“Who among us has the inner strength and autonomy to live outside the churning new cell phone cycle and the amplified social chatter of our digital consumer society?”

From her Sundance Award-winning first feature Down to the Bone to her Oscar-nominated feature Winter’s Bone and her documentary Stray Dog, writer and director Debra Granik has examined the lives of outsiders struggling to maintain their independence. Granik’s third narrative feature, Leave No Trace, set in the Pacific Northwest’s hidden byways and forgotten encampments, is based on Peter Rock’s novel My Abandonment, which is inspired by a true story.

A teenage girl, Tom (breakout newcomer Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie), and her veteran father Will (Ben Foster of Hell or High Water and The Messenger) have lived undetected for years in Forest Park, a vast woods on the edge of Portland, Oregon. A chance encounter leads to their discovery and removal from the park and into the charge of a social services agency. They try to adapt to their new surroundings, until a sudden decision sets them on a perilous journey into the wilderness seeking complete independence and forcing them to confront their conflicting desire to be part of a community and fierce need to live apart.

The film is directed by Granik; the screenplay is by Granik and Academy Award nominee Anne Rosellini (Winter’s Bone, Down to the Bone), adapted from Peter Rock’s novel My Abandonment.

The real-life story that Leave No Trace is inspired by

The real-life story that Leave No Trace is inspired by has become something of a legend in Portland, and was reported on in The Oregonian and elsewhere: a girl and her father were discovered to have been living for four years in the nature preserve bordering the city’s downtown area.

They ventured into Portland only to collect his disability checks and shop for what they couldn’t grow. The girl was healthy, well cared-for, and tested academically above her age group. After being relocated to a horse farm where the father was able to find a job, the pair soon disappeared.

Peter Rock

Peter Rock

Peter Rock, intrigued by the mystery, created a fictionalized version of the tale that filled in the unknowable details. The author notes, “There were other books inspired by the same story, some more investigative. I’m a fiction writer; the genesis of my book was reading the newspaper stories and wondering what happened to the two people — where they came from, who they were, and how they survived.”

The book was brought to Granik and Rosellini’s attention via two other frequent moviemaking collaborators, producers Anne Harrison (the Oscar-winning The Danish Girl) and Linda Reisman (the Oscar-winning Affliction).

Anne Rosellini

Anne Rosellini and Debra Granik

They originally optioned the novel in 2007, attracted by the book’s distinctive voice and landscape, eventually bringing in Granik and longtime collaborator, Anne Rosellini.

The four then worked together four years developing the screenplay.

Debra Granik directed and co-wrote Winter’s Bone with Rosellini, which was adapted from Daniel Woodrell’s novel of the same name.
Her first feature was Down to the Bone, which she directed and co-wrote.

In 2014, Ms. Granik completed her documentary feature Stray Dog, which later aired on PBS and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. The film’s subject is Ron “Stray Dog” Hall.

In 2016, Harrison and Reisman approached Bron for financing; Bron then brought in First Look, now called Topic, as a financing partner.

Anne Rosellini is an independent filmmaker whose company, with Debra Granik, is Still Rolling Productions. Ms. Rosellini was nominated for an Academy Award twice in the same year, for producing (with Alix Madigan) and co-writing (with Ms. Granik) the Best Picture Oscar nominee Winter’s Bone.

Formerly a programmer for the Seattle International Film Festival, Ms. Rosellini founded the 1 Reel Film Festival in 1996 before moving into acquisitions for AtomFilms, an online platform for films that was way ahead of its time. She holds a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The setting for the story is forests and isolated rural enclaves in Oregon and Washington State.

Granik was attracted by this environment: “Films that take place in a specific region always speak to Anne and I, and this is a story inextricably tied to the Pacific Northwest. We could visualize a setting and a journey that would be very photogenic, and a story that would draw us in.”

When we meet the father and daughter, they have been living in a rudimentary encampment, using outdoor living skills to carve out a life almost entirely off the grid and invisible to the outside world.

Granik says, “Will and Tom have life experiences that are very different from anything I’ve known or done. Who can live on public land, and stay undetected for so long? And how did they do it? It became clear that to tell this story would require research and deep consultation with a range of Pacific Northwesterners to understand how to film this existence.”

Rock reports, “The plot of the film differs from my book in some ways, but in terms of the tone it’s pretty close. My book has elements of fantasy, and Debra’s movie grounds the characters in more realism.”

Debra Granik

Debra Granik

Although the screenplay does not use narration, Granik notes that “the teen narrator from Pete’s book led me to wonder about how a person could live happily and richly with few possessions. Tom and Will have a very disciplined lifestyle, and it necessitates a commitment to distinguish between want and need. Thinking about Tom and Will led me back to Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, and to environmentalist Bill McKibben’s reportage as well as One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan

Odyssey, from Richard Proenneke’s journals.

“Who among us has the inner strength and autonomy to live outside the churning new cell phone cycle and the amplified social chatter of our digital consumer society?”

In approaching the story, Granik also thought back to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with its father-and daughter characters of Prospero and Miranda: “I’m drawn to the ways classic stories depict close relationships in which people complement and complete each other. Will and Tom look out for each other and also pollinate each other’s mind. Tom has learned to be the adult at times, because of her father’s psychiatric vulnerabilities. He, in turn, is trying to teach her every useful thing he knows.”

My Abandonment

Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie and Ben Foster with director Debra Granik during filming of Leave no Trace

Leave No Trace tells the story of two people who forge their own path, with no villain in the tale. Granik remarks, “There are a handful of core themes in literature and film that we learn. But right now it seems that stories which rely on direct threats of violent bodily harm, annihilation, and highstakes crimes are what get almost all the attention. I’m curious about our appetite for stories that don’t rely on violent actions but still have strong resonance. Several people, all of them strangers, help Will and Tom along the way, but the tension remains high because of how they choose to live. The antagonistic forces are not exerted by any malevolent character, but by something hard to see — the pressure of social conformity and business as usual.

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“In this story the stakes are physical and existential survival. When Tom and her father are evicted from public land and don’t have a safety net, those are high stakes. Where do people who don’t fit neatly into the mainstreams of our culture go, and how do they fare?”

The director adds, “The stakes are also tied to the intricate dynamic between Tom and her father. After they are evicted from the park, where they knew how to structure their lives and relate to one another, they are pushed to learn more about one another when forced into the wider world. Will senses that Tom’s curiosity pulls her in a different direction from him, which eventually leads to a fork in their path.

“That is something universal we all have to navigate, but which we do in our own ways. Since coming of age can require that a person cleave themselves from those they are closest to, it’s always high stakes in terms of how hard that can be.”

In the character of Will, Granik returns to a topic she explored in her documentary feature Stray Dog, developing it here in a fictional context. “I’m very interested in the lives of veterans, especially how their experiences affect them years after the war,” she explains. “And it’s getting to be long after our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, the time when civilians begin to forget, and veterans are left holding the bag.

“The father’s veteran identity was something that Pete had embedded in the book. When we got to Portland to research and scout the movie, I was able to go deeper into the issues that the father character wrestles with, through the help of several vets who advised on the film based on their personal experiences.” David J. Morris’ book The Evil Hours, about his experience as a Marine with post-traumatic stress (PTS), and Ron Hall, a Vietnam Era vet who was the subject of Stray Dog, also provided insight and inspiration.

The Cast Ben Foster, who plays Will in Leave No Trace, is known for intense, tightly wound performances in such movies as Hell or High Water, Lone Survivor, and 3:10 to Yuma. “I have appreciated Ben’s work in an array of films, specifically in The Messenger,” says Granik. “This was a big, meaty, soulful role, and I thought he’d have room to put that layered intensity he has into it. He’s a very committed, indepth kind of actor.”

Foster also has an interest in veterans’ experiences. Granik was “touched that he had spent a considerable amount of his working life trying to learn about and understand the experiences of returning soldiers. In several films he’s been asked to delve into that on a very deep level. In discussions with Ben, I also learned that the subject of living off the grid, living with less, and questioning the ubiquity of social media, is very much on his mind. All of that was very helpful.”

The actor reflects, “Although dealing with difficult circumstances, this was a very hopeful script about trying to do the right thing — and I hadn’t been reading a lot of scripts that made me feel very hopeful.

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Ben Foster

“When the script landed on my desk, my fiancée and I were expecting our first child. So, iterations of fatherhood were very present when I read it. And Debra’s films, particularly Down to the Bone and Stray Dog, had touched me deeply. Because of this combination, I really wanted the job!”

He and Granik “would take walks together and talk about how someone in Will’s position could make this life make sense for himself. Living with his daughter in a temperate rainforest is in many ways working for him, and it’s working for her. When social services comes, what the father and daughter created, and the world that they know, is turned upside down. What will they be gaining, and losing? They each have to grow in different ways, and this pierces the heart.”

Aware of the responsibility of portraying soldiers’ complexities on-screen, Foster notes, “We did not overly articulate what Will is struggling with; his scars are internal. I’ve had the privilege of talking to a lot of brave men and women about this; I have friends who served and survived and have done a lot of healing.

“What’s so inspiring about spending time with those in the service is that they are can-do people; they fix it, they figure it out. It isn’t about ‘Does it feel right’ or ‘Do you want to.’ It’s, you do it. I’ve tried to then understand how I myself could do that.”

For an independent filmmaker, Granik feels that an actor like Foster is a gift: “Ben is a defender of independent films. He puts his spirit into the research, gets immersed, and he stays true to it. He’s not afraid of getting muddy or emotionally entangled. He’s done profound work on films without frills, and he champions it.”

Back To Latest Releases

2019 Film Releases / Available on DVD & Blu-Ray

Listed Alphabetically

  • 3 DAYS TO GO This New South African Film puts family relationships in the spotlight! It marks producer Bianca Isaac’s directorial debut.
  • 47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED In the summer of 2017, a contained, claustrophobic shark movie caused quite the splash. It was called 47 Meters Down. Now, in search of adventure, teenagers Mia (Sophie Nélisse), Sasha (Corinne Foxx), Nicole (Sistine Stallone) and Alexa (Brianne Tju) decide to scuba dive into a submerged Mayan city that is being mapped out nearby. Once inside, the entrance collapses behind them and they must navigate the labyrinthine tunnels and eerie caves in search of another way out as the air in their tanks steadily runs out. It is their worst claustrophobic nightmare, but it gets a whole lot worse when they discover the city is home to some very hungry Great White sharks…Written and directed by Johannes Roberts.
  • A DOG’S JOURNEY A dog finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he meets. Sequel to A Dog’s Purpose./ Trailer
  • DOG’S WAY HOME A dog embarks on an epic 400-mile journey home after she is separated from her beloved human. Trailer 
  • A MADEA FAMILY FUNERAL The eleventh and final installment of the Madea film series./ Trailer /
  • A RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK Woody Allen’s romantic comedy tells the story of college sweethearts, Gatsby (Timothée Chalamet) and Ashleigh (Elle Fanning), whose plans for a romantic weekend together in New York City are dashed as quickly as the sunlight turns into showers. The two are soon parted, and each has a series of chance meetings and comical adventures while on their own. Over the course of a dreamy and drizzly day in New York, Ashleigh discovers she might not be who she thought she was and Gatsby learns that while you only live once, once is enough if you find the right person. Read more / Trailer
  • ABOMINABLE When a teenage girl stumbles upon a young Yeti on the roof of her apartment building, she and her friends name him “Everest” and embark on an unforgettable quest to reunite the magical creature with his family at the highest point on Earth. This first female-led, major-studio animated film with a central female character, is written and directed by Jill Culton (Open Season, Monsters, Inc., Toy Story 2). Read more / Trailer
  • THE ACT OF DEFIANCE Sympathetic white Afrikaner lawyer Bram Fischer risks career and family to defend Nelson Mandela and his inner circle. Trailer
  • ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES Get ready to snap your fingers! The Addams Family is back on the big screen in the first animated comedy about the kookiest family on the block. Funny, outlandish, and completely iconic, the Addams Family redefines what it means to be a good neighbour. The Addams family’s lives begin to unravel when they face-off against a treacherous, greedy, arrogant and sly reality TV host while also preparing for their extended family to arrive for a major celebration. Based on the comics of the same name by Charles Addams. The film is directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan./ Read more /  / Trailer /
  • AD ASTRA Brad Pitt plays an elite astronaut who travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet. His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the cosmos. Directed by James Gray (Lost City of Z, The Immigrant), from a screenplay by Gray and his long-time associate Ethan Gross (“Fringe”) Read more / Trailer /
  • THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAMA South Africa’s First Ever Black Female Superhero For The Big Screen.  Trailer /
  • AFTER This adult romance follows the journey of self-discovery of a young woman whose guarded world opens up when she meets a dark and secretive rebel. Trailer 
  • AFTER THE WEDDING Isabel (Michelle Williams), a co-founder of an orphanage in Klokata travels to New York to meet a potential benefactor, Theresa. Despite her frustration by the need to justify a charitable donation, she agrees to the meeting, which falls a day before the wedding of Theresa’s daughter (Abby Quinn). Isabel is unexpectedly invited to the wedding and the events that ensue force her to confront decisions she made 20 years ago as well as a man from her past (Billy Crudup), who turns up to be Theresa’s husband. Secrets are also revealed including an unexplained charity worth 20 million dollars. Written and directed by Bart Freundlich. It is a remake of the 2006 film of the same name by Susanne Bier. Read more /
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  • ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL From visionary filmmakers James Cameron (Avatar) and Robert Rodriguez (Sin City), comes an epic cyberpunk action-adventure of hope and empowerment.  Trailer 
  • THE AFTERMATH Old fashioned wartime romance set in postwar Germany in 1946. Trailer
  • ALADDIN A live-action adaptation of Disney’s 1992 animated film.  Trailer
  • ANGEL HAS FALLEN “I never thought of Angel has Fallen as a sequel. I see it as a fresh, cool installment of the franchise that can stand alone while bringing everything fans love about Mike Banning, says writer-director Ric Roman Waugh of the third installment in the Fallen series, a psychologically tense, kinetic thriller that never lets off the accelerator from its opening killer-drone attack. Read more
  • ANGRY BIRDS 2 MOVIE In this CG animated comedy three flightless angry birds and the scheming green piggies take their beef to the next level. Directed by Thurop Van Orman from a screenplay by Peter Ackerman and Eyal Podell & Jonathon E. Stewart.
  • ANNA  The story of a resilient assassin who is used as a pawn but then breaks all the rules to control her own destiny.  Trailer / 
  • ANNABELLE COMES HOME The third installment of the hugely successful “Annabelle” films. Trailer /
  • APOCALYPSE NOW: FINAL CUT Restored from the original negative for the first time ever, Apocalypse Now Final Cut is Coppola’s most realized version of the film. Coppola’s visually dazzling masterpiece is a surreal, hallucinatory, epic tragedy about the horror of the Vietnam War. A U.S. Army Intelligence officer is sent on a bizarre river journey deep into the jungle to assassinate Colonel Kurtz, a renegade Green Beret who uses primitive tribesmen to wage his own war,
  • AQUAMAN The origin story of half-surface dweller, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry takes him on the journey of his lifetime. Trailer 
  • ARTICLE 15 Based on the socio-political Article 15 of the Indian Constitution, which prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. Trailer /
  • THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN For screenwriter Mark Bomback it was a gift to adapt Garth Stein’s beloved novel The Art Of Racing In The Rain, which features a wise and philosophical dog who longs to be reincarnated as a human. Read more
  • AVENGERS: END GAME  In the aftermath of the destruction, the remaining Avengers are faced with their biggest challenge yet. Trailer/
  • BACK OF THE MOON 1958 Sophiatown. On the eve of his home being demolished by apartheid police, Badman a notorious gangster decides to fight them to the death. But then Eve, a gorgeous torch singer is thrust into his orbit. On the last day of his life Badman finds something worth living for. With Richard Lukunku, Moneoa Moshesh, Lemogang Tsipa, S’Dumo Mtshali, Thomas Gumede, Israel Matsepe-Zulu. Directed by Angus Gibson from a screenplay by Gibson, Desiree Markgraaff, Kutlwano Ditsele. Read more /
  • BACKTRACE A criminal eludes a local detective, a toughened FBI agent to recover the stolen money.  Trailer /
  • BEAUTIFUL BOY The film chronicles the heart-breaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years.  Trailer / 
  • BEN IS BACK A mother’s undying love for her son is tested as she does everything in her power to keep him safe.  Trailer
  • THE BEST OF ENEMIES The true story of the unlikely relationship between Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson)  , an outspoken civil rights activist, and C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell), a local Ku Klux Klan leader. During the racially charged summer of 1971, Atwater and Ellis come together to co-chair a community summit on the desegregation of schools in Durham, N.C. The ensuing debate and battle soon lead to surprising revelations that change both of their lives forever. Directed and written by Robin Bissell. It is based on the book The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South by Osha Gray Davidson, which focuses on the rivalry between civil rights activist Ann Atwater and Ku Klux Klan leader C. P. Feature: The True Story Of a Woman Who Turned A Klansman Into An Activist And Friend / Trailer / 
  • BLESSERS Although the arrangement is nothing new, ‘blesser’ is a South African term for an older man who has multiple girlfriends he lavishes with gifts, in exchange for sex and companionship. In turn, the girlfriends post photos on social media of expensive shoes, clothes and piles of cash, tagging the pictures #blessed. That’s the subject at the heart of the slick and hilarious new comedy ‘Blessers’, by actor and director Rea Rangaka. The film stars award-winning actor and comedian Kenneth Nkosi as a middle-aged businessman who has become accustomed to his routine, a life which includes his wife, Michelle (Sonia Mbele of ‘Generations’ fame), his daughter Natasha (Six Nyamane), his work and his fun. Caught knee-deep in the word of blessers, Jacob and his family are about to learn a few hard lessons and discover that they are perhaps not that #blessed. ‘Blessers’ is written by Tbo Touch, Sasa Nqabeni and Kumaran Naidu. Trailer
  • BLINDED BY THE LIGHT Developed from writer-director Gurinder Chadha and British Journalist Sarfraz Manzoor’s shared passion for Bruce Springsteen and based on Manzoor’s celebrated rite of passage memoir Greetings from Bury Park, Blinded By The Light chronicles his experiences as a British Muslim boy growing up in 1980s Luton and the impact Springsteen’s lyrics had on him. Read more
  • BLINDSPOTTING A man must make it through his final three days of probation for a chance at a new beginning. Trailer 
  • THE BOOKSHOP A free-spirited widow risks everything to open up a bookshop in a small town Trailer /
  • BOOKSMART Academic overachievers decide to cram four years of not-to-be missed fun into one night. Trailer
  • BOTTOM OF THE 9TH A tragic mistake lands 19-year- old baseball phenom Sonny Stano in jail before his burgeoning professional baseball career gets off the ground. Now at 39 and fresh out of prison (Joe Manganiello) he works to win back his respect, his family, his lost love and his dream of being a professional baseball player. “A meditation on the life of the artist; the frustration, the fear of commitment and most importantly the inability to suppress the talent that exists within, especially when that talent is at the core of the person’s soul,” says director Raymond De Felitta, who directed from a screenplay by Robert Bruzio.  Read more / 
  • BREAKTHROUGH  An enthralling reminder that faith and love can create a mountain of hope, and sometimes even a miracle. Trailer /
  • BRIGHTBURN   What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister? Trailer
  • CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?  A female law-skirting antihero becomes the forger of the century.  Trailer / 
  • CAPERNAUM A Lebanese boy sues his parents for the “crime” of giving him life. Trailer
  • CAPTAIN MARVEL Set in the 1990s, “Captain Marvel” joins an intergalactic elite Kree military team called Starforce.  Trailer /
  • CAPTIVE STATE Residents of a Chicago neighborhood deal with life under extraterrestrial rule.  Trailer /
  • CHILD’S PLAY A contemporary re-imagining of the 1988 horror classic. Trailer /
  • COLD PURSUIT Fuelled by rage and armed with heavy machinery, Nels sets out to dismantle the cartel one man at a time.  Trailer 
  • CRAWL When a massive hurricane hits her Florida town, young Haley (Kaya Scodelario) ignores the evacuation orders to search for her missing father, Dave. After finding him gravely injured in their family home, the two of them become trapped by the rapidly encroaching floodwaters. With the storm strengthening, Haley and Dave discover an even greater threat than the rising water level — a relentless attack from a pack of gigantic alligators. Disaster horror film directed by Alexandre Aja from a screenplay by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen. Read more / Trailer/
  • THE CURRENT WAR Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse — the greatest inventors of the industrial age — engage in a battle of technology and ideas that will determine whose electrical system will power the new century. Backed by J.P. Morgan, Edison dazzles the world by lighting Manhattan. But Westinghouse, aided by Nikola Tesla, sees fatal flaws in Edison’s direct current design. Westinghouse and Tesla bet everything on risky and dangerous alternating current. Historical drama directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and written by Michael Mitnick. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Nicholas Hoult, Tom Holland, Katherine Waterston and Tuppence Middleton. Feature: An Epivc Story About The Man Who Invented the 20th Century /  Trailer /
  • THE CURSE OF LA LLORNA In 1970s Los Angeles, the legendary ghost La Llorona is stalking the night — and the children. Trailer 
  • DEEP END A coming of age story about a young Indian woman, living in Durban where sticking to culture and tradition comes crashing up against wanting to be a part of the bigger world. Written and directed by Eubulus Timothy. 
  • DESTROYER A gritty, riveting and narratively complex crime thriller.  Trailer /
  • DOMINEE TIENIE (PASTOR TIENIE) A pastor is confronted with a steep decline in the number of churchgoers and a modern society that is rapidly changing. Trailer 
  • DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD  Having spent most of her life exploring the jungle with her parents nothing could prepare Dora for the most dangerous adventure ever – High School. Always the explorer, Dora quickly finds herself leading Boots (her best friend, a monkey), Diego, and a rag tag group of teens on an adventure to save her parents and solve the impossible mystery behind a lost Inca civilization. Directed by James Bobin. It is an adaptation of the Nickelodeon‘s series of the same nameRead more /
  • DOWNTON ABBEY The beloved Crawleys and their intrepid staff prepare for the most important moment of their lives. We return to the Great House with the most illustrious guests the Crawley family could ever hope to entertain, their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary.  With a dazzling parade and lavish dinner to orchestrate, Mary, now firmly at the reins of the estate, faces the greatest challenge to her tenure as head of Downton. Directed by Michael Engler from a screenplay by Julian Fellowes (who created and wrote the 9-season TV series). Read more
  • DUMBO  An all-new grand live-action adventure expands on the beloved classic story where differences are celebrated, family is cherished and dreams take flight.  Trailer /
  • DUMPLIN’ A plus-size teenage daughter of a former beauty queen signs up for her mom’s pageant as a protest.
  • EIGHT GRADE A thirteen-year-old girl endures the tidal wave of contemporary suburban adolescence as she makes her way through the last week of middle school Trailer /
  • ESCAPE ROOM Six strangers are invited to compete in a series of immersive escape rooms. Trailer /
  • ESCAPE PLAN: THE EXTRACTORS Sequel to Escape Plan 2. After security expert Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) is hired to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a Hong Kong tech mogul from a formidable Latvian prison, Breslin’s girlfriend is also captured. Now he and his team, must pull off a deadly rescue mission to confront their sadistic foe and save the hostages, hidden in the depths of the prison complex, before time runs out.Directed by John Herzfeld. Read more / Trailer /
  • EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE The story of Ted Bundyis shown from the perspective of his girlfriend who strugglesto accept the reality of her boyfriend’s nature. Trailer /
  • FAST AND FURIOUS PRESENTS HOBBS AND SHAW After eight films that have amassed more than $5 billion worldwide, TheFast & Furious franchise now features its first stand-alone vehicle as Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham reprise their roles as Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.   Read more
  • THE FAVOURITE Explore the veiled world of Queen Anne, the last (and historically most ignored) of the Stuart line of Britain’s rulers— who though infamously gouty, shy and disregarded, nevertheless reigned as Great Britain became a global power.  Trailer 
  • FIELA SE KIND With Fiela Se Kind, an iconic South African classic, Brett Michael Innes delivers a heartbreaking story of the walls that separate us and the love that unites, telling the tale of a coloured woman in 1890s Southern Africa who finds a white toddler on her Karoo doorstep and raises him as her own. Read more / Trailer /
  • FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY Based on a true story, it follows reformed gangster and his family as they make a living wrestling together in tiny venues.  Trailer /
  • FINAL SCORE An independent throwback action movie
  • THE FRONT RUNNER  The rise and fall of charismatic politician Senator Hart, whose campaign was sidelined by the story of an extramarital relationship with Donna Rice.  Trailer/
  • GALVESTON A heavy-drinking criminal enforcer discovers a young woman being held captive, and reluctantly takes her with him on his escape. Trailer /
  • GEMINI MAN Will Smith plays a veteran ex-Special Forces sniper turned assassin for a clandestine government organization; and, with the assistance of ground-breaking visual effects, as Junior, the mysterious younger operative with peerless fighting skills who is suddenly targeting him in a global chase. Directed by Ang Lee (Life of Pi) from a screenplay by David Benioff and Billy Ray and Darren Lemke. Read more / Trailer /
  • GLASS M. Night Shyamalan brings together the narratives of two of his standout originals—Unbreakable and Split – in one explosive, all-new comic-book thriller.  Trailer /

GLORIA BELL Gloria (Julianne Moore) is a free-spirited divorcée who finds herself thrust into an unexpected new romance, filled with both the joys of budding love and the complications of dating, identity and family. Written and directed by Sebastián Lelio. It is a reimagining of Lelio’s 2013 film Gloria. Feature: Re-imagining your own film / Trailer /

GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Members of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. Feature: A New Entry In The Cinematic Montserverse /  Trailer /

GOLD FINCH Intimate in its emotion and sweeping in its design, this film adaptation of Donna Tartt’s globally acclaimed and beloved bestseller of the same name is directed by BAFTA Award winner John Crowley (Brooklyn), from a screenplay by Oscar nominee Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). The tragedy of a terrorist bomb explosion in the Metropolitan Museum of Art changes the course of a young man’s life, sending him on a stirring odyssey of grief and guilt, reinvention and redemption, friendship and even love.  Throughout the turbulent years, as he grows into adulthood, Theo (Ansel Egort) secretly clings to a single, precious object—his one tangible connection to the mother he lost on that terrible day—a priceless painting of a tiny bird chained to its perch.  The Goldfinch. Read more/ Trailer /

GOOD BOYS  Three sixth grade boys ditch school and embark on an epic journey while carrying accidentally stolen drugs, being hunted by teenage girls, and trying to make their way home in time for a long-awaited party. . Written and directed by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky and starring Jacob TremblayRead moreTrailer /

GREEN BOOK Nick Vallelonga, the oldest son of Tony Lip, grew up hearing about his father’s journey with Don Shirley.  “This was a story I had on my mind basically my whole life from the time I was a young kid,” says Vallelonga, an actor, writer, producer, and director who crafted the screenplay for Green Book with Brian Currie and director Peter Farrelly. Feature: A Movie 50 Years in the Making /  Trailer 

GRETA Frances finds a handbag on the New York subway and promptly returns it to Greta (Isabelle Huppert), an eccentric French piano teacher who loves tea and classical music. Having recently lost her mother, young Frances strikes up a seemingly harmless friendship with the lonely and kindly widow who enjoys her company. But when Greta’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic and obsessive, Frances does whatever it takes to end the toxic relationship before things spirals out of control. Directed by Neil Jordan and co-written by Ray Wright and Jordan. Feature: A contemporary thriller about obsession /  Trailer /

HELLBOY  Based on the graphic novels by Mike Mignola, Hellboy, caught between the worlds of the supernatural and human, battles an ancient sorceress bent on revenge.B ased on the Dark Horse Comics character of the same name. The film is directed by Neil Marshall and stars David Harbour as Hellboy.  Feature: Reimagining The Film Franchise For A New Generation / Trailer /

HER ONLY CHOICE A woman is faced with a choice to fight for her life or sacrifice it for another. After years of infertility, a newly-expectant mother is diagnosed with a life-altering disease.
Directed by Christel Gibson. With Jamaal Avery Jr., Christopher Bates, Veronica Blakney, Keith Arthur Bolden. Trailer /

HOLMES AND WATSON When detective Sherlock Holmes (Will Ferrell)  and Dr. John Watson (John C. Reilly) join forces to investigate a murder at Buckingham Palace, they soon learn that they have only four days to solve the case, or the queen will become the next victim. Written and directed by Etan CohenFeature: A Raucous Comedy  / Trailer/ 

HOTEL MUMBAI A gripping true story of humanity and heroism, recounting the 2008 siege of the famed Taj Hotel by a group of terrorists in Mumbai, India. Feature: A gripping true story of humanity and heroism / Trailer /

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD A surprising tale about growing up, finding the courage to face the unknown…Written and directed by Dean DeBlois.   Feature: An unlikely friendship between an adolescent Viking and a fearsome Night Fury dragon / Trailer 

THE HUSTLE Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway have winning chemistry as a pair of con artists plying their trade in a stunning seaside town in the south of France. Inspired by Bedtime Story (1964), written by Stanley Shapiro & Paul Henning, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), written by Stanley Shapiro & Paul Henning and Dale Launer, screenwriter Jac Schaeffer joins the mix with director Chris Addison in his big screen directorial debut for this modern twist on these two comedies. Read more / Trailer /

HUSTLERS Inspired by the viral New York Magazine article, Hustlers follows a crew of savvy former strip club employees who band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients. With Jennifer Lopez, Lili Reinhart, Keke Palmer, Julia Stiles and Mercedes Ruehl  Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria. Read more /

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK is set in early-1970s Harlem, and tells a timeless and moving love story of both a couple’s unbreakable bond and the African-American family’s empowering embrace, as told through the eyes of 19-year-old Tish Rivers (screen newcomer KiKi Layne). Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, based on James Baldwin‘s novel.  Feature: Bringing James Baldwin’s novel to the Big Screen /   Trailer 

INDIA’S MOST WANTED A Bollywood action thriller directed by Raj Kumar Gupta about tracking a terrorist in a secret mission and arresting him without firing bullets. It pays tribute to unsung heroes of our society. The film is inspired from the arrest of proscribed organisation Indian Mujahideen (IM) terrorist Abdul Subhan Qureshi (also known as India’s Osama) in January 2018 by Delhi Police. Read more / Trailer 

THE INTRUDER In this psychological thriller a young married couple (Michael Ealy and Meagan Good) buy their dream house in the Napa Valley, thinking they have found the perfect home to take their next steps as a family. But when the strangely attached seller (Dennis Quaid) continues to infiltrate their lives, they begin to suspect that he has hidden motivations beyond a quick sale. Directed by Deon Taylor (Traffik) and written by David Loughery (Lakeview Terrace).  Read more / Trailer

IT CHAPTER TWO Evil resurfaces in Derry as director Andy Muschietti reunites the Losers Club in a return to where it all began with IT Chapter Two, the conclusion to the highest-grossing horror film of all time. Muschietti directed IT Chapter Two from a screenplay by Gary Dauberman (IT, the Annabelle films) based on the novel IT by Stephen King. Read more /

JOHN WICK 3: PARABELLUM  In this third installment of the adrenaline-fueled franchise Keanu Reeves returns as the eternally embattled super-assassin John Wick who must fight his way out of New York when a $14 million contract on his life makes him the target of the world’s top assassins. Directed by Chad Stahelski and written by Derek Kolstad, Chris Collins & Marc Abrams, and Shay Hatten. Read more / Trailer 

JOKER Directed, co-written and produced by Todd Phillips, Joker is the filmmaker’s original vision of the infamous DC villain, an origin story infused with, but distinctly outside, the character’s more traditional mythologies.  Phillips’ exploration of Arthur Fleck, who is indelibly portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, is of a man struggling to find his way in Gotham’s fractured society.  Longing for any light to shine on him, he tries his hand as a stand-up comic, but finds the joke always seems to be on him.  Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty and, ultimately, betrayal, Arthur makes one bad decision after another that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events in this gritty, allegorical character study. Read more / Trailer /

KANDASAMYS: THE WEDDING Building on the theme developed in the first movie, ‘Kandasamys: The Wedding’ (KTW) will centre on the much-anticipated Naidoo/Kandasamy wedding. Director/Writer Jayan Moodley reprises her roles in the sequel and is all set to make the big screen come alive with more side-splitting comedy and heart touching moments as the two Chatsworth families plan the wedding of the year (or if the Mother of the Bride would have it – The Wedding of the decade in spectacular Kandasamy style!)
Interview with Producer-director and writer Jayan Moodley /   Trailer

THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING Old-school magic meets the modern world.  Alex ( Louis Ashbourne Serkis) thinks he’s just another nobody, until he stumbles upon the mythical Sword in the Stone, Excalibur. Now, he must unite his friends and enemies into a band of knights and, together with the legendary wizard Merlin (Stewart), take on the wicked enchantress Morgana (Ferguson). With the future at stake, Alex must become the great leader he never dreamed he could be.  Written and directed by Joe CornishRead more / Trailer /

KINGS OF MULBERRY STREET The escapades of two young South African Indian boys who have to overcome their differences and band together in order to defeat the bullying local crime lord who threatens their families. It is a charming and hilarious adventure, with universal themes that will appeal to the whole family. The film also pays tribute to classic 80’s Bollywood movies and their heroes. Written and directed by director and producer Judy Naidoo. Feature: Kings of Mulberry Street pays tribute to classic 80s Bollywood movies and their heroes / Trailer /

THE KITCHEN A high-impact drama with a strong, female-driven cast and women in key roles behind the scenes, it takes full ownership of a genre not known for putting women at the top.  Defying expectations across the board, it turns the classic mob drama upside down like never before, lending a contemporary tone to the distinctive style and vibe of the era and serving up plenty of action, attitude and shocking turns. Read more

LATE SHOW Much like the character Katherine Newbury in Late Show , actor, writer and producer Mindy Kaling is an entertainment industry pioneer, breaking down barriers by becoming the first woman and first person of color to write for the hit sitcom “The Office,” then creating and starring in her own show, “The Mindy Project,” and penning two best-selling books. Now, the creative dynamo, who has emerged as one of the most original comic voices of her generation, has channeled her own career experiences into her first feature screenplay, which takes a behind-the-scenes look at the world of television comedy. Read more /  / Trailer /

THE LEAST OF THESE: THE GRAHAM STAINES STORY Based on a true story and shot on location in India, this faith-based drama from director Aneesh Daniel and screenwriter Andrew Matthew illustrates the power of love, hope and forgiveness to overcome hate. Watch Trailer

THE LEGO MOVIE 2 Bricksburg is now a post-apocalyptic wasteland as a result of Finn’s father allowing his younger sister to play with him in the basement. When an intergalactic invader kidnaps his girlfriend and his friends, Emmet’s master building skills are put to the ultimate test.  Directed by Mike Mitchell and co-directed by Trisha Gum, from a screenplay by Phil Lord and Christopher MillerRead more / Trailer /

LIEWE LISA Daniel (Hendrik Cronje) secretly dreams of becoming a writer. In the pursuit of excitement, he finds himself trapped in an illicit affair with the wife of a powerful businessman. Things take another dramatic turn when he falls in love with the same businessman’s daughter. Directed, written and starring Hendrik Cronje, inspired by the film, The Graduate (1967). Interview with writer-director Hendrik Cronje

LIGHT OF MY LIFE Casey Affleck’s narrative feature filmmaking debut, based on his own script, mixes a survivalist drama, a coming-of-age story, and a powerful metaphor of parenting, letting concern for a single child serve as both eulogy and hope for a species facing its greatest challenges. In the desperate atmosphere of a post-pandemic, dystopian landscape following a plague that killed nearly all the world’s females, a father (Casey Affleck) and daughter (newcomer Anna Pniowsky) survive on rations in American Midwestern towns while they forage in the woods, far from the danger men present.Read more/ Trailer /Video interview/

THE LION KING With the live-action release audiences can journey to the African savanna where a future king is born. Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny. But not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub’s arrival. Scar, Mufasa’s brother—and former heir to the throne—has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock is ravaged with betrayal, tragedy and drama, ultimately resulting in Simba’s exile. With help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba will have to figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his. Directed by Jon Favreau, screenplay by Jeff Nathanson. Feature: The Lion King roars to life on the Big Screen in a Whole New Way /

LITTLE Marsai Martin (TV’s Black-ish) stars in and executive produces Universal Pictures’ LITTLE, a comedy from producer Will Packer (Girls Trip, Ride Along and Think Like a Man series) based on an idea the young actress pitched. Directed by Tina Gordon (Peeples), the film tells the story of a woman who-when the pressures of adulthood become too much to bear-gets the chance to relive the carefree life of her younger self. Trailer /

LITTLE ITALY Emma Roberts’ character struggles with returning to her small neighborhood after being in a big city, while falling in love with her father’s biggest enemy (Hayden Christiansen). Directed by Donald Petrie based on a screenplay by Steve Galluccio and Vinay Virmani. Feature: A Story Inspired By Pizza Wars /  Trailer /

LONG SHOT Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) is a gifted and free-spirited journalist with an affinity for trouble. Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) is one of the most influential women in the world. Smart, sophisticated, and accomplished, she’s a powerhouse diplomat with a talent for… well, mostly everything. Sparks fly as their unmistakable chemistry leads to a round-the-world romance and a series of unexpected and dangerous incidents. Directed by Jonathan Levine. Read more / Trailer

LOSING LERATO is a beautifully told South African action/thriller about a successful young black man who takes matters into his own hands by kidnapping his daughter after life, the law and the woman he once loved separate them. His actions put him on a collision course with the law and he finds himself in a high-stakes hostage situation. Directed by Sanele Zulu, screenplay by Ricardo Arendse and Kagiso Modupe. With 
Kagiso Modupe and Tshimillo Mosupe. Trailer / 

