Indie Roundup is your weekly guide to what's new and upcoming in the world of independent film. Pictured above, clockwise from left: The Disappearance of Alice Creed, The Arbor, Helena From the Wedding.
Opening / Expanding. Limited releases in major markets this weekend include:
- Cairo Time, a romance;
- The Disappearance of Alice Creed, a kidnapping thriller that prompted Cinematical's Eric D. Snider to write: "While I freely admit the basic premise, once it's all revealed, is ridiculous, I also freely admit that I don't care. It's executed in a taut, professional manner, with great suspense and dark humor";
- Lebanon, a drama;
- Flipped, a family film from Rob Reiner;
- Middle Men, a comedy; and
- Twelve, a disaster directed by Joel Schumacher, according to our own Perri Nemiroff.
Distribution Deals. July and August are the months in which the major fall film festivals (Venice, Toronto, New York) announce their lineups and every other festival shapes their schedule accordingly. The majority of the 'big buzz' titles already have deals in place; their respective distributors can premiere films with gala presentations, celebrity appearances, and red carpet photo opportunities. The idea, of course, is to maximize publicity and kick-start theatrical release and/or Academy Award campaigns.
In advance of the Toronto madness, deal announcements have slowed. Our friends at indieWIRE report just two deals in the past two weeks. The Arbor, a mixture of fiction and non-fiction directed by Clio Bernard, has been acquired by Strand Releasing, which plans a theatrical release next April, while Film Movement picked up Joseph Infantolino's Helena from the Wedding, a dramatic feature, and has staked a claim on November 12 as its release date.
The Arbor profiles playwright Andrea Dunbar and her daughter, blurring "a line between reality and invention amidst the doldrums of a North England housing estate," according to Tim Wong of The Lumiere Reader. He calls the results "penetrating and undeniably moving." The film incorporates scenes from Dunbar's titular stage play and also employs actors to lip-sync prerecorded audio interviews conducted with friends and family members. Director Bernard won a jury prize at the Tribeca Film Festival.
"Every once in a while, there comes a film that completely sweeps me off my feet and makes me dive head first into its plot and characters," wrote Lauren Lester for Gordon and the Whale in her review of Helena from the Wedding from SXSW. Melanie Lynskey and Lee Tergesen play newlyweds who have invited a small group of friends to a New Year's Eve celebration at their cabin; Gillian Jacobs is Helena, an old flame / unexpected guest / monkey wrench. Lynskey and Tergesen are terrific actors, and Jacobs has gained good notices from her work on TV's Community, so that might give the drama some traction, even though it will be released in the thick of the fall awards season.
Online / On Demand. Huzzah! The New York Times has taken notice that an increasing number of movies are making their debut via on demand systems. In an article by Mike Hale, Johnnie To's Vengeance (pictured) is highlighted among this week's releases.
The article says, in part: "As more and more 'small,' serious films fight for screen time, a few distributors are starting to see on-demand television as a first option - which means that the quality of on-demand offerings is beginning to rise." That statement is at least two years late, which is the last time I had a cable on demand system available to me. (NPR had a similar story back in May.) Even then, a choice selection of foreign-language and independent films were available.
As noted, however, it is difficult to keep up with on demand offerings. Hammer to Nail provides a monthly guide, which is quite helpful. We try to highlight new arrivals in this column, but we could definitely do a better, more comprehensive job in the future. What sites provide helpful information about new releases available on demand?