CATEGORIES Documentary, Independent, New Releases, Sundance, ThinkFilm, Oscar Watch, Cinematical Indie, Movie News, Oscar News, Sundance Film Festival, New Releases, CinematicalBeing associated with Oscar is a very good thing indeed. Films that win an Academy Award (or many) will typically see a boost in ticket sales. Before that, the nomination alone benefits their box office performance. Now it appears that simply being shortlisted has its advantages, too. One day after the Academy released its narrowed-down list of feature documentary contenders, ThinkFilm announced they've picked up the rights to one of the films on that list. The company will distribute The Trials of Darryl Hunt, which was produced by HBO Films and directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg. The doc premiered last January at Sundance and in April it won the audience award at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.
It tells the story of Darryl Hunt, a black man who was tried and convicted for the rape and murder of white newspaper reporter Deborah Sykes in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1984. Hunt was sentenced despite there being no physical evidence, simply off a testimonial given by a former Ku Klux Klan member. After ten years, in 1994, a DNA test cleared Hunt of the charges, yet he wasn't released from prison for another eight years.
The film would probably make for a good, though upsetting, double-header with the 2005 Sundance Special Jury Prize winner After Innocence, which examines the difficult process of re-entering society following, and despite, being exonerated. Unfortunately, such a double-header will likely never happen on television, since After Innocence was produced by HBO competitor Showtime. After Innocence was also shortlisted for the doc feature Oscar last fall, but didn't garner a nomination. Still, it did okay in limited release and gets occasional play on Showtime (including this Thursday morning). The Trials of Darryl Hunt, which was set to premiere on HBO sometime in 2007, will now get a theatrical and DVD release courtesy of ThinkFilm.