LOVE LIVES HERE The romance tells the story of Zinhle Malinga (Thando Thabethe), a jaded romantic, who’s quests for that picture-perfect prince charming have left her disillusioned about the idea of true love. Written and produced by Mokopi Shale. Read reviewTrailer /

LUIS AND THE ALIENS Growing up as half-orphan with an Ufologist-Dad (Armin Sonntag) who’s obsessed to prove to the whole world that alien exist, 12-year-old Luis hasn’t had an easy and certainly not a normal life. Read more / Trailer /

MA Everybody’s welcome at Ma’s. But good luck getting home safe. Oscar® winner Octavia Spencer (The HelpHidden FiguresThe Shape of Water) stars as Sue Ann, a loner who keeps to herself in her quiet Ohio town. One day, she is asked by Maggie (Diana Silvers, Glass), a teenager new in town, to buy some booze for her and her friends, and Sue Ann sees the chance to make some unsuspecting, if younger, friends of her own. She offers the kids the chance to avoid drinking and driving by hanging out in the basement of her home. But there are some house rules: One of the kids has to stay sober. Don’t curse. Never go upstairs. And call her “Ma.” But as Ma’s hospitality starts to curdle into obsession, what began as a teenage dream turns into a terrorizing nightmare, and Ma’s place goes from the best place in town to the worst place on earth. Directed by Tate Taylor (The Help, The Girl on the Train) from a screenplay by  Scotty Landes (Comedy Central’s Workaholics). Feature: MA – A Lovable Villain / Trailer

MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL A sequel to the 2014 global box office hit, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and her goddaughter Aurora (Elle Fanning) begin to question the complex family ties that bind them as they are pulled in different directions by impending nuptials, unexpected allies and dark new forces at play. The years have been kind to Maleficent and Aurora. Their relationship, born of heartbreak, revenge and ultimately love, has flourished. Yet the hatred between man and the fairies still exists. Aurora’s impending marriage to Prince Phillip is cause for celebration in the kingdom of Ulstead and the neighboring Moors, as the wedding serves to unite the two worlds. When an unexpected encounter introduces a powerful new alliance, Maleficent and Aurora are pulled apart to opposing sides in a Great War, testing their loyalties and causing them to question whether they can truly be family. Directed by Joachim Rønning. With a story by Linda Woolverton and a screenplay by Linda Woolverton and Noah Harpster & Micah Fitzerman-Blue. Read more / Trailer/

MA MA Diagnosed with breast cancer, a woman (Penélope Cruz) forms a strong bond with a man (Luis Tosar) who lost his wife and daughter in a car accident. Spanish drama film directed by Julio Medem.Review/ Trailer /

MARNIE’S WORLD In this German animated film from Christoph Lauenstein & Wolfgang Lauenstein, four crazy antiheroes on the run. Their leader is the unworldly innocent, naive Marnie, a house cat who is not allowed to leave the house and only knows about real life from television. Based loosely on Grimms “The Bremen Town Musicians” a modern, hilarious road movie is told. Trailer /

MARY POPPINS RETURNS An all new original musical and sequel, Mary Poppins is back to help the next generation of the Banks family find the joy and wonder missing in their lives following a personal loss.Directed by Rob Marshall from a screenplay by David Magee and a screen story by Magee & Rob Marshall & John DeLuca based upon the Mary Poppins Stories by PL Travers. Feature: An all new original musical and sequel Trailer 

MATWETWE (Wizard) is a South African coming of age adventure following Lefa and Papi, best friends and recent high school graduates, on the hustle of their young lives. Written and directed by Kagiso Lediga.  Read moreTrailer 

MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL The Men in Black have expanded to cover the globe, but so have the scum of the universe. And to keep us safe, decorated Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and determined rookie M (Tessa Thompson) are partnered – an unlikely pairing that just might work. As they face a new alien threat that can take the form of anyone, including MIB agents, they must join forces on a globetrotting adventure to save the agency and ultimately the world. Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald return as the franchise’s “guardians,” having produced all four films, starting with 1997’s Men in Black, and have brought on board director F. Gary Gray, whose work encompasses epic action and thrills (The Fate of the Furious), raucous comedy (Friday) and galvanizing drama (Straight Outta Compton) to bring scale, laughs and a unique vision to the sequel.  MIB: International screenwriters Art Marcum & Matt Holloway had earlier penned the screenplay for Iron Man, which helped launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and whose tone was inspired by MIB. Indeed, the MIB franchise is defined by its creativity and inventiveness – blending comedy, science fiction and adventure, a mix that other franchises would follow. Read more 

MIDSOMMAR With their relationship in trouble, a young American couple travel to a fabled Swedish midsummer festival where a seemingly pastoral paradise transforms into a sinister, dread-soaked nightmare as the locals reveal their terrifying agenda. Written and directed by Ari Aster, and starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper. Feature: A dark and hallucinatory fairy tale rooted in personal experienceTrailer /

MISS BALA Gloria (Gina Rodriguez) finds a power she never knew she had when she is drawn into a dangerous world of cross-border crime. SDirected by Catherine Hardwicke, from a screenplay by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer. It is a remake of the 2011 film of the same name by Gerardo Naranjo. Read more / Trailer

MOFFIE South African born film director, writer and photographer Oliver Hermanus’ film Skoonheid caused quite a sensation with its exploration of a conservative, white, Afrikaans man’s obsession for his brawny nephew and won the Queer Palm at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. His latest film is Moffie, an adaptation of André-Carl van der Merwe’s celebrated memoir. It tells the story of a conscript who embarks on his military service in 1981 South Africa.  Read more

THE MULE Clint Eastwood stars as Earl Stone, a man in his 80s who is broke, alone, and facing foreclosure of his business when he is offered a job that simply requires him to drive.  Eastwood directs from a screenplay by Nick Schenk, inspired by the New York Times Magazine article “The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year-Old Drug Mule” by Sam Dolnick. Feature: The Mule – Inspired By The True Story of a 90-Year-Old Drug Mule / Trailer /

THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN Based on the true story of Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), from his audacious escape from San Quentin at the age of 70 to an unprecedented string of heists that confounded authorities and enchanted the public. Written and directed by David Lowery, based on the true-life story of Forrest Tucker, a career criminal and prison escape artist. The script is based on David Grann‘s 2003 article in The New Yorkertitled “The Old Man and the Gun”, which was later collected in Grann’s 2010 book The Devil and Sherlock Holmes / Trailer / Feature: The Old Man & The Gun – An homage to a complicated anti-hero

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD  With Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino continues to evolve and to surprise audiences. While it has all of the hallmarks of a Tarantino film – a wholly original story, with fresh characters, presented with bravura technique – his ninth film also breaks new ground for the writer-director. It is a character-driven story, dealing with mature issues of unfulfilled expectations that inevitably confront us all as we age. In Hollywood, this struggle is particularly dramatic, as success and failure live side by side. In Once Upon a Time…, they do so literally as well as figuratively. Read more

ON THE BASIS OF SEX It tells the true story of a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) – then a struggling attorney and new mother – who faces adversity and numerous obstacles in her fight for equal rights throughout her career. Feature: The origin story of one of the great women of our timesTrailer

OVERCOMER High school basketball coach John Harrison and his team face an uncertain future when their town’s largest manufacturing plant shuts down unexpectedly. As hundreds of people move away, John reluctantly agrees to coach cross-country, a sport he doesn’t even like. His outlook soon changes when he meets Hannah Scott, an unlikely runner who pushes herself to the limit. Inspired by the words and prayers of a new friend, John starts to train Hannah for the biggest race of her young life. Faith based film directed by Alex Kendrick and written by him and Stephen Kendrick. It is the Kendrick brothers’ sixth film and their second through their subsidiary, Kendrick Brothers Productions. Read more 

PARASITE In an age when economic polarization and inequality show no signs of abating, and large sections of the world’s population feel more and more desperate, there is a temptation to blame others and promote easy, one-sided solutions. What Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite provides is a complex, honest allegory about the challenges we all face in a world where co-existence is an increasingly difficult ideal to achieve. This family tragicomedy depicts the inevitable collision that ensues when Ki-woo, the eldest son in a family of four unemployed adults, is introduced to the wealthy Park family for a well-paid tutoring job. Writer-director BONG Joon Ho talks about his ‘unstoppably fierce family tragicomedy’ Parasite / Trailer /

PET SEMATARY It follows “a doctor who moves his family out of the big city to the country. There he discovers that they have moved near a pet cemetery that rests on an ancient burial ground, and when his toddler son is killed in an auto accident, he takes the boy’s body to the cemetery, where it is resurrected in demonic form. Directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer and written by Jeff Buhler and David Kajganich. It is the second adaptation of the novel of the same name by Stephen King, after the 1989 film. Feature: A Terrifying Original Adaptation / Trailer

PLAYMOBIL: THE MOVIE The first-ever feature film inspired by the beloved, award-winning PLAYMOBIL® role-play toys. The heart-warming tale tells of a young boy who unexpectedly disappears into the magical, animated universe of PLAYMOBIL. His sister embarks on a thrilling journey to bring him home. It was directed by Lino DiSalvo, an American animator, film director, writer and voice actor, who spent almost 17 years at Disney and served as Head of Animation on Frozen; supervising animator on Tangled and Bolt and animator on Meet the Robinsons, Chicken Little and 102 Dalmatians.

POKÉMON: DETECTIVE PIKACHU The first-ever live-action Pokémon adventure stars Ryan Reynolds as Detective Pikachu and is based on the beloved Pokémon brand—one of the world’s most popular, multi-generation entertainment properties and one of the most successful media franchises of all time.  Directed by Rob Letterman, from a story by Dan Hernandez & Benji Samit and Nicole Perlman, screenplay by Dan Hernandez & Benji Samit and Rob Letterman and Derek Connolly, based on the “Detective Pikachu” video game developed by Creatures Inc.  Read more / Trailer /

POLAROID High school student Bird (Kathryn Prescott) is given an old Polaroid camera that holds dark and mysterious secrets. She soon realizes that those who get their picture taken by it meet a tragic and untimely death. Directed by Lars Klevberg, based on his 2015 short film of the same name. Read more  / Trailer/

POMS Zara Hayes directs from a script by Shane Atkinson based on a story by Hayes and Atkinson about about a group of women who form a cheer leading squad at their retirement community, proving that you’re never too old to ‘bring it!’ With Diane Keaton Alisha Boe, Phyllis Somerville, Charlie Tahan, Bruce McGill, Rhea Perlman and Celia Weston also star. Read more / Trailer /

THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE A shocking exorcism spirals out of control, claiming the life of a teenage girl. Diederik van Rooijen (Daylight, Taped) directs from a script by Brian Sieve (Scream: The TV Series, Boogeyman 2).Feature: A character-driven psychological thriller, drawing from and updating classic horror themes. / Trailer

THE PRINCESS AND THE DRAGON On her 7th birthday, Princess Barbara discovers a magical book that transports her to Wonderland – an enchanted place filled with dragons and fantastic creatures in this animated adventure directed by Marina Nefedova. Read more / Trailer / 

THE PRODIGY Taylor Schilling plays a mother whose young son Miles’ (Jackson Robert Scott) disturbing behavior signals that an evil, possibly supernatural force has overtaken him. Directed by Nicholas McCarthy, with Taylor Schilling, Colm Feore, Jackson Robert Scott. Feature: A mind-bending thrill ride / Trailer /

THE QUEEN’S CORGI The animated adventure of Rex, the British monarch’s most beloved dog, who loses track of his mistress and stumbles across a clan with dogs of all kinds confronting and fighting each other. Directed by Ben Stassen and Vincent Kesteloot, and written by John R. Smith and Rob Sprackling. Read more / Trailer/

RACETIME Canadian animated film directed by Benoît Godbout. A sequel to the 2015 film Snowtime.Read more / Trailer /

RAFIKI  The film follows two stylish teens, Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva), who crush on each other despite their families’ political rivalry. When love blossoms between them, they must contend with small town busybodies and the judgment of their conservative society. With the support of numerous international funders and the participation of six co- producers led by South African production company Big World Cinema, pre-production began in December 2016 and was the first Kenyan film in Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard). Interview with writer-director 
Writer-director Wanuri Kahiu
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RAMBO: LAST BLOOD Almost four decades after he drew first blood, Sylvester Stallone is back as one of the greatest action heroes of all time, John Rambo. Now, Rambo must confront his past and unearth his ruthless combat skills to exact revenge in a final mission. A deadly journey of vengeance, it marks the last chapter of the legendary series. Directed by Adrian Grunberg from a screenplay by Matthew Cirulnick and Sylvester Stallone. Read more

READY OR NOT The stakes are high as a newlywed literally fights for her life, trying to survive her in-laws in a deadly game of hide and seek on her wedding night. When she draws the ‘Hide and Seek’ card she makes the terrifying discovery that she is being hunted in lethal blood sport. Pushed to her limits physically and emotionally, Grace becomes hellbent on not only staying alive, but attempts to change the game forever by fighting back in any way she can. A film from the film making trio collectively known as Radio Silence comprising of directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet, and executive producer Chad Villella (Southbound / Devil’s Due). Read more / Trailer

RED JOAN In a picturesque village in England, Joan Stanley (Academy Award winner Dame Judi Dench), lives in contented retirement. Then suddenly her tranquil existence is shattered as she’s shockingly arrested by MI5. For Joan has been hiding an incredible past; she is one of the most influential spies in living history… It is directed with a strong sense for character by Trevor Nunn. Screenplay by Lindsay Shapero, based on Jennie Rooney’s novel. Feature: Adapting a Bestseller Based On A True StoryTrailer

RED ROOM Khanyi Mbau plays the wife to a wealthy husband who loses it all, and is thrown into the frightening South African underworld of human trafficking. Trailer /

REPLICAS After a car accident kills his loving family, a daring neuroscientist will stop at nothing to bring them back, even if it means pitting himself against a government-controlled laboratory, a police task force, and the physical laws of science themselves. Written by Chad St. John (London Has Fallen) and directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff (Traitor). Feature: A modern-day twist on the Frankenstein myth / Trailer

RICHARD SAYS GOODBYE Richard is a world-weary college professor who is given a life-changing terminal diagnosis and decides to throw all pretense and conventions to the wind and live his life as boldly and freely as possible with a biting sense of humor, a reckless streak, and a touch of madness. Written and directed by Wayne Roberts.  The film stars Johnny Depp, Zoey Deutch, Danny Huston  Read more / Trailer /

ROBIN HOOD It reintroduces the iconic outlaw as the dark, compelling hero of a turbulent city in desperate need of one. Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) a war-hardened Crusader and his Moorish commander (Jamie Foxx) mount an audacious revolt against the corrupt English crown.
Directed by Otto Bathurst from a screenplay by Ben Chandler and David James Kelly, from a story by Ben Chandler. Feature: The Rebirth Of A Cinematic Superhero / Trailer 

ROCKETMAN An epic musical fantasy about the uncensored human story of Sir Elton John’s breakthrough years. The story of Elton John’s life, from his years as a prodigy at the Royal Academy of Music through his influential and enduring musical partnership with Bernie Taupin. Biopic based on the life of musician Elton John. The film is directed by Dexter Fletcher and written by Lee Hall. Taron Egerton (the Kingsman movies) plays young Elton John. Feature: An epic musical fantasy about the incredible human story of Elton John’s breakthrough years /  Trailer

ROMA Set in Mexico City in the early 1970’s, writer-director Alfonso Cuarón’s story follows Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a young domestic worker for a family in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma in Mexico City. Delivering an artful love letter to the women who raised him, Cuarón draws on his own childhood to create a vivid and emotional portrait of domestic strife and social hierarchy amidst political turmoil of the 1970s. Feature: An Introspective Journey for writer-director Alfonso Cuarón /

SAINT JUDY tells the inspirational true story of immigration attorney Judy Wood and her fight that changed American asylum law forever. Directed by Sean Hanish with Michelle Monaghan and Alfred Molina.Read more / Trailer

SALVATION South African writer and director Carmen Sangion’s debut feature film, Salvation, is no exception – the multi-narrative drama promises to be a deeply personal and emotive story, inspired by her spiritual journey and search for meaning in a disconnected world obsessed with external appearances and validation. Set in present-day Johannesburg, the bi-lingual (English and Afrikaans) drama connects Ezra – a young man on the run from the law, Roxy – a dejected stripper, and Father Benjamin – a despairing priest, in their search for answers, acceptance and faith. When their paths cross, they form an unlikely bond that forces them to venture out of their comfort zones to find freedom and salvation in truth and forgiveness. With talents that include the highly-versatile Capetonian actress and model Kira Wilkinson from Hard Copy, The Giver and Homeland; Flatland, The Endless River, Maze Runner: The Death Cure’s Clayton Everston, and Scandal and Generations’ star Jason Willemse, the movie also aims to break the stereotypes that are commonly associated with the Coloured community by delivering an unconventional narrative and different perspective of their experience. Trailer /

SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK As brought to life by the visionary team of producer Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water, Pacific Rim, Pan’s Labyrinth) and director André Øvredal (Trollhunter), the film is anything but an anthology. Instead it’s a tale of a group of young misfits who must confront all the fears that stand between them and the future. Read more

THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2   Packed with Illumination’s signature irreverence and subversive humor, this new chapter explores the emotional lives of our pets, the deep bond between them and the families that love them, and answers the question that has long intrigued every pet owner: What are your pets really doing when you’re not at home? Directed by returning filmmaker Chris Renaud, and co-directed by Jonathan Del Val. from a screenplay by returning Pets screenwriter Brian Lynch. Feature: Bringing the audience back together with the characters that they love /  Read more / Trailer /

DIE SEEMEEU Christiaan Olwagen (Johnny is nie Dood nie, Kanarie) adapts Anton Chekhov’s classic play, The Seagull, to film, and places it in South Africa in the 1990’s, almost one hundred years after it was written. Each of Chekhov’s skillfully drawn characters grapple with inner fears, longings, doubts, regrets, recriminations and miseries. All of them, of course, of their own making.Performed in Afrikaans, with English subtitles, the characters are easily recognised, yet appear as if they were written for this new setting.  Read reviewRead more / Trailer /

SEW THE WINTER TO MY SKIN  A rousing, action-adventure-epic set in early 1950’s rural South Africa, chronicling the captivating chase and suspenseful capture of the native outlaw, John Kepe. This self-proclaimed “Samson of the Boschberg” inevitably became a political threat to the very fabric of the ruling colonial society. A South African Epic written and directed by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka. Feature: A South African Western-style Epic / Trailer /  

SHAZAM!   We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out.  In Billy Batson’s (Angel) case, by shouting out one word—SHAZAM!—this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult Super Hero Shazam (Levi), courtesy of an ancient wizard.  Directed by David F. Sandberg from a screenplay by Henry Gayden, and a story by Gayden and Darren Lemke. Read review / Read more / Trailer /

THE SISTERS BROTHERS It is 1851, and Charlie and Eli Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly) are both brothers and assassins, boys grown to men in a savage and hostile world. They have blood on their hands: that of criminals, that of innocents…and they know no state of existence other than being gunmen. Jacques Audiard (A Prophet) and his frequent collaborator Thomas Bidegain adapted the new film’s script from the novel The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. Feature: A Western With Heart /  Trailer / 

SKEMERSON The film tells the story of a young man, Sella (Pietie Beyers) who decides to take his own life. He is a doctor whose mental state has been triggered by the trauma of losing his mum after he nursed her for some time. In Afrikaans with English Subtitles / Feature: New SA film encapsulates the experience of grief and loss in all its different forms / Trailer /

SKIN Biographical drama film written and directed by Guy Nattiv. It follows the life of former skinhead group member Bryon Widner. A young man (Jamie Bell) makes the dangerous choice to leave the white supremacist gang he joined as a teenager. With his former friends against him, he is determined to create a new life for himself — if he can make it out alive. Feature: Israeli writer-director Guy Nattiv talks about SKIN / Trailer /

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME Tom Holland returns as our friendly neighborhood Super Hero who, following the events of Avengers: Endgame, must step up to take on new threats in a world that has changed forever. The film expands the Spider-Man film universe, taking Peter Parker out of his comfort zone and his home in Queens, New York City, and hurling him across Europe during what was supposed to be a school vacation – but which becomes his greatest challenge and most epic adventure ever. Directed by Jon Watts (Spider-Man: Homecoming).  from a screenplay by Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers.  Based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.   Read more / Trailer /

STAN & OLLIE Weaned on Saturday morning BBC TV screenings of Laurel & Hardy legendary two-reelers, award-winning Film and Television writer Jeff Pope was gifted a Laurel and Hardy DVD box-set fifteen years ago, and after watching Way Out West,  inspiration led to research the story behind the icons and snowballed into the screenplay for Stan & Ollie. Now showing. Read more

STOCKHOLM The film follows Lars Nystrom, (Hawke) who dons a disguise to raid a central Stockholm bank. He then takes hostages in order to spring his pal Gunnar (Strong) from prison. One of the hostages includes Bianca (Rapace), a wife and mother of two. Negotiations with detectives hits a wall when (at the request of the Prime Minister) the police refuse to let Lars leave in a getaway car with the hostages. As hours turn into days, Lars alternates between threatening the hostages and making them feel comfortable and secure. The hostages develop an uneasy relationship with their captor, which is particularly complex for Bianca, who develops a strong bond with Lars as she witnesses his caring nature. This connection gave rise to the psychological phenomenon known as “Stockholm syndrome”. Produced, written and directed by Robert Budreau. Feature: Truth Really Is Stranger Than Fiction / Trailer /

THE STOLEN PRINCESS This Ukrainian animated film from Oleg Malamuzh takes place in the age of valiant knights, beautiful princesses, and battling sorcerers. Trailer /

DIE STROPERS (THE HARVESTERS) In the isolated conservative farming territory of an Afrikaans white ethnic minority culture obsessed with strength and masculinity, Janno (Brent Vermeulen) is different, secretive, emotionally frail. One day his mother, fiercely religious, brings home Pieter (Alex van Dyk) , a hardened street orphan she wants to save, and asks Janno to make this stranger into his brother. The two boys start a fight for power, heritage and parental love. Written and directed by Etienne Kallos, a Greek-South African Director. Read review / Read interview with writer-director Etienne KallosTrailer /

STUBER Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) is a chatty, mild-mannered, risk-averse Millennial who works in a sporting goods store while moonlighting as an Uber driver who will do anything to save his five-star driver’s rating. Vic Manning (Dave Bautista) is a middle aged, old school, alpha detective, receives a tip on the whereabouts of the drug dealer who murdered his partner, and calls for an Uber. Can these two very different men share a Nissan Leaf while hunting drug dealers across Los Angeles? Directed by Michael Dowse from a screenplay by Tripper Clancy. Feature: A heartfelt bro-mance / Trailer /

THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR  Natasha and her family have less than 24 hours before they are scheduled to be deported from New York to Jamaica. Further complications soon arise when Natasha meets and falls in love with Daniel, the son of Korean immigrants. Directed by Ry Russo-Young. The film is based on the young adult novel of the same name written by Nicola Yoon. Screenplay by Tracy Oliver and stars Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton. Feature: A modern-day story about finding love against all odds  / Trailer /

SUPER 30 Anand Kumar, a Mathematics genius from a modest family in Bihar who is made to believe that only a King’s son can become a king is on a mission to prove that even the poor man can create some of the world’s most genius minds. He starts a training program named ‘Super 30’ to help 30 IIT aspirants crack the entrance test and make them highly successful professionals. Directed by Anurag Kashyap, based on the life of mathematician Anand Kumar and his educational program Super 30 . Read more / Trailer 

TEEN SPIRIT With his stylish directorial debut, Max Minghella creates a modern fairytale — scored to a lush, pop soundtrack — about a quiet 17-year-old girl who finds the support and self-confidence she needs to step into her own power. Violet (Elle Fanning) is a shy teenager who dreams of escaping her small town and pursuing her passion to sing. With the help of an unlikely mentor, she enters a local singing competition that will test her integrity, talent and ambition. Read more / Trailer

TERRA WILLY Set in the future, it revolves around a 10-year-old boy called Willy, who is separated from his parents following the destruction of their spaceship. His rescue capsule lands on a wild and unexplored planet covered in exotic and colourful fauna and flora. Accompanied by survival robot Buck and Flash, an eight-legged extra-terrestrial creature who befriends them, Willy sets off to explore this weird and wonderful land. The latest animated feature from TAT Productions, the company behind the well-travelled The Jungle Bunch: The Movie.

TILL DEATH DO US PART Michael & Madison Roland, had planned to spend the rest of their lives together, until one day Michael’s controlling ways turned their perfect marriage, into an abusive rollercoaster no woman could survive. A psychological thriller film written and directed by Christopher B. Stokes. The film stars Annie Ilonzeh, Stephen Bishop and Taye Diggs, who is also one of the film’s producers Trailer /

TOLKIEN As a young student, J.R.R. Tolkien (Nicholas Hoult) finds love, friendship and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts. These early life experiences soon inspire Tolkien to write the classic fantasy novels “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.” Directed by Dome Karukoski and written by David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford. Feature: A story that delves into where art and stories come from / Trailer 

TOY STORY 4 The toys are back on the big screen with an all-new adventure! Woody, Buzz and the whole gang find themselves far from home, discovering new friends—and old ones—on an eye-opening road trip that takes them to unexpected places.Woody (voice of Tom Hanks) has always been confident about his place in the world, and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. So when Bonnie’s beloved new craft-project-turned-toy, Forky (voice of Tony Hale), declares himself as “trash” and not a toy, Woody takes it upon himself to show Forky why he should embrace being a toy. But when Bonnie takes the whole gang on her family’s road trip excursion, Woody ends up on an unexpected detour that includes a reunion with his long-lost friend Bo Peep (voice of Annie Potts). After years of being on her own, Bo’s adventurous spirit and life on the road belie her delicate porcelain exterior. As Woody and Bo realize they’re worlds apart when it comes to life as a toy, they soon come to find that’s the least of their worries. Directed by Josh Cooley (Riley’s First Date?), from a screenplay by Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom. It is the fourth installment in the Toy Story series, and the sequel to Toy Story 3 (2010). It is produced by Pixar Animation Studios, and will be released by Walt Disney PicturesFeature: Viewing the world from a toy’s perspectiveTrailer 

THE UPSIDE  A heartfelt comedy about a recently paroled ex-convict (Kevin Hart) who strikes up an unusual and unlikely friendship with a paralyzed billionaire (Bryan Cranston). A remake of the French 2011 film The Intouchables which was itself inspired by the life of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo Feature: An Inspirational Comedy / Trailer

UGLY DOLLS Unconventionality rules in STXfilms’ new animated musical adventure inspired by the unique and beloved global plush toy phenomenon launched in 2001. In the adorably different town of Uglyville, weird is celebrated, strange is special and beauty is embraced as more than simply meets the eye. Directed by Kelly Asbury, produced by Robert Rodriguez through his production company, Troublemaker Studios, and written by Blaise Hemingway, Erica Rivinoja, and Larry Stuckey. It is based on the plush toys of the same nameRead more / Trailer /

UNCOVERED The story follows Aluta (Nqobile Khumalo), an ambitious and determined young woman who searches for the success which only the corporate world can bring. Having big dreams of being a CEO of a mining company, her life takes a full 360-degree turn. As she dodges bullets while seeking justice for her and her family, this movie will leave audiences on the edge of their seats. Directed by Zuko Nodada. Trailer

US Accompanied by her husband, son and daughter, Adelaide Wilson returns to the beachfront home where she grew up as a child. Haunted by a traumatic experience from the past, Adelaide grows increasingly concerned that something bad is going to happen to her family. Her worst fears soon become a reality when four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for survival. Written and directed by Jordan Peele. Feature: Jordan Peele’s New Original Nightmare /  Trailer /

VERHAAL VAN RACHELTJIE DE BEER Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by writer and filmmaker Brett Michael Innes, the film tells the story of Afrikaans family, the De Beers, who are forced to find shelter on a local farm in the Eastern Free State of South Africa in the 1800s. Winter has arrived and, as dark clouds laden with snow start to roll in over the Drakensberg mountains, tragedy strikes. Read more /

VICE Spanning a half-century, Bruce (Dick) Cheney’s (Christian Bale) complex journey from rural Wyoming electrical worker to de facto President of the United States is a darkly comic and often unsettling inside look at the use and misuse of institutional power. Written and directed by Adam McKay (The Big Short). Feature: A story of the selfishness of powerTrailer / 

THE WEDDING YEAR A commitment-phobic 27-year-old’s relationship is put to the test when she and her boyfriend attend seven weddings in the same year. Directed by Robert Luketic and starring Sarah Hyland, Tyler James Williams, Jenna Dewan, Matt Shively and Anna Camp.  Trailer /

WHAT MEN WANT Inspired by director Nancy Meyers’ 2000 hit What Women Want, directed by Adam (Hairspray, The Wedding Planner, Bringing Down The House) from a screenplay by Tina Gordon and Peter Huyck & Alex Gregory, from a story by Jas Waters and Tina Gordon. Read more / Trailer /

WHITE BOY RICK Rick Wershe is a single father who’s struggling to raise two teenagers during the height of the crack epidemic in 1980s Detroit. He sells guns illegally to make ends meet but soon attracts attention from the FBI. Federal agents convince his son, Rick Jr., to become an undercover drug informant in exchange for keeping his father out of prison. Directed by Yann Demange and written by Andy Weiss, and Logan and Noah Miller. Feature: An incredible true story of the youngest FBI informant in history / Trailer /

THE WHITE CROW It is not a biopic. It’s an impressionistic glimpse at the forces driving Nureyev — something of a diva even then — to accept no borders or limits in letting his artistry run fee. This British film was written by David Hare and directed by Ralph Fiennes, and starring Oleg Ivenko as the ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, and Ukrainian dancer Sergei Polunin as his roommate Yuri Soloviev. It is inspired by the book Rudolf Nureyev: The Life by Julie Kavanagh. Feature: The true story of an unique artist who transformed the world of ballet forever / Trailer / Review / Interview with David Hare / Interview with Ralph Fiennes /Interview with Oleg Ivenko

WILDLIFE Elegantly adapted from Richard Ford’s novel, Carey Mulligan (An Education) delivers one of her finest performances to date as Jeanette, a complex woman whose self-determination and self-involvement disrupts the values and expectations of a 1960s nuclear family. Directed by Paul Dano and co-written by Dano and Zoe Kazan. It is based on the novel of the same name by Richard Ford first published in 1990. Read more / Trailer /

WONDER PARK A young imaginative girl spends her childhood days constructing an amusement park filled with fantastical rides and inhabited by talking animals called Wonderland. Directed by David Feiss. Screenplay by  Josh Appelbaum and  André Nemec. Read more / Trailer /

X-MEN: THE DARK PHOENIX The X-Men face their most formidable and powerful foe when one of their own, Jean Grey, starts to spiral out of control. During a rescue mission in outer space, Jean is nearly killed when she’s hit by a mysterious cosmic force. Once she returns home, this force not only makes her infinitely more powerful, but far more unstable. The X-Men must now band together to save her soul and battle aliens that want to use Grey’s new abilities to rule the galaxy. The film is written and directed by Simon Kinberg./ Feature: The emotional story of a divided hero, a divided family and a divided world / Trailer /

YESTERDAY Yesterday, everyone knew The Beatles. Today, only Jack
(Himesh Patel) a struggling singer-songwriter in a tiny English seaside town remembers their songs. He’s about to become a very big deal when discovers that The Beatles have never existed…and he finds himself with a very complicated problem indeed. Directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later) from a screenplay by Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually and Notting Hill).Feature: A rock ’n’ roll comedy about music, dreams, friendship, and the long and winding road that leads to the love of your life /

THE ZOYA FACTOR In this Indian Hindi-language romantic drama film, Sonam Kapoor stars as Zoya, a young and successful advertising executive who becomes the good luck charm for India’s cricket team during the World Cup. Based on the book by Anuja Chauhan of the same title.
directed by Abhishek Sharma.  Read more / Trailer /

ZULU WEDDING An unashamedly romantic, glamorous and hilarious all at the same time and pays loving tribute to the richness of African culture. It acknowledges the, sometimes schizophrenic, reality of many urban South Africans who live sophisticated modern lives which are nonetheless shaped by their family cultures, traditions and expectations. Lu (Lungile Sabata) left South Africa and her Zulu-Sotho heritage behind to become a dancer in America, and when she falls in love with Tex (Darrin Dewitt Henson) , she knows he’s the man to marry. But when she brings Tex home to meet her family, she discovers she’s been promised since birth to a Zulu king (Pallance Dladla). Caught between two men, two families, and two countries, Lou has to come to terms with who she is so she can fight for what she wants. Directed by Lineo Sekeleoane. Screenplay by Julie Hall. Read more / Website / Trailer /

Back to Latest Releases

Someone is stealing London’s yard ornaments, and there’s only one detective small enough for a mystery this big: Sherlock Gnomes.

The beloved garden gnomes from Gnomeo And Juliet are back for a whole new adventure in London.

When Gnomeo and Juliet first arrive in the city with their friends and family, their biggest concern is getting their new garden ready for spring.

However, they soon discover that someone is kidnapping garden gnomes all over London.

When Gnomeo and Juliet return home to find that everyone in their garden is missing – there’s only one gnome to call… Sherlock Gnomes.

The famous detective and sworn protector of London’s garden gnomes arrives with his sidekick Watson to investigate the case.

The mystery will lead our gnomes on a rollicking adventure where they will meet all new ornaments and explore an undiscovered side of the city.

This action-packed animation film is Executive produced by Sir Elton John, Produced by Steve Hamilton Shaw, David Furnish, and Carolyn Soper. Based on characters by Rob Sprackling & John Smith, Andy Riley & Kevin Cecil, Keely Asbury, and Steve Hamilton Shaw, the story is by Andy Riley & Kevin Cecil and Emily Dee Cook & Kathy Greenburg, with a screenplay crafted by Ben Zazove, and directed by John Stevenson.

“From the beginning, it was integral to a sequel that we embrace a different classic story and ‘gnomify’ it,” says producer Steve Hamilton Shaw. “We had a long list of ideas, but no other character matched Sherlock Holmes in terms of international awareness and offered an opportunity to push Gnomeo and Juliet into an action detective story.”

“We’ve changed genres with Sherlock Gnomes,” explains director John Stevenson. “Our first film was a musical romantic comedy about a feud between two gardens, with a few locations and very low stakes, but Sherlock Gnomes is a comedy action adventure.

Screenwriter Ben Zazove moved the setting to London as a more fitting location for a Sherlock story. London also provided us a much larger canvas, letting us take our heroes out of their familiar garden setting into a city full of hard surfaces, fast moving vehicles and millions of human beings, all things that can easily smash a fragile pottery gnome.

“The sheer scale of London makes it an incredible backdrop for this story,” says producer Carolyn Soper. “All the iconic locations of London seem all the more enormous next to the gnomes, who are very, very small. The design team has done an incredible job creating a modern London that looks so much like the real thing, it makes this whole adventure feel almost plausible, as if we might see the gnomes running around if we weren’t so involved in our phones.”

“It’s a love letter to London, really,” offers producer Sir Elton John, who returns with two original songs, and whose songbook serves as the inspiration for the musical score. “There’s so many great scenarios and so many different locations, it’d be incredibly boring to leave them in the garden for the whole film.

After the cataclysmic destruction of the Montague and Capulet gardens in Gnomeo and Juliet, the once volatile neighbors put aside their differences and uproot their newly integrated lawn families from the quiet life in Stratford-upon-Avon to settle in London. Once settled, Lord Redbrick (Michael Caine) and Lady Bluebury (Maggie Smith) retire, leaving Gnomeo and Juliet to struggle with their new responsibilities as garden leaders.

“They’ve got to be a bit more grown up, which rankles them a bit,” says McAvoy. “Juliet dives right into the new job, Gnomeo misses the fun they used to have, and there’s a real disconnect.”

“Juliet is dealing with the changes better than Gnomeo,” says Blunt. “They’re now responsible for the whole Gnome community and cleaning up the garden. It’s not exactly what they had in mind at the beginning of their relationship.”

In the midst of one of their disagreements, an unseen fiend slips into the garden and kidnaps their family and friends. Among the abductees are fan favorites Benny (Matt Lucas), Nanette (Ashley Jensen), Paris (Stephen Merchant) and Fawn (Ozzy Osbourne), returning for more family friendly fun.

“Matt Lucas and Ashley Jensen are consummate professional comic actors,” says Soper. “The hardest thing with both of them is landing on just one version of the line, because they’ve riffed and given us so many options to choose from.”

“Our cast brings so much because they all improvise,” says Shaw. “Stephen Merchant always cracks himself up in the most endearing way. He’s really in the moment, embracing the absurdity of it all.”

The busy schedules of the cast made joint recording sessions a challenge, but resulted in some of the best takes. “We were able to record Michael Caine and Maggie Smith together, which was incredible,” Stevenson recalls. “Dexter Fletcher and Javone Prince, who play the gargoyle brothers Ronnie and Reggie, recorded together, which was hilarious, but they kept breaking each other up and the recording session took twice as long.”

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Without any leads to their friends whereabouts, Gnomeo and Juliet turn to the world’s finest ceramic detective duo, Sherlock and Watson.

“Sherlock brings a fresh element of mystery and adventure,” says Soper. “He’s such a well-drawn literary character: extremely clever, but emotionally closed off. Despite his brilliant deductive mind, he’s often oblivious to those around him, which lends itself to a lot of humor.”

