CATEGORIES Documentary, Independent, Magnolia, Distribution, Cinematical Indie, Movie News, CinematicalI hope that headline got your attention, because basically there are no celebrities involved with Freakonomics as far as most moviegoers are concerned (unlike that blockbuster Darfur Now, which featured George Clooney, Don Cheadle and Arnold Schwarzenegger). However, to documentary aficionados this anthology film is an all-star collaboration, including segments helmed by acclaimed directors Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room; Taxi to the Dark Side), Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me: Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?), Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight; The Trials of Henry Kissinger) and Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady (The Boys of Baraka, Jesus Camp), as well as connective interludes from Seth Gordon (The King of Kong; umm, Four Christmases).
As Monika wrote way back in 2007, all these segments will represent and adapt from different sections of the 2005 non-fiction best seller Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, written by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. It consists of articles that non-traditionally apply economics to different pop culture topics. Apparently the initially attached documentarians Laura Poitras and Jehane Noujaim did not make it into the final fold, and only four of the book's six chapters appear to have made the leap to the big screen.
Magnolia Pictures, which has picked up North American rights to the movie, brings us details on which chapters were handled by which filmmaker(s): Gibney took on the first section, about sumo wrestling; Spurlock adapted chapter six's topic of baby names; Jarecki does the fifth section dealing with the impact of legalized abortion on crime rates; and Ewing and Grady have chapter four, about underachieving kids. Gordon's binding segments will feature commentary from Levitt and Dubner.
It's impressive enough that the producers (including Chad Troutwine, of the fiction anthology Paris Je T'aime) assembled this super-group of mostly Oscar-nominated filmmakers. But according to a New York Times piece on the film, they also paid the directors better than documentary filmmakers are used to (causing the film's budget to nearly reach $3 million). There's an expectation from both the original producers and now Magnolia that Freakonomics will be a crossover success and actually earn a profit. That would be really cool, if for no other reason than we might end up with a sequel based on the authors' recent follow-up, Superfreakonomics, and four to five more documentarians hired for the job.
Freakonomics will close out the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival early next month, while Magnolia will distribute through its usual day-and-date strategy of simultaneous theatrical, DVD and VOD release this fall.