has already racked up dozens of awards and made the Oscar documentary shortlist in a notably competitive year for nonfiction. Oppenheimer’s film profiles the celebrated death squad leaders responsible for mass murders in 1960s Indonesia as they flamboyantly re-stage their crimes for the camera in Hollywood-style re-enactments — and, in one killer’s case, start to grasp the severity of their actions. The film’s brutal themes required such a careful touch that Drafthouse’s considered awards approach began the moment they won a hard-fought bidding war for the film. But how do you market a film with protagonists like these and win over traditional-minded Academy voters with such a non-traditional message?

Related: Specialty B.O.: ‘Act Of Killing’ Is Year’s Top Documentary Debut

Oppenheimer’s film leaves the moralizing to the audience, but it has not for nothing earned a rep as one of the more unsettling Oscar hopefuls in recent memory. Read More »

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Sight & Sound, John Waters Name The Top Ten Films Of 2013

By | Saturday November 30, 2013 @ 4:52pm PST

Spring Breakers Best Of 2013Here’s a pair of just-released Top 10 lists that make Quentin Tarantino’s favorite films of 2013 look downright pedestrian. Over in the UK, Sight & Sound Magazine picks Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing the best picture of the year while cult filmmaker John Waters names Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers #1. With the onslaught of end-of-year Top 10s yet to come, could this year’s crop of critical picks be leaning arthouse just as Oscar trends toward indie? See how yours stack up: Read More »

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Global Showbiz Briefs: EFA Announces European Documentary Noms; Pathé Lays Off 9, Will Cut Distribution Slate

By | Monday November 4, 2013 @ 10:00pm PST

European Film Academy Unveils European Documentary Nominees
The Act Of Killing, Stop-Over and The Missing Picture are the European Film Academy‘s nominees for Best European Documentary. The Act of Killing is a Denmark-Norway co-production from director Joshua Oppenheimer about Indonesian death squad veterans re-enacting their deeds musical numbers, twisting arms in film noir gangster scenes, and galloping across prairies as yodeling cowboys. Stop-Over (L’Escale) is a Switzerland-France co-prod from Kaveh Bakhtiari that centers on Amir, an Iranian immigrant in Athens whose modest becomes a place of transit for migrants who, like him, have chosen to leave their country. In the France-Cambodia pic The Missing Picture (L’Image Manquante), which won the Un Certain Regard Prize at Cannes, writer-director Rithy Panh addresses his family’s horrifying experiences during the Pol Pot regime’s reign over Cambodia from 1975-79. The winner will be announced during the European Film Awards on December 7 in Berlin. Read More »

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Cinema Eye ‘Unforgettables’ Docu Honors Celebrate Mass Killer, Whale

By | Wednesday October 23, 2013 @ 11:57am PDT

Nonfic film organization Cinema Eye has unveiled their inaugural “The Unforgettables” list, celebrating 18 of the year’s “notable and significant” docu subjects – including former Indonesian death squad leader Anwar Congo, the mass killer who’s confronted by his crimes in genocide docu The Act Of Killing. In the pic Congo claims to have murdered over 1,000 people while leading the paramilitary forces that also extorted and terrorized half a million Indonesians in the mid-1960s. But Congo and other perpetrators initially participated in the pic to glorify their atrocities, which they’ve never been held accountable for in Indonesia. Should Cinema Eye be honoring nefarious individuals like this rather than the filmmakers who bring them to light?

Related: Drafthouse, VICE To Bring ‘Act Of Killing’ To Indonesia

Over 80 filmmakers and Cinema Eye curators voted on the first class of “Unforgettables” honorees selected “to publicly acknowledge the rich collaborations that often take place between subjects and filmmakers,” according to Cinema Eye founding director AJ Schnack. It’s tricky territory. The list includes another killer: Tilikum the deadly orca who killed multiple humans while in captivity, who doesn’t sit for a single interview with the filmmakers in Blackfish.

Here’s the full list of honorees: Read More »

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Drafthouse, VICE To Bring Genocide Docu ‘Act Of Killing’ To Indonesia

By | Tuesday August 27, 2013 @ 12:55pm PDT

EXCLUSIVE: Joshua Oppenheimer’s award-winning The Act of Killing garnered wide acclaim and the year’s best nonfiction debut this summer. But the filmmakers believe the docu, in which ex-death squad leaders of the 1965-1966 Indonesian genocide reenact their own atrocities for the camera, can’t have a traditional release in the country where said mass murderers are still celebrated as national heroes. So the film’s most significant release will come in September when Drafthouse Films, VICE, and VHX open the pic in Indonesia – for free.

Related: ‘The Act Of Killing’ Intrigues As It Nears UK, U.S. Release: Video

The 1965 genocide that killed an estimated 500K to 1 million accused leftists, intellectuals, and ethnic Chinese is rarely talked about in the country and isn’t taught in history books. It’s so sensitive within Indonesia that the 60+ Indonesian crew members on The Act Of Killing are credited as “Anonymous” for fear of retribution. Filmmakers fear that, if submitted to the government-run film board, the docu would likely be banned and subsequent screenings would invite violent attacks by paramilitary groups. Instead, Drafthouse, VICE, Signe Byrge Sørensen’s Final Cut for Real ApS, and VHX will release Act of Killing within Indonesia on September 30 via www.actofkilling.com, where local viewers can download the 159-minute directors cut for free from a site exclusively geo-blocked for Indonesia. Read More »

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Specialty Box Office: Woody Allen’s ‘Blue Jasmine’ Beats ‘Midnight In Paris’ Debut

Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.