“There’s a certain gravitas and nostalgia to these characters,” says Emily Blunt, who returns as Juliet. “So there’s something really fun about reimagining them in this world.”

Reimagining the look of the iconic literary heroes as gnomes proved tricky. Says Stevenson: “Traditionally, Sherlock has been depicted as tall and rangy, whereas gnomes are more short and squat. Trying to meet in the middle made him look like a dumpy Victorian farmer, so we elected to go the more recognizable route, with subtle gnome motifs – points on Sherlock’s deerstalker hat and Watson’s bowler, and Sherlock’s ‘white croissant’ beard on his chin. They’re meant to look like the garden gnome factory idea of Sherlock and Watson, sillier, kitschier interpretations based on hundreds of film and television adaptations, but instantly recognizable.”

Animator Neil Boyle was recruited to bring the kinetic workings of Sherlock’s mind to life in a series of black and white 2-D animated sequences. Says Soper: “Neil is an extremely talented animator, and being able to cut to his hand drawn animation helped us show Sherlock’s thought process in a way that added variety and humor.”

“In London, Gnomeo and Juliet find themselves venturing into the unknown, and relying on the help of Sherlock and Watson,” says Stevenson. “They’re out of their element and vulnerable, which puts a strain on their relationship. Where the first film was overcoming outside pressure to be together, this film is about the challenge of staying together.”

“The arrival of Sherlock and Watson complicates their relationship,” says Blunt. “They’re helping them find their friends, but also pushing them apart. They learn a lot about themselves on this journey.”

“Gnomeo isn’t that impressed with Sherlock,” says James Mcavoy, back as Gnomeo. “He’s annoyed that Juliet is impressed by this arrogant, bigheaded showoff. He finds himself relating more to Watson, who is living in Sherlock’s shadow.”

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“Gnomeo and Watson both feel isolated in their relationships,” says Ejiofor. “They both have a lot of work to do in learning to communicate better with their respective partners.”

“Sherlock and Watson have always been an interesting odd couple,” says McAvoy. “Sherlock is perplexing, obtuse and seemingly silly at times, but ultimately clever, and Watson is the patient, devoted friend. Our Sherlock and Watson retain that classic dynamic while taking them in some unexpected directions.”

“When they sent me the script, I didn’t expect it to make me laugh out loud,” says Johnny Depp, who plays Sherlock. “There’s a brilliance to this character that kind of comes from his clumsiness. He’s a bloodhound, so sure of himself, and incredibly fun to play with.”

Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays Sherlock’s long suffering partner, Watson, was also drawn to the humor of the script. “There’s an irreverence to the characters that’s a lot of fun, but being pottery, they’re quite fragile as well, which makes it tense in its own way.”

Stevenson praises Depp and Ejiofor the complexity of their performances: “Johnny can move effortlessly between comedy and drama, arrogant, then vulnerable a moment later. Chiwetel may have the hardest role in the film, playing what appears to be a conventional reading of Watson at first and negotiating the deliberate ambiguities of the role.”

One step ahead of our heroes is Sherlock’s oldest foe, Moriarty, a maniacal pie mascot obsessed with Sherlock and the gnomes he’s sworn to protect. Says Shaw: “Moriarty is a classic agent of chaos who finds Sherlock a worthy opponent.”

“Developing Moriarty was a process,” Stevenson admits. “Since he couldn’t be a gnome, we considered making him an evil Hummel figurine: innocent on the outside, evil on the inside. Logistically, he needed a way to get around the city. We decided to make him the wide-eyed mascot of ‘Goobarb Pies’ a nutrition-less junk food filled with an artificial substance made from industrial waste and sugar and have him ride around on top of a delivery truck. In contrast to the most of the other characters, who are pottery, he’s made of Goobarb. He can warp and stretch and be unapologetically cartoony.”

Moriarty’s voice came from an unexpected source. During production, actor Jamie Demetriou had recorded a temp track for Moriarty, an offbeat performance the filmmakers immediately fell in love with.

“Jamie deserves a lot of credit for discovering the voice of Moriarty,” praises Shaw. “We gave him some crazy dialogue and he just ran with it.”

“Moriarty’s the most extreme character in film. We struck gold with Jamie,” says Stevenson. “We couldn’t imagine Moriarty speaking any other way.”

As in Gnomeo and Juliet, the presence of Elton John is felt throughout Sherlock Gnomes, providing some legendary music support to the proceedings.

“Elton’s involvement in anything brings a whole other dimension,” says Depp. “He and Bernie Taupin have written a billion classic, brilliant songs. They give so much of themselves, and put it out there for the world to hear.”

John and Taupin collaborated on two new songs for the film, “Better Together” performed by Jessie Ware and “Stronger Than I Ever Was,” sung by multiple Grammy Award winner and Academy Award nominee, Mary J. Blige. Blige performs the song in character as Irene, a Victorian doll with some less than warm feelings for Sherlock.

“Elton’s music is another character in this film,” says McAvoy. “There’s such a positive energy about it, and a great sense of not only nostalgia for adults who grew up listening to it, but also for the kids whose parents have played it for them. It’s appealing across generations.”

John has nothing but praise for the artists adapting his work: “Chris and Pnau do a wonderful job. I gave them carte blanche to do whatever they want, so I’m very pleasantly surprised when I see the film and hear how it’s been used. When you do an animated film, you always first see it in lumps and bits, and when you see it finished, it’s so much better than you ever dreamed it would to be.”

The Creative Team

Kung Fu PandaJohn Stevenson (Director) has over four decades of experience in film development and production. Starting off in Jim Henson’s puppet studios in London at age 19, Stevenson’s passion for story telling has been at the core of every project he has worked on since.

Stevenson directed Kung Fu Panda with Mark Osborne, four episodes of the DreamWorks prime time television series Father Of The Pride, and held the post of Head of Story at PDI/DreamWorks serving as story artist for the DreamWorks worldwide blockbusters Shrek, Shrek 2 and Madagascar.

While there, he also created storyboards for the animated features Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron, and Sinbad: Legend Of The Seven Seas.

The mid-to-late ’90s saw Stevenson working on multiple feature and television animation projects. During this period, he also acted as an independent creative consultant to CBS, NBC, Walt Disney Productions, Colossal Pictures and Protozoa Pictures.  He worked with Henry Selick as head of story/creative development for Twitching Image, Inc., as puppeteer for the animatronic rhinoceros in Disney’s James And The Giant Peach (also drawing storyboards) and directed an episode of Film Roman/CBS’s The Twisted Tales Of Felix The Cat.

As a staff Designer/Director for Colossal Pictures from ‘91 to ‘95, Stevenson worked in multiple capacities on the animated series Back To The Future and Moxy—Pirate Tv Show; created advertising spots for Cheerios, Little Caesars and Parker Bros. and developed show formats and concepts for Nickelodeon/CBS.  He served as art director, character designer and storyboard artist on the Central Television series The Dreamstone.

His previous freelance career as an artist, illustrator, character designer and art director exposed him to projects in nearly every medium, working on theme parks, museums, album covers, commercials, and various feature films and television shows. Films included Little Shop Of Horrors, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal and The Great Muppet Caper. His career began in 1977 working with Jim Henson on The Muppet Show.

Kevin Cecil and Andy RileyKevin Cecil and Andy Riley (Writers) are an Emmy-winning writing team who have written on many of the best loved comedy series of the last twenty years, including Little Britain, Tracey Ullman’s Show, The Armando Iannucci Shows and Smack The Pony. They were supervising producers and writers on seasons 3 and 4 of HBO’s acclaimed Veep.

They were the lead writers on the BAFTA winning comedy Black Books, created and wrote the BBC2 comedies Hyperdrive and The Great Outdoorsand their adaptations of David Walliams’ bestselling books Gangsta Granny, The Boy In The Dress and most recently Kevin’s adaptations of Grandpa’s Great Escape and Ratburger have become a loved and hugely successful part of the annual Christmas schedule. In 2011 they co-wrote the critically acclaimed box-office success, Gnomeo And Juliet.

Andy and Kevin have created, and are currently developing, a period scripted comedy series starring Matt Berry for Objective and Channel 4. Andy is also an author who has been published in more than twenty countries. His books include the Bunny Suicides and King Flashypants series.

Emily Cook (Writer) began her film career as a runner for Working Title Films in London (Four Weddings and a Funeral). After 9 years and a move to LA, she became VP (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, High Fidelity), before leaving to write. Cook and Kathy Greenberg wrote on Pixar’s Ratatouille, Disney’s Gnomeo And Juliet and the TV series Imposters. Together they have written for every major studio and are currently adapting the BBC TV series, Thirteen.

Kathy Greenberg (Writer) began her film career as an executive at IndieProd/Tristar (The Quick And The Dead, Mary Reilly) then as VP at Jim Henson films (Buddy, Good Boy, Muppets In Space) and SVP Working Title (Elizabeth, Hi-Lo Country) before leaving to write. Greenberg is the Co-creator of the Showtime series The L Word and was a writer with Emily Cook on Pixar’s Ratatouille, Disney’s Gnomeo And Juliet and the TV series Imposters.

Richard Sweren (Writer) is currently a writer and a Co-Executive Producer of the NBC series Law & Order: Svu.  Other TV credits include Chicago Justice, Law & Order (14 seasons), Law & Order: Los Angeles  and Taxi: Brooklyn.  He has also written on the soon-to-be-released animated Paramount feature film Sherlock Gnomes.  Richard has also developed drama pilots for ABC, CBS, E! and Legendary TV.  He was a co-winner of the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Episodic Drama in 1998, a two-time co-winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, and a multiple Emmy Award nominee.

Chicago native Ben Zazove (Writer) quit his job as a litigator to pursue his dream of writing movies.  Since then, Zazove has written projects for Fox, Dreamworks, Paramount, and Sony as well as independent financiers and mini-majors.  Sherlock Gnomes marks his first foray into the world of animation.  He just finished adapting The Last Christmas, a hard-R animated Christmas movie, for Sony Animation and is currently writing The Ghost Ghostbusters, an animated Ghostbusters movie as told from the perspective of the ghosts.  He has one wife, one dog, and zero garden gnomes.

Just like the classic animated movies, Ferdinand taps into the collective unconscious and expresses our fears, anxieties and our dreams. It makes you feel very deeply

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Munro Leaf

The tale of Ferdinand, a giant bull who prefers flowers to fighting, has captured the hearts of millions since it was first told in the 1936 book “The Story of Ferdinand” by author Munro Leaf and illustrator Robert Lawson. A warm and charming take on how appearances can be deceptive (or, why you should never judge a bull by its cover…) the book’s message of love and acceptance has resonated for decades. Now, a new generation of moviegoers can enjoy a delightful CG-animated family film inspired by the classic story with 20th Century Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios’ Ferdinand.

This classic has been in publication for over seventy-five years, been translated into more than sixteen languages, and is included on Time’s 100 Best Children’s Books of All Time.

ferdinandthebullThe book’s message of amity and acceptance is as relevant today as it was when it first came out, and serves as the perfect opportunity for parents to share this moral with even the youngest of children.

During its first run, the book sold 14,000 copies at $1 each. The following year, the sales increased to 68,000 and by 1938, the book was selling at 3,000 per week.

In 1938, it outsold Gone with the Wind to become the number one bestseller in the U.S.

The book has been translated into more than 60 languages and has never been out of print.  A first-edition copy of The Story of Ferdinand sold for $16,500 in 2014.

Leaf wrote the story on a whim in an afternoon in 1935 to provide his friend, illustrator Robert Lawson a place to showcase his talents.

The story was adapted by Walt Disney as a short animated film titled Ferdinand the Bull in 1938. Directed by Dick Rickard, Ferdinand the Bull won the 1938 Academy Award for Best Short Subject Cartoon.

The story centers on the adventures of a peace-loving bull (voiced by John Cena), who is adopted by a loving farmer and daughter. However, his idyllic life changes after he’s mistaken for a vicious beast and is taken away to the last place on earth he wants to be, a bull training camp. But Ferdinand is determined to get back home. Along the way, the kind-hearted bull makes many friends and changes the lives of those he meets. But there still one great obstacle he’ll have to overcome… in the film’s thrilling climactic scene, Ferdinand has to face the matador El Primero in a packed arena, but he valiantly stays true to his peaceful nature, and inspires all those around him.

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Carlos Saldanha

The plan to bring Ferdinand’s tale to the big screen began more than six years ago when director Carlos Saldanha, creator and director of the Rio series and director of many of the Ice Age movies, was still working on Rio 2.  “I was very excited when I found out that Fox and Blue Sky were thinking of developing a movie based on the book,” recalls Saldanha. “I had read the book and fallen in love with the story and its wonderful message of acceptance and diversity. I thought that this was the right moment to take this lovely little book and develop it into a family movie for today’s audiences.”

For long-time Blue Sky Studios producer Lori Forte, the film offered a chance to reunite with Saldanha, who had worked with her on the first three Ice Age movies. “Carlos had wanted to work on a movie which had a bull as its main character,” recalls Forte. “I knew that he was passionate about this project, and his strong feelings for the story and its message also inspired me and everyone else around him.”

Another major figure in realizing the movie was producer John Davis, whose many family-friendly projects include the Dr. Dolittle and Garfield movies and Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Davis had been after the rights to “The Story of Ferdinand” for more than ten years, and when they finally became available, he jumped at the chance to acquire them and take the project to 20th Century Fox.

“Ferdinand was one of the classic books my wife and I had read our children at bedtime when they were younger,” Davis recalls. “We saw firsthand how the gentle message of this book and other similar classics informed their sense of self and morality and taught them about kindness towards others. In the past, I had made many movies based on similar properties that both my children and I felt very passionate about. The family that owned the rights to the book wanted the spirit of the book preserved, and I knew the team at Fox and Blue Sky would do justice to this wonderful story.”

Producer Bruce Anderson, who also worked with Saldanha on the two Rio movies, says Ferdinand provided him a chance to revisit one of the favorite books of his childhood. “My mom was an elementary school librarian, and this was one of our favorite go-to books,” he notes. “It has always struck a chord with me because it champions non-conformity. It shows you that the world is made of all kinds of different people, and it is that diversity that makes us better. When you are a kid and you’re not as competitive as your classmates, the message of this book can really help you find your way.”

FERDINAND 3

From Page to the Big Screen

The screenplay was crafted by Robert L. Baird and Tim Federle and Brad Copeland.

Robert L. Baird

Robert L. Baird

Robert L. Baird has made his mark as a screenwriter on some of the most popular animated hits of the past fifteen years. He was a contributing writer on Pixar Animation Studios’ Monsters, Inc. and Golden Globe-winning Cars. He was the co-screenwriter of 2013’s Monsters University. For Walt Disney Animation Studios, Baird’s credits include 2005’s Chicken Little, 2007’s Meet the Robinsons and the 2012 animated short Tangled Ever After. In 2015 he co-wrote the screenplay for Big Hero 6” which earned an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Most recently, Baird co-wrote the screenplay for “Ferdinand, from 20th Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios, which will be released in December 2017. Just last month, Baird has been brought on as Co-President of Fox Animation, along side Andrea Miloro.

Tim Federle

Tim Federle is “a prolific scribe whose breezy wit isn’t bound to a single genre” (Huffington Post). Tim’s award-winning novels include the New York Times notable books “The Great American Whatever” and “Better Nate Than Ever” — which Lin-Manuel Miranda called “a wonderful evocation of what it’s like to be a theater kid” (New York Times). Tim’s cocktail recipe books, including the worldwide bestseller “Tequila Mockingbird”, have sold over half a million copies. Recently, Tim co-wrote the Tony-nominated Broadway musical “Tuck Everlasting”, and he is developing projects for Fox Animation/Blue Sky Studios and Netflix. Tim sits on the boards of Rosie’s Theater Kids and the National Coalition Against Censorship. A native of San Francisco who grew up in Pittsburgh, he now divides his time between New York and the internet

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Brad Copeland

Brad Copeland has written extensively for television and movies, including the acclaimed series Arrested Development, for which he earned three Emmy nominations, My Name Is Earl and Eastbound & Down. Copeland’s first motion picture screenplay, the biker comedy Wild Hogs, became one of the highest-grossing films of 2007. In addition, he wrote Yogi Bear and wrote and directed the 2013 cult favorite Coffee Town. Currently, Copeland is involved in the big-screen adaptation of Knight Rider and is an Executive Producer of the hit CBS series Life in Pieces,” now in its third season.  Copeland was born and raised in Orlando, Fla., and currently lives in Sherman Oaks, Calif., with his wife and two sons.

The screen story is by Ron Burch & David Kidd & Don Rhymer

Ron Burch and David Kidd

Ron Burch and David Kidd

Ron Burch and David Kidd are currently the Executive Producers, Head Writers and Showrunners of DreamWorks Animation’s Netflix Original series Dinotrux.

Burch & Kidd got their start on the CBS sitcom, The Closer, for which they were nominated for a Primetime Emmy for the song You Don’t Know Jack, performed in the show by Michael Feinstein and Bernadette Peters.  In 2000 their movie Head Over Heels was released. In 2005 their remake of Yours, Mine & Ours for Paramount and MGM was released. Burch and Kidd have developed and acted as script doctors for a number of family movies for most of the Hollywood studios including Beverly Hills Chihuahua for Disney; they also served as Story Consultants for Inspector Gadget (Disney) and Elmo in Grouchland (Columbia TriStar). They have developed television pilots for MTV, ABC Family, Warner Brothers, FX, Fox, and TBS.

Rhymer

Don Rhymer’

Don Rhymer’s previous work includes writing the story for Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, and the screenplay for Big Momma’s House 2.  His other feature comedy credits include Rio, Rio 2, Surf’s Up, Carpool, Big Momma’s House (co-written with Darryl Quarles), The Santa Clause 2, Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London, and the big-screen adaptation of The Honeymooners. Rhymer also enjoyed a successful TV career, and wrote and produced such sitcoms as The Hogan Family, Coach, Bagdad Café, Evening Shade, Hearts Afire, Caroline in the City, Chicago Sons, and Fired Up.  In addition, he wrote the telefilms Banner Times, Past the Bleachers, and Under Wraps.  Rhymer passed away in November 2012 during the production of Rio 2.

One of the major challenges in turning the brief book into a full-length feature was expanding its storyline and introducing new characters to accompany the central character on his journey.

“The story has a very strong beginning and ending, so we took those very powerful components and created this middle part that helped us really get attached to Ferdinand,” notes Anderson. “We were able to spend more time with him and experience his world as he grows up in a more contemporary, relatable way. We also had the freedom to introduce all these other colorful and memorable characters that weren’t in the book. However, they all also had to fit this world and echo the message and sensibilities of the piece.”

Saldanha and Forte both point out that the deeply layered messages of the property allowed them to expand the storyline in a logical fashion. “The more research we did, the more it became obvious to us that people can interpret the story in so many different ways,” notes Saldanha. “Our story has a deeper meaning in the difficult world we all live in today.”

As Forte explains, when you open up a small story, a lot of attention has to be paid to make sure the expanded journey of the hero and all the newly introduced sidekicks and other characters are just as satisfying and loveable as the main one.

“Everyone worked hard to make sure the movie as a whole would be as universal and timeless as the original story that inspired the project,” she notes. “I was very familiar with the book. It has such a simple and powerful message that is attractive for kids and adults. Of course, that message is just as resonant today as it was when the book was first published in the ’30s.”

“Carlos is an amazing storyteller and a very sensitive human being,” adds Davis. “There is so much heart in this movie. Kids can relate to the whole notion of having to leave home and going to a less protective and more competitive adult world. Ferdinand has a set of values and he adheres to them, although the world doesn’t understand him. Just like the classic animated movies, Ferdinand taps into the collective unconscious and expresses our fears, anxieties and our dreams. It makes you feel very deeply.”

FERDINAND 4

The Trip to Spain

 As both the book and the movie are set in colorful and historic places in Spain, Saldanha and a few of his colleagues visited the country to seek visual inspiration and authentic backdrops for their project. “We were inspired by the beauty of the landscapes and unique architecture of Spain,” says the director. “The color palette of the movie has a lot of earth tones to it, and is very different from the tropical colors that we used in the Rio movies. We took in the magnificent architecture of some of the cities and traveled south to the lovely region of Andalusia.”

The mountain-top city of Ronda in Spain’s Malaga province inspired the location for the farm where Ferdinand finds happiness with the young girl Nina and her father. “We wanted the art to reflect the beauty of this world,” explains Saldanha. “We wanted the locations to express the possibilities of an animated movie, but also be truthful to the art, history and culture of Spain.”

The team retraced Ferdinand’s journey to Madrid, Seville and farmlands in the South of the country. “The old and the new co-exist beautifully here,” notes Saldanha. “There are old windmills and modern highways and these ancient white cities that offer a beautiful contrast to the modern elements of Spain. We visited the haciendas where they raise the cattle and took in every little detail, the vegetation, the colors, the small villages and the people. We also saw the windmills of La Mancha and the famous Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid. All these locations help us create an authentic world for our characters.”

“This film is a salute to how much all of us love our pets.  No matter what they do in the movie, the new friends they meet or the death they defy, they still have to be back at the end of the day to see their owners come home.  Even if they go on crazy adventures during the day, the highlight of every day is when their owner comes home.”

For their fifth fully animated feature-film collaboration, Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures present The Secret Life of Pets, a comedy about the lives our pets lead after we leave for work or school each day. secretlife_sb_og

For one bustling Manhattan apartment building, the real day starts after the folks on two legs leave for work and school.  That’s when the pets of every stripe, fur and feather begin their own nine-to-five routine: hanging out with each other, trading humiliating stories about their owners, auditioning adorable looks to get better snacks and watching Animal Planet like it is reality TV.

The building’s top dog, Max (C.K.), a quick-witted Terrier rescue who’s convinced he sits at the center of owner Katie’s (Kemper) universe, finds his pampered life turned upside down when she brings home Duke (Stonestreet), a sloppy, massive mess of a mongrel with zero interpersonal skills.  When this reluctant canine duo finds themselves out on the mean streets of New York, they have to set aside their differences and unite against a fluffy, yet cunning, bunny named Snowball (Hart), who’s building an army of pets who’ve been abandoned by their owners and are out to turn the tables on humanity…all this and making it home before Katie returns at dinnertime.

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Christopher Meledandri

Illumination Entertainment founder and Ceo Chris Meledandri and his longtime collaborator Janet Healy—who together have produced the beloved films of the Despicable Me franchise, as well as the blockbusters Minions and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax—produce the comedy that is directed by Chris Renaud, co-directed by Yarrow Cheney and written by Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch.

“The inspiration behind Pets was all of the pets that my family and I have owned since I was a little kid,”says Chris Meledandri .  ‘’We grew up with a cat and dogs and a bird, and what I realized as I became a parent was that we all invested these pets with rich emotional lives.  Whenever we’d come home we would be thinking about the joy in their faces in seeing us and thinking about them doing things that were a little bit naughty.  We realized we were asking exactly what they had done while we were out.”

“It struck me that I wasn’t alone in wondering about what the inner lives of our pets were,” he continues.  “The minute I started to look at my own pets that way, I realized that everybody looks at their pets through that lens.  Whether or not it’s a real emotional life or a projected one…it doesn’t matter.  We’re fascinated with their inner lives and highly curious about what they’re doing and thinking when we’re not around.”

In addition to Meledandri, who works out of Illumination’s head office in Santa Monica, California, Janet Healy, with whom he has produced all of the films in the Illumination canon, oversees the Production arm of the company, Illumination Mac Guff in Paris, France.

Meledandri is adamant that no production is conceptualized without the deep involvement of  Janet Healy, with whom he has produced all of the films in the Illumination canon,  and oversees the Production arm of the company, Illumination Mac Guff in Paris.

“Janet is the best producing partner I could ever imagine having, and at this moment in time we’re producing multiple films together.  She brings a level of leadership, creativity and energy to every aspect of every movie.

“When you’re taking on that many films at the same time, there has to be a seamless relationship,” Meledandri continues.  “I honestly believe that she has to be the best producer working in animation today.   What’s great is that we not only get to enjoy these films as producing partners, but we also get to enjoy the experience as friends.”

Healy sparked to the film’s premise. “We project so much character onto our pets—the things we want them to be.  Even when those qualities aren’t there, we continue to feel that they have this secret, full life that we’re not a part of.  When Chris told us this high-concept idea, we thought it was amazing.  He’s a great leader because he’s so decisive and understands animation and character like no one else.”

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From original and triumphant 3D animation movies to adventurous live-action films, Hollywood screenwriters Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio (Written by) are used to seeing their work come to life with one smash hit after another. Variety has referred to Paul and Ken Daurio as the “Billion Dollar Screenwriters” since their films have grossed over a billion dollars at the box-office worldwide. Paul and Daurio are currently penning the screenplay for Despicable Me 3, the third installment of the mega-hit Despicable Me film franchise. Paul and Daurio are also the hot Hollywood screenwriting team who penned the highly successful screenplays based on the beloved Dr. Seuss children’s books, “The Lorax” and “Horton Hears a Who!” in collaboration with Chris Meledandri, the founder and CEO of Illumination Entertainment. Paul met Daurio while working on a church musical and they bonded immediately. In 1999, they sold their first screenplay, Special, a dark comedy that they later turned into a short film that went on to play the festival circuit. Next came the 2001 cult-classic Bubble Boy. Their other film credits include Walt Disney Pictures’ megahit The Santa Clause 2 and Universal Pictures’ Hop. Paul studied at Yale University, where he graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English. Upon moving to Los Angeles, he received his MFA in screenwriting from the University of Southern California, winning a fellowship grant to pay for his second year. Upon graduating from high school, Daurio began directing music videos for up-and-coming bands like Blink 182, AFI and Jimmy Eat World. More than 100 music videos later, he teamed up with Paul to write his first feature script. Daurio and Paul are now one of Hollywood’s most sought-after screenwriting teams.

Working with the writing team of Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio, with whom they have worked on the films in the Despicable Me franchise, as well as Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Meledandri and Healy first asked them to develop this idea into a screenplay.  They were then needed to start Despicable Me 3, and writer Brian Lynch—known for his work with Illumination on Minions, Hop and their highly successful theme park ride Minion Mayhem—took the helm.

Meledandri can trace the different characters in the film back to the colleague whose pets inspired them.

“Cinco and Ken shouldered the project initially, and Brian has worked with us for the last year-plus,” he notes.  “A lot of the anecdotes of his life made their way into the film.  It’s been a great pleasure to watch as everyone has brought their individual experiences of pets, whether they’re from childhood or from the pets that they have now, into this movie.”

Daurio explains how it all began: “The first thing that Chris pitched to us was the image of a dog watching his owner leave the house.  As soon as the owner leaves, the dog dumps his food in the trash and opens the fridge to find something better to eat.  That was the initial image that was planted in our head, and it stayed with us throughout this entire process.”

Paul describes what drives the process he shares with Daurio: “The key to an Illumination film is lots of laughs and lots of heart.  We want people to laugh as much as they possibly can, but we also want to make them cry a bit at the end as well.”

As they pondered upon the setting, the duo was drawn to a New York apartment building.  “Early on, we decided we wanted this story to take place in an apartment building,” Paul says.  “That gave us access to a lot of pets and the idea that when the owners are away, they party.  They gossip and drink out of the toilet; things they would never do if their owners were watching.”

This is Lynch’s third collaboration with Meledandri, and he appreciates Meledandri’s character-centric approach.

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The Secret Life of Pets is the third movie Brian Lynch (Written by) has written for Chris Meledandri and Illumination Entertainment, along with Hop and Minions. Lynch, both a film and comic book writer, grew up in Middletown Township, New Jersey, and attended William Paterson University of New Jersey. Vincent Pereira, a friend from high school, introduced Lynch to Kevin Smith for whom he worked at the time. Lynch contributed to a few of Smith’s early films before moving to Hollywood in 2004. Lynch co-wrote the Shrek spinoff Puss in Boots, which was nominated for an Academy Award® for DreamWorks Animation. Lynch was then asked to write the script for Universal Studios’ attraction Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, which won an Annie Award for Best Animated Special Production. With the success of the ride, Lynch was brought on to write Minions, the 11th highest-grossing movie of all time. In addition to film writing, Lynch has worked on many comics and animated series including “Spike: After the Fall,” “Angel: After the Fall” with Joss Whedon, “Everybody’s Dead” and “Monster Motors,” which was recently optioned by Universal Pictures. His most recent book, “Toy Academy,” a passion project, inspired by telling stories to his three-year-old son, was recently purchased by Scholastic.

“Chris always says, ‘We’ll come up with the story and the set pieces later.  Let’s work on who our lead character is, what happened to him or her before and what we want the audience to know about them and feel about them.  We will go from there,’” offers Lynch.  “It has always been helpful to work that way.”

Lynch loved extrapolating upon these pets’ secret lives, revealing: “This film is a salute to how much all of us love our pets.  No matter what they do in the movie, the new friends they meet or the death they defy, they still have to be back at the end of the day to see their owners come home.  Even if they go on crazy adventures during the day, the highlight of every day is when their owner comes home.”

The moment that Max’s owner brings Duke home from the pound has a special inspiration of its own.  Laughs Meledandri: “I imagine Max feels a bit like my nine-year-old son must have when my wife and I came home from the hospital with a new baby: ‘Where did this guy come from?  Who asked him here?  My life was fine before he arrived and, no, I don’t want to share everything that I’ve got that’s so perfect.’”

Producers Meledandri and Healy have partnered with The Secret Life of Pets’ director, Chris Renaud, for many years.

“When I was running animation at FOX and executive producing movies, Chris Renaud was our star storyboard artist.  Eventually, we gave him a short film called No Time for Nuts to direct,” Meledandri provides.  “He did a fantastic job, and when I started Illumination I asked him to join us with the idea that he would direct.”

“We’ve worked together since the first Despicable Me, which he directed along with Pierre Coffin,” says Meledandri.  “Making an animated film like this involves thousands of decisions on a weekly basis.  You’re bringing together hundreds of creative members of your crew—who are all contributing on significant levels—and you have to find a way to not only guide them and nurture them, but also synthesize their contributions so that the movie feels like one holistic expression.  That, plus you have to make the film charming and engaging, and distinctive.  Chris does that all and is just an enormous talent.”

yarrow_cheney

Yarrow Cheney (Co-Director) has been at the core of Illumination Entertainment’s creative team since its inception. As production designer on Despicable Me, Cheney played a key role in developing the film’s distinctive look. He also served as production designer on Despicable Me 2 and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, and directed a beloved Minions short Puppy. He is currently in pre-production on Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas with his fellow director, Pete Candeland. Before joining Illumination Entertainment, Cheney served as an animator and production designer on numerous animated shorts and films, including Academy Award® winner The ChubbChubbs! He won a Primetime Emmy Award for his work on Sony’s Dilbert series.

The next project Renaud would helm for Illumination was 2012’s Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.  On that film, explains Meledandri: “Our production designer was Yarrow Cheney, who had also been production designer on Despicable Me.  At the same time we were making these films, we realized that Yarrow also had a directorial side.  We began to see that he had real potential as a director.”

This potential was further realized when Cheney directed Puppy, one of the sweetest shorts that Illumination has created, and the production team decided he was ready to co-direct.  Says Meledandri: “Janet and I consider him to be part of the foundation of this company.  He is also a tremendously good-natured leader.”

In fact, very few people at Illumination know the director and co-director as well as producer Healy.

“I’ve spent a lot of time with Chris and Yarrow over the last eight years,” she offers.  “They have incredible talents and very complementary skills.  They’re both so adept and experienced at animation, but Chris comes from a storyboarding and comic-book background, so he’s a master of timing and staging.  He’s got a comic sensibility that can be very irreverent and always fun.  Yarrow, on the other hand, has an artistic background in fine arts.  He’s a beautiful painter and has one of the most precise and sophisticated color senses of anybody I’ve ever met.  He’s extremely good at conceptualizing environments, pinning down characters and arriving at a great animation color palette.  Together, they’re a full package that makes this movie wonderful.”

Director Renaud explains what drew him to the film:  “What I wanted to do was to portray pets in this very contemporary way.  I also liked playing with this funny, very real idea that when you leave your dog, even if you come back 20 seconds later, they act like you’ve been gone for 24 hours.  They’re so thrilled to see you, and their short-term memory doesn’t quite work.  That’s how we play Max, who sees Katie through that lens in his own life.  She’s the center of his universe, and he expects that’s how she feels as well…until she brings home this other dog.”

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Co-director Cheney discusses his inspiration: “Every animal has their own personality, and there is so much humor in that.  They aren’t people, but it feels that way.  To have the opportunity to capture that in film is what spoke to me, especially as a pet owner.  When we leave for work or school in the morning, we are essentially handing over the keys to our pets.  It is now their place, and for this universe we imagine that they have their own daily routines, just like humans.”

While so many films with animals anthropomorphize them, the team knew it was crucial that the characters maintain their animal characteristics so that the audience would relate to them as pets.

“What I wanted very early on in the animation style was to make the animals…animals, and not depict them in a wholly anthropomorphic way,” provides Renaud.  “When we look at animation problems, we would ask each other, ‘How does he get from point A to point B?  How does she spin around or lift her paw.’”  That extended to more complex scenes.  “For instance, we have a moment where a few dogs hear something that sounds like somebody’s in trouble.  But they’re instantly distracted by a butterfly flying by and run off in the other direction.”

Cheney elaborates: “Our goal was to have the audience look at the actions of these animals and think that is something their own pet would do.  Instead of a film where the animals are wearing clothes and walking around on two legs, we wanted to make our animals act like animals.”

When the production team set out to define the comedy’s characters and their distinctive personalities, it was critical to strike a balance between a higher intelligence and one that felt like it was coming from the pet itself.  They knew that the minute they crossed the line and depicted a human trapped in a pet’s body, they lost the essence of the idea.  It was crucial to make audiences feel: “This is the way my dog or cat acts when I’m not around.”

“The best example is what happens when we leave the house in the morning,” notes Meledandri.  “Our movie starts with Katie leaving, and Max is immediately struck with how much he misses his owner.  His plan is that he’s going to sit by the door all day and wait for her.  Now, when Max expresses that to another character, yes, he’s talking but you believe that; it’s a doglike behavior.  Many of us would fantasize that is what our own dog would do when we left the house.  The goal has always been—in the writing, directing, and down to the animation itself—to always maintain those behaviors and nuance performances that are true to the pet.”

There are 3 new South African films and 15 International Films Released In South Africa during September 2018.

Information provided by the film distributors in South Africa: Ster Kinekor, Empire Entertainment Africa, UIP SA, and Black Sheep Films.  Dates subject to change, visit www.sterkinekor.comwww.cinemanouveau.co.za and www.numetro.co.za for cinemas where the films will be showing.    Report broken links  /

Latest Film Releases / Upcoming film releases

September 2018 Film Releases

SIMPLE FAVORA SIMPLE FAVOR This mystery thriller centers on three small-town characters: it centres around Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a mommy vlogger who seeks to uncover the truth behind her best friend Emily’s (Blake Lively) sudden disappearance from their small town. Stephanie is joined by Emily’s husband Sean (Henry Golding) in this stylish thriller filled with twists and betrayals, secrets and revelations, love and loyalty, murder and revenge. Directed by Paul Feig from a screenplay by Feig and Jessica Sharzer. It is an adaptation of Darcey Bell’s novel of the same name. Read more / Trailer Opens 28 September 

BILLIONAIREBILLIONAIRE BOYS CLUB It tells the true crime story of the ambitious entrepreneur and financial whiz kid Joe Hunt (Ansel Elgort), whose company of affluent young men from Beverly Hills, the BBC, grew into a Ponzi Scheme that turned homicidal in the Summer of 1984. Directed by James Cox. Read more / Trailer / Now showing

 

 

BLACKKKLANSMANBLACKKKLANSMAN From visionary filmmaker Spike Lee comes the incredible true story of an American hero. It’s the early 1970s, and Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Determined to make a name for himself, Stallworth bravely sets out on a dangerous mission: infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan. Feature: Spike Lee’s Latest Expression of the facts of American Life  / Trailer / Now showing

THE CHILDREN ACTTHE CHILDREN ACT Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson) is an eminent High Court judge in London presiding with wisdom and compassion over ethically complex cases of family law. But she has paid a heavy personal price for her workload, and her marriage to American professor Jack (Stanley Tucci) is at a breaking point. In this moment of personal crisis, Fiona is asked to rule on the case of Adam (Fionn Whitehead), a brilliant boy who is refusing the blood transfusion that will save his life. Adam is three months from his 18th birthday and still legally a child. Should Fiona force him to live? Fiona visits Adam in the hospital and their meeting has a profound emotional impact on them both, stirring strong new emotions in the boy and long-buried feelings in her. Directed by Richard Eyre. Read more / Trailer / Now showing

ELLENELLEN: THE ELLEN PAKKIES STORY  The heart-wrenching story of Ellen Pakkies caught the attention of people around the globe when she was accused of murdering her drug-addicted son, Abie, in 2007.   Interview with screenwriter Amy Jeptha / Trailer / Now showing

 

 

 

GOTTIGOTTI follows infamous crime boss John Gotti’s (John Travolta) rise to become the “Teflon Don” of the Gambino Crime Family in New York City. Spanning three decades and recounted by his son John Jr. (Spencer Rocco Lofranco), GOTTI examines Gotti’s tumultuous life as he and his wife (Kelly Preston) attempt to hold the family together amongst tragedy and multiple prison sentences.Raised on the streets of New York, young John Gotti found his way into the Gambino crime family, eventually having the boss removed and becoming head of the powerful family. His wife asked only one thing from John: to never expose their children to his profession. But he broke the vow, and John Jr. took his place as his father’s Capo.Directed by Kevin Connolly and written by Lem Dobbs and Leo Rossi. Read more / Trailer / Now showing

JOHNNY ENGLISH 3JOHNNY ENGLISH 3 is the third installment of the Johnny English comedy series, with Rowan Atkinson returning as the much loved accidental secret agent. The new adventure begins when a cyber-attack reveals the identity of all active undercover agents in Britain, leaving Johnny English as the secret service’s last hope. Called out of retirement, English dives head first into action with the mission to find the mastermind hacker. As a man with few skills and analogue methods, Johnny English must overcome the challenges of modern technology to make this mission a success. Directed by David Kerr. Written by William Davies. Read more / TrailerNow showing

leave-no-trace-movieLEAVE NO TRACE Will (Ben Foster) and his teenage daughter, Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie), have lived off the grid for years in the forests of Portland, Oregon. When their idyllic life is shattered, both are put into social services. After clashing with their new surroundings, Will and Tom set off on a harrowing journey back to their wild homeland. The film is directed by Debra Granik from a script adapted by Granik and Anne Rosellini. Read more / TrailerNow showing

 

MILE 22MILE 22 An elite American intelligence officer, aided by a top-secret tactical command unit, tries to smuggle a mysterious police officer with sensitive information out of the country.

Directed by Peter Berg, starring Lauren Cohan, Mark Wahlberg, John Malkovich. Feature: A Gritty modern action -thriller set in a Fictional Reality /  Trailer / Now showing

 

NIGHT SCHOOLNIGHT SCHOOL Star Kevin Hart and producer Will Packer, who partnered for the hit Ride Along and Think Like a Man series, bring their signature style to Night School. The comedy from director Malcolm D. Lee (Girls Trip) follows a group of misfits who are forced to attend adult classes in the longshot chance they’ll pass the GED exam. Director: Malcolm D. Lee Writers: Kevin Hart & Harry Ratchford & Joey Wells & Matt Kellard and Nicholas Stoller and John Hamburg. Read more / Trailer / Showing from 28 September 

NUNTHE NUN When a young nun at a cloistered abbey in Romania takes her own life, a priest with a haunted past and a novitiate on the threshold of her final vows are sent by the Vatican to investigate.  Together they uncover the order’s unholy secret.  Risking not only their lives but their faith and their very souls, they confront a malevolent force in the form of the same demonic nun that first terrorized audiences in “The Conjuring 2,” as the abbey becomes a horrific battleground between the living and the damned. Directed by Corin Hardy, starring Demian Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet, Charlotte Hope.  Feature:  The Nun Explores another dark corner of the Conjuring Universe / Interview with director Carin Hardy /  Trailer / Now showing

THE PREDATORTHE PREDATOR (3D and IMAX) Soldiers join forces to battle a vicious extra-terrestrial that hunts humans in a suburban neighbourhood. From the outer reaches of space to the backwoods of southern Georgia, the hunt comes home in Shane Black’s explosive reinvention of the Predator series. Now, the universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before. And only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and an evolutionary biology professor can prevent the end of the human race.Directed by Shane Black, starring  Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn. Read more / Trailer /Now Showing

recceTHE RECCE  The story of how the South African Defence Force declared young Recce Henk Viljoen dead behind enemy lines and how it’s up to him alone to use everything he’s learnt and knows to make it back to his family. Add to this the fact that the enemy is hot on his trail, it’s clear that this is no ordinary story of survival across the treacherous war torn African landscape. This is also one of the first films in decades to explore issues regarding not only the Border War, but also the pain and suffering families had to endure during and after the conflict that lasted almost 20 years. Written and directed by Johannes Ferdinand van Zyl, The Recce script came out of his personal connection to the story, “Having grown up with family members that were sent to the border war, I have a fascination with that era in our history.” The cast brings together some of the biggest names in the South African acting fraternity, as well as some new talents to watch. This includes Marius Weyers (The Gods Must be Crazy, Paljas, Die Wonderwerker), Albert Maritz (Invictus, In ‘n man soos my pa, Modder en Bloed), Greg Kriek (Samson, Momentum), Grant Swanby (Beyond the River, Invictus, Troy), Christia Visser (Tess, Hollywood in my Huis), Maurice Carpede (Chappie) and Sonni Chidiebere (District 9, Blood Diamond, Hotel Rwanda). Read more / Trailer / Showing from 28 September

SGT STUBBY AN ALL AMERICAN HEROSGT STUBBY: AN ALL AMERICAN HERO A computer-animated film based on the incredible, true story of the bond between a solider and a stray dog in WWI.With World War I looming, Robert Conroy, a young Army private, adopts a stray, stump-tailed terrier. Conroy names his new friend Stubby and gives him a home, a family, and a chance to embark on the adventure that would define a century. The two quickly find themselves in the trenches of France and on the path to history. French soldier Gaston Baptiste befriends the man and dog and accompanies them along their epic journey through harsh conditions and incredible acts of courage. Read more / Trailer /Now Showing

SMALLFOOTSMALLFOOT An animated adventure for all ages, with original music and an all-star cast, “Smallfoot” turns the Bigfoot legend upside down when a bright young Yeti finds something he thought didn’t exist—a human. News of this “smallfoot” throws the simple Yeti community into an uproar over what else might be out there in the big world beyond their snowy village, in an all new story about friendship, courage and the joy of discovery. Voices of Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya, Common, LeBron James, Gina Rodriguez. Directed by Karey Kirkpatrick. Trailer Opens 28 September

SUBMERGENCESUBMERGENCE James (James McAvoy) is a British agent under the cover of a water engineer, while Danny (Alicia Vikander) is a bio-mathematician working on a deep-sea diving project to explore the origin of life on our planet. On a chance encounter in a remote resort in Normandy where they both prepare for their respective missions, they fall rapidly, and unexpectedly, into each other’s arms and a deliriously wild love affair develops, even though their jobs are destined to separate them. Danny sets off on a perilous quest to dive to the bottom of the ocean. James’s assignment takes him to Somalia, where he is sucked into a geopolitical vortex that puts him in grave danger. Both characters are subject to different kinds of isolation as they pine for each other; their determination to reconnect becomes as much an existential journey as a love story. Directed by Wim Wenders, based on the novel of same name by J. M. Ledgard. Read more / Trailer / Now showing

Table-Manners-2TABLE MANNERS In South African filmmaker Leli Maki’s comedy a wife and mother finds solace and hope in cooking, learning that all she needs is life’s three courses – family, food and love. Megan (Diaan Lawrenson) loses everything when her husband, Lloyd (Neels Van Jaarsveld), gets arrested for tax fraud and has to rebuild herself by rediscovering her love for cooking and the flavors of life. With the help of her best friend Lindiwe (Renate Stuurman), she learns that the path back home begins with realizing that she is enough and all she needs is her family, food and love. Life’s 3 courses made easy.  Showing from 28 Sept. 

 

 

  2017 FILM RELEASES / 2019 FILM RELEASES 

SOUTH AFRICAN FILMMAKING

2018 Films Listed Alphabetically

The heart-warming and truly inspirational comedy drama Blinded By The Light’s journey to the screen began in earnest back in 2010 when visionary writer-director-producer Gurinder Chadha and author-journalist Sarfraz Manzoor attended the BFI premiere of The Promise, a film charting the making of the 1978 Bruce Springsteen album Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Developed from Gurinder Chadha and British Journalist Sarfraz Manzoor’s shared passion for Bruce Springsteen and based on Manzoor’s celebrated rite of passage memoir Greetings from Bury Park, chronicles his experiences as a British Muslim boy growing up in 1980s Luton and the impact Springsteen’s lyrics had on him.

Manzoor credited albums like Born to Run and Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ with changing his life during some typically angst-ridden teenage years, and went on to deploy his passion for Springsteen as the backbone of his 2008 memoir, Greetings from Bury Park, which traced his upbringing during the 1980s in Luton, his dreams of becoming a writer and his complex relationship with his father, while also exploring the power of music to transcend race and religion.

Author-journalist Sarfraz Manzoor with writer-director-producer Gurinder Chadha

Chadha discovered ‘Born to Run’ while at school working at a record store on Saturdays. “I loved the symbolism of the cover with a black and white man appearing to be so close and having fun at a time when Britain was riddled with riots as black and white youth challenged nationalism and the Right wing here.”

Chadha read Manzoor’s book and loved it. She was invited to the premiere of the Promise and invited Sarfraz along. “ There on the red carpet an amazing thing happened. We were both poised with our cameras ready to snap pictures of Bruce as he passed us but Bruce stopped and turned to Sarfraz to say ‘Your book was really beautiful.’ Sarfraz almost collapsed. Bruce said “Someone sent him a copy and he loved it.”

Chadha adds, “Sarfraz was just blown away. Then I jumped in and said, ‘I’m Gurinder Chadha, the filmmaker, and we really want to make this into a film, but we need your support, Bruce.’ And he said, ‘Sounds good, speak to Jon”. ’ He pointed to Jon Landau, his long-time manager, along with Barbara Carr and Tracy Nurse, and from there we kept in touch.”

Turning Manzoor’s memoir into a narrative for film

The pair had Springsteen’s blessing but faced the complex challenge of turning Manzoor’s memoir into a narrative that would suit the screen. The title on which they settled, Blinded By The Light,  is taken from the opening track of the same name, which appears on Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ (1973).

Chadha, an award-winning screenplay writer knew this was going be a tough challenge but had won kudos with an earlier rites of passage movie ‘Bend it like Beckham’. Chadha says, “Sarfraz was a journalist but had not written for the screen, he really wanted to have a go so I gave him several one on one tutorials in my house and the screenplay process began”

Manzoor tackled the first draft of a screenplay and says that he found inspiration in the film adaptation of An Education. “I could see that maybe our story would be about an outsider changing someone at a decisive moment, at 16 or 17 years old,” he says.

He then worked closely with Chadha and her writing partner Paul Mayeda Berges from Viceroy’s House, Bend It Like Beckham, Bride & Prejudice, Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging. “In the book Sarfraz was doing that thing we do as Asians where, if we’re writing about ourselves, we want to protect ourselves and protect our community against stereotypes and any damaging preconditions that people might have,” explains Chadha.

“In the book I found that he often stayed away from getting to the real nubs of disagreement with his father or with members of his community, which was totally understandable. So, my job was always to push him and to try and get closer to the truth because drama is conflict.”

After Manzoor had finished his draft, Chadha and Mayeda Berges took over the script full time, bringing their technical expertise and deep understanding of how to carry a story to the screen. While working on their drafts, the screenwriters pulled more and more of Springsteen’s lyrics into their narrative.

“Bruce’s lyrics are very much part of our screenplay,” says Chadha, “and we use his songs in a great narrative way. It’s not at all, ‘Oh, here’s a great hit, let’s put this song here, let’s put that song there,’ it’s not a jukebox film. The song’s lyrics drive the narrative somewhat.”

Javed is played by Viveik Kalra, a young actor who is currently still at drama school in Wales.

Indeed, the central character Javed, based on Manzoor, finds a deep connection to the lyrics, and the filmmakers were able to draw parallels between what they wanted to say about Luton in the 1980s and what Springsteen was saying about New Jersey during a similar period.

“A lot of our script is about what it was that was inspiring Bruce to write those words, and how that inspiration was also something that Javed could draw on in a time of common experience,” says Chadha.

As she and her writing partner worked and reworked the script, Springsteen’s inspirational music came even further to the fore. While some lyrics are worked into the script and used as spoken words, a few tracks even spring to life as musical numbers, as montages or occasional set-pieces.

The filmmakers wanted the songs to feel organic and therefore did not employ any professional singers or dancers in their cast. Producer Jane Barclay explains, “The idea of the ‘hybrid musical’ evolved over time, though the music was always key, as was the use of Bruce’s lyrics to drive the narrative. The songs were worked into the script very cleverly. Gurinder is skilled at bringing just the right emotion and truth to a scene so was really able to work the lyrics in with just the right tone and narrative beats.

Chadha insists “The film is not a musical but a film with music, rooted in reality where you hear the cast singing along to songs but not as professional singers- more like their characters would.”

Barclay cites the first multi-character musical set-piece, a rendition of Thunder Road by a group of market traders. “Here we have the fantastic Rob Brydon, who is a huge Bruce Springsteen fanatic and has a wonderful voice. But we purposefully didn’t get in dancers for this scene. The other traders just pick up leeks and carrots as they move. It needed to feel real and organic with minimal choreography. We brought in professional movement experts but not actual dancers.”

Chadha brought on Bruce Springsteen’s long time marketing and PR  consultant, Tracy Nurse, to ensure Springsteen and his management team were kept abreast of the creative process including the script and the use of his songs and lyrics.  “I think he really appreciated how Gurinder had used the meaning of his lyrics to drive the narrative,” she says.

One prime example comes during Javed’s Springsteen spectacular and dramatic epiphany. It unfolds during a famous October night in Britain during 1987 when the Great Storm, a violent extratropical cyclone, caused chaos nationwide.

“We chose that night and it is there that we find Javed, who has hit rock bottom,” explains Chadha. “His life is going nowhere. He’s been attacked by skinheads. His father’s lost his job and he can’t see a future. But his friend, Roops, has slipped him a cassette into his bag. He puts it in and for the first time he hears the Springsteen track Dancing in the Dark.”

I get up in the evening

And I ain’t got nothing to say I come home in the morning

I go to bed feeling the same way I ain’t nothing but tired

Man I’m just tired and bored with myself Hey there baby, I could use just a little help

“The words suddenly give him meaning to his life. And then he plays another track, Promised Land, and that guides him and cajoles him to get away from all the memories that bring him down. It tells him to forget about what it is that holds him back and instead think about what can take him forward. You have to believe in a ‘promised land’ because life is shit otherwise.”

Blow away the dreams that tear you apart Blow away the dreams that break your heart

Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted The dogs on Main Street howl

‘Cause they understand

If I could take one moment into my hands Mister I ain’t a boy, no I’m a man

And I believe in a promised land

It proved a highly dramatic moment during the shoot, and the filmmakers recreated the storm with wind machines, bursts of electricity and lightning.

“We had the full works and we tried to do something different with that scene,” says Chadha, “having projections of storms from archive footage projected against the buildings along with the Bruce’s words that had real resonance for Javed as he walks past them.”

Although the Springsteen songs that feature in the movie were written in the 70s and 80s, they remain timeless. The filmmakers firmly believe that while their narrative unfolds in 1987, the piece feels contemporary. “You’d only know it was 1987 because of some of the references, and the hair,” smiles Chadha.

“In terms of what it is saying about young people trying to find their path when the economy isn’t as strong as it could be, and the way young people have to challenge society’s expectations of them, I think there are great parallels with today.”

“We bring classic elements within the work to life in ways that we hope are fresh, but above all we tried to put ourselves into Theodor Geisel’s mind, and we tried to look for the storytelling that’s between the pages.”

No one, it’s fair to say, was better equipped to adapt the The Grinch into an animated film than Illumination’s founder and CEO Chris Meledandri.

Not only had he successfully adapted two other Seuss books into feature films – 2008’s Horton Hears a Who! and 2012’s The Lorax – but his company, Illumination, has dominated the world of animation for more than a decade with sweet and subversive characters and unexpected stories, including The Secret Life of Pets, Sing, and most notably Gru and his Minions in the Despicable Me franchise, which has grossed more than $3.7 billion worldwide.

Chris Meledandri at his Illumination Studio in Los Angeles CA – Picture Michael Lewis

The beloved book by Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) that became a holiday classic, is now brought to the big screen by Illumination and Universal Pictures, telling the story of a cynical grump who goes on a mission to steal Christmas, only to have his heart changed by a young girl’s generous holiday spirit. Funny, inspiring and visually stunning, The Grinch tells a universal story about the redemptive power of kindness and the true spirit of Christmas.

The Grinch reimagines the 1957 book How The Grinch Stole Christmas! for a new generation, while remaining true to the vision and intent of its author.

Deeply relevant to our modern times, The Grinch is a tale about the transformative power of forgiveness and is a film that empowers people of all ages to be hopeful, compassionate and generous of heart, not just at Christmas, but every day of the year.

Benedict Cumberbatch lends his voice to the Grinch, who lives on Mt. Crumpet with only his loyal dog, Max, for company. Isolated inside a cave he has rigged with inventions and contraptions to meet his day-to-day needs, the Grinch only sees his neighbors when he must venture into Whoville for groceries.

But each year at Christmas the Whos disrupt his solitude with their increasingly bigger, brighter and louder celebrations. So when the Whos — including the Grinch’s ever-cheerful neighbor Bricklebaum (Kenan Thompson) — declare they are going to make Christmas three times bigger this year, the Grinch realizes there is only one way for him to gain some peace and quiet: he must steal Christmas. To do so, he decides he will pose as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, even going so far as to trap a lackadaisical reindeer named Fred to pull his sleigh.

Meanwhile, down in Whoville, Cindy-Lou Who (The Greatest Showman’s Cameron Seely)—a young girl overflowing with holiday cheer—plots with her gang of friends to trap Santa Claus as he makes his Christmas Eve rounds so that she can ask him for help for her overworked single mother, Donna Who (Rashida Jones). As Christmas approaches, however, Cindy-Lou’s altruistic plan threatens to collide with the Grinch’s more nefarious one. Will joy and optimism win out over grumpiness and cynicism?

The Grinch is directed by Scott Mosier (producer, Clerks, Chasing Amy and Yarrow Cheney (co-director, The Secret Life of Pets), and is written by Michael Lesieur (Keeping Up with the Jonses) and Tommy Swerdlow (Cool Runnings), based on the book by Dr. Seuss.

Meledandri can trace his attraction to delightfully flawed characters back to the Grinch.

“From a very early age I found myself attracted to characters that had a wicked side to them, especially characters that you enjoyed watching be wicked, but I also like seeing their redemption,” Meledandri says. “In a lot of Illumination films, there’s definitely a recurring theme of characters who have a real edge or a bite to them. So How The Grinch Stole Christmas! was formative for me. I grew up in a household where Dr. Seuss books were plentiful.”

But it was the famed CBS TV special — which first began airing in 1966 and was directed by Chuck Jones, starring the voice of Boris Karloff — that had the biggest impact on Meledandri. “That Chuck Jones special was one of the clear signs each year that Christmas was coming,” he says. “It became a Christmas tradition in my household.”

Meledandri later extended that tradition to his own family when he became a parent. “Stories like The Grinch, you share them with your child, but you actually enjoy them yourself because of that subversive side, that rebellious side. It never grows old. There’s something about that humor that I find satisfying, no matter how many times I’ve read it before, no matter how many times I’ve seen the character.”

Audrey Geisel, the widow of Dr. Seuss creator Theodore Geisel

The decision to make The Grinch into a feature film seemed an organic one, both for Meledandri and for Geisel’s widow, Audrey. “Audrey Geisel has been the executive producer not only on The Grinch but on the prior two films that we made,” Meledandri says. “The decision to adapt The Grinch was made in concert with Audrey. We talked about all the other possibilities, and felt like this was the best story, and the best time, for our third collaboration.”

So when it came to adapt Geisel’s 69-page book – essentially a one-act play – into a three-act structure for a feature-length film, Meledandri, along with his fellow producer Janet Healy and their creative team, decided to delve deeper into character — and into the character of the Grinch in particular — while also remaining loyal to the narrative and emotional intent of the book.

“When we set out to expand Grinch, we made it an absolute mandate for ourselves that we respected what we believe is the core intention of the work,” he says. “We bring classic elements within the work to life in ways that we hope are fresh, but above all we tried to put ourselves into Theodor Geisel’s mind, and we tried to look for the storytelling that’s between the pages.”

At the emotional center of that intention was a question they decided to explore: How did the Grinch become the way he his? “That became very organic, to our minds,” Meledandri says.

“At the core of this story is a character who was emotionally wounded as a child. He has placed himself on a quest to eliminate the joy of others because he himself has been left out of feeling that joy. And while that’s not a part of the original text, it was, to my mind, an underlying intention of Theodor Geisel’s. The manifestation of that emotional pain is a character who has gone into seclusion, who has given up on the society around him. And it takes the most innocent and optimistic character imaginable — in this case, Cindy-Lou Who — to reengage him to life, to an openness to connecting with other characters, to believing in good.”

So they began an earnest psychological journey into the potential causes for how a character would become self-isolating and resistant – or hostile – to the joy of others. “The most important thing was to identify the emotional injury,” Meledandri says. “Most of us carry around emotional suffering from our childhood, and often, that suffering lead to coping mechanisms.”

“Now, our coping mechanisms may not be as extreme as putting ourselves into exile to protect ourselves from being hurt again, but growth means being able to eventually transcend those coping mechanisms so that you can open yourself up to all of the expansive experiences that life has to offer, one of which, at its core, is connecting with others. That’s the trajectory of the Grinch, and what we discovered in the telling of the story: We find him as a child, convey an emotional wound, watch him react to that, connect that reaction to who we meet as an adult, and give the audience an understanding of how he got that way. It makes the Grinch relatable. We have a depth of insight into why he is that way. And it opens up an opportunity for us to heal him through the course of the story.”

Just as important, however, was that the other characters in the film know nothing of the Grinch’s past. Because this is a story of forgiveness and redemption, the Whos need to ultimately forgive the Grinch not because they understand his emotional pain, but for a much more generous reason.

“They forgive him, basically, because he asks for it,” Meledandri says. “They don’t have to have a deep explanation of how he became this to feel like he’s earned their forgiveness.”

The result, Meledandri says, is a film with a message that touches the heart and resonates long after people leave the theater. “As I’ve watched the film as we’ve been making it, I really love this hopeful feeling that the movie leaves you with. And getting to this place means that the character has transcended many of the things that have held him back: this desire to protect himself from feeling hurt, from being rejected. He actually wrecks this wall of meanness that he’s erected.”Central to Illumination’s goal was to protect the indelible elements of the story while making a six-decade-old story relevant to our current age. “One of our early challenges was looking at the story through the eyes of a modern world,” Meledandri says. “On the one hand, we wanted the storytelling to remain timeless. But Geisel was always aware of his own modern society. It wasn’t as if he was stuck in some historic period that he never deviated from. As the culture evolved, so did the visual references in his work. So we’ve tried to strike this balance between making the themes modern and relevant and touching on aspects of contemporary life without compromising the classic nature of the settings.”

Whoville, for starters, got a major upgrade, evolving from a sleepy hamlet into a fully realized, modern, three-dimensional small city, complete with its own Who Foods grocery store, buses and other automated transport (and with Whos running to catch them). Shops and businesses of all types operate amid the magic and mania of the holiday season. Lights blaze and dazzle like never before. Carolers have become aggressive acapella groups. The Whos now have real jobs and sometimes struggle to make ends meet, including single mom Donna Who, who’s raising her twin toddlers and her daughter Cindy-Lou, while working long hours, including night shifts.

But amid all the bustle, Meledandri and team were determined to keep their ears trained on the story’s emotional heartbeat, which, in many ways, is even more relevant today than it was 60 years ago. I believe we’re living in times with more present challenges than at any time in my lifetime, challenges that could easily make you cynical or give you a sense of hopelessness,” Meledandri says. “Yet the key to facing these challenges is to somehow remain optimistic, connected, and to seek out and embrace joy. That happens when you really embrace those around you. I am drawn to telling stories that empower you to be hopeful in spite of what your immediate circumstances may be. So, the film will, I hope, connect with audiences and somehow encourage those feelings inside of themselves.”

That hope is echoed by his fellow producer, Janet Healy. “I hope that people feel inspired and hopeful when they see this film,” she says. “I think it speaks strongly to us all about the importance of our families, of communities, of inclusion, and of embracing the diversity amongst us. With acts of compassion and kindness we can vastly improve the lives of others, and we can change our world for the better. The message that forgiveness has redemptive power and that generosity is transformative resonates not just for the holiday season, but for us all, all year round.”

 For Mosier and Cheney, The Grinch proved to be a dream job, on multiple levels. “To watch this character of the Grinch find joy and togetherness and family, all these things he rejected, that’s a very powerful story,” Cheney says. “And then you wrap that in Christmas and snow and all of the joy of Whoville, the design of this whole world, and it comes together in this just magical package. I love Christmas, so spending years making a Christmas movie was, for me, just a pleasure. It has been a joy to work on.”

Mosier found that the process gave him a renewed appreciation for Seuss’s original creation. “The world is just so amazing — not just the world of The Grinch but the world of Seuss: the rhyming and the strange creatures and the invented words and all of that,” Mosier says. “So to have an opportunity to build our world out of all that material, and to be able to immerse myself in that … it was something I couldn’t pass up.”

It’s that collaborative team spirit, Healy says, that makes the years of hard work on a film like The Grinch so deeply satisfying. “It takes a community of so many top creatives and technical wizards to bring these movies to the screen,” she says. “Every work day we see the astonishing results of the talents of hundreds of people on the crew who make the performances and the images more than we could ever imagine. Each artist adds something uniquely special and the cumulative effect is a gift to behold, unfolding before our eyes every day throughout the production.”

“We also make these films for ourselves, as well as for children and adults in countries all over the world,” she says. “We see the images thousands of times, over and over, and even after so many viewings we still laugh at the jokes, we are moved by the performances, and we are astonished by images. It is fabulous to work on these films with so many great artists involved, and is a huge privilege every day to have a job that makes films that make kids smile as they fondly remember the imaginary worlds we all created.”

The Screenwriters

Michael Lesieur

Michael Lesieur (Screenplay by) is a Southern California based screenwriter and producer, who first came to prominence by writing the comedy You, Me and Dupree. LeSieur next wrote Maiden Heist, and later wrote Keeping Up with the Joneses. Currently, LeSieur is developing several animated and live action feature projects in the studio, television and independent spaces, including writing Muttnik for WB Animation and adapting The New York Times bestseller Timeless for 20th Century Fox, Scott Free Productions and director Carlos Saldanha. He lives in Newport Beach, California, with his wife, two children and multiple pets.

Tommy Swerdlow

Tommy Swerdlow (Screenplay by) is best known for the Disney comedy Cool Runnings.  As the “writing” half of the team Swerdlow and Michael Goldberg, he was a “go-to” writer for studio family comedies including Little Giants, Bushwhacked and Snow Dogs. He also was the first writer on Shrek. His television credits are highlighted by the WB series Brutally Normal, which he created and executive produced. As a solo entity, Swerdlow has written numerous pilots and screenplays for producers and executives, such as Chris Meledandri, Jon Avnet and John Landgraf. His movie A Thousand Junkies, which he directed, co-wrote and co-starred in had its world premiere at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. Over his career, Swerdlow has worked with some of the most well-known names in Hollywood, including hands-on writing for Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Dawn Steel, Meledandri, Jon Turteltaub, Jordan Kerner and both Greer Shepard and Michael Robin for TV.

A Brief History

Theodor Seuss Geisel (Based on the Book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by) (March 2, 1904 to September 24, 1991), better known by his pen name Dr. Seuss, was a writer and cartoonist who published over 60 books. He published his first children’s book “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” under the name of Dr. Seuss in 1937. Next came a string of best sellers, including “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham.” His rhymes and characters are beloved by generations.

Theodor Seuss Geisel, who published under the name Dr. Seuss, first created the Grinch for “The Hoobub and The Grinch,” a 32-line illustrated poem that debuted in Redbook magazine in May 1955. In that poem, the Grinch is a con man who persuades The Hoobub, who’s happily drowsing in the sun, to trade the sun for a piece of green string.

By that point in 1955, Geisel, at 51, had written, with his then-wife Helen, the 1947 Oscar®-winning documentary, Design for Death, about the history of Japan that lead to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, had become a successful illustrator for magazines and had published fifteen books, including And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories, and Horton Hears a Who! But his most productive years, resulting in the most acclaimed work of his career, were still ahead of him.

In early 1957 he had just completed The Cat in the Hat, and had begun work on what became How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Geisel’s inspiration for the character had come from a surprising place that previous Christmas: himself. “I was brushing my teeth on the morning of the 26th of last December when I noticed a very Grinch-ish countenance in the mirror,” he later told Redbook. “It was Seuss! So I wrote about my sour friend, the Grinch, to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I’d lost.”

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! tells the story of a grumpy misanthrope who lives in a cave on Mt. Crumpet with his dog, Max. He generally avoids the people of Whoville in the valley below, but every year their massive Christmas celebrations, where all the “noise, noise, noise, noise,” especially their singing, drives him to distraction. He decides to steal Christmas, and, posing as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, he strips the town of every toy, trinket, tree and trace of tinsel. But, as he teeters with his towering sleigh above Whoville on Christmas morning, he hears not the sound of crying, but the sound of singing. His realization that Christmas means more than just presents and decorations makes his heart grow “three sizes that day,” and he trumpets his way back into town to return all their presents and holiday trappings and to join the festivities.

Geisel wrote the book quickly, in a matter of weeks. According to the 1995 biography, Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel, by Judith Morgan and Neil Morgan, Geisel said it was the easiest book of his career to write, but he struggled with how to end it in a way that felt universal and secular. “I got hung up getting the Grinch out of the mess,” Geisel said. “I got into a situation where I sounded like a second-rate preacher. Finally, in desperation, without making any statement whatever, I showed the Grinch and the Whos together at the table, and made a pun of the Grinch carving the ‘roast beast.’ I had gone through thousands of religious choices, and then after three months it came out like that.”

Published by Random House in 1957, the same year as The Cat and the Hat, Grinch was the first Seuss book with a seeming villain as its protagonist, and it became an instant critical darling. “Even if you prefer Dr. Seuss in a purely antic mood, you must admit that if there’s a moral to be pointed out, no one can do it more gaily,” The New York Times wrote in its review. “The reader is swept along by the ebullient rhymes and the weirdly zany pictures until he is limp with relief when the Grinch reforms and, like the latter, mellow with good feelings.” Kirkus Review declared the Grinch character, “easily the best Christmas-cad since Scrooge.”

Almost a decade later, the book was adapted into a TV special directed by Chuck Jones, starring the voice of Boris Karloff as both the Grinch and The Narrator. For the special, Geisel himself wrote the lyrics to the now iconic Christmas song, “Welcome Christmas,” and the classic, “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

The special first aired on CBS on December 18, 1966, and would go on to be broadcast on the network each December for the next 22 years, embedding How the Grinch Stole Christmas! into the national consciousness. In 2004, TV Guide ranked it at the top of its list of the 10 Best Family Holiday Specials. Over the years, it would become an annual viewing event for generations of families, a joyous new holiday tradition that also served as a poignant reminder of the true meaning of the Christmas season: love, forgiveness and kindness.

Producer Graham King was persuaded to buy the rights to the story of Freddie Mercury and the band Queen by award-winning writer Peter Morgan. I was shooting the film Hugo, and Peter called me and asked me if I liked the band Queen,’ he recalls. “I said, yes, I love Queen! And he told me he was writing this script on spec and that no one had the rights to their story and that I should think about getting involved.”

The film traces the meteoric rise of the band through their iconic songs and revolutionary sound. They reach unparalleled success, but in an unexpected turn Freddie, surrounded by darker influences, shuns Queen in pursuit of his solo career. Having suffered greatly without the collaboration of Queen, Freddie manages to reunite with his bandmates just in time for Live Aid. While bravely facing a recent AIDS diagnosis, Freddie leads the band in one of the greatest performances in the history of rock music. Queen cements a legacy that continues to inspire outsiders, dreamers and music lovers to this day

King knew something about Freddie’s life from having grown up in London in the 1970s and 1980s and after a long phone conversation with Jim Beach, Queen‘s lawyer, King was introduced to Queen founders, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, and the deal was sealed.

As King expected, May and Taylor were apprehensive at first about the project, but King‘s track record as the man who produced award-winning films about such notable figures as Howard Hughes with The Aviator and Muhammad Ali with Ali, as well as former CIA officer Tony Mendez with Argo, went a good way to assuage their anxieties.

Oscar-winning producer Graham King has worked behind the scenes with the industry’s foremost creative talents in both major motion pictures and independent features. Over the last 30 years, King has produced or executive produced more than 45 films, grossing over  $1.2 billion at the domestic box office and over $2.8 billion worldwide.  Also heralded by critics and film groups, his films have been nominated for 61 Academy Awards®, 38 Golden Globe Awards, and 52 British Academy Film (BAFTA) Awards. His GK Films banner has a three-year, first look, nonexclusive deal with Paramount Pictures, under which King will develop and produce films through his shingle.

“I come from an area of big Hollywood films, and I thought the story deserved to be told on that level,” says King.

“The film is a celebration of the music as well as carrying on the legacy of Queen and Freddie and showing a whole new generation who Freddie was–his background in Zanzibar, his coming to London as an immigrant, the prejudice he dealt with growing up, his shyness and insecurities about his looks, how he battled on so many different fronts, his brilliance as a songwriter and musician, how he found another family in the band, his reinvention as a larger-than-life performer, while always remaining someone everyone loved who could get away with some very outrageous behavior–all framed by the creation of a sound that was innovative and groundbreaking for the time. The period from 1970 to1985 felt like the most important part of Freddie’s and the band’s life story, and it ends with the triumph of Live Aid.”

Anthony McCarten (Darkest Hour, The Theory of Everything) wrote the screenplay, from a story by McCarten and Peter Morgan (The Crown, The Queen). The film is produced by Graham King (The Departed, The Aviator) and Jim Beach (The Krays, The Hotel New Hampshire) and directed by Bryan Singer (X-Men, Superman Returns).

Peter Morgan (Story), CBE, is one Britain’s most celebrated and influential screenwriters. He is the creator behind the highly acclaimed and Golden Globe®-winning Netflix series The Crown, chronicling the inside story of Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street. The first two series starred Golden Globe® and SAG winner Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II, who’s ascension to the British throne shook the British Monarchy after the death of her father. Winning awards on both sides of the Atlantic, the series has been praised as raising the bar in cinematic television. Morgan has been recognized multiple times by the American and British television academies for his writing, receiving multiple BAFTA® and Emmy® nominations for the series.

The Crown was inspired by Morgan’s Tony® award-winning play The Audience, about the relationship between Queen Elizabeth II and her Prime Ministers, as well as the Oscar®-winning film The Queen, both starring Helen Mirren. The Queen garnered Morgan an Oscar® and BAFTA® nomination for Best Screenplay.

Morgan’s illustrious career also includes the award-winning and Tony-nominated play Frost/Nixon, which received critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic before being adapted in to a multi Academy Award®-nominated film of the same name. The film garnered five Oscar® award nominations, including Best Screenplay.  Morgan’s many other film credits include the award-winning The Last King of Scotland, The Damned United and Rush, directed by Ron Howard. His extensive television credits include The Lost Honour of Christopher Jeffries, the critically acclaimed The Deal – the first part of Morgan’s Tony Blair Trilogy (BAFTA® Award for Best Drama) – The Special Relationship and Longford.

In 2017, Morgan was awarded the BFI Fellowship, the institute’s highest honor and the RTS recognized The Crown with a special award in 2018 for its Contribution to British Television.

Anthony Mccarten (Screenplay, Story) is a three-time Academy AwardÒ-nominated and double BAFTAÒ-winning screenwriter and film producer of the films The Theory of Everything (for which Eddie Redmayne won a Best Actor OscarÒ) and Darkest Hour (for which Gary Oldman won the same award), as well as a #1 Sunday Times bestselling author. His novels and nonfiction have been translated into 14 languages. He received early international success with his play “Ladies Night.” Translated into 12 languages, it continues to play worldwide. In 2001, it won France’s premiere theater award for comedy, the Molière Prize. Born in New Zealand, he divides his time between London and Los Angeles. In 2015 he was inducted as a Literary Fellow of the New Zealand Society of Authors.

Starring alongside Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) as the king of pop rock in Bohemian Rhapsody, is Gwilym Lee (Jamestown) as guitarist Brian May; Ben Hardy (The Women in White) as drummer Roger Taylor; Joe Mazzello (Jurassic Park) as bass guitarist John “Deacy” Deacon

May and Taylor were part of the team throughout the entire creative process, just as King wanted it, and their involvement ensured the film remained true to history. “The film is telling their life stories, and no one knows it better than them,” he says. “You can read as many books and magazine articles and watch as many videos and interviews, but when you can actually sit with the guys who can take you through the history, who can tell you anecdotes about Freddie that you’d never find out today, that meant the world to me. We all felt that we shouldn’t make the film unless everything was right–story, cast–everything else had to fall into place. The bottom line for me is for everyone involved to be proud of the storytelling, to be proud of a movie about their life stories that’s going to be shown around the world.”

Brian May and Roger Taylor

The project went through several incarnations until it finally reached the screen, and May and Taylor were impressed by King‘s tenacity and commitment.

“Graham King is a wonderful producer who has been with us all along the way,” says May. “There were moments when Roger and I thought it was never going to happen. So the fact that Graham has managed to pull it together with such a great team and cast is very exciting.”

It’s not surprising that Freddie Mercury still holds a special place in Brian May‘s heart. “There’s too many memories of Freddie,” he recalls fondly.

“I remember that wicked smile and sparkle in his eye. And he would say something totally inappropriate and wicked. But he was just funny and nice, and he didn’t have a bad bone in his body. He did have quite a quick temper, though, and he would react, but underneath that he was very shy, and if there was a confrontation, he would deal with it, and then he didn’t want to know. I remember the great warmth Freddy had and how he wouldn’t waste any time on anything. He was always focused, he always knew what he wanted to get out of a situation. And that’s a good lesson to learn rather than trying to please everybody else in a particular situation.”

King is also proud that the film succeeds in showing how the music came together. “How does a band create their music? That’s a really difficult thing to show on screen,“ he says. “The audience is going to really enjoy seeing that. It’s not just Freddie’s story, it’s also the story of how they created the sound. How did they invent ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ which was completely panned when it came out?”