Indie FilmsWoody Allen‘s Blue Jasmine sparkled at the Box Office this weekend, grossing nearly $603K, out-performing Midnight In Paris ($99,834 debut average in 6 theaters), the director’s best-grossing film to date. The Sony Classics feature opened in 6 theaters, averaging a shiny $102,128, placing the film atop the year’s specialty debuts. “It certainly belies the myth opening,” said SPC’s Michael Barker about debuting against the summer blockbusters. “When we first screened the film I remember we heard that people said, “‘Why aren’t you waiting until the fall?’ Our response was that a good serious film will be a good breath of fresh air.” Jasmine edges out Spring Breakers in the averages game in 2013. The To-Do List, meanwhile, became this summer’s largest opening specialty, bowing in 591 theaters, grossing a cool $1.535M. Coming back down to earth, Hong Kong director Johnnie To’s Drug War opened in one theater, grossing a decent $7K, while fellow Sino title Tiny Times averaged $4,167 in three runs.

Blue Jasmine‘s b.o. cha-ching apparently isn’t an aberration. Fox Searchlight‘s The Way, Way Back and TWC’s Sundance winner Fruitvale Station continue to lure discerning audiences away from the tentpoles. The company said it would take the title wide this weekend and it really delivered. The Weinsteins pushed Fruitvale out to 1,064 theaters (last week in only 34 runs) and the film by this year’s indie darling Ryan Coogler held up. It averaged $4,377 and the distributor touted its numbers Sunday. And Fox Searchlight added 582 runs for its hit The Way, Way Back, grossing $3.3M ($3,724 average). It’s been noted that the film cost a cool $10M to buy, so it will take some time to make a return for the company, but it is clearly showing momentum. Back has cumed about $9 million to date. Read More »

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Specialty Box Office: ‘The Act Of Killing’ Is Year’s Top Documentary Debut; ‘Only God Forgives’ And ‘Girl Most Likely’ Open Mixed

Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor

UPDATED: Documentaries lead the way with sizzling debuts among the Specialties over the weekend.  Drafthouse Films clearly won bragging rights with critically lauded Danish-produced feature The Act Of Killing. The film re-tells the story of the little-known massacre of leftists and perceived leftists in Indonesia in the 1960s and ’70s through Hollywood-style re-enactments of the crimes by the killers themselves. It opened at downtown Manhattan’s Sunshine theater, grossing $28,067. Though only one venue, the bow nevertheless gives the title reason to boast — placing it atop all other documentary debuts in 2013 including the likes of 56 Up ($22,088 per screen average), The Gatekeepers ($20,517 PSA), 20 Feet From Stardom ($18,199 PSA), Koch ($17,598 PSA) and Stories We Tell ($13,527 PSA). Also opening with some gusto this weekend was Magnolia’s Blackfish. The fellow Sundance docu opened in four theaters, grossing $66,500 for a $16,625 PSA, placing it in the middle of the year’s top non-fiction openers. The weekend’s big narrative debuts, Only God Forgives and Girl Most Likely, meanwhile, skirted the traditional platform strategy and headed into a number of markets. Cannes debut Forgives, starring Ryan Gosling, headed with a mix of critical response into 78 theaters, grossing a so-so $315K for a $4,039 average (though the film is No. 2 on iTunes this weekend). Meanwhile, Roadside/Lionsgate’s Girl Most Likely with Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening and Matt Dillon had the largest Specialty bow of the summer with its 353 locations, grossing $736K for a soft $2,085 PSA. Read More »

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Documentary ‘The Act Of Killing’ Intrigues As It Nears UK, U.S. Release: Video

Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act Of Killing, about a group of Indonesian men who revisit and re-enact assassinations they committed after the military coup of 1965, made waves at both Telluride and Toronto in 2012. Earlier this year, it won the best documentary prize in the Panorama section of Berlin as well as the Ecumenical Jury prize. Drafthouse Films acquired the pic in October and will release it Stateside on July 19. It goes out in the UK next week, followed by a director’s tour with an extended cut. Ahead of that, it screens on Saturday in London as part of the Open City Docs Fest. The film, one of the most talked-about documentaries of the year, is a Danish/Norwegian/British co-production. Per Drafthouse’s synopsis, when the government of Indonesia was overthrown, Anwar Congo and his friends were promoted from small-time gangsters, who sold movie theater tickets on the black market, to death squad leaders. They helped the army kill more than one million alleged communists, ethnic Chinese, and intellectuals in less than a year. Today, Congo is revered as a founding father of a right-wing paramilitary organization that grew out of the death squads, but neither he nor his cohorts have been forced to admit they participated in crimes against humanity. The filmmakers asked Congo and the others to re-create their memories, which they do by filming their own movie within the doc, … Read More »

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