Starring alongside Malek is Lucy Boynton (Murder on the Orient Express) as Mary Austin

One of the scenes that May was particularly pleased to see included was the band‘s first appearance on legendary BBC-TV program Top of the Pops in 1974 featuring “Killer Queen,” which propelled the band to international stardom, despite or perhaps because of Freddie’s outrageously suggestive performance and even more suggestive skintight outfit.

“Another band cancelled at the last minute, and we were suddenly in,“ says May. “But it was very strange for us because BBC policy then was that nobody played live, you played to track, and the singer lip-synced. It never felt comfortable for us because we were very much a live act. But it made us decide to make the video for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ because we knew we would look ridiculous standing on the stage miming to that. Because the track got to number one and stayed there for six weeks, Top of the Pops played the video for six weeks. We didn’t realize that it was going to go all around the world and have the same effect. In Australia for example, where we hadn’t made much of a mark, it was enormous. That video really turned us into stars.”

The film begins and ends with Queen’s iconic Live Aid performance. Live Aid was one of the most important cultural events of the 1980s, bringing together the world’s biggest superstars in a benefit concert on two stages, Wembley Stadium in London and the John F Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, on July 13, 1985. Organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise funds for those affected by the famine in Ethiopia, the concert was one of the largest satellite link-ups and TV broadcasts of all time, watched by an audience totaling 1.9 billion in 150 countries around the world.

The decision to bookend the story with that incredible live performance made perfect sense to King and the team. The concert came at a pivotal moment as it brought the band back together after Mercury’s move to Germany, where he recorded two solo albums. It also came at a time when Mercury was at his lowest ebb, under the influence of Paul Prenter, surrounded by hangers-on who were exploiting Mercury’s generosity, and falling dangerously into a spiral of drug and alcohol abuse.

Queen‘s performance was a shot in the arm for the Live Aid organizers. “People were watching in the UK, but they weren’t calling in to pledge money, which was what the whole concert was about,” says King. “Freddie came on and did a set that the band had rehearsed for three weeks, so it was a perfect 20-minute set, and he brought everyone together. He made them realize what the event was all about.”

King believes Mercury’s multi-cultural background went some way to explaining why this happened. “I think Freddie was somebody who brought people together, no matter your race, your sexuality, your nationality; people joined together when Freddie came on stage. It was a moment that gave you the chills. When Freddie told people to phone in, people listened and started phoning in. Queen got the largest single donation, around £1million, which in those days was huge!”

Everyone has their own personal memories of the day, but it had a special significance for those who performed there, especially Brian May. “I can remember the rush, everything’s fast and it’s exciting,” he recalls. “Because it was a one-off and kind of terrifying in a very nice way. Like every gig, there was that great relief coming off the stage. You’re just glad nothing terrible happened, there were no train wrecks, and you’ve kind of acquitted yourself well. It was a great feeling, and I remember Bob Geldof was very pleased. It’s a great memory because everyone brushed their egos aside and supported and encouraged each other.”

Graham King has high hopes for the film and its message for the younger generation. “This is a really uplifting film,“ he says. “I hope that if there’s anyone in the audience who is confused or being bullied or feeling like an outcast, they would take to heart what Mary says to Freddie in the film: ‘Don’t you see who you can be? Anything you want to be.’ That’s a very important message in today’s world.”

But it’s also the music that King knows will capture the audience’s imagination. “I go to see a film because I want to feel it, not just see it. For me it was always, if we can get 500 people in a theater clapping and singing along to those powerful anthems that they grew up with and that are a part of their lives, then that’s a film experience. And I think we‘ve done just that. I want people to come out of this film and hug the person they’re next to and sing along with Queen songs. ‘We Will Rock You,’ ‘We Are The Champions,’ ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’–all these songs are larger-than-life and can’t help but put a smile on your face. I wanted to continue the legacy of Freddie Mercury and Queen, to show a younger generation who Freddie Mercury was, how the band survived through times, how the music business has changed, what it was like to make a record in those days, what it was like for four guys to meet and create that special sound. Freddie always called the band his family. And I think there’s no better time in the world to pass on the idea that we are all part of one family, no matter who we are or where we come from.”

Rami Malek agrees: “I hope that everyone leaves the film as inspired by Freddie’s story as I am, feeling confident, feeling inspired. That they know it’s okay to be who you are. I hope that they can sing as loudly as he can and own every truth of theirs, and not feel like they have to hide anything, but that they can just be, and enjoy exactly who they were meant to be.”

Sometime after Insidious, it became my goal to make a sci-fi film that had the creative freedom of an independent film whilst also making it feel like a big and expansive world.

Upgrade is a thrilling and hyper violent vision of the future from the producers of Get Out and The Purge, and writer-director Leigh Whannell,  the creator of Saw and Insidious.

After his wife is killed during a brutal mugging that also leaves him paralyzed, Grey Trace (Logan Marshall Green) is approached by a billionaire inventor with an experimental cure that will “upgrade” his body. The cure – an Artificial Intelligence implant called STEM – gives Grey physical abilities beyond anything experienced and the ability to relentlessly claim vengeance against those who murdered his wife and left him for dead.

Leigh Whannell has steadily gained recognition for his contributions to film through his writing, acting and now directing and was named one of Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch with his directorial debut Insidious: Chapter 3 (film three in the highly successful franchise he co-created).

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Whannell began his career as an actor appearing in acclaimed Australian series such as Neighbours and Blue Heelers. He was also a presenter and a film critic on the cult hit TV series Recovery, which he later went on to host in its last two seasons, interviewing names such as George Clooney, Jackie Chan and Tim Burton.

Whannell, the co-creator of Saw, studied film at the prestigious Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, where he met filmmaker James Wan and where they started developing ideas together, including the 2004 Lionsgate release SAW, which Whannell wrote and starred in. In addition to his work on the screenplay for SAW II, Whannell wrote and starred in SAW III and is an Executive Producer on the SAW Franchise. He is also a creative consultant on the SAW video game. The franchise is recognized as one of the Most Successful Horror Movie Series and named so by the Guinness World Records in 2010. Lionsgate released the latest installment, JIGSAW, on October 27, 2017.

Whannell’s other produced writing credits include the Universal release Dead Silence and the Sony/FilmDistrict releases Insidious, and Insidious: Chapter 2, in which he starred.  Insidious: Chapter 3, which he wrote and directed, grossed over 112M worldwide. He wrote the screenplay for the latest chapter of the Insidious franchise, Insidious: The Last Key.

DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT

 Sometime after Insidious, it became my goal to make a sci-fi film that had the creative freedom of an independent film whilst also making it feel like a big and expansive world. Around this time, I had an idea about a quadriplegic man who was controlled by a computer. And that is when Upgrade was born, but I hadn’t planned to direct it. It was attached to another director but after I directed my  first film – Insidous: Chapter 3 and everyone asked “What is next?” I thought “What about Upgrade?”. I asked the director that it was attached to if I could take it back and he kindly said yes. It felt like it was all meant to happen.

Leigh-Whannell-Featured-ImageMy influences during the writing of Upgrade were films like The Terminator – a perfect example of a relatively low budget independent film that feels much bigger than it is. Besides being brilliantly written and directed by James Cameron, the film pulled off an amazing sleight of hand. Arnold Schwarzenegger played the murderous robot so well that you really believed he was a cyborg under that flesh. He IS the special effect in that movie. And this is something I wanted to do with Upgrade.

The 1980’s were, in my opinion, a great time for science fiction films because they were the height of practical effects. When the 90s arrived, and with them ground breaking CGI films like Jurassic Park and – ironically – Terminator 2, the era of practical, handmade effects became much more quiet. What I miss about that style though, is that the science and the fiction had to live within a box. You couldn’t conjure up anything the way a computer can, so you had to get creative. This made films like Robocop, The Thing, Scanners, Total Recall and many more of that era my inspirations for Upgrade. I didn’t want to simply pay homage to them – I wanted to write a story about thoroughly modern themes in the spirit of those movies. Something tactile and grimy.

Something audiences could see themselves in.

I knew I needed a lead actor who would dedicate himself completely to the physical aspect of the main character, because one of the big special effects is just the actor using his body. In this respect, I am thankful to the almighty Movie Gods for helping me find Logan Marshall-Green. He is not only a brilliant actor who captured the emotional turmoil of the character, but he trained for months on his own time to be able to pull of the robotic, computerized movement I wanted him to enact for the camera.

UPGRADE

The rest of the casting came from auditions. Betty Gabriel blew me away with her audition. She really reached through the screen. I instantly could tell that she could play the role of Cortez. She delivers all the time, on time. For the role of Stem, I only wanted to hear the audio from the auditions and Simon Maiden’s voice was exactly what I imagined when I was writing it. He had this really good interplay with Logan and I thought that they were great partners as actors.

Once we decided to shoot the film in Australia, I insisted on shooting in my hometown of Melbourne. Melbourne has a great gothic, urban feel to it that blends both old and new. It’s futuristic and forward looking whilst also housing imposing Victorian architecture. This mix is exactly what I wanted.

UPGRADE2With Kylie Du Fresne at Goalpost Films, we assembled a talented and dedicated crew in  Melbourne and couldn’t have realized this world without them. Including pre-production, the production took about 3-4 months. It wasn’t a long shoot due to the smaller budget, but the key to victory was a lot of planning.

Cinematographer, Stefan Duscio was a great partner. For the fight scenes, we really wanted that feeling of computer precision and so we actually locked the camera to the actors in the scenes. It gave us this really precise movement that added to the feeling of an artificial intelligence being in control.

I worked really closely with Felicity Abbott, the production designer. She never worked on a movie like this before – which was a huge bonus since I wanted it to feel new and different to the audience. Before production, we had a lot of conversations about the near-future – Alexa, Siri, self-driving cars. However, we wanted it to be touchable and real with nothing too slick or shiny. The film occurs in  the near-future, not 100-200 years in the future.

For the other things we did in the film, we did very practically. We had an amazing VFX company that gave us all the city scenes, and a prosthetics lead on-set that would create a head that we could just blow up!

After shooting the film, I relocated to Sydney and began editing with Andy Canny. His storysense, thoughtful opinions and total focus were a lifeline for me.

I am very thankful for the creation of this film.

– Leigh Whannell

 

There are 26 New Films Released In South Africa during August 2018.

Information provided by the film distributors in South Africa: Ster Kinekor, Empire Entertainment Africa, UIP SA, and Black Sheep Films.  Dates subject to change, visit www.sterkinekor.comwww.cinemanouveau.co.za and www.numetro.co.za for cinemas where the films will be showing.    Report broken links  /

Showing from 31 AugLatest Film Releases / Upcoming film releases

UPGRADE2UPGRADE A brutal mugging leaves Grey Trace paralyzed in the hospital and his beloved wife dead. A billionaire inventor soon offers Trace a cure — an artificial intelligence implant called STEM that will enhance his body. Now able to walk, Grey finds that he also has superhuman strength and agility — skills he uses to seek revenge against the thugs who destroyed his life. Australian science fiction action body horror written and directed by Leigh Whannell (SAW, Insidious). It stars Logan Marshall-Green, Betty Gabriel. Read more / Trailer

LOOKING FOR LOVE Following a disastrous drunken display at her younger sister’s wedding, 38-year-old Buyi has her parents worried that she’s wasting her life working meaningless jobs. Her parents insist that she take her head out of the clouds and focus on finding herself a good man and settle down. Buyi is gutted. She returns from KwaZulu-Natal feeling hopeless about her love situation. Where is a heavyset black woman going to find a man in South Africa? Desperate, she reluctantly allows her sexy best friend, Lindi to help find her a man in the exclusive ‘man market.’ Between questionable concoctions, a quirky magician with a cat obsession, and a sex addict that can’t get enough of a big butt, Buyi quickly loses hope of finding Mr. Right. A hilarious, heart-warming story of acceptance and hope. Directed by Adze ugah, screenplay by Chinaka Iwunze. A new local romantic comedy that stars Celeste Ntuli  Trailer / Showing from 31 August

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION Join the monster family as they embark on a vacation on a luxury monster cruise ship so Drac can take a summer vacation from providing everyone else’s vacation at the hotel. It’s smooth sailing for Drac’s Pack as the monsters indulge in all of the shipboard fun the cruise has to offer, from monster volleyball to exotic excursions, and catching up on their moon tans. But the dream vacation turns into a nightmare when Mavis realizes Drac has fallen for the mysterious captain of the ship, Ericka, who hides a dangerous secret that could destroy all of monsterkind. Read more / Trailer 

First PurgeFIRST PURGE Behind every tradition lies a revolution. Next Independence Day, witness the rise of our country’s 12 hours of annual lawlessness. Welcome to the movement that began as a simple experiment: “The First Purge.” To push the crime rate below one percent for the rest of the year, the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) test a sociological theory that vents aggression for one night in one isolated community. But when the violence of oppressors meets the rage of the marginalized, the contagion will explode from the trial-city

borders and spread across the nation. Read more Trailer

HAPPY TIME MURDERSTHE HAPPY TIME MURDERS When the puppet cast of an ’80s children’s TV show begins to get murdered one by one, a disgraced LAPD detective-turned-private eye puppet takes on the case. Directed by Brian Henson, starring Elizabeth Banks, Melissa McCarthy, Joel McHale. Read more / Trailer 

 

 

 

EVA2EVA Eva is a 2018 French drama film directed by Benoît Jacquot. It is based on the novel Eve by James Hadley Chase. It was selected to compete for the Golden Bear in the main competition section at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival. Eva seems to have all the ingredients needed for a nail-biting, bodice-ripping psychosexual French thriller.Adapted by Jacquot and screenwriter Gilles Taurand, the story centers on a young gigolo, Bertrand (Gaspard Ulliel), who, in the film’s well-staged opening sequence, steals the manuscript of a dying client.Cut to a year or so later, with Bertrand now a celebrated playwright dating the perfect blonde (Julia Roy) and living in a decked-out Parisian apartment. The only problem is that his producer (Richard Berry) has been waiting impatiently for a new play, which the imposter is somehow supposed to write.It’s based on a juicy 1945 pulp novel (written by James Hadley Chase) that was first brought to the screen by blacklisted Hollywood filmmaker Joseph Losey (in a 1962 version starring Jeanne Moreau). It has an eerie lakeside setting in the photogenic city of Annecy, situated at the foot of the French Alps. And it has a first-rate cast toplined by Isabelle Huppert, who plays the film’s titular character with a sly, slightly aloof je ne sais quoi abandon. Read more / Trailer 

Roman Polanski celebrates an illustrious 57 years in the cinema with Based on a True Story  (D’après une histoire vraie), an adaptation of the French novel by bestselling author Delphine de Vignan.

The film follows a writer (Emmanuelle Seigner) struggling to complete a new novel, while followed by an obsessed fan (Eva Green), with Polanski directing from a script adapted by Polanski and Olivier Assayas, a French film director, screenwriter and film critic.

Read more about Roman Polanski /  Polanski’s Feature Films are listed at end of interview

Based on a true story only took a year from the announcement to the Cannes film festival world premiere presentation.  How did you get involved with this project?

It was Emmanuelle who handed me Delphine De Vigan’s novel, stating “you have to read this, this could be a film.” She was right!  I reached out to Wassim Béji, the producer who retained the book rights. We met for the first time days prior to Cannes last year and everything unfolded incredibly quickly from that point on.

What appealed to you about Delphine De Vigan’s novel? One could argue that this story of manipulation, domination, confinement, and suspense was made for you.

What appealed to me first and foremost were the characters and these peculiar and unsettling situations that they find themselves in. These are indeed themes that I previously explored in Cul-Desac, Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby. This is also a book that tells a story of a book – which I find very interesting. That was also the case with The Ninth Gate and Ghost Writer. It’s my MacGuffin – this ‘thing’ that triggers intrigue, which happens to be an object. Also – and I probably should have started with this – the book gave me this great opportunity to explore confrontation between two women. I have often showed conflict between two men along with a man and a woman, but never two women.

When reading the book, one sees the seductive appeal of the mirroring nature between reality and fiction. Even in Venus and fur, you were never sure if Emmanuelle Seigner’s character was real, playing a game or fictional…

That’s exactly right, I find this subject fascinating.

Why so?

I am not sure, that’s not a question that I ask myself. I know that this ambiguity is instinctively appealing to me. It’s interesting, Venus in Fur is one of the rare films that I have directed where the woman isn’t a victim!

Olivier Assayas

Olivier Assayas

Olivier Assayas wrote the screenplay. How did he come on board?

Olivier’s last two films were about women. I was familiar with his work, I knew that he had written for other directors, and that he was effective. I trusted that he would be able to deliver a great shooting script right out of the gate.

How was your experience working with him?

Olivier had a very clear and concise vision of how to convert this 500 page novel into a screenplay. That’s an incredible skill.  We mostly collaborated over skype, it was a continuous exchange of ideas.

In addition to his efficiency, what did Olivier specifically bring to the script?

As soon as Olivier grasped the essence of the book we started our conversations of how we wanted to adapt it, it was undeniable that we were on the same page. Billy Wilder said it best when asked if it was important for a director to know how to write – his response “No, but it helps if he knows how to read!”

The film is incredibly faithtul to the book…

I always strive to stay faithful to the source material when I am adapting. I believe this stems from my childhood. I was so often disappointed by film adaptations of my favorite stories, films that I was so eager to see – but the characters that I loved disappeared. The stories were never quite the same … I promised myself then that if I ever worked in film and adapted a story, I would remain faithful.

BASED ON A TRUE STORY

Did you always have Emmanuelle Seigner in mind to play the novelist?

Initially, we debated which role Emmanuelle would be best for, but as soon as we started writing, it became apparent that she was the perfect choice to portray the novelist. We therefore needed to find her counterpart, someone very unsettling.

Did Eva Green come to mind immediately?

Yes, and you only need to see the film to understand why. We had never met, but I knew her body of work. I had been blown away by her performance in Robert Rodriguez’ Sin City: A Dame To Kill For. It was a wonderful experience working with Eva, but even more so working with Eva and Emmanuelle together. From the onset, Eva and Emmanuelle got along extremely well – which isn’t always a given between actors. Their friendship was a godsend.

Do you find it hard to direct the woman with whom you share your life?

It’s easier than … living together! [Laughs] What surprised me, with one much like the other, was how prepared both actresses were. And yet, they would receive the script piecemeal, which we were still tweaking whilst in production.  Emmanuelle and Eva were both consummate professionals and came to the table with excellent ideas. Emmanuelle was specifically interested in constructing a character which was a departure from her past roles.

How are Emmanuelle and Eva both different and similar to their characters?

In her everyday, Eva is reserved and guarded and one could easily have expected that to transpire in our working dynamic. But it was the opposite. She was open, never complained, and very smart – she understood all the nuisances of the script and what was expected of her. Honestly, thanks to Eva and Emmanuelle this production was a true pleasure, despite the short production schedule.

How long was the shoot?

We shot the film in 12 weeks, but this was a challenging film.

How so?

It was challenging as we didn’t have time for rehearsals, and as such I would have to explore each scene with the actors as we were shooting. The scenes where it’s just the two actresses were easier, as they could play against each other. That said, all the scenes where Delphine is alone, I had to find ways of crafting compelling moments with nothing: I had to create a very specific mood, be very meticulous with the details – I had a very precise atmosphere in mind. Contrary to what one may think, creating this setting is what takes the most time. Same goes with the birthday scene where our two protagonists are alone and no one shows up. We had to convey time passing without it becoming lackluster and it’s certainly not easy to create time lapses with only two characters and just one room… especially, when we did not want to use repeated fades.

Instead of relying on a voice over, a device used in the book as it is written in the first person, you chose to portray this mirroring game between reality and fiction (the heart of the story) through staging, imagery, and most importantly your directives for Eva green’s performance.

Isn’t that the role of the director? That’s precisely the challenges of this film. We had to feed these characters with a certain ambivalence. It’s one of the key ingredients for a strong performance, which has to provoke doubt, incertitude and suspicion within the viewer. This reminds me of puppet shows growing up, where the children were both paralyzed by fear and happiness all at the same time – the intrigue always unfolded as they feared but also as they expected. Recreating that feeling for adults, is fun for me. I hope the audience finds it equally rewarding.

In all your secondary characters – the downstairs neighbor; the book editor; even François, Delphine’s partner – we are reminded of your characters in The Tennant – which are also dark and sarcastic. 

A little, I guess, but to be honest I hadn’t thought of it. It’s most likely because the Cannes Festival presentation for The Tennant is a tough memory. We were destroyed by the press and Gerard [Brach, the screenwriter] never recovered. It took time before the film became a ‘cult classic’ as they say.

Based on a true story starts off as a dark comedy and turns into a thriller when the heroes find themselves in the country house… all of a sudden we are in misery!

Isn’t that country house great? When we were shooting the interior sequences, I would forget that we were not on location but on a set in the Bry-sur-Marne stages designed by Jean Rabasse! The exteriors of the house are real, of course, but the interiors – as with the apartment – are movie sets.

In this film, you were truly able to assemble the ‘dream team’: Pawel Edelman as the DP, with whom you have worked with since the pianist; and composer Alexandre Desplat, who you have collaborated with since The Ghost Writer…

We all share the same love for film. We get along so well! When you work with people for as many years as we have, you develop a shorthand, you speak the same language and everyone knows exactly what to expect. Our conversations are purely technical, as some things are now just evident to us. With Pawel, for example, we only ever discussed the format of the film. We chose to shoot in Scope to escape a closed door feeling. The film is less so the story of intimacy than it is confrontation, a struggle for dominance and manipulation. Shooting in Scope allowed us to expand the world and further exploit certain situations.

And with Alexandre Desplat, did you give him specific instructions?

Not at all, I gave him the screenplay and described my vision for the film. I wanted suspense along with the unexpected. It’s hard to relay what we discussed, as I often speak in onomatopoeias: “in this scene, it could go… wouuuh!”

What made you think of casting Vincent Perez as François, Delphine’s partner?

I have long been looking for an opportunity to work with Vincent Perez, he’s a friend. In the role of François, I wanted someone who resembled Delphine De Vigan’s real partner in life [François Busnel] who reminds me of Vincent. I thought of him immediately. We met and he quickly accepted the role. He instinctively knew how to balance the kindness and the distance that the character required.

You also cast Josee Dayan, Brigitte Rouan and Noemie Lvovsky – who are all directors. Was that a coincidence?

I enjoy working with directors, as they are often very good actors and also generally very easy to work with. When writing a screenplay, I have a very clear idea of what my characters look like. So once we start casting, I seek actors that most closely resemble the image in my mind. Josée Dayan reminded me of a ‘tough’ book editor that I had once met. With Brigitte Roüan, it took longer. The actresses that we met with for this role didn’t fit my exact vision. One day, I fell upon a photo of Brigitte which perfectly corresponded with what I had in mind.

Have you met Delphine De Vigan?

Yes, of course. I met her as soon as Olivier and I started working on the adaptation. And then again, towards the end of the shoot. We wanted to shoot during the actual ‘Paris Book Fair’, and in order to do so we had to wait until March of this year to capture these scenes in question. Whilst we were there, the organizers invited Delphine, Olivier and myself to meet with the readers. We experienced a warm welcome. The panel was very well attended – there were a lot of people – and when we asked who had read the book, two thirds of the room raised their hands, mostly all women. Delphine de Vigan wrote a story that spoke to women and it was not only important but also satisfying for me to create a film for them.

Roman Polanski’s Feature Films

1961 – Knife in the Water. Script written by Polański together with Jerzy Skolimowski and Jakub Goldberg. Polański also dubbed the hitchhiker’s voice. A psychological drama. A married couple invites a hitchhiker to their yacht. Three people in a dramaturgically closed situation: an attractive woman and two men of different age and social status. The presence of the woman makes them rivals, each seeking to get advantage. The older man wants to impress others with his financial status, the younger pretends to be independent and contemptuous of material goods. While seemingly winning the rivalry, the younger man turns out to be a poser. The older man, in turn, proves a coward shunning responsibility. Interpreted in the context of the generation gap, Knife in the Water was received enthusiastically for its universality, while being attacked by the Polish authorities.

1964 – La riviere de diamants ou Amsterdam (The Diamond Necklace or Amsterdam). A story within the film Les plus belle escroqueries du monde (The Most Beautiful Frauds of the World). Script by Gerard Brach. A young woman commits a brilliant fraud to get into possession of a piece of jewellery, using a man she has just met. Pretending to be the man’s wife, she misleads the gullible jeweler, orders the jewel delivered to the man’s house, then runs away with the necklace. The theft is clearly not just art for the art’s sake, for she goes on to swap the necklace for a … parrot. The story directed by Polański was considered the most interesting of all, but the critics found some similarities with the plot of Frank Borzage’s 1936 Temptation, and Polański had to repel accusations of plagiarism.

1965 – Repulsion. Polański wrote the script together with Gerard Brach. The world is seen from the point of view of the central character (played by Catherine Deneuve), whose mind is being increasingly attacked by a mental illness. Alone in the flat after her sister has left, she gives in to obsessions that till then were suppressed. The fear instigated by the sick image of the world created by her imagination pushes her to committing a crime. Repulsion was compared to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, and the carefully dosed suspense and claustrophobic scenery contributed to its success.

1966 – Cul-De-Sac. Script written by Polański together with Gerard Brach. The life of a married couple (George and Teresa) living in a secluded castle is interrupted by the arrival of two gangsters, brought here by their own problems. The gangsters are waiting for the arrival of their mythical boss.The ‘cul-de-sac’ applies both to the castle dwellers and to the criminals. Using black humour, Polański entertains the viewers with his favourite topic – the analysis of the relationship between the dominant and the subjugated. The characters’ fight for domination is reduced to absurdity. Critics have pointed out the movie’s kinship with Ionesco and Beckett. Awards: The Golden Bear at the Berlin Festival, 1966.

1967 – Dance of the Vampires (the shortened version also called The Fearless Vampire Killers). Polański wrote the script together with Gerard Brach, and played Alfred, the professor’s assistant. A brilliant parody of a classical vampire horror, the movie tells the story of a professor and his assistant, Alfred, seeking to destroy the ancient tribe of Transsylvanian vampires. Their adventures abound in funny as well as terrifying situations. Although the professor and Alfred fail to defeat the vampires, viewers should not leave the cinema terrified. Words of praise were said for Polański the actor and for Sharon Tate, Polański’s then fiancée and playing Alfred’s beloved.

1968 – Rosemary’s Baby. Script written by Polański after a novel by Ira Levine. A young couple are expecting a child. The young woman, played by the delicate Mia Farrow, is a victim of perfidious cunning. She does not know that her husband, a member of a devil-worshipping sect, has signed a pact with the devil and that her baby will be devil’s offspring. Viewers find out the truth gradually, learning about it from the woman’s perspective and, like her, are suffused with lingering and seemingly unfounded fear. “Polański is not after sensational plots. What he wants is an engrossing, overpowering climate”, writes Adam Garbicz in The Cinema: A Magic Vehicle. Rosemary’s Baby was considered a innovative movie, Polański having achieved the climate of a horror using novel means. Awards: The French Film Critics’ Association Award for the best foreign film, 1970.

1971 – Macbeth. Script written by Polański together with Kenneth Tynan. Another film based on Shakespeare’s tragedy, after the movies by Welles and Kurosawa. Polański has cut the text short, gave up the poetic form, shifted the apportioning of guilt and changed the psychological portraits of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. The first movie made after the murders of his wife and friends in Polański’s house, it was found too gory by the critics, although the film’s failure should be attributed to Polański’s biographical context rather than to its faults.

1972 – Che? (What?). Polański wrote the script together with Gerard Brach and played the role of Mosquito. A frivolous movie made in Italy, this is a story of erotic adventures of a young hitchhiker stopping at a villa full of eccentric characters. Considered Polański’s biggest disaster, the film was not redeemed by Marcello Mastroianni nor Polański as the buoyant Mosquito. Not shown in Poland.

1974 – Chinatown. Script by Robert Towne, with Polański playing the man with the knife who slits the detective’s nose. Polański’s return to the U.S. after his European failures proved fortunate. Chinatown is a movie of the traditional thriller genre with elements of pastiche, with a melancholic detective, a beautiful woman and a ruthless man. Step by step the plot unveils a corruption affair related to the construction of a river dam as well as gruesome, guarded family secrets. Superb acting by Jack Nicholson an Faye Dunaway. Major awards: The Oscar for the Best Screenplay, 1974; The Golden Globe for the best directed film, 1975; BAFTA Award for Jack Nicholson in the Best Actor category.

1976 – Le Locataire (The Tenant). Script by Polański and Gerard Brach based on a novel by Roland Topor, with Polański playing the part of Trelkovsky. After Repulsion, it is another study of a mental illness and Polański’s favourite topic of the amazing pleasure that people take in tormenting others. Trelkovsky, a lonely émigré, does not realize the danger he is in when renting a flat in an old Parisian tenement. Soon he will commit suicide, just like the previous tenant, but first, driven into illness by other tenants, who, filled with xenophobia and dislike of foreigners and émigrés, he will masochistically submit to oppression.

1979 – Tess. Script by Polański, Gerard Brach and John Brownjohn based on Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles. A story of frustrated love, pain, wrongdoing, revenge and well-deserved punishment. Asked why he reached for a 19th-century novel, Polański answered that he wanted to talk about “the deepest, most important human feelings of which we have been ashamed for many years for fear of being called simpletons”. Awards: The Los Angeles Association of Film Critics’ Award in the Best Director category, 1980; the Oscar Awards for the best cinematography, best set decoration and best costumes, 1980; BAFTA award for the best cinematography.

1986 – Pirates (the director co-wrote the script with Gerard Brach and John Brownjohn). An adventure lacking in genre-specific dynamics, with slow narration and protagonists who fail to win the audience’s sympathy. Found too gory for a movie targeted at teenagers.

1988 – Frantic (he co-wrote the script with Gerard Brach). Harrison Ford as a surgeon arriving in Paris for a medical conference fighting with his wife’s kidnappers, gangsters and spies. A thriller which does not aspire to much and has a banal story, but with superb acting by Harrison Ford and photographs by Witold Sobocinski, the Polish director of photography.

1992 – Lunes De Fiel (Bitter Moon) (he co-produced and co-wrote of the script with Gerard Brach and John Brownjohn, after a novel by Pascal Bruckner). Two married couples are left with each other’s company while on a ship journey. Like in many other of his films, Polański penetrates the murky areas of the human mind and analyses its penchant for cruelty, humiliation of others and perversion. The film tells the story of an attempt by the degenerate couple, its past full of mutual cruelty, to deprave the couple who, slightly bored, are an easy target to manipulate through sex.

1994 – Death and the Maiden (he co-wrote the script with the Ariel Dorfman and Rafael Yglesias, after Dorfman’s play). A psychological drama set in South America. After the ruling regime has been democratically overthrown, the hunt for oppressors begins. The story of a meeting of the torturer and his victim has been staged in the manner of a thriller, with the usual suspense, mystery and an unexpected solution, skillfully telling a universal truth about the dark side of the human nature.

1999 – The Ninth Gate (producer and co-writer of the script together with Enrique Urbizu and John Brownjohn, after the novel Dumas Club by Arturo Perez-Reverty). A horror in which a secondhand bookstore owner who traces rare books assumes the role of a detective looking for a book written by Lucifer and opening the gate to the Kingdom of Shadows. The film was found lacking in suspense and using stereotypes and cliches.

2002 – The Pianist (he co-wrote the script with Ronald Harwood, after Władysław Szpilman’s memoirs). A true story of the pianist Władysław Szpilman hiding on the Arian side of Warsaw after the city’s ghetto is closed down and the Warsaw Rising collapses. Lonely as a Robinson Crusoe in the city ruins, Szpilman – ‘a tragic lucky man’, to use the words of the film critic Tadeusz Sobolewski – survives, helped by a music-loving German officer, while all his family and relatives perish. Szpilman’s memoirs inspired a movie directed by Jerzy Zarzycki in 1951. The script, loosely based on the book and written by Jerzy Andrzejewski and Czesław Miłosz under the title of The Robinson of Warsaw, turned politically unacceptable to the then authorities, and the changes that were made, including a new name, The Untamed Town, left it having nothing in common with the original, so much so that Miłosz withdrew his name from the credits. Major awards: The BAFTA Award in the Best Film and Best Director categories; The Oscar Award of the American Academy of Film Art in the Best Director category and nomination in the Best Film category; The David di Donatello Italian Academy Award in the Best Foreign Film category.

2005 – Oliver Twist. Screen adaptation of the Charles Dickens’ classic novel.

2010 – The Ghost Writer (co-writer of the script with Robert Harris). Screen adaptation of the Robert Harris’ novel. Awards: 2010 – Silver Bear in the Best Director category at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival.

2012 – Carnage. A screenplay adaptation of Yasmin Reza’s stage play The God of Carnage, it’s a hilarious take on societal prejudices, underlying aggressions and attempts to cover them up.

2013 –Venus in Fur. Starring Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric, the film is an adaptation of the off-Broadway and Broadway play by David Ives of the same title. The plot revolves around the cat-and-mouse game between a director and an aspiring actress.

2017 – Based on a True Story

2018 – D. In 2018 Polanski continued preparing to direct D, a film about the notorious Dreyfus affair in the 19th century, in which one of the few Jewish members of the French Army’s general staff was wrongly convicted of passing military secrets to the German Empire and sent to Devil’s Island, only to be acquitted 12 years later. The film is written by Robert Harris, who is working with Polanski for the third time.

 

 

 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Polanski

An unprecedented cinematic journey 10 years in the making with the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe in play, Avengers: Infinity War brings to the screen the ultimate, deadliest showdown of all time.

The eagerly anticipated Avengers: Infinity War, the third installment in the “Avengers” franchise and 19th Marvel Studios film to date,  marks the 10-year anniversary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which began with the release of “Iron Man” in 2008.

Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War is directed by Emmy Award-winning directors Anthony and Joe Russo from an original screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely.

Based on the Marvel comic franchise first published in 1963, Avengers: Infinity War, continues the lineage of epic big-screen adventures chronicled in  Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel’s The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy,  Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther.

Avengers: Infinity War picks up as the Avengers and their allies have continued to protect the world from threats too large for any one hero to handle, but a dangerous menace has emerged from the cosmic shadows: Thanos. A despot of intergalactic infamy, Thanos will stop at nothing to collect all six Infinity Stones in his quest to wield unimaginable power and his twisted will on all of humanity.

Assembling a team that includes members from every Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, the Avengers and their Super Hero allies must sacrifice like never before in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.

AIW Poster

Marvel Studios’ “Avengers: Infinity War” is the preeminent collection of iconic Super Hero characters in one film and stars Robert Downey Jr., as Tony Stark/ Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Don Cheadle as Colonel James Rhodes/War Machine, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Paul Bettany as Vision,  Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier, Idris Elba as Heimdall, Danai Gurira as Okoye, Benedict Wong as Wong, Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Dave Bautista as Drax, featuring Vin Diesel as Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, with Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, with Benicio Del Toro as The Collector, with Josh Brolin as Thanos, and Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord.

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Celebrating 10 Years Of The Marvel Cinematic Universe

On May 2, 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe began with the release of Iron Man. The film was a worldwide blockbuster hit with fans and critics, and would serve for years as the cornerstone from which Marvel Studios would build an empire that has produced many of the top-grossing films of all time. In the ten years since the film’s release, Marvel Studios has opened a record-breaking 18 consecutive films at #1, with five films grossing over a $1 billion dollars and a collective total of over $13 billion at the worldwide box office.

In February 2018, with the release of Black Panther, Marvel Studios continued its box office domination. From the time of its release, the film has risen to become both a massive cultural phenomenon and a financial success. “Black Panther” recorded the fifth biggest opening weekend of all time with $202 million and is the highest grossing superhero film at the domestic box office. The film has grossed over $1.3 billion worldwide to date.

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Black Panther

President of Marvel Studios and“Avengers: Infinity Wa” producer Kevin Feige explains how Marvel has been able to continue its unprecedented box office and critical success within its ever-expanding franchises and characters.  “We were hoping ‘Iron Man’ would make enough money that we could make another movie,” recalls Feige.  “If that film didn’t work, there would not be an MCU as we know it today. But it was during production of the film that we had our first glimpse of what we were building towards when we shot the end credits tag scene with Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Downey Jr.”

Feige continues, “I have said this from the beginning, but it still holds up, there is no magic formula that we duplicate. Each film is a separate entity that must work on its own merit as well as work within an interconnected narrative. The strength of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the depth and complexity of its characters, all of which are imperfect in some way. That’s what makes our stories and characters interesting and why they have withstood the test of time.”

With the success of“Marvel’s The Avenger” came a realization for Marvel Studios, as Feige explains, “‘The Avengers’ taught us that audiences really enjoyed the cross-pollination of all the different franchises and were unequivocally going to support us if we continued to make quality films. This has allowed us to plot out everything that we’ve done over the last ten years and build to ‘Avengers: Infinity War,’ which is the biggest collection of Super Heroes ever assembled in one film.”

For Marvel Studios co-president and executive producer Louis D’ Esposito, part of the secret sauce has been in populating the Marvel Cinematic Universe with what is undeniably the most talented ensemble of actors assembled under one brand, with 16 Academy Award® winners and 22 Academy Award nominees.

“As you look back at ‘Iron Man,’ the casting of Robert Downey Jr. and hiring of Jon Favreau were probably the most important decisions we’ve ever made,” comments D’Esposito. “By casting Robert Downey Jr., not only did we get a great actor who portrayed one of our most iconic characters, it told the industry that we were serious about hiring great actors. Robert attracted Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow, and we already had Terrence Howard on board. For ‘Thor,’ it was Sir Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman, and it just snowballed. So, we quickly became known as a studio that is going make superhero movies, but also tell great stories with the most talented actors possible.”

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“With Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. we really found and developed and honed what would become the in-house style of Marvel Studios, both tonally in our filmmaking and behind the scenes in our process,” adds Kevin Feige.  “‘Avengers: Infinity War is our 19th release, and we’ve carried that with us. Over the last ten years Robert has become a creative collaborator and partner across all our films and is a great supporter and mentor to all the actors that we have populated our films with.

“We often say he’s the chairman of the acting department because on the ‘Avengers’ sets he’s the biggest star that we have, but he welcomes every actor with open arms into the MCU, behind the scenes, in the press, and on set when he’s working. He really puts our actors at ease and allows them to then do their best work. So, it can’t be understated what Robert has done for us. There would not be an MCU without Robert Downey Jr.,” concludes Feige.

From Page To Screen: The Directors And The Writers

While Avengers: Infinity War, has been ten years in the making, selecting the greatest ensemble of superhero characters for the film fell squarely into the laps of directors Anthony and Joe Russo, who were tapped by Kevin Feige to helm the studios biggest film to date.

Feige explains why they were the first choice to direct the film: “From the first film they did with us, ‘The Winter Soldier,’ which I believe is one of the best films that we’ve made, Joe and Anthony Russo showed an uncanny ability to bring out the best in these characters. They also have the ability to tap into deeper themes and take characters to unexpected places and to do it with a flair and a style that people come to expect from a Marvel Studios production.”

For the Russo brothers, the opportunity to direct “Avengers: Infinity War” was the opportunity of a lifetime that they had been building towards since they stepped into the MCU on “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

“It was a very personal journey for us in being given the opportunity to direct these films,” says Joe Russo. “We started a story in ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ that we wanted to finish in these two films. It is a story that consumes the entire Marvel universe and it has one overarching theme to it, which is ‘what does it cost to be a hero in a world where there are no easy answers?’ That is the theme that ties together ‘The Winter Soldier,’ ‘Civil War,’ ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and the next ‘Avengers.’ So, what we were looking to bring to this film is the next chapter in the journey of the Avengers as they struggle to define themselves as heroes and what it means to be a hero.”

Anthony and Joe Russo

The Russo brothers were born a year apart in Cleveland, Ohio, where they grew up on the east side, and graduated from Benedictine High School before embarking on their film careers (Anthony in ’88 and Joe in ’89). In 1994, they used credit cards and student loans to finance “Pieces,” an experimental comedy about a criminally inclined trio of brothers. They shot the film in and around Cleveland with the help of numerous friends and family. Their gamble paid off when the film screened at both the Slamdance and American Film Institute festivals in 1997, earning Joe a Best Actor award from the latter.

“When we came onto ‘Winter Soldier,’ Marvel had this ‘one movie at a time’ philosophy, which Joe and I really admired,” adds Anthony Russo. “Even though there is certainly a plan and ideas about where things can go, the focus is always on the film you’re making, as it’s our job just to make that movie the best it can be regardless of any other film in the universe. You want to find the potential in that particular story and that is how we came to our process.”

Russo continues, “Our experience of working on ‘Civil War’ was really helpful in getting us prepared for this film because we knew that there was a culmination coming when we were shooting that film. We thought it was such a great place to leave the Avengers divided at the end of ‘Civil War’ because we knew the greatest threat they would ever face would be coming in ‘Infinity War.’  In storytelling, you always want the most extreme and want your heroes to be at their lowest point when they meet their worst threat. That’s a great jumping off point for a story. We were smelling that as we were working on ‘Civil War,’ and that’s when I think Joe and I began to start thinking about how to carry it forward.”

For executive producer Trinh Tran, who collaborated with the Russos on “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Captain America: Civil War,” reteaming with the brothers was the right choice given the size and scope of the film.  She offers, “‘Civil War’ was a big testament to what the Russos could accomplish considering the large amount of characters in play. We laugh now because we all thought that 16 lead actors were a challenge. But on this film, we have a story that includes over 30 integral characters. But Anthony and Joe proved that they really understood each character and were the best at their craft in seamlessly integrating all of them together in a way that feels authentic.”

Helping the filmmakers develop and craft the story were screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who had previously collaborated with the Russo brothers on “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Captain America: Civil War.”

Christopher Markus & Stephen Mcfeely are the screenwriters behind several Marvel Studios films, including Captain America: Civil War, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor 2: The Dark World and the upcoming fourth installment of the “Avengers” franchise on May 6, 2019.

Christopher Markus & Stephen Mcfeely

The writing duo also recently penned Michael Bay’s controversial true crime film, “Pain & Gain” and have taken moviegoers to the land of Narnia for all three big-screen adventures, most recently “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” after co-writing the adaptation of the global box-office hits, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (which earned them nominations for the Saturn, Hugo and Humanitas Awards) and “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.”

Markus and McFeely have been writing together since 1995. Their first screenplay, You Kill Me, was directed by John Dahl in 2007. They also penned the original screenplay for the critically acclaimed HBO feature The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. Markus and McFeely won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special, as well as a Writers Guild Award.

“Markus and McFeely understand the voices of each of the characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe about as well as anybody,” comments Joe Russo. “It really was a unique challenge to try and bring together these many characters into one film, combined with the scale and bringing closure to ten years of this grand experiment that has been the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is both alluring and daunting. We wouldn’t have gone into the trenches to tell a story like this with anyone else besides Markus and McFeely because you need a very tight team whose compasses are all pointing in the same direction to pull off a story like this.”

“I loved our story development process with Kevin and Markus and McFeely,” adds Anthony Russo. “We spend months in the room with Markus and McFeely just telling each other about potential stories. Sometimes we would run with a character for a little while, and think of big events that can involve several characters. Then we’ll trace out how that affects everybody on a narrative level or where that allows us to take the characters and the story. So, it’s really this very exciting process of pitching one another stories and then seeing which ones we start to respond to. From that, it begins to give us the ability to spin and build a larger narrative.”

“The story of “Avengers: Infinity War” is the result of everything we’ve ever done to this point,” says Kevin Feige. “It is the unprecedented culmination of a series of storylines interlinked together over 10 years and 18 films.”

“We’re big structure guys, so first we lay out all the possible people that could be in the movie and then whittle it down to who are the people who have arcs and stories to tell,” says screenwriter Stephen McFeely. “Then we figure out how we can group them in such a way that they all get enough time to explore those arcs, but without dominating the entire movie.  So, in the structure of ‘Avengers: Infinity War,’ you’ll see that it is woven into four or five parts, and we’ll be cutting back and forth between those parts.”

“This film is not one long scene with thirty-five people in it,” adds Christopher Markus.  “The characters are woven in the story in a particular way so it allows us to take smaller bites at telling the story in the film. You make someone fightable and beatable by making them human with complexities and emotional life. This allows you to poke and dissect them in ways that aren’t just, ‘I can punch you in the face really hard.’”

“Markus and McFeely have been with us since the earliest days of the studio,” says Kevin Feige. “Stephen Broussard brought them in for a meeting in probably 2008 on what would become ‘Captain America: The First Avenger.’ They were the sole writers on that film, ‘The Winter Soldier’ and ‘Civil War,’ and helped us on ‘Thor: The Dark World’ and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.’ They really are amazing writers as you can see by just how diverse and tonally different the ‘Captain America’ trilogy is. Markus and McFeely thrive on changing tones. They are also very deft at handling many characters and weaving them into a singular storyline, which was critical on ‘Avengers: Infinity War.’”

AVENGERS 3

Commenting on the Russos’ style of filmmaking, screenwriter Christopher Markus says, “Joe and Anthony are big cinephiles, so they are able to match the style of movie to the story of the movie. Not all directors can do that. You can hand some directors a story, and they can only do it the way they always do it. But through the years I’ve been fascinated with Joe and Anthony Russo because they really nailed both ‘Winter Soldier’ and ‘Civil War,’ which are similar in their style in that they’re a little cinema verité with a bit of a washed-out look and very grounded in reality.”

But for the directors, a shift in style was necessary to bring “Infinity War” to the big screen. “Joe and Anthony understood from the outset that this film could not be in the same style but they are equipped and talented in being able to adapt their filming style to fit the film story’s tone and visual style,” explains executive producer Trinh Tran.” “In this story, you’re going to get a much lusher look and feel. It’s also a bit of a space odyssey as well. There are certainly amazing fights that will still be visceral, but we didn’t force a style on a story. They are choosing the style to suit the characters and actors, which ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ has in spades.”

“The most important thing for any of our Marvel Studios’ films is character and story and how we can bring to light what makes these characters so entertaining and beloved over the course of this ten-year cinematic saga,” says Kevin Feige. “What’s always the most fun about an ‘Avengers’ film is seeing characters that have never before interacted with each other interacting for the first time. So now in ‘Infinity War,’ we will have for the very first time some of the Avengers meeting Spider-Man, the Avengers encountering Doctor Strange, a character that wasn’t on their radar, and they also meet the Guardians of the Galaxy for the very first time.”

Screenwriter Stephen McFeely adds, “It is a challenge to make sure that we’re always on story and that there’s a big nasty threat coming, but we also have a lot of funny characters and humorous beats in the film. When you have characters meeting for the first time and they rub up against each other, you really want audiences to enjoy themselves. You don’t want it to be a dour moment. We we’re very cognizant of modulating the story and tone to make sure that every scene had enough room for editing so that we keep reminding people that there is some potentially bad stuff going on in the background.”

Summing up the symbiotic relationship that the directing duo shares with the screenwriters, Anthony Russo says, “Markus and McFeely have an incredible sense of character and character is always king in anything we are doing. We always build our action around character. We always design our comedy around character. And Markus and McFeely have a remarkable grasp on developing well-rounded characters, which is why they’re able to deal with so many different characters in the MCU. They’re the greatest partners we could possibly ask for in these films because they understand this vast universe perhaps better than anybody on a storytelling level.”

As remarkable as Vincent’s brilliant paintings, is his passionate and ill-fated life, and mysterious death.

If there’s one film that transcends its uniqueness, it’s Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman’s Loving Vincent,  the world’s first fully oil painted feature film that brings the paintings of Vincent van Gogh to life to tell his remarkable story.

Every one of the 65,000 frames of the film is an oil-painting hand-painted by 125 professional oil-painters who travelled from all across the world to the Loving Vincent studios in Poland and Greece to be a part of the production. As remarkable as Vincent’s brilliant paintings, is his passionate and ill-fated life, and mysterious death.

Loving Vincent had a 7 year production journey – director Dorota Kobiela had originally planned it as a short film. Before they began writing the script, Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman read 40 different publications about Vincent and visited 19 museums in 6 countries to view around 400 Van Gogh paintings.

Read More: How the Filmmakers of Loving Vincent Brought Van Gogh’s Paintings to Life

VINCENT 2

Hugh Welchman and Dorota Kobiela.

A graduate from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Dorota Kobiela was awarded the “Minister of Culture scholarship” for special achievements in painting and graphics for four consecutive years. Through friends Dorota discovered animation and film, and immediately threw herself into learning these new artistic disciplines, attending The Warsaw Film School, Direction Faculty.

She has directed one live action short film, The Hart in Hand (2006) and five animated shorts – ‘The Letter’ (2004), ‘Love me’ (2004), ‘Mr. Bear’ (2005), Chopin’s Drawings (2011) and Little Postman (2011). Little Postman was the world’s first, and to her knowledge still only, Stereoscopic Painting Animation film, and won Stereoscopic Best Short Film at the LA 3D Film Festival, 3D Stereo Media (Liege), 3D Film & Music Fest (Barcelona).

For her sixth animated short, Loving Vincent, Dorota aimed to combine her passion for painting and film, and intended to paint the entire film herself. However once she expanded the project into a feature film the task of writing and directing was such that she had to content herself with directing the 125 painters. Loving Vincent is her feature film debut.

Hugh Welchman – co-Writer, co-Director and Producer, BreakThru Films graduated from Oxford University with a degree in PPE and a vague notion of wanting to make films. He supported himself through teaching history, selling carpets, and even selling fish, while he joined various grass roots film cooperatives in London. After a few disastrous experiences, where the drama was all behind the camera instead of in front of it, Hugh sought out training at The National Film & Television School.

His graduation film, Crowstone, won the Cinefoundation Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and he was awarded the Sam Mendes Shakespeare Prize. He got his first professional experience producing short films for Monty Python, and then set up BreakThru Films.

In 2008 Hugh was awarded an Oscar for BreakThru’s first major production, Peter and the Wolf. The film also picked up several other top prizes including the Annecy Cristal and the Rose D’or. Peter and the Wolf premiered at a sold out Royal Albert Hall accompanied live by The Philharmonic Orchestra, then at the Hollywood Bowl, and has since been performed at over 70 concert halls worldwide.

His next film, Magic Piano & the Chopin Shorts premiered in Beijing’s Forbidden City with pianist Lang Lang, then at London’s South Bank Centre and New York’s Lincoln Centre, and has since been performed in 30 major venues around the world with live solo piano accompaniment.

After falling in love with Polish painter and director, Dorota Kobiela, Hugh also fell in love with her film project, Loving Vincent, and has been working with her on it ever since.

Development of Loving Vincent began  in 2008, and involved several years of testing and training before painting on the shots used in the final film began.

The Loving Vincent team produced 377 design paintings in the early testing stages. 5000 artists applied to work on Loving Vincent. Selected painting animators had to successfully complete a 180 hour training program to then start work. A Kickstarter campaign was launched in 2014 to fund part of the painters training process.

Loving Vincent was first shot as a live action film with actors who worked on sets specially constructed to look like Van Gogh paintings, or against green-screens. Then this reference footage was used to hand-paint the film frame-by-frame in oils.

125 painters, 65,000 frames, 6500 tubes and 1300 liters of Royal Talens paint were used in the making of the movie. The team decided to make Loving Vincent in the Academy ratio as it is closer to the composition of most of Van Gogh’s paintings. 12 frames of individual oil paintings make up each second of Loving Vincent, with 65,000 paintings forming the entire film.

The painters spent up to 10 days painting one second of film. Each frame was painted 67cm by 49cm on canvas and was recorded with a Canon 6D digital stills camera at 6k resolution.

The majority of the painting animators worked in a studio in Gdańsk (Poland), but there were also smaller teams of painters in Wrocław in Poland and in Athens, Greece. Each painter worked inside a Painting Animation Work Stations (PAWS) designed especially for the project. There were 97 PAWS in 3 studios in 2 countries.

The mesmerising opening shot of the film, descending through Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, contains over 600 paintings and took three painters a combined total of 14 months to paint.

No other artist has attracted more legends than Vincent van Gogh.

Variously labelled a martyr, a lustful satyr, a madman, a genius and a layabout, the real Vincent is at once revealed in his letters, and obscured by myth and time. Vincent himself said in his last letter: ‘We cannot speak other than by our paintings’. We take him at his word and let the paintings tell the real story of Vincent van Gogh.

Vincent van Gogh created over 860 oil paintings and 1000+ drawings in just 9 years, and 120 of them were incorporated into the film. For some scenes in the film, like Vincent’s early life, there obviously weren’t any paintings of his painters could draw from. So the team decided to paint these flashbacks in black and white, in the style of photographs from the era. Vincent van Gogh wrote over 800 letters during his lifetime, and many direct quotes from them are included in the film.

The Loving Vincent Animation Technique and how it fits in the pantheon of film techniques – Hugh Welchman

Hand painted elements have been a part of film since its birth. Painted backgrounds were included in the first productions of Meiliers in 1897. The first painting on glass backgrounds came in the early 1900’s, and were a staple of film all the way into the 1980s, after which digital painting and compositing started to take over.

Traditional animation similarly used hand-painted backgrounds, and these were combined with ink and hand coloured cells.
The animation in traditional animation is not painted; it is drawn. It is first drawn on paper, and then traced onto cells in ink, and then it is hand coloured using a special paint for painting cells.

Painting animation, where the paint actually defines the movement, is actually a relatively recent form of animation. I haven’t found the very first one, but it started to come to prominence in short film competitions in the 1970’s, and its most famous proponents are Canadian-American Caroline Leaf and Russian Aleksander Petrov. Since winning his Oscar in 1999 for Old Man and the Sea Petrov has been trying, unsuccessfully, to raise money to do a feature film in this format.

In this form of animation oil paints mixed with other substances to make them dry even more slowly are applied directly onto glass, and moved about in wet form from frame to frame. So the artwork is continually reworked, and replaces the artwork of the frame before. There are only a handful of animators/directors recognised for having mastered this form of animation. They only make short films, and often take years making these films, animating them alone or with one or two collaborators.

The main barriers to making this technique as a feature is there aren’t many people who can do it, it is seen as an artistic niche (often because of the art direction and story selection), and it is very labour intensive.

Loving Vincent like oil-paint on glass animation entirely creates the movement by moving paint around on a surface, and shots this movement 12 times a second. Unlike oil-paint on glass, we painted on canvas board, and also we didn’t mix our oil-paints, as we wanted to have the thick impasto, to better recreate Vincent’s style. We also only ever use one canvas for a shot, we don’t have multi-planing which is often used in oil-paint on glass animation as well as in traditional animation.

Everything you see on the screen in Loving Vincent is painted by hand. This is in contrast to Snow White where you see movement that started off as pencil, then became ink, and then coloured in.

Creating the movement only with brushes and oil paints is different from first tracing and then meticulously colouring in an outline.
Snow white was made up of many elements that were hand painted (over 200,000 elements on cels and also hand painted backgrounds), but it wasn’t painting animation, and it wasn’t only painted- it was drawn, it was inked, it was combined in a rostrum camera.

At all times in Loving Vincent you are seeing a single canvas that has been hand painted.

In terms of what to call our film.  I believe it is the first fully painted feature film. Rotoscoping or not rotoscoping

First lets clarify our production process.
1. We shot live action material. About 80% against green screen and 20% against sets.
2. We composited live action material with matte paintings which our painting created in the computer, mainly in photoshop
3. We added 2d and 3d animated elements, such as blowing leaves, flying crows, horses, trains, into certain shots.
4. These reference materials were then the basis for the painting animators to do their shots.

So far we’ve used live action, 2d animation, 3d animation and VFX compositing.

Those painters who were animating black and white quite faithfully followed the reference material, and I would characterise this as pure rotoscoping.

Those painters who were animating Vincent style, which is about 70% of the film, could only use the reference material as a guide. They had to then re-create it in Vincent style based on Vincent’s paintings and also on the Design Paintings that we made with 20 painters over the course of a year, to create the design and the world of Loving Vincent.

Once they have painted their first frame, then they have to move it 12 times a second, and each time that means moving every brush stroke, so they are animating the brush-strokes, whereas in the black and white it is smooth, as with Petrov’s films and with most paint on glass films, so you don’t see individual brush-strokes. So they have to re-interpret the reference into the Loving Vincent style, then they have to animate the brush strokes. It is a lot more complex than tracing over an image.

Also we never bothered to provide movement of skies or water or twinkling/radiating of stars, lights etc, so all of this was done by the painting animator.

Loving Vincent was first shot as a live action film with actors, and then hand-painted over frame-by-frame in oils.

The final effect is an interaction of the performance of the actors playing Vincent’s famous portraits, and the performance of the painting animators, bringing these characters into the medium of paint.

 

Douglas Booth (Romeo and Juliet, Noah) stars as Armand Roulin; Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark, Jack the Giant Slayer) is Adeline Ravoux; Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones) plays Doctor Gachet (the painting of which held the record for the highest priced painting for fourteen years, the longest time ever); Saoirse Ronan (Oscar nominee for Brooklyn & Atonement) plays his daughter Marguerite Gachet; Chris O’Dowd ( Bridesmaids, The IT Crowd) is Postman Joseph Roulin; John Sessions (Filth, Gangs of New York) is Vincent’s paint supplier, Pere Tanguy;  Aidan Turner (The Hobbit, Poldark) is the Boatman from Vincent’s Bank of the Oise at Auvers painting;
• Helen McCrory (Harry Potter) plays Louise Chevalier, house-keeper to Doctor Gachet; and introducing theatre actor Robert Gulaczyk in his first film role as Vincent van Gogh.

 

 

“This film is about settling your demons,.. It’s about justice. It’s about paying a price for what you do..”

Based on acclaimed crime writer Stephen Leather’s 1992 novel, “The Chinaman,” The Foreigner gets a present-day update by screenwriter David Marconi (Enemy of the State, Live Free or Die Hard), and is directed by a master of the smart action genre, Martin Campbell (Casino Royale and Goldeneye.)

In this gripping and relevant action thriller, justice, retribution and redemption are at the heart of a provocative story of two men whose hidden pasts explode in the present.

The film tells the story of humble London restaurant owner Quan (Jackie Chan), whose long-buried past erupts in a revenge-fueled vendetta when the only person left for him to love — his teenage daughter — is taken from him in a senseless act of politically-motivated terrorism.
As he searches for the people responsible, he seeks the assistance of Irish Deputy Minister, Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), an ill-fitting government official whose own troubled history comes to bear down on him.
As Quan enters into a game of political cat-and-mouse with Hennessy, both men must confront their pasts as they try to identify the elusive killers.

“This film is about settling your demons,” says producer Scott Lumpkin. “It’s about justice. It’s about paying a price for what you do. Quan is wrestling with tragedies in his past. He’s wrestling with his history and he’s had enough. He’s ready. It’s time to pay back those that have done wrong for everyone. And that’s really what this film is about.”

The film marks a blazing return to the screen by Jackie Chan (the Rush Hour trilogy, Skiptrace) and Pierce Brosnan (Tomorrow Never Dies, The November Man), two actors in roles that take full advantage of and build upon their legendary star status.

The story of The Foreigner – its themes and its specific story – is a sometimes disquieting reflection of the fragile world we inhabit. The characters are intriguing examples of the complexities of living in a global society where belief can become action without emphatic consideration of consequence.

From Page To Screen: The Foreigner’s Journey

Stephen Leather

Stephen Leather

While acclaimed crime writer Stephen Leather’s 1992 novel, “The Chinaman” was set in the early 90s during “The Troubles” — the period when the IRA were bombing the UK and Northern Ireland — the film’s producers felt that the main themes could be equally powerful in a current setting.

Producer Wayne Marc Godfrey recruited Marconi to adapt Leather’s novel, given Marconi’s track record of success in action thrillers. Producer Arthur Sarkissian subsequently gave the script to Martin Campbell as a potential directing assignment.

Together they worked with Marconi revising the script.

STXfilms, a division of Robert Simonds’ STX Entertainment, later optioned the script from Godfrey and Sarkissian, with Chan attached to play Quan. STXfilms’ then head of production Cathy Schulman oversaw a new draft of the screenplay, focusing on designing it as a “two hander”.

Both Quan and Deputy Minister Hennessy were battling similar demons based on their shadowy backgrounds. Schulman suggested that Hennessy’s role be fine-tuned to attract Schulman and Campbell’s mutual friend and collaborator Pierce Brosnan.

“While we were working on it, we knew that Jackie Chan would be playing Quan and we had Pierce Brosnan in our sights too,” says screenwriter David Marconi. “So, when I was doing the script, it was with these actors in mind. “

David MarconiRecently, two other films Marconi wrote have been made into films; The Foreigner, directed by Martin Campbell, based on the book The Chinaman by Stephen Leather, and Darkside of the Moon, based on the novel by Martin Suter, which Marconi originally penned and developed for Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall).

A native of Highland Park, Ill., Marconi was passionate about film making from an early age. After winning several high-school filmmaking competitions, Marconi was awarded an Alumni Merit Scholarship to attend the University of Southern California’s Film School. Upon graduation, his first job was as Francis Ford Coppola’s assistant on The Outsiders. Following that, Coppola promoted Marconi to Production Supervisor 2nd Unit on Rumble Fish.

After a year-long series of production jobs ranging from Art Department to Prop Master, Marconi landed his first feature writing assignment off an original pitch entitled; Mud Sweat and Gears. (Warner Bros.) Bob Schaffel producing, Thomas Carter to direct. Marconi followed that by writing two more back-to-back action pictures for Warner Bros; The Blonde Hurricane, a romantic comedy set in Paris during the 30’s, and One Hot Afternoon, an present day version of a classic Western. Though the writing assignments were lucrative, the directing was tugging at him. In 1993, Marconi wrote and directed his first feature, The Harvest.

The success of The Harvest brought Marconi to the attention of several directors and producers, one of whom was Michael Mann who commissioned Marconi to write Red Badge,  Simpson Bruckheimer commissioned Marconi to write his original screenplay Enemy of the State, and Oliver Stone hired Marconi to pen the first draft of MI2.

As a writer, Marconi has also co-authored with Flint Dille three serialized novels: Agent 13, The Midnight Avenger, Agent 13 and the Serpentine Assassins and Agent 13 and the Acolytes of Darkness, all from Random House Publishing.The books are currently under option and being developed at Universal Pictures with Charlize Theron to produce and star.

It was a lengthy process, which included contributions from director Martin Campbell, once he came on board the film. “We worked on the script together for about four or five months,” recalls Marconi. “We had a great working rapport which is essential, and Martin’s ideas were spot on. Martin elevated the script to another level, his notes and suggestions were very clear. He was as concerned about character as am I.”

“This is a story of revenge where the main character is a man who’s had a tragic past. Two of his daughters were killed in terrible circumstances several years ago, and his wife dies soon after they have established a new life of safety in the UK, and now 15 years later, his only daughter is killed, so he has nothing left to live for,” explains Marconi. “His journey of revenge ultimately becomes one of redemption. It took me about 2 1/2 years of writing and rewriting. I had to break the book down. Stephen wrote a very good book that I was able to do an adaptation from.”

One of the biggest challenges was updating it from the 90s to present day.

“It was very important to take the issues of today and put them into this novel that was set in the past. We had to reinvent and update certain things so the technologies and the threats were more contemporary,” says Marconi. “I didn’t want to make the IRA the bad guys, because they’ve made peace. But there are upstarts in the organization who haven’t signed up to peace that are out there still trying to do things. I had to find the different shades of the villains and try and present all sides so the bad guys weren’t all one color and the good guys weren’t all one color. It’s about various shades of greys because the world that we live in is a very grey world. You have to get inside the heads of all the characters, including the villains, so you can understand why people do what they do.”

The Author Stamps The Foreigner’s Passport for Journey to The Silver Screen

“I wanted to do a story about a man who was underestimated by people,” says novelist Stephen Leather. “A man who nobody took seriously, who isn’t considered a threat.” All too often, screen adaptations of novels bear little resemblance to the source material, leaving authors disgruntled. Thankfully, that isn’t the case. Although the film has shifted the story to the present day from its early 90s setting, the original themes and foundation remain. “It’s my book and it’s the filmmakers’ movie,” says Leather. “David is a brilliant writer and he’s done such a great job of writing the script. He’s changed a lot of elements. We had to update the technology. And it’s very true to the story and to the characters I wrote. So, I’m very pleased that David’s given it an extra edge. Martin’s action scenes improve it. And he’s put more intensity in it. I think it’s brilliant, absolutely brilliant. And to be on set surrounded by 100 people filming a story that I wrote in my little room 25 years ago is thrilling.”

Martin Campbell

Martin Campbell

Chan embraced the opportunity to break out of his typical action-hero persona and tackle a serious dramatic role.

foreigner

“He immersed himself into the character of Quan. It’s a character we haven’t seen him play before. We all expect Jackie to come in and start ‘kung fu-ing’ everybody, but Jackie’s approached the character from a cerebral perspective,” explains Lumpkin. “The character is all about thinking through his actions, he meticulously plans how he’s going to approach his antagonists, he plans how he’s going to get revenge for his daughter, he meticulously looks for justice. And you can see that in his mind as the character develops.”

“He is obviously completely and emotionally wrecked by the death of his daughter. And he very quietly goes to the police to ask who did this. He is a quiet man with a simple life; he makes a living from his Chinese restaurant. He is dignified,” says Campbell, discussing Quan’s journey for justice, “He even, at one point, in his naivety offers the police chief all his life savings in order to at least get a clue- a name- about who could have done this atrocity.”

“Quan has a history. He was a Nùng fighter in Vietnam, so he worked with the US soldiers, in training, in guerrilla warfare, so he’s got a real history of how to be a bad-ass,” adds Lumpkin. “He knows how to defend himself; he knows how to protect himself; and he knows how to find the answers. And that’s really his mission: to find answers and to seek justice.”

After being dismissed by Hennessy when he asks him who killed his daughter, Quan realizes he must draw on the skills and training from his secret past to convince Hennessy to take him seriously. “Quan does little things – he puts small bombs in his office and in his car which are not meant to hurt or maim – but Hennessy knows if Quan wants to, he can kill his whole family,” says Chan. “Quan just wants Hennessy to give him the name of the bombers. He’s stubborn and he wants revenge.” As Quan’s frustration increases, so do the demonstrations of his capabilities. As Campbell puts it, “Quan has nothing to lose. And he doesn’t think for a minute he is going to live through this,” states Campbell. “And he doesn’t care. It’s just morally what he has to do.”

Brosnan

Playing Liam Hennessy, the former IRA-commander-turned–British-government-official is Pierce Brosnan. For Lumpkin, Brosnan is a man who “oozes class. He was James Bond, he was Remington Steele, and he’s everything that we have always wanted to be when we watch a movie. Pierce brings a sense of balance, coolness and class to the character of Hennessy. You look at Hennessy at first and you think ‘what a classy cool guy.’ But he’s got a dark past. And there’s really no one else who could play that role like Pierce.” Says Brosnan of his character, “He’s someone who was born of war, really, he grew up in The Troubles in Ireland. He’s very bright, very articulate, and someone who is trying to hold onto his own position in government and within his own people in the north of Ireland.”

Reuniting Martin Campbell with his former Bond was an easy sell. “Well first of all, Pierce is Irish, which helps. I think this one of the best things he’s ever done,” says Campbell. “He threw himself into that role. I remember him saying to me [he] was a little worried about the IRA, being Irish and doing a story like this. However, he went into it with his eyes open. And for once, I got some rehearsal time with him before we started, so that helped. I think the character he finally came up with is absolutely fascinating.”

“Hennessy is as we would expect a politician to be, withholding answers and information,” says Lumpkin. “He sees Quan as simply a foreigner and doesn’t pay him any attention — until Quan shows what he’s capable of. Hennessy realizes this is serious, but he has a lot of other things going on. He’s got to build up his power base, which is beginning to dwindle. He’s got to handle [former IRA colleague] McGrath and his rogue forces. Pierce does a fantastic job of playing Hennessy. He’s got a really solid sense of style in what he brings to the role. Hennessy is completely believable – he’s got a great charm at the beginning, but slowly he reveals how much of a bad-ass he is.”

Amidst all this action and intrigue, when asked what the audience hopes to feel when they leave the theatre, Martin Campbell sums up, “I just want them to enjoy it. I want them to be thoroughly entertained and emotionally moved as well. For me, that’s really the criteria.”

From Fact to Fictional Reality

The Art Of Screenwriting And Filmmaking  / The Art Of AdaptationThe Art Of Comic Book Adaptations

Adapting real-life stories to film and television has become a firm favourite with audiences and viewers worldwide, drawing us into a spectacular fictional reality where we transcend reality and explore alternate realms.

7 DAYS IN ENTEBBE Acclaimed producers Tim Bevan and Kate Solomon didn’t set out to become experts in cinematic depictions of real-life terrorism; it just turned out that way. Ten years after shepherding the Oscar-nominated 9/11 drama United 93 to the screen, the pair was approached about overseeing another fact-based film centered on a passenger jet hijacking. This time the focus was on the remarkable true story of Air France Flight 139, which was hijacked by terrorists in 1976 and held for ransom at Uganda’s Entebbe Airport.

12 STRONG Every American adult knows exactly where they were and what they were doing on the terrible morning of September 11, 2001.But until recently, only a small handful knew about the extraordinary events that unfolded in the immediate aftermath.With the country still reeling, 12 brave members of the U.S. Army’s elite Special Forces—known as the Green Berets—left their homes and loved ones to take on a perilous classified mission in the war-torn country of Afghanistan.These “12 Strong” were chosen to strike the first blow in America’s response to the terrorist attacks. They were not ordered to go. They volunteered to go.Now the true story of these dozen warriors is being brought to the big screen in the new action drama. Oscar winner Ted Tally (The Silence of the Lambs) and Peter Craig (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Parts 1 & 2) wrote the screenplay, based on the acclaimed book Horse Soldiers by author Doug Stanton.

THE 15:17 TO PARIS From Clint Eastwood comes the real-life story of three men whose brave act turned them into heroes during a highspeed railway ride, which he directed from a screenplay by Dorothy Blyskal, based on the book by Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone and Jeffrey E. Stern. “It hasn’t been a conscious choice to tell heroic stories or make movies about everyday heroes,” says veteran director and producer Clint Eastwood, whose previous two films, “Sully” and “American Sniper,” highlighted the efforts of rather singular men.  “I just do the stories that come along and interest me.  Some feats are exceptional, and beneficial to society, and it’s nice when you can tell a story like that.”

A UNITED KINGDOM The idea first came into being in 2010, when actor David Oyelowo was working on the film 96 Minutes. Its producers, Justin Moore-Lewy and Charlie Mason, had bought the rights to Susan Williams’ s book Colour Bar, which detailed the remarkable story of Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams.Oyelowo continued to bring former collaborators on board including producer Brunson Green, with whom he had done The Help, and screenwriter Guy Hibbert with whom he had collaborated on two films:  Blood and Oil, and Complicit.

THE ACT OF DEFIANCE Sympathetic white Afrikaner lawyer Bram Fischer risks career and family to defend Nelson Mandela and his inner circle. Based on Joel Joffe’s book ‘The State Vs. Nelson Mandela, the film is written and directed by Jean Van De Velde, ‘and won the “2017 Movies that Matter Film Festival – Audience Award” in the Hague, Netherlands.

ADRIFT Based on the inspiring true story of two sailors who set out to journey across the ocean from Tahiti to San Diego and sailed directly into one of the most catastrophic hurricanes in recorded history. In the aftermath of the storm, with no hope for rescue,  Adrift is the unforgettable story about the resilience of the human spirit and the transcendent power of love. Produced and directed by Baltasar Kormákur, and written by David Branson Smith, Aaron Kandell and Jordan Kandell.

ALLIED The true story of two undercover WWII spies who fell madly in love only to be set mortally against each other when their true identities were exposed. Screenplay by Steven Knight – an Oscar® nominee for Stephen Frears’ London thriller Dirty Pretty Things and honored for the screenplays for David Cronenberg’s Russian Mafia tale Eastern Promises as well as writing and directing the daring one-man drama Locke

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD The journey from page to screen began when producer Quentin Curtis optioned John Pearson’s book on Getty, called Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J.Paul Getty that focused specifically on the infamous kidnapping.  He brought the project to screenwriter David Scarpa. Scarpa, whose screenwriting career began with an original screenplay for DreamWorks that became The Last Castle, and Scott Derrickson’s The Day The Earth Stood Still, was intrigued by Getty’s notorious miserliness and what that represented emotionally. “I of course knew about that kidnapping but really I had always wanted to do something about money and how it controls and shapes people’s lives,” says Scarpa.

ALONE IN BERLIN , a powerfully moving, true-life drama-thriller set in Second World War Berlin, is directed by acclaimed actor turned filmmaker Vincent Perez (La Reine Margot),  who adapted revered German novelist Hans Fallada’s international bestseller Every Man Dies Alone / Alone In Berlin for the big screen with Achim von Borries (Good Bye Lenin!).

AMERICAN ANIMALS is the true story of four young men who get lost in a fantasy of their own creation, only to discover that by the time they are thrust into reality, it’s too late — they have crossed a line into violence and criminality from which they can never return.The extraordinary and thrilling true story of four friends living an ordinary existence who brazenly attempt to execute one of the most audacious art heists in US history. But not everything is as it seems, and as the daring theft unfolds through each of their perspectives, each of them start to question whether their attempts to inject excitement and purpose into their lives is simply a misguided attempt at achieving the American Dream. Marking the narrative feature debut of British-born filmmaker Bart Layton, it’s the second feature for the multi-faceted auteur, whose breakout debut The Imposter, won the BAFTA Award for Outstanding Debut in 2013.

AMERICAN CRIME STORY is an American true crime anthology television series developed by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who are executive producers with Brad FalchukNina JacobsonRyan Murphy, and Brad Simpson. Similar to American Horror Story, also from Murphy and Falchuk, each season is presented as a self-contained miniseries, following separate unrelated true events. The first season, subtitled The People v. O. J. Simpson, presents the murder trial of O. J. Simpson, based on Jeffrey Toobin‘s book The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson. The second season, subtitled The Assassination of Gianni Versace, explores the murder of designer Gianni Versace by serial killer Andrew Cunanan, based on Maureen Orth‘s book Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U. S. History. A third season, based on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and a fourth season, based on the Clinton–Lewinsky scandal, are in development.

AMERICAN MADE Gary Spinelli (Stash House) wrote a screenplay about the international escapade based on the outrageous (and real) exploits of a hustler and pilot unexpectedly recruited by the CIA to run one of the biggest covert operations in U.S. history.

ASINAMALI Written and directed by Mbongeni Ngema, the film version of the seminal musical.  The narrative follows a group of prisoners in the 80s as they think back on their pasts and the events leading to their arrest.

BACK OF THE MOON On the eve of his home being demolished by apartheid police,the leader of the most powerful gang in Sophiatown finds something worth living for in Back Of The Moon when fate thrusts a torch-singer Eve Msomi into his orbit. “In the end it is a film about potential stifled and wasted by Apartheid – men preying on each other in a “pressure cooker” situation. It is about  feisty, talented woman surviving their abuse by any means necessary, but ultimately it is the love story that transcends this darkness” says writer-director Angus Gibson, who was a founding member of Free Filmmakers, a film co-operative established in 1985 to create a relevant South African cinema.

BATTLE OF THE SEXES Husband-and-wife directorial team Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, who gave us Little Miss Sunshine, explore a moment when social change was embodied by two complex people in Battle Of The Sexes, the spectacular single tennis match between rising 29 year-old women’s star Billie Jean King and former men’s champ Bobby Riggs.

THE BEST OF ENEMIES In 1971, Ann Atwater and C.P. Ellis were well-known residents of Durham, North Carolina, but certainly not a pair you’d expect to see together. Ann was a single mother and a grass roots activist fighting brazen slumlords, firetrap schools and do-nothing local officials. Ellis owned a tiny East Durham gas station just like his millhand dad, and his own four kids. C.P. joined the KKK and became their voice as Durham’s Exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan.The idea of Ann and C.P. ever exchanging a civil word was close to unthinkable, but in writer-director Robin Bissell’s The Best Of Enemies, a dramatic feature film inspired by true events, these two bitter rivals are forced to start talking to resolve a crisis in their dangerously divided city.

BEAUTIFUL BOY Based on the best-selling pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff, the film chronicles the heart-breaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years. Directed by Felix Van Groeningen, in his English-language feature debut. The screenplay, written by Luke Davies and Van Groeningen, is based on the memoirs Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff and Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff.

THE BIG SHORT When four outsiders see what the big banks, media and government regulators refuse to — the impending collapse of the global economy — they have an idea: The Big Short. Their bold investment leads them into the dark underbelly of the modern banking industry where they must question everyone and everything.Based on the book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis (Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game), the screenplay was written by Charles Randolph (Love & Other Drugs, The Interpreter) and director Adam McKay .

BILLIONAIRE BOYS CLUB Based on the unbelievable, but true story,  it’s a crime story of ambitious outsiders who became the rock stars of the L.A. social scene – a world dripping with money, sex and celebrity – and whose lavish lifestyle and impressive returns obscure a snowballing fraud and grew into a Ponzi Scheme that turned homicidal in the Summer of 1984. The film was directed by James Cox (The Rock Star, Highway, Wonderland) and co-written by Cox and Captain Mauzner (a writer and producer, known for Wonderland (2003), Factory Girl (2006)).Cox wrote the script in four months after an exclusive research of the events with his brother Stephen, who spent another four months on it. Cox gathered the material for the screenplay from court documents, oral transcripts, and published articles. He said, “as we were writing this, I thought, ‘What if ‘Wall Street’ became ‘Alpha Dog’ halfway through?”

THE BIRTH OF A NATION Writer, director and actor Nate Parker takes on a distinctly vast ambition for a first-time filmmaker, presenting a more take-charge slave narrative than we are used to seeing with The Birth Of A Nation, boldly reclaiming the title of D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film.

BLACKKKLANSMAN Nearly three decades after releasing that masterpiece Do the Right Thing, visionary filmmaker Spike Lee’s latest expression of the facts of American life – BlacKkKlansman, which was awarded the Grand Prix at the Cannes film festival – is the true story of Ron Stallworth, the first black detective in the Colorado Springs police force who, in 1978, went undercover with the Ku Klux Klan. Spike Lee directs from a screenplay crafted by Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee, based on the book Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth.

BLINDED BY THE LIGHT The heart-warming and truly inspirational comedy drama Blinded By The Light’s journey to the screen began in earnest back in 2010 when visionary writer-director-producer Gurinder Chadha and author-journalist Sarfraz Manzoor attended the BFI premiere of The Promise, a film charting the making of the 1978 Bruce Springsteen album Darkness on the Edge of Town. Developed from Gurinder Chadha and British Journalist Sarfraz Manzoor’s shared passion for Bruce Springsteen and based on Manzoor’s celebrated rite of passage memoir Greetings from Bury Park, chronicles his experiences as a British Muslim boy growing up in 1980s Luton and the impact Springsteen’s lyrics had on him.

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY Producer Graham King was persuaded to buy the rights to the story of Freddie Mercury and the band Queen by award-winning writer Peter Morgan. The film traces the meteoric rise of the band through their iconic songs and revolutionary sound. They reach unparalleled success, but in an unexpected turn Freddie, surrounded by darker influences, shuns Queen in pursuit of his solo career. Having suffered greatly without the collaboration of Queen, Freddie manages to reunite with his bandmates just in time for Live Aid. While bravely facing a recent AIDS diagnosis, Freddie leads the band in one of the greatest performances in the history of rock music. Queen cements a legacy that continues to inspire outsiders, dreamers and music lovers to this day.

BREAKTHROUGH Based on the inspirational true story of one mother’s unfaltering love in the face of impossible odds. Adapted for the screen by Grant Nieporte (Seven Pounds) from Joyce Smith’s own book, it is an enthralling reminder that faith and love can create a mountain of hope, and sometimes even a miracle. Directed by Roxann Dawson.

BREATHE Producer Jonathan Cavendish had always believed that his father’s life story would be powerful material for a compelling film. Robin Cavendish had been a trailblazer, a remarkable, larger- than-life figure. He was diagnosed with polio in his late 20s and remained paralysed from the neck down. Totally reliant on a respirator that ‘breathed’ for him, he faced a life confined to a hospital bed. Yet he refused to accept that fate: with the help of his wife Diana, and their inventive and supportive friends, he found a way to

BRIDGE OF SPIES Producer Marc Platt, whose credits include “Into the Woods,” “Drive” and the upcoming “The Girl on the Train,” was familiar with Donovan’s story and was also aware of director Steven Spielberg’s interest in the Cold War—and history in general—and felt it was ideally suited for the director’s sensibilities. “As a filmmaker, Steven has studied some great iconic characters and can re-create history in an extraordinarily cinematic way. He’s the perfect filmmaker to tell a story like this.”

CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? Melissa McCarthy plays best-selling celebrity biographer (and friend to cats) Lee Israel, who made her living in the 1970s and ‘80s profiling the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Estee Lauder and journalist Dorothy Kilgallen. 

CAPERNAUM Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Nadine Labaki’s film (“Chaos”) tells the story of Zain (Zain al Rafeea), a Lebanese boy who sues his parents for the “crime” of giving him life.

CHAPPAQUIDDICK Screenwriters Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan, who both grew up in Dallas where John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, had a strong emotional connection to the Kennedy family, long before their 2015 screenplay landed on the Blacklist. Living there, the tragedy in Dealey Plaza was impossible to ignore and it sowed a lifelong curiosity about the Kennedys’ Camelot.Allen says the murders of JFK and Bobby, as well as the other misfortunes surrounding the family, led them to wonder about where Sen. Ted Kennedy fit in. “As a human being, he’s so underexplored in cinematic terms,” Allen says, pointing to films like 1991’s JFK and 2006’s BOBBY that have explored the older Kennedys’ lives. “Once you start looking into who Ted was, all roads lead to Chappaquiddick. There’s a younger audience that will really have their eyes opened. For me, Ted is definitely the most relatable of the Kennedy family, and in his youth he was the black sheep of the sons. The press covering him in the 1940s and ’50s referred to him he as the ‘overweight’ Kennedy. He was expelled from Harvard for cheating on a Spanish exam, which created a rift with his father. Moments like these humanize him. That’s why he struggled so much to do the right thing in this situation.”

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN Winnie-the-Pooh and friends reunite with old pal Christopher Robin — now an adult. Directed by Marc Forster, with a screenplay written by Tom McCarthy, Alex Ross Perry, and Allison Schroeder and from a story by Perry. The film is inspired by A. A. Milne’s book Winnie-the-Pooh and is a live-action/CGI continuation of the Disney franchise of the same name.

CHURCHILL Book and historical adaptations are hugely popular on the Big and Small screens and when the producers looked for a screenwriter for Churchill, London‐based  screenwriter  and  historian Alex von Tunzelmann was the ideal candidate to tackle the subject matter.

CONCUSSION A dramatic thriller based on the incredible true David vs. Goliath story of American immigrant Dr. Bennet Omalu, the brilliant forensic neuropathologist who made an important medical discovery.  Dr. Omalu’s emotional quest puts him at dangerous odds with one of the most powerful institutions in the world.Written and directed by Peter Landesman, Cocussion is based on the GQ article “Game Brain” by Jeanne Marie Laskas.

THE DANISH GIRL is the remarkable love story inspired by the lives of Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener, based on the book by David Ebershoff with a screenplay by Lucinda Coxon and directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables).

DARKEST HOUR “Words can, and do, change the world. This is precisely what happened through Winston Churchill in 1940,” marvels BAFTA Award-winning screenwriter and producer Anthony McCarten. The linchpins of his original screenplay for Darkest Hour became three speeches that Churchill wrote and delivered between May and June 1940. “He was under intense political and personal pressure, yet he was spurred to such heights in so few days – over and over again.”

DEEPWATER HORIZON On April 20th, 2010, one of the world’s largest man-made disasters occurred on the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico. Now filmmaker Peter Berg brings that story to the big screen with Deepwater Horizon, a gripping glimpse into the unseen world behind the global disaster that took the lives of 11 workers,  sharing an untold story of men & women, real life heroes, who faced extraordinary consequences with extreme bravery. The screenplay was written by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand, based upon an article by David Barstow, David Rohde, and Stephanie Saul published in The New York Times.

DENIAL A powerful story about one woman’s relentless efforts to establish justice and remind the world about the tragedies of the Holocaust, Denial is a gripping, inspirational real-life account based on Deborah E. Lipstadt’s book Denial: Holocaust History on Trial, and adapted for the big screen by esteemed playwright David Hare.

DETROIT Controversial subject matter fuels great stories, and with Detroit, director Kathryn Bigelow adeptly balances an expertly crafted cinema verité filmic and up-close-and-personal approach with screenwriter/producer Mark Boal’s tension-packed “you are there” narrative.

THE DISASTER ARTIST Director James Franco (As I Lay Dying, Child of God) transforms the tragicomic true-story of aspiring filmmaker and infamous Hollywood outsider Tommy Wiseau—an artist whose passion was as sincere as his methods were questionable—into a celebration of friendship, artistic expression, and dreams pursued against insurmountable odds. Based on Greg Sestero’s best-selling tell-all about the making of Tommy’s cult-classic “disasterpiece” The Room (The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made), The Disaster Artist is a hilarious and welcome reminder that there is more than one way to become a legend—and no limit to what you can achieve when you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing.  The screenplay was written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber ((500) Days of SummerThe Fault in Our Stars) based on the book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell.

DUNKIRK Visionary storyteller and storymaker Christopher Nolan has taken audiences from the streets of Gotham City, to the infinite world of dreams, to the farthest reaches of space. Now, for the first time, the innovative director/writer/producer has turned his camera to a real-life event, one that has resonated with him throughout his life: the miracle of Dunkirk.

EDDIE THE EAGLE The feel-good Eddie The Eagle takes us into the life of Michael “Eddie” Edwards (Taron Egerton), an unlikely but courageous British ski-jumper who never stopped believing in himself, and with the help of a rebellious and charismatic coach Hugh Jackman), took on the establishment and won the hearts of sports fans around the world by making an improbable and historic showing at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. It was directed by Dexter Fletcher (Wild Bill), from a screenplay by Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton.

ELVIS & NIXON Based on an actual encounter that took place on December 21, 1970, Elvis & Nixon hilariously re-imagines the unlikely meeting between rocker and politician as dramatized by two of America’s finest actors, starring Academy Award-nominee Michael Shannon as Presley and two-time Academy Award-winner Kevin Spacey as Nixon. The film is directed by Liza Johnson (Return, Hateship Loveship) and written by Joey Sagal & Hanala Sagal (Traumedy Central) and Cary Elwes (“Family Guy,” The Princess Bride).

THE EXCEPTION A spy thriller and love story that mines a forgotten pocket of 20th century history. Based on the compelling novel “The Kaiser’s Last Kiss” by Alan Judd. Screenplay adaptation by Simon Burke (Persuasion)

EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE The story of Ted Bundy (Zac Efron) is shown from the perspective of his girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer (Lily Colins), who struggled to accept the reality of her boyfriend’s nature. Directed by Joe Berlinger and written by Michael Werwie.

THE FAVOURITE From the veiled world of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) – the last (and historically most ignored) of the Stuart line of Britain’s rulers— who though infamously gouty, shy and disregarded, nevertheless reigned as Great Britain became a global power. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, The Lobster, The  Killing Of A Sacred Deer) from a screenplay crafted by Deborah Davis  and Tony McNamara.

FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY Based on a true story, it follows reformed gangster Ricky (Dwayne Johnson), wife Julia, daughter Paige and son Zak as they make a living wrestling together in tiny venues. It is written and directed by Stephen Merchant.  

FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL 30 years after Peter Turner published his memoir, entitled Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, which recounted his tale of love and loss with former Hollywood star Gloria Grahame, the affectionate, moving and wry recollection of his unlikely story comes to the big screen with Annette Bening starring as Grahame, Jamie Bell as Turner. “I have wanted to make this film for over 20 years,” says producer Barbara Broccoli. “It is very meaningful to me. I knew Gloria and Peter when they were together.”

FINAL PORTRAIT Producer Gail Egan came to Final Portrait when Stanley Tucci showed her the screenplay that he had written, adapted from a memoir written by James Lord, ‘A Giacometti Portrait’.Tuccihas appeared in over 90 films and countless television shows. He has appeared in more than a dozen plays, on and off Broadway, and has been behind the camera working as a writer, director, and producer. The memoir features the last meeting between Alberto Giacometti and James Lord, a younger, wealthy American who had befriended the artist on one of his regular trips to Paris

THE FINEST HOURS is an exquisitely well-crafted film about love and heroism, based on the remarkable true story of the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard, filled with nostalgia and adventure that immerses you emotionally and physically. Transporting you to the heart of the action and creating a fully immersive cinematic experience on an epic scale, the film is directed by Australian filmmaker Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl and the highly acclaimed Showtime series The United States of Tara), and written by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson, based on the acclaimed non-fiction book of the same name by Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias.

FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS is a charming portrait of a woman ensnared by the shattering reality of her all-consuming fantasy of being the greatest singer in the world. It was the glorious chasm between Florence Foster Jenkins’ self-belief and her startling failings as a singer that immediately hooked writer Nicholas Martin.

THE FOUNDER An origin story of how the billion-dollar empire McDonald’s was born. Original screenplay by Robert Siegel (The Wrestler).

FREE STATE OF JONES Based on Oscar-nominated writer/director Gary Ross’ original screenplay, the epic action-drama Free State of Jones tells the extraordinary story of a little known episode in American history during which Newt Knight, a fearless Mississippi farmer, led an unlikely band of poor white farmers and runaway slaves in an historic armed rebellion against the Confederacy during the height of the Civil War.

THE FRONT RUNNER Hugh Jackman stars as the charismatic politician Gary Hart for director Jason Reitman in this new thrilling drama that follows the rise and fall of Senator Hart, who captured the imagination of young voters and was considered the overwhelming front runner for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination when his campaign was sidelined by the story of an extramarital relationship with Donna Rice. Directed by Jason Reitman, based on the 2014 book All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid, written by Matt Bai. Reitman co-wrote the screenplay with Bai and Jay Carson.

GENIUS is a stirring drama about the complex friendship and transformative professional relationship between the world-renowned book editor Maxwell Perkins (who discovered F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway) and the larger-than-life literary giant Thomas Wolfe.John Logan, who wrote the screenplay for Genius, notes that the intensity of Perkins’ relationship with Wolfe was based on how different they were as people. “You couldn’t imagine two more polar opposites than Max Perkins and Thomas Wolfe. Max was a buttoned-up, conservative Yankie book editor who literally and figuratively wore a tie. Thomas Wolfe was a mad, North Carolinian animal. You only need to read five pages of ‘Look Homeward, Angel’ or ‘Of Time and the River’ to see the passion in the words he chose and the way he told his stories. The novels reach out and slap you with so much emotion and passion.”

THE GLASS CASTLE Celebrity gossip columnist Jeannette Walls unveiled deeply guarded secrets she’d long kept of her childhood in her wildly Gothic coming-of-age bestseller. It was adapted into a film by Hawaiin-born writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton and screenwriter Andrew Lanham.

GOLD Inspired by actual events, it tells the epic tale of one man’s American dream and everything he’ll do to keep it from falling apart.The screenplay for Gold was written by Patrick Massett and John Zinman (Friday Night Lights), who also serve as producers, and directed by Academy Award winner Stephen Gaghan (Syriana, Traffic)

GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN The inspirational story of how a father bonded with his young son and created the much-adored Winnie-the-Pooh books.The film is based on Ann Thwaite’s 1990 biography A. A. Milne: The Man Behind Winnie-the-Pooh, which was re-released in 2017 as Goodbye Christopher Robin: A. A. Milne and the Making of Winnie-the-Pooh. The newer version contains a preface by the movie’s screenwriter, Frank Cottrell-Boyce (The Railway Man),  who also wrote the screenplay for the film directed by Simon Curtis.

GOTTI follows infamous crime boss John Gotti’s rise to become the “Teflon Don” of the Gambino Crime Family in New York City. Multi talented artist, Leo Rossi, who wrote the screenplay for Gotti and also plays Bartholomew “Bobby” Boriello, Gotti’s enforcer, brought a unique angle to the narrative.His text was directly influenced by his conversations with John Gotti himself.By getting to know the men, Rossi knew that the movie needed to show both sides of Gotti’s life.“The screenplay that I envisioned after talking to Gotti had the Mafia element, of course, that’s a certain element to it, but, also the situation of the family. To me, to see how a life of crime in the Mafia affects the family was just as compelling as the Mafia life itself. I tried to interweave them,” he explains.

GRANDMA The new independent film Grandma tells a rare story:  a lesbian of advanced years (Lily Tomlin), in mourning for her soul mate and on skittish footing with the much younger woman she’s been seeing (Judy Greer), is suddenly thrust into an adventure involving her teenage granddaughter (Julia Garner) and an unwanted pregnancy. The female-centric subject and cast are courtesy of writer-director Paul Weitz, the man who got his big break writing the film Antz, and gave us About a Boy, In Good Company, American Dreamz, and Admission.

THE GREATEST SHOWMAN Inspired by the legend and ambitions of America’s original pop-culture impresario, P.T. Barnum, comes The Greatest Showman, an inspirational rags-to-riches tale of a brash dreamer who rose from nothing to prove that anything you can envision is possible and that everyone, no matter how invisible, has a stupendous story worthy of a world-class spectacle.Australian filmmaker Michael Gracey makes his feature film directorial debut with The Greatest Showman, a story that, in the larger-than-life spirit of Barnum, bursts into a boldly imagined fictional realm, one full of infectious pop tunes, glam dances and a celebration of the transformative power of showmanship, love and self-belief. Michael Gracey directs from a screenplay by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon  and a story by Jenny Bicks, and braids together original songs by Academy Award winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land) with a multi-talented cast headed by Hugh Jackman to immerse audiences in the very origins of mass entertainment and mega-celebrities in the 70s … the 1870s that is.

GREEN BOOK Nick Vallelonga, the oldest son of Tony Lip, grew up hearing about his father’s journey with Don Shirley.  “This was a story I had on my mind basically my whole life from the time I was a young kid,” says Vallelonga, an actor, writer, producer, and director who crafted the screenplay for Green Book with Brian Currie and director Peter Farrelly.

HACKSAW RIDGE Desmond Doss was the only American soldier in WWII to fight on the front lines without a weapon in Okinawa during the bloodiest battle of WWII, where he saved 75 men without firing or carrying a gun as he believed that while the war was justified, killing was nevertheless wrong. The screenplay was crafted by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan (Kentucky Cycle, All the Way) and Australian writer Andrew Knight (The Water Diviner)

HANDS OF STONE Robert de Niro steps back into the boxing ring again, this time as celebrated trainer Ray Arcel in Hands of Stone, the true story of how the legendary Roberto Duran, who is considered a national treasure in Panama,  and Arcel, his celebrated trainer, changed each other’s lives.De Niro came on board early in the process and worked closely with writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz on the screenplay.  They first met because De Niro liked Secuestro Express, Jakubowicz’s first film. He also liked the screenplay for Hands of Stone but he wasn’t sure he wanted to do it because “he couldn’t hear Ray Arcel’s voice.

HE NAMED ME MALALA Acclaimed, Oscar winning documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim brings us a profoundly moving and intimate portrait of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was targeted by the Taliban and severely wounded by a gunshot when returning home on her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.  The then 15-year-old (she turned 18 this past July) was singled out, along with her father, for advocating for girls’ education, and the attack on her sparked an outcry from supporters around the world. She miraculously survived and is now a leading campaigner for girls’ education globally as co-founder of the Malala Fund.

HIDDEN FIGURES The film uncovers the incredible, untold yet true story of a brilliant group of Wonder Women who changed the foundations of the country for the better — by aiming for the stars.Screenwriter Allison Schroeder, who not only studied high-level math but interned at NASA, following in the wake of her grandmother, a programmer at NASA from the early days through the shuttle program, and grandfather, who took part in the Mercury project.

HOTEL MUMBAI A gripping true story of humanity and heroism, recounting the 2008 siege of the famed Taj Hotel by a group of terrorists in Mumbai, India.

I CAN ONLY IMAGINE The inspiring, incredible, and unknown true story behind MercyMe’s beloved song I Can Only Imagine, the most popular contemporary Christian song in history, is brought to life on the Big Screen by the Erwin Brothers,  a directing team that focuses on creating faith-based and inspirational feature films.Director/co-writer Jon Erwin has never had a film easier to pitch.“It’s the song you know,” says Jon, “but the story you don’t.”

THE IDOL The incredible true story of Mohammed Assaf defies belief. The 22-year-old Palestinian refugee from Gaza won the hearts of an entire region when he won Arab Idol (the Arab world’s own version of American Idol) in 2013 is now an inspiring film The Idol, directed by Hany Abu-Assad

THE INFILTRATOR is the thrilling true-life story of Special Agent Robert ‘Bob’ Mazur, responsible for bringing down the drug cartels and their bankers alike, in one of history’s most audacious stings.This incredible story is now explored on the big screen in The Infiltrator by acclaimed American filmmaker Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer), who directs from a screenplay written by his mother Ellen Brown Furman, based on Bob Mazur’s autobiography of the same name.

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA It is one of the greatest seafaring tales of all time: the Nantucket whaling ship Essex was attacked by a leviathan—a white whale of singular size and intent—leaving only a few of its crew to overcome near-impossible odds and live to recount their experience. But in the almost 200 years since that harrowing voyage, the truth faded into history, eclipsed by the celebrated novel it inspired, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. The extraordinary journey of the Essex and her crew was chronicled by Nathaniel Philbrick in his book In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. Screenplay by Charles Leavitt, who also shares story credit with Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver

I, TONYA  Based on the unbelievable but true events, this darkly comedic tale of American figure skater, Tonya Harding, and one of the most sensational scandals in sports history. Though Harding was the first American woman to complete a triple axel in competition, her legacy was forever defined by her association with an infamous, illconceived, and even more poorly executed attack on fellow Olympic competitor Nancy Kerrigan. Steven Rogers wrote the script for ‘I, Tonya’ which made the 2016 Blacklist and won the 2016 Hit List. He is also a producer on the film. Previous credits include ‘Hope Floats’, ‘Stepmom’, ‘Kate and Leopold’, ‘P. S. I Love You’ and ‘Love the Coopers’ which he also executive produced.

JACKIE Jackie Kennedy led a multi-faceted life of power and influence, but when it came to writing about her, screenwriter and journalist Noah Oppenheim came to feel there was one story that spoke to her psyche in the most compelling way – the very brief but remarkably consequential days that the First Lady spent nearly alone in the White House following her husband’s death.

JOY David O. Russell’s 8th feature film, JOY, probes four decades in the upward-moving life of a single-mom-turned-business-magnate to explore how daring, resilience and the persistence of vision carry people from the ordinary into extraordinary moments of creation, striving and love.

KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD Acclaimed filmmaker Guy Ritchie brings his dynamic style to the epic fantasy action adventure King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, an iconoclastic take on the classic Excalibur myth, tracing Arthur’s journey from the streets to the throne. Ritchie is an accomplished storyteller who has been entertaining audiences with his dynamic cinematic style for nearly two decades.He directed King Arthur: Legend of the Sword from a screenplay by Joby Harold and Ritchie & Lionel Wigram, story by David Dobkin and Joby Harold.

THE LADY IN THE VAN It has taken another 15 years for Bennett to feel ready to revisit the material as a feature film. In 2006, he and Hytner had transformed their hit play The History Boys into a two-time BAFTA nominated feature, as they had with The Madness Of King George, which  garnered 14 BAFTA nominations, including a win for the Alexander Korda Award for  Best British Film, and four Academy Award nominations and one win.  So happy had been the collaboration on The History Boys that Bennett and Hytner were keen to work again with the film’s established British producers, Kevin Loader of Free Range Films and Damian Jones of DJ Films.

LEGEND Writer-director Brian Helgeland’s Legendtells the story of Britain’s most notorious gangsters, Reggie and Ronnie Kray, as they have the time of their lives, ruling over London in the middle of the Swinging Sixties.

LION The incredible true story of Indian-born Australian Saroo Brierley and his unwavering determination to find his lost family and finally return to his first home is now realised in all its splendour on the big screen in Lion, from a screenplay by Luke Davies

LOVING VINCENT If there’s one film that transcends its uniqueness, it’s Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman’s Loving Vincent,  the world’s first fully oil painted feature film that brings the paintings of Vincent van Gogh to life to tell his remarkable story.Every one of the 65,000 frames of the film is an oil-painting hand-painted by 125 professional oil-painters who travelled from all across the world to the Loving Vincent studios in Poland and Greece to be a part of the production. As remarkable as Vincent’s brilliant paintings, is his passionate and ill-fated life, and mysterious death.Loving Vincent had a 7 year production journey – director Dorota Kobiela had originally planned it as a short film. Before they began writing the script, Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman read 40 different publications about Vincent and visited 19 museums in 6 countries to view around 400 Van Gogh paintings.

THE MAN WITH THE IRON HEART, based on the novel HHhH, written by Laurent Binet, which won the Goncourt prize for a first novel in 2012 and was met with unanimous enthusiasm in the 25 countries in which it was translated, was directed by French director, writer and producer Cédric Jimenez (The Connection) and adapted by Jimenez’ partner Audrey Diwan and playwright/ screenwriter David Farr.

THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS The magical journey that led to the creation of Ebenezer Scrooge,  Tiny Tim and other classic characters from A Christmas Carol, showing how Charles Dickens mixed real life inspirations with his vivid imagination to conjure up unforgettable characters and a timeless tale, forever changing the holiday season into the celebration we know today. Based on Les Standiford’s 2008 book, The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits, the movie brings the imagination of one of the world’s best-loved authors to vivid reality as he creates the masterpiece that has shaped modern-day Christmas celebrations for more than 150 years, directed by Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) from a screenplay by Susan Coyne (Mozart in the Jungle, Slings and Arrows).

THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY The journey of self-taught mathematical prodigy Srinivasa Ramanujan and the journey of bringing his story to life on the page and screen both began with a letter. Some five or six years after the publication of The Man Who Knew Infinity, writer/director Matthew Brown and executive producer Tristine Skyler were visiting Brown’s aunt in Big Sur when Skylar noticed the book in Brown’s aunt’s library.

MARK FELT: THE MAN WHO BROUGHT DOWN THE WHITEHOUSE Writer/director Peter Landesman (Parkland, Concussion) was hired to write the screenplay in 2005, before he had directed any movies, when he was known as an award-winning investigative journalist and war correspondent.At that time, Jay Roach (Trumbo, Meet The Parents) was set to direct. Based on a true story of the most famous anonymous man in American history: Mark Felt, the FBI second-in-command who was the “Deep Throat” whistleblower in the 1970s Watergate scandal.

MARY SHELLEY Directed by Haifaa al-Mansour,  based on an original screenplay by Australian screenwriter Emma Jensen. It is about writer Mary Shelley’s first love and romantic relationship with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, which inspired Mary to write Frankenstein

MAUDIE Based on a true story, the outstanding independent film charts the unlikely romance between Maud Lewis, a folk artist who blossoms in later life, and the curmudgeonly recluse, Everett. Original screenplay by Sherry White.

THE MEDDLER came to life on the set of writer-director Lorene Scafaria’s first feature film, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Although Scafaria was thrilled to be helming her first film, she admits she was still in something of a daze after the death of her larger-than-life father, Joe, the year before. In the middle of her grief and this important time in her career, Scafaria’s mother, Gail, decided to relocate to Los Angeles to be near her only daughter.

MEGAN LEAVEY Megan Leavey, the movie, began on the day that Megan Leavey, the person, walked into LD Entertainment production offices and told her remarkable story.“We cried in our conference room,” recalls producer Jennifer Monroe. “It was incredible to see the war from a female Marine’s perspective.This took place during a time when women soldiers couldn’t be on the frontlines and here’s Megan, who’s able to go in front of the frontlines because she belongs to the K9 division.”

MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES The comedy Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates takes the intriguing idea of two brothers finding dates for a wedding and runs with it, adding unexpected layers of heart and two outrageous new lead characters. Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien have established themselves as two of the hottest names in comedy after writing Nicholas Stoller‘s “Neighbors” and “Neighbors 2” Andrew Jay Cohen (Screenwriter, Executive Producer) recently made his feature film directorial debut with The House starring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, which he also co-wrote and produced.

MILES AHEAD, inspired by events in his life, is a wildly entertaining, impressionistic, no-holds barred portrait of one of 20th century music’s creative geniuses, Miles Davis, featuring a career defining performance by Don Cheadle in the title role, who co-wrote the screenplay with Steven Baigelman, and makes his bravura directorial debut.

MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle, ” said Albert Einstein and in the uplifting Miracles from Heaven we experience  the rousing portrait of a family suddenly discovering joy and promise in the most tumultuous moment of their lives.Based on Texas mom Christy Beam’s inspirational memoir, this astonishing true story of the girl rescued by an out-of-the-blue accident is directed by Patricia Riggen (who recently directed the superb The 33), from a screenplay by Randy Brown (Trouble with the Curve).

MISS YOU ALREADY From director Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight, Thirteen) comes Miss You Already, an honest and powerful story following two best friends through the highs and lows of life. The idea has been with writer Morwenna Banks for many years. “It is a work of fiction, but it happened that breast cancer touched my life and the lives of several people around me, within a short frame of time,” she recalls.

MOLLY’S GAME  Based on the true story of a young, charismatic Olympic-hopeful skier and ‘Poker Princess’ who was arrested in the middle of the night by 17 FBI agents wielding automatic weapons, marks the directorial debut of renowned playwright and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. Although Bloom’s 2014 memoir ends with her FBI arrest, the story of how Molly’s Game got to the big screen begins before Bloom even realized her reign was ending. When Bloom was still running a game at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, she met Executive Producer Leopoldo Gout at a party.

THE MULE Clint Eastwood stars as Earl Stone, a man in his 80s who is broke, alone, and facing foreclosure of his business when he is offered a job that simply requires him to drive.  Eastwood directs from a screenplay by Nick Schenk, inspired by the New York Times Magazine article “The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year-Old Drug Mule” by Sam Dolnick.

MY FATHER’S WAR Writer-director Craig Gardner’s My Father’s War will help facilitate healing for a generation of men, women and children (now adults) who were deeply affected by the South Africa’s Border War  – on and off the battlefield.

NOEM MY SKOLLIE The riveting Noem My Skollie delivers on the themes of friendship, betrayal, forgiveness, acceptance, the desire for a better life, hope and love, and is set on the Cape Flats and in Pollsmoor prison, based on the life of John W. Fredericks, who also wrote the screenplay at the age of 60.

THE ODYSSEY French director Jerôme Salle thrives on a sense of adventure, never more so than when making The Odyssey, his epic take on the life of naval officer Jacques Cousteau whose underwater exploits made him a celebrated name all over the world..Written by Jérôme Salle and Laurent Turner, The Odyssey is based on Capitaine de la Calypso by Albert Falco and Yves Paccalet, and My Father, The Captain by Jean-Michel Cousteau.

THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN Based on the true story of Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), from his audacious escape from San Quentin at the age of 70 to an unprecedented string of heists that confounded authorities and enchanted the public. Written and directed by David Lowery, based on the true-life story of Forrest Tucker, a career criminal and prison escape artist. The script is based on David Grann‘s 2003 article in The New Yorkertitled “The Old Man and the Gun”, which was later collected in Grann’s 2010 book The Devil and Sherlock Holmes.

ON THE BASIS OF SEX It tells the true story of a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) – then a struggling attorney and new mother – who faces adversity and numerous obstacles in her fight for equal rights throughout her career.

PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST Getting to the point of cameras rolling for a 30-day location shoot on the beautiful island of Malta for the thrilling new film was a years-long journey for writer-director Andrew Hyatt. It began with a personal fascination with Paul, arguably the most important person outside of Jesus in the New Testament. It then grew into a desire to create a biblically authentic, cinematically compelling exploration of the last days of Paul’s life.

PELÉ In partnership with Legends 10, Imagine Entertainment recruited the young writer/director team, Jeffrey and Michael Zimbalist to scribe the screenplay and helm the film project.  Their successful background in documentary films where they previously had explored soccer as well as Brazil and Brazilian culture, would ensure the film would have a unique perspective and truthful tone.

PLEASE STAND BY Screenwriter Michael Golamco’s inspiration came from a NY Times article about young girls with autism attending a summer camp. One girl in particular said her hobby was writing fan fiction along the lines of Lord of the Rings. “That girl resonated with me. The article said girls with autism have problems connecting socially, but what sets them apart from boys is that girls really want to connect. The kernel of the Wendy character started to develop – the idea of a young girl who really wants to connect with the world but isn’t sure how, and the journey of her learning how.”

THE POST Throughout American history, there have been catalytic moments in which ordinary citizens must decide whether to put everything on the line–livelihoods, reputations, status, even freedom—to do what they believe to be right and necessary to protect the Constitution and defend American freedom. With The Post, multiple-Academy-Award-winning director Steven Spielberg excavates one such moment. The result is a high-wire drama based on the true events that unfolded when The Washington Post and The New York Times formed a pragmatic alliance in the wake of The Times’ incendiary exposure of the Top Secret study that would become known to the world as the Pentagon Papers.

PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN Writer/director Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston & The Wonder Women is the incredible true story of what inspired Harvard psychologist and inventor Dr. William Moulton Marston to create the iconic feminist superhero Wonder Woman.

QUEEN OF KATWE  A young girl’s incredible journey from the streets of Uganda to a world-class chess player embodies the strength of the human spirit in the inspiring Queen of Katwe. It was an article by Tim Crothers in ESPN Magazine where John Carls (Rango, Where the Wild Things Are) first learned about the work of Sports Outreach, a faith-based organization that uses sports to make a difference in the lives of at-risk youth in the poorest areas of the world. Based on a remarkable true story, Queen of Katwe is directed by Mira Nair from a screenplay by William Wheeler.

RACE Based on the incredible true story of Jesse Owens, the legendary athletic superstar whose quest to become the greatest track and field athlete in history thrusts him onto the world stage of the 1936 Olympics, where he faces off against Adolf Hitler’s vision of Aryan supremacy. Race is an enthralling film about courage, determination, tolerance, and friendship, and an inspiring drama about one man’s fight to become an Olympic legend. Written by Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse and directed by Stephen Hopkins.

REBEL IN THE RYE The world of legendary writer J. D. Salinger is brought vividly to life in this revealing look at the experiences that shaped one of the most renowned, controversial, and enigmatic authors of our time.

RED JOAN In a picturesque village in England, Joan Stanley (Academy Award winner Dame Judi Dench), lives in contented retirement. Then suddenly her tranquil existence is shattered as she’s shockingly arrested by MI5. For Joan has been hiding an incredible past; she is one of the most influential spies in living history… It is directed with a strong sense for character by Trevor Nunn. Screenplay by Lindsay Shapero, based on Jennie Rooney’s novel.

THE REVENANT Inspired by true events, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s masterful The Revenant is an epic story of survival and transformation on the American frontier, with Leonardo DiCaprio as legendary explorer Hugh Glass who  undertakes a 200-mile odyssey through the vast and untamed West on the trail of the man who betrayed him: What begins as a relentless quest for revenge becomes a heroic saga against all. Based on Michael Punke’s The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, screenplay by Mark L. Smith

ROCKETMAN An epic musical fantasy about the uncensored human story of Sir Elton John’s breakthrough years. The story of Elton John’s life, from his years as a prodigy at the Royal Academy of Music through his influential and enduring musical partnership with Bernie Taupin. Biopic based on the life of musician Elton John. The film is directed by Dexter Fletcher and written by Lee Hall. Taron Egerton (the Kingsman movies) plays young Elton John. 

ROMA Set in Mexico City in the early 1970’s, writer-director Alfonso Cuarón’s story follows Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a young domestic worker for a family in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma in Mexico City. Delivering an artful love letter to the women who raised him, Cuarón draws on his own childhood to create a vivid and emotional portrait of domestic strife and social hierarchy amidst political turmoil of the 1970s. 

ROMAN J. ISREAL, ESQ Writer-director Dan Gilroy teams with two-time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington to create the portrait of a layered, complex man whose life has been spent fighting for others’ civil rights – and paid a price for his activism.Gilroy wrote the film on spec specifically for Washington, feeling he was the only actor who could bring the character to life.  “I wrote this movie for Denzel because of his talent and because Denzel is a  man who believes in human dignity and the human spirit. Knowing who Denzel is in real life, he brings that part of himself to this character.”

RULES DON’T APPLY It was written, directed, and produced by Warren Beatty, who also stars as Howard Hughes, the billionaire movie mogul, famed aviator and legendary eccentric – who was both a rule-maker for many young stars and a rule-breaker – challenging the industry’s social mores and restrictive moral code.

SGT. STUBBY: AN UNLIKELY HERO Set against the backdrop of America’s entry into World War I and based on the incredible, true story of the unbreakable bond between a stray dog and a young Soldier, this animated film tells the real-life story of America’s most decorated dog, Sgt. Stubby, showing the world the true meaning of dedication, loyalty, bravery and heroism.Fun Academy Motion Pictures brings the early 20th century back to life for audiences of all ages to enjoy. But just as the real Stubby’s journey took him from homeless mutt to celebrated Soldier, his animated counterpart’s journey to the big screen has been quite the adventure … a story nearly a decade in the making.

SAINT JUDY tells the inspirational true story of immigration attorney Judy Wood and her fight that changed American asylum law forever. Directed by Sean Hanish with Michelle Monaghan and Alfred Molina.

SEW THE WINTER TO MY SKIN  A rousing, action-adventure-epic set in early 1950’s rural South Africa, chronicling the captivating chase and suspenseful capture of the native outlaw, John Kepe. This self-proclaimed “Samson of the Boschberg” inevitably became a political threat to the very fabric of the ruling colonial society. A South African Epic written and directed by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka. 

SHEPHERDS AND BUTCHERS The true account of the legal process of capital punishment, and the inhumane treatment of prisoners on death row, which took place during the apartheid era in South Africa.The project had its inception in 2012 when producer, Anant Singh, sent his long-time collaborator, screenwriter/producer Brian Cox, a copy of Chris Marnewick’s award-winning novel to see if he would be interested in writing the screenplay. Cox responded to the material right away and very quickly wrote the initial adaptation.

SKIN Inspired by the remarkable true story of Bryon Widner, Skin follows the life of a former skinhead group member, who endured over a year of painful operations to his face and body to remove the tattoos that tied him to his terrible past. Written and directed by Guy Nattiv, an acclaimed writer/director from Tel Aviv, Israel, this controversial film stars Jamie Bell as a destitute young man, raised by racist skinheads and notorious among white supremacists, who turns his back on hatred and violence to transform his life, with the help of a black activist and the woman he loves.

SPOTLIGHT tells the astonishing true story of the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Spotlight” team of investigative journalists, who in 2002 shock the city and the world by exposing the Catholic Church’s systematic cover-up of widespread pedophilia perpetrated by more than 70 local priests. Written by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, and directed by McCarthy, it’s a deeply moving film that sheds light on a world where petrified kids are not ‘’prayed’’ on by priests, but ‘’preyed’’ on by those they respect as mediators of God.

STAN & OLLIE Weaned on Saturday morning BBC TV screenings of Laurel & Hardy legendary two-reelers, award-winning Film and Television writer Jeff Pope was gifted a Laurel and Hardy DVD box-set fifteen years ago, and after watching Way Out West,  inspiration led to research the story behind the icons and snowballed into the screenplay for Stan & Ollie.

STEVE JOBS In the provocative and stimulating Steve Jobs, Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin takes us backstage to paint a painfully human portrait of the late Apple icon.In the past five years alone Sorkin has won an Oscar for writing David Fincher’s The Social Network, earned a second nomination (alongside Steven Zaillian and Stan Chervin) for Bennett Miller’s Moneyball, and churned out three seasons of the social-media-fueled The Newsroom.

STRONGER The inspiring true story of Jeff Bauman, an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become the symbol of hope following the infamous 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Screenplay by Boston local John Pollono (Small Engine Repair, Lost Girls) based on the best-selling book of the same name by Jeff Bauman and Bret Witter.

SUFFRAGETTE is an intriguing and captivating women’s film that tracks the story of the foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State. Screenplay by Abi Morgan’

SULLY ‘On January 15, 2009, the world witnessed the “Miracle on the Hudson” when Captain “Sully” Sullenberger glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard.  However, even as Sully was being heralded by the public and the media for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and his career. Now Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood brings the story to the big screen,  from a screenplay by Todd Komarnicki, based on the book Highest Duty by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow, with Tom Hanks as Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE Based in part on Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Finkel’s book of the same name, Thank You for Your Service follows a group of U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq who struggle to integrate back into family and civilian life, while living with the memory of a war that threatens to destroy them long after they’ve left the battlefield.“The story was about stepping into the boots of a returning warrior.  Being able to explore that from within the home was fascinating to me,” says Jason Hall—Academy Award-nominated screenwriter of American Sniper— who makes his directorial debut with Thank You for Your Service and also serves as its screenwriter, and spent two years adapting the multi-storied work into a screenplay.

THE 33 “Family is all we have,” is what keeps the flame of hope burning in the tense and taut untold true story of The 33, directed by Patricia Riggen from a screenplay by Mikko Alanne, Oscar nominee Craig Borten (Dallas Buyers Club) and Michael Thomas, based on the screen story by Oscar nominee José Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries) and the book Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar.

THEIR FINEST Though long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2009, Lissa Evans’ novel Their Finest Hour and a Half went under the radar somewhat, it inspired powerhouse producers Amanda Posey and Stephen Woolley to bring it to the Big Screen seven years later.

TOLKIEN As a young student, J.R.R. Tolkien (Nicholas Hoult) finds love, friendship and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts. These early life experiences soon inspire Tolkien to write the classic fantasy novels “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.” Directed by Dome Karukoski and written by David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford. 

TRUMBO recounts how Dalton (Bryan Cranston) used words and wit to win two Academy Awards and expose the absurdity and injustice under the blacklist, which entangled everyone from gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) to John Wayne, Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger.The film is directed by Jay Roach, the winner of four Emmys, a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award, who is best known for directing such comedy classics as the Austin Powers trilogy, Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers and The Campaign. The screenplay was written by John Mcnamara (Writer, Producer) is a writer, producer, showrunner and television creator.

TRUTH is a classic newsroom drama, a suspenseful behind-the-scenes procedural, a multi-character study—and also something more: In the words of former CBS News anchor Dan Rather, “This film is about what has happened to the reporting of news, how and why it’s happened, and why you should care.” For Writer-Director James Vanderbilt, a fascination with journalism initially drew him to the project.

THE UPSIDE  A heartfelt comedy about a recently paroled ex-convict (Kevin Hart) who strikes up an unusual and unlikely friendship with a paralyzed billionaire (Bryan Cranston). A remake of the French 2011 film The Intouchables which was itself inspired by the life of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo

VICE Spanning a half-century, Bruce (Dick) Cheney’s (Christian Bale) complex journey from rural Wyoming electrical worker to de facto President of the United States is a darkly comic and often unsettling inside look at the use and misuse of institutional power. Written and directed by Adam McKay (The Big Short). 

VICEROY’S HOUSE As a writer-director, Gurinder Chadha has repeatedly translated her personal experience as a Punjabi-British woman into uplifting, crowd-pleasing movies, from her ground-breaking 1993 debut Bhaji On The Beach to her box-office smash Bend It Like Beckham, and now brings us the epic historical drama Viceroy’s Housethe astonishing true story of the final months of British rule in India.

VICTORIA AND ABDUL: The extraordinary true story of the amazing and unlikely friendship between Queen Victoria  and a young clerk, Abdul Karim, who becomes her teacher, her spiritual advisor, and her devoted friend.The screenplay is by Academy Award nominee Lee Hall (Billy Elliot), based on journalist Shrabani Basu’s book Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant.

THE WALK Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), guided by his real-life mentor, Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), is aided by an unlikely band of international recruits, who overcome long odds, betrayals, dissension and countless close calls to conceive and execute their mad plan. Robert Zemeckis, the master director of such marvels as Forrest Gump, Cast Away, Back to the Future, Polar Express and Flight, again uses cutting edge technology in the service of an emotional, character-driven story. The Screenplay is by Robert Zemeckis & Christopher Browne, based on the book “To Reach the Clouds” by Philippe Petit.

WAR DOGS From director Todd Phillips (The Hangover” trilogy) comes War Dogs, a comedic drama based on true events, following two friends in their early 20s living in Miami Beach during the Iraq War who exploit a little-known government initiative that allows smaller businesses to bid on U.S. Military contracts. The screenplay is by Stephen Chin and Todd Phillips & Jason Smilovic, based on the Rolling Stone article titled “Arms and the Dudes,” by Guy Lawson.

WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT  Based on the true adventures of war-reporter-in-the-making Kim Barker — and her acclaimed autobiography The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan – comes Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a hilarious and heartfelt portrait of a woman getting her life together in a global hot spot where everything else seems to be falling apart.“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” (military code for the letters WTF), is directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, from a screenplay by Robert Carlock based on Kim Barker’s book The Taliban Shuffle.

WHITE BOY RICK Rick Wershe is a single father who’s struggling to raise two teenagers during the height of the crack epidemic in 1980s Detroit. He sells guns illegally to make ends meet but soon attracts attention from the FBI. Federal agents convince his son, Rick Jr., to become an undercover drug informant in exchange for keeping his father out of prison. Directed by Yann Demange and written by Andy Weiss, and Logan and Noah Miller.

THE WHITE CROW It is not a biopic. It’s an impressionistic glimpse at the forces driving Nureyev — something of a diva even then — to accept no borders or limits in letting his artistry run fee. This British film was written by David Hare and directed by Ralph Fiennes, and starring Oleg Ivenko as the ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, and Ukrainian dancer Sergei Polunin as his roommate Yuri Soloviev. It is inspired by the book Rudolf Nureyev: The Life by Julie Kavanagh. 

WOODLAWN In Woodlawn, the faith of a chaplain and a star football player sparks a spiritual awakening and eases the racial tensions plaguing a high school team in Birmingham, Alabama in 1973. When Hollywood director Jon Erwin and his brother Andy decided to make a film featuring the true story of the Woodlawn High School football team giving their lives to Christ during desegregation in the 1970s, they never could have imagined the kind of impact it would have on the world.

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A classic, capitalist, American story.

For producer Don Handfield, The Founder began with a song.  Back in 2004, when he was casually listening to “Boom, Like That,” a single from the just-released solo album from Dire Strait’s singer-songwriter Mark Knopfler, the producer, who is partners with actor/producer Jeremy Renner in their Los Angeles-based production company, The Combine, was instantly intrigued.

The lyrics of the song – Knopfler’s reflections from reading Ray Kroc’s autobiography – detail how the milkshake mixer salesman from Illinois first visited the McDonald brothers in San Bernardino and pitched them the idea of franchising their restaurant.  Curious about the man at the center of the song, Handfield remembers thinking, Who was this guy? What is this about?  Like everyone, Handfield was familiar with the ubiquitous fast-food restaurant, but he wanted to know more about its story of how it all began.

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Michael Keaton stars as the maverick American entrepreneur Ray Kroc, who transformed McDonald’s from a San Bernardino hamburger stand into a global empire now with over 35,000 locations around the world.Once he took on the character of Ray Kroc, Michael Keaton says everything just clicked into place. “The first time I heard about this project and started reading the script, my first thought was, why has no one told this story before?” the actor reflects. “This is a classic, capitalist, American story. And everyone has a connection to McDonald’s – no matter what you may feel about them as an adult. It’s a childhood connection. It’s not just a hamburger or food. McDonald’s was the biggest shift in popular culture and fast food that there will ever be. It wasn’t just about a hamburger. It’s where America was at the time and how it changed everything.”

The Founder is a drama that tells the true story of how Ray Kroc, a salesman from Illinois, met Mac and Dick McDonald, who were running a burger operation in 1950s Southern California.  Impressed by the brothers’ speedy system of making the food at their San Bernardino hamburger stand and the crowds of patrons it attracted, Kroc immediately saw franchise potential and maneuvered himself into a position to be able to pull the company from the brothers and create a billion-dollar empire.  And thus McDonald’s was born.

The Founder is directed by John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks, The Blind Side), based on an original screenplay by Robert Siegel (The Wrestler).

Don Handfield and Jeremy Renner

Don Handfield and Jeremy Renner

Handfield says he read every book and article he could find on Ray Kroc.

“Like today’s Silicon Valley startups, it was such a fascinating story about two brothers who created something and then the business guy comes in and takes it to the next level.  And often the split between the founders and the business guy is a violent one.  This story had all the echoes and machinations of that.”

 

Research Begins into the lives of Ray Kroc and the McDonald brothers

As Handfield continued doing research into Ray Kroc and the McDonald brothers, the characters and theme of the kind of movie Handfield wanted to make began to gestate.  According to Handfield, there are two forms of capitalism represented by Ray Kroc and the McDonald brothers.

“The McDonald brothers were very much like sustainable capitalism, like, we’re going to make great product. We’re going to leave a minimal footprint. We’re going to take care of our employees – I guess you would call it sustainable capitalism.  And on the flip side you have Ray Kroc, who, if you could drop him in the jungle he’d cut down every tree and come out with a suitcase full of cash.”  At the heart of Handfield’s interest was the story of two idealist entrepreneurs facing off against a ruthless entrepreneur would stop at nothing to succeed.  Still, Handfield admits, he does admire Ray Kroc, a man who at the age of 52 still had the drive and stamina and confidence to do whatever it took to start an empire.

Handfield says he chased the story for five years before serendipity arrived in the form of a random Internet search.  While doing a Google search late one night, he came across a small article with an interview with Dick McDonald that mentioned he owned a small motel in Massachusetts.  He called the current owner of the hotel and said he was a producer and wanted to make a movie about the McDonald family, and the owner passed that message along to the McDonald’s family.  That lead ultimately led him to Jason French, the grandson of Dick McDonald who said he’d been waiting 50 years for someone to call and tell this story. Dick and his brother Mac had passed away several years earlier so French was informally appointed by the family to handle discussions with the Hollywood producer. For such an iconic part of American history, Handfield was surprised to learn that in all that time, no reporter, journalist, or movie producer, had ever reached out to them.

Excited to have the true story of the founding of McDonald’s told from their point of view, French and the members of his family shared archival materials and McDonald’s memorabilia with Handfield, including letters between the McDonald brothers and Ray Kroc, archival photographs, various designs and mock-ups, as well as Dictaphone recordings of their conversations.  “This was all stuff that was valuable when we began to create the story,” Handfield relates.  “The story was never going to be a movie about fast food.  To me the story was always about capitalism.”

“This is unbelievable for our family to have this story being told and bringing to light how everything came about and how McDonald’s was formed,” says Jason French. French says his grandfather and great uncle were great innovators, creating processes that would be put into effect not only in his own restaurants, but that created the standards for fast food restaurants everywhere. “My grandfather was a man that had so many thoughts, dreams and came up with so many things before their time, it’s unbelievable.  He was a guy who thought how can we make it better? How can we do it faster? And how can we make things move more effectively?”

Ray Kroc

Ray Kroc

Securing The Film Rights

A decade after Handfield first heard Mark Knopfler sing the lyrics to the fateful tune, I’m going to San Bernardino ring-a-ding-ding / Milkshake mixers that’s my thing now / These guys bought a heap ‘o my stuff / And I gotta see a good thing shooting up now, the producer had finally secured film rights from the McDonald’s family.  With a movie concept in place, Handfield and his producing partner Jeremy Renner brought the project to veteran producer Aaron Ryder, the co-president of production at FilmNation Entertainment, who immediately loved the idea.  “It’s exactly the type of film that we do,” Ryder says about the New York-based film production and distribution company.  “It’s a movie about America and capitalism.  It’s about the pursuit and the erosion of integrity, and determination of succeeding.  It’s a story that shows the American dream: that you can succeed despite the odds by just sheer force of will.”

Choosing a screenwriter who could take a legendary story and transform it into a character piece

The project quickly began to fall into place.  Before bringing in a director to visualize  the film’s artistic and dramatic aspects, the producers felt they needed to have the right script. In choosing a screenwriter who could take a legendary story and transform it into a character piece, the producers met with several writers until they found one whose vision for the project resonated with them.

In 2013, Handfield contacted screenwriter Robert Siegel, who had just written “The Wrestler,” and whose sensibility he thought might be a perfect match to trace the rise of Ray Kroc from a hustling  salesman into the chairman of a global fast food  empire.  “We talked with a bunch of writers about how they would go about this,” Handfield recalls.  “And Rob’s take was in making it the McDonald brothers’ story but from the point of view of Ray Kroc, and I think that was a really original and powerful way to approach it.”

RobertSiegel.RGB_

Robert Siegel is a New York-based screenwriter and director. He is the writer of the Darren Aronofsky-directed film “The Wrestler,” for which Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei earned Academy Award® nominations. His directorial debut, “Big Fan,” was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. From 1996 to 2003, Siegel served as editor-in-chief of the satirical publication The Onion, where he won the 1999 Thurber Prize For American Humor and edited the number-one New York Times bestselling book Our Dumb Century.

“I like to write kind of big American stories,” proclaims the screenwriter who is also known for writing and directing the Spirit Award nominated comedy-drama “Big Fan” with Patton Oswalt.  “And the genesis of McDonald’s touched on all these big American themes: the car culture, the ‘50s, the rise of the suburbs, and fast food, and capitalism, and greed.  There’s such an epicness to the story.  It’s such a big untold story.  It was kind of the birth of fast food which has had reverberation on how we eat, and where we eat, and who we eat with.”

Siegel instantly responded to the character and saw incredible potential.  He says, “Ray Kroc is such a big, complicated, larger than life, polarizing figure who does whatever it takes to get his way.”  Armed with hundreds of pages of research materials about Ray Kroc and McDonald’s, the writer also explored the general landscape of America in the 1950s.  “Post World War Two the country was just exploding,” Siegel says.  “It was just rock and roll, car culture, youth culture, and drive-ins.  And here you have this man who is completely out of time.  It’s an Elvis Presley world and Ray’s a Bing Crosby man.”  However much a fish out of water he was in that era, Siegel notes that Ray Kroc would go on to be one of the major drivers of ‘50s culture, and on through the ‘60s, ‘70s and beyond.

For Siegel, the origin story of Ray Kroc and McDonald’s reminded him of another corporate titan, Mark Zuckerberg, and the problematic founding of the social media site Facebook as depicted in David Fincher’s ‘The Social Network.”   “I tend to gravitate toward dark,” Siegel expresses.  “I like dark, complicated, messed up characters.  And when Don [Handfield] and I started talking, we really saw things in a similar way, about building this portrait of this larger than life guy who changed America, and changed the world, and left a lot of human wreckage in his wake.” In crafting the screenplay Siegel also sought inspiration from films such as “There Will Be Blood,” “Citizen Kane,” and “Tucker: The Man and His Dream,” and books like Robert A. Caro’s book, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, all of which detail maverick titans of industry.

Ray Kroc 2

Ray Kroc lived a long life filled with many chapters, so creating the structure of the film was a challenge. Siegel explains, “There was no need to focus on the early years that much, so the starting point for the movie is this failed salesman who hadn’t achieved any success until he was already pretty much at retirement age.  At that time, he was in his mid-50s when he came upon the McDonald brothers.”

Combining a strong character study and themes of America in the 20th century, Siegel turned in his first draft of the script in eight weeks.  For Siegel, the defining moment in the story that set him in motion is when Ray Kroc first lays eyes on McDonald’s.  “That’s his burning bush moment,” he muses.  “He’s this guy who’s just been literally wandering in the desert, wandering the back roads of America selling these Multimixers for decades with no pot of gold.  There’s no reason to think this guy is headed for anything special.  He’s at a point in his life when he should be retiring.  So when he sees this booming restaurant in the middle of this dusty, desert town of San Bernardino, he feels like, this is my purpose, this is my calling.”

Ray Kroc had always wanted to be a success, and when he meets the McDonald brothers he realizes he has the opportunity to do something great and prove all of his naysayers wrong. “It’s redemption, I think, for the lonely, miserable life on the road as a traveling salesman,” Siegel contemplates.  He adds that one of the admirable things about the visionary entrepreneur is that whenever he was beaten down, he would just get back up.  “Even in the face of all this evidence that he was unremarkable, and absolutely not destined for anything special, he believed there must be a purposes to all of this. A reason why he was grinding it out.  That’s the name of his biography, ‘Grinding it Out,’ and that’s what he was. He was a grinder and he had this drive. He always felt that there was some sort of destiny, and always had faith that this was all for something.”

The film’s title, “The Founder,” refers to the oft-cited description of Ray Kroc as the founder of McDonald’s, but for the filmmakers it was infused with irony.

“Ray wasn’t the founder of McDonald’s,” Don Handfield asserts.  “He didn’t create the Speedee System. He didn’t create the restaurant.  But without Ray Kroc, McDonald’s would not have been the worldwide global brand it is today.  Screenwriter Robert Siegel echoes that sentiment. “Ray certainly admires the McDonald brothers,” the screenwriter allows.  “They’ve done something he was never able to do, which is come up with an original idea.  They also thought big and had ambition. But Ray thought huge! He wanted 2,000, 3,000 franchises, which at the time sounded insane.  So he was not the founder. But he called himself the founder.  As soon as he acquired the company, he went about slowly rewriting the history of the company, and kind of wrote them out of their own story.”

Director on board

With a script they felt was ready to be fully realized on screen, the producers partnered with award-winning writer, director, and producer John Lee Hancock, to direct the film. Aaron Ryder says that in addition to being a seasoned writer and director, Hancock is one of Hollywood’s most amiable guys.  “He’s someone who knows exactly what he wants to do, and who surrounds himself with collaborators with whom he’s worked for the last ten or fifteen years,” Ryder says.  The multi-hyphenate artist has directed a long string of critically acclaimed and successful films such as the sports dramas “The Rookie” and “The Blind Side,” and most recently the 1960s period drama, “Saving Mr. Banks,” starring Tom Hanks as filmmaker-businessman, Walt Disney.  Don Handfield says “I thought he was perfect for it because in some ways, he’s like the Frank Capra or Norman Rockwell of our time.  He’s this guy who tells these very American stories in a very timeless way.  What better guy to tell this big origin story that takes place in America than John Lee Hancock?”

John Lee Hancock on the set of The Founder with actor Michael Keaton.

Director John Lee Hancock on the set of THE FOUNDER with Michael Keaton Photo: Daniel McFadden

In his last film, “Saving Mr. Banks,” Hancock created 1906 Australia and 1961 Los Angeles, so he was familiar with the notion of creating a believable world in an earlier time period.   With “The Founder,” that period is 1954-1961, a time in America when much of the country was quickly catching on to the idea of mass production.  In this optimistic post war period of Elvis Presley, a new modern suburbia of interstate highways, roadside motels, and fast food was also first coming into existence.   “It’s always a lot of fun to do films set in the past,” Hancock says.  “Because of the cars, because of the clothing, and also looking for anachronisms.  It’s definitely easier to do a contemporary movie, but there’s something satisfying about being able to time travel.”

Hoping to provide audiences with great characters and an entertaining experience, the filmmakers behind “The Founder” also believe that the story of Ray Kroc and the McDonald brothers will serve to humanize the ubiquitous global fast food chain. “I think when people learn about the story behind McDonald’s, that it will give the company a human feel that I think they’ve lost in the past five decades,” producer Don Handfield observes.  “The McDonald’s Corporation might be unsettled by the prospect of a warts-and-all movie about Ray Kroc, but I think they’ll pleased when they see the movie.  Every time I pass by a McDonald’s now I don’t see this massive corporation that makes fast food.  I see two brothers who loved each other and who wanted to make fast food for families that was affordable and good.”  Even though “The Founder” presents the candid origin story of the fast food chain, producer Aaron Ryder believes that McDonald’s should be very excited about “The Founder.” “Every time I read the script, I wanted to go out and eat a McDonald’s hamburger! Every person in the United States has some sort of relationship or familiarity with McDonald’s.  And if you’re able to tap into that nostalgic feeling and get people to go back to that because they want to eat a McDonald’s hamburger, that’s going to help them.”

The goal of the movie, Handfield says, is not to vilify Ray Kroc or glorify the McDonald brothers.  “I think half the people will come out and go, ‘Ray Kroc’s an American hero,’ and half the people will come out and go, ‘Man, the McDonald brothers sure were American heroes,” he speculates.  “And I think that’s good.  I think Ray Kroc in some ways is just driven by desperation and fear. He didn’t want to be a failure. He wanted to be successful by any means necessary to get there.  And I think we’ve kind of adopted that as our national credo – it’s all about being successful at any cost.”

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“The Birth Of A Nation leaves us with a question we must ask if we are to heal as a nation:  when injustice knocks at our own front door, are we going to counter it with everything we have?”

Writer, director and actor Nate Parker takes on a distinctly vast ambition for a first-time filmmaker, presenting a more take-charge slave narrative than we are used to seeing with The Birth Of A Nation, boldly reclaiming the title of D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film.

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Amidst sweeping action and romance Parker presents a man driven equally by love, spirituality, fury and hope to free his people from the legacy of bondage in America.  In the process, he restores a figure long relegated as a historical footnote and shows him as the heroic trailblazer he was.

Set against the American South thirty years prior to the outbreak of the Civil War and based on a true story, The Birth Of A Nation follows Nat Turner (Nate Parker), a literate slave and preacher whose financially strained owner Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer) accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities – against himself, his wife Cherry (Aja Naomi King), and fellow slaves – Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.

Photo by Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock (5567589kf) Nate Parker of 'The Birth Of A Nation' The Variety Shutterstock Sundance Portrait Studio, Park City, Utah, America - 25 Jan 2016

Nate Parker (Nat Turner/Directed By/Screenplay By/Produced By) first garnered attention for his starring role in The Weinstein Company’s and Oprah Winfrey produced, The Great Debaters opposite director/actor Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker. Washington handpicked him to play the troubled yet brilliant “Henry Lowe,” who overcomes his selfish ways and becomes the team’s leader. Parker would later receive an honorary Doctorate from Wiley College in Marshall, Texas—the actual school upon which the film was based. Parker’s most recent efforts have gone into the launch of the Nate Parker Foundation (NPF) a public organization designed to provide monetary and technical support to a significant number of community based organizations that are dedicated to transforming the lives of people of African descent both domestically and abroad. Nate Parker has dedicated his career and life to using his platform as an artist and activist to inspire a protest in the face of community and global injustices. Photo by Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

The Turner slave rebellion stands as one of the most influential acts of resistance against slavery in all American history, yet remarkably, the story has never been recounted in a contemporary screen drama.  Contentious to some and inspirational to many, until now, the life and impact of Nat Turner has largely been confined to folktales, novels, documentaries and a few paragraphs here and there in history books.

The Birth Of A Nation puts a fiery and focused new lens to Turner’s story – taking on the incendiary notions of retaliation and how the institution of slavery continues to afflict and inform present times. The film offers a fresh perspective on what led to his insurrection against slave owners in 1831, and offers a comprehensive and human portrait of the man behind the rebellion – a man driven by faith and a confidence that God is on the side of the oppressed.

It is no accident that Parker has boldly reclaimed the title of D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film, which, while pioneering modern film techniques, somehow portrayed the Ku Klux Klan as a force for good – a graphic reminder of how racial imagery smoldered in the early days of Hollywood.  Parker offers his film as the birth of something new, an alternate take on the birth of this nation – the unsung story of those who have pressed the country forward in their yearning to be free and equal.

While a number of revered films have explored the contours of slavery, from 12 Years A Slave to Glory, Amistad and Lincoln, Parker’s motivation is to renew the past and to seek illumination from it, rather than turn the same blind eye that kept people in the dark for so long.

Says Parker:  “Nat Turner became a leader against incredible odds.  So often when we see slavery in popular culture, it is through stories of suffering and endurance.  But Nat Turner’s is a more incendiary narrative; he was a slave but also a true rebel against injustice. His story demands to be told honestly; it is timely and speaks to the aspiration of finding racial peace in this country.  For me, calling the film The Birth Of A Nation was about reclaiming those words, about righting a wrong – and turning the title into something that can inspire.  It leaves us with a question we must ask if we are to heal as a nation:  when injustice knocks at our own front door, are we going to counter it with everything we have?”

Armie Hammer as "Samuel Turner" Nate Parker as "Nat Turner" in THE BIRTH OF A NATION. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Armie Hammer as “Samuel Turner” Nate Parker as “Nat Turner” in The Birth Of A Nation. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

For Parker, the film was also an answer to a calling he had felt throughout his life – and worth taking a considerable personal risk to pursue.  “I have asked myself how I could be most effective as a filmmaker:  I can either keep reading these scripts that project people of color in stereotypical, counterproductive ways or I can put everything I am into a project that I believe will change the conversation and create the opportunity for sustainable change,” Parker explains.

Parker knew he had five daughters relying on him, but he also knew he wanted those daughters to look at him and see someone who did not shrink in the face of what he felt needed to be done.  “Everyone said, if this doesn’t work it could affect you being relevant in this town as an actor or from an economic standpoint, being able to support your family. So I had to ask, are you willing to go down that road? But when I thought back to the Denmark Veseys, the Harriet Tubmans, the Nat Turners who were willing to give their lives, I said surely I can step away from acting for a couple of years and just see what happens.”

There was no guarantee Parker would get there but with the inspiration of so many others – who sacrificed so much more than a motion picture career – he found a fire burning within that could not be squelched.

“Now I feel so desperately blessed that I was able to tell this story and do it in such a way that I had the control that I did,” Parker concludes.  “If I had to go back and do it again, as arduous as it was, I would do it the exact same way.  The takeaway of the film is what I had hoped:  wherever injustice lives in the world, it is our duty to face it down.”

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Taking Back A Hero:  Nat Turner In American Culture

Nat Turner has long been one of the most captivating, mysterious and perhaps misunderstood historical figures in the ongoing making of an equal America.  His unflinching resistance to the institution of slavery is often cited as integral to the buildup of the Civil War as an act that alarmed and hardened the hearts of Southern slave owners yet raised imperative questions about the morality and sustainability of the so-called “peculiar institution” that stole away the freedom, dignity and destinies of millions.

nat-turner-2To Nate Parker, Nat was not so far removed from an African American version of Braveheart’s William Wallace, who roused and united the Medieval Scots against their oppressors at a time when no one thought it was possible.

Despite growing up in Virginia near where the Turner insurrection occurred, Nate Parker did not once hear the name Nat Turner in school.   “I heard it in whispers and from family members,” he recalls.  “As if they were conjuring the very spirit of rebellion.  But it wasn’t until I was in college, taking African-American Studies that I really learned about him.  When I did, I thought ‘how is it possible that I didn’t know about this?’ Yet it happened right in my back yard.”

That denial of this essential history lit a fire in Parker.  He needed to know more.  And the more he tried to trace Turner’s past, the more he was drawn to a figure who was not at all the savage fanatic portrayed in popular books and legends. Instead, Parker discovered the historical Nat Turner was a spiritually-fueled man of astute intelligence who viewed slavery as a symbol of Satan on earth – and came to believe the only way the world could be set right was to “cut off the head of the serpent.”

“This is someone who tried to make a difference in spite of the impossible odds of his environment. I had always longed for that kind of hero, and he’d been withheld from us,” Parker says.  He saw in Turner “a measured, self-determined man of faith, whose courage and belief allowed him to sacrifice himself for his family and the future.”

Parker also began to realize that just as in life Turner had never owned his identity, this repeated itself after his death. No one knows Turner’s true surname or where his desecrated body is buried.  In the last 200 years, Turner’s image had been used to signify many things. He’d been vilified as an aberrational extremist, re-imagined as a lusty metaphor for a “slave mindset” and exalted as a political revolutionary.  Yet the man’s real life and source of his courage seemed lost in all that.

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An Inspirational Journey To The Screen

It took several years of all-consuming historical and creative searching – including time spent as a Feature Film Program Fellow at the Sundance Institute — for Nate Parker to finish his screenplay.   He acknowledges the process was lonely, and at times felt like being locked alone in a dark tunnel, but he also says, “that is part of the cost of trying to not only make a movie but disrupt a culture.”

During that time, Parker’s own life underwent major changes. When he started writing, Parker was a former All-American wrestler just getting his acting career started.  He drew notice in 2007 in The Great Debaters, personally selected by director Denzel Washington to play a 1930s debate whiz.  He went on to star in The Secret Life Of Bees, Red Tails, Arbitrage, Red Hook Summer, Ain’t Them Body’s Saints and Non-Stop, among others.

Even as his acting career took off, Parker never wavered in his resolve to tell Turner‘s story. A devoted team soon set out to beat the odds and get a production off the ground that, on paper, was an improbable sell:  an explosive story from a first-time filmmaker, an audaciously fresh take on the slave movie as heroic epic, and to boot, a period action-drama with large-scale battle sequences to be shot on an indie budget.  In Kevin Turen, Jason Michael Berman, Aaron L. Gilbert and Preston L. Holmes, Parker knew he had found his ideal partners.

Each of the producers thought that bringing Parker’s original voice to the world was a uniquely motivating force. Though they all shared in that, the producing team had very little overlap, notes Berman, Vice President of Mandalay Pictures.  “We all brought very different skill sets – and Nate seemed to understand how to use each of our specific skills when they were needed.  We were all there to serve his vision and he saw that and integrated it, but didn’t ever take it for granted.”

Given the subject matter, time stresses and budget, the production was rife with challenges.  Yet as a first-time director Parker never allowed himself to flinch.  He set out from the beginning to leave no stone unturned, meeting with directors he admired, including Steven Soderbergh, Spike Lee and Mel Gibson, whose direction of Braveheart battle sequences were an influence. “It was a kind of compressed apprenticeship,” muses Parker.  “I was told you have to be so prepared that you are never second-guessed.  You have to know what you want but also know when you get what you want.”

“That this movie got made is a kind of miracle,” observes producer Turen, President of David S. Goyer’s Phantom Four.  “There was no previous business model that fit this film.  It happened because a group of people came together who deeply, deeply believed in Nate and who felt we were making a film that could be important and great.  We were betting fully on Nate’s ability to execute something special and he has.”

Turen says it was Parker’s incredible promise that gave him the driving confidence that he could compel financiers to back a project that looked high-risk at the outset.  “Nate has one of the most amazing minds I’ve encountered in the film business and he also has a work ethic that means he is always brilliantly prepared,” says Turen.  “He’s worked hard for everything in his life and has a real appreciation for that – and you sense all of that when you meet him, which was our main advantage.”

Berman also had a fervent response to The Birth Of A Nation.  “I’ve been involved in my fair share of independent film but this is by far the most ambitious film I’ve been a part of,” he says.  “I thought the screenplay was beautiful, exciting and extremely important. Though it was clear it could be major financing challenge, that didn’t bother me.  I thrive on challenges and the script and Nate were so incredible, I was completely up for it.”

The key to the financing, Berman came to believe, was Parker.  “When I met Nate it was game over because he has a quality you dream of in a filmmaker: an incredible energy that transfers to everyone he meets. This film could only have worked with a strong leader and Nate was that leader.  I’m a persistent and aggressive person, but Nate has given me a run for my money in that area.”

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Parker says it was natural to talk to investors from the heart.  “I knew I wanted to create a film that could be a creative legacy.  I knew I wanted to be able to show it to my children and have them see that I made an effort to change things. So I said if those are the things I want to achieve, then why can’t those ideas become the game plan for talking to investors? I put it in those terms:  what movies are we leaving for our children and our children’s children?”

Berman also saw the impact in action when they were hiring the crew.  “Everyone wanted to be involved because of Nate’s passion.  It’s also important that as strong as he was, Nate was equally kind, humble and gracious and I believe you see that on the screen.  It’s all about his humanity and ability to get the best out of people.”

For Berman, one key thing sets the film apart:  “It’s the empathy we feel for the characters,” he says.  “When indie films break out the reason is never just the performances or the relevance of the social issues they tackle – it’s the fact that audiences can really relate to the characters, can root for them and really feel why they do what they do.”

A huge piece of the financing puzzle fell into place when Canadian producer Gilbert’s Bron Studios came aboard with an unrelenting commitment to get the film to the screen.  Gilbert says he was blown away by the power of the script and its exciting, relevant perspective on a past that still has a profound impact; but, as with others, it was meeting Nate Parker that utterly sealed the deal.

“I met Nate for what I thought was going to be a little hello and we ended up spending the next four hours together,” Gilbert recalls.  “I’ve had a lot of different experiences in the film industry, but I can say this was truly one of the absolute most important, life changing meetings of my life.  Nate and I had a wide-ranging and emotional conversation about how he got to the point of needing to tell this story and his vision of how it would be made and by the end, there was no way I could not make this movie.  There’s something rare about Nate where he has that ability to move people, to touch and challenge them in a motivating way and you feel that instantly.”

“This story might take place 200 years ago, but it depicts the era of slavery in a vital new light,” says Gilbert.  “You see Nat Turner standing up for his people. Some will argue about his methods, but drastic times can call for the most drastic measures.  It’s also a story that speaks to our own times and what’s happening in the world right now, with so many oppressed people still living these kinds of stories.”

The feeling that The Birth Of A Nation brings a new, necessary shift in perspective also drew producer Preston Holmes, known for such productions as Malcolm X, Hustle And Flow and New Jack City.  “I’ve had an interest in African-American history throughout my career,” says Holmes, “and the story of Nat Turner is too little known.  There has been very little seen previously to even indicate there were many rebellions against the institution of slavery by kidnapped Africans.  The film is unique because Nat Turner was not content to go along with the program.  The opportunity of a film like this doesn’t often come along, so I was thrilled to take part in it.”

Parker’s confidence to take on an emotionally demanding central performance while trying to direct a visionary first film at the very same time enthralled Holmes.  “This would have been a difficult task for the most experienced filmmaker,” he points out.  “But Nate was always very clear about his overall vision.  We all worked hard to make this film happen, but no one worked harder than Nate.”

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“It’s not until we have an honest confrontation about how we got where we are now that we will ever be able to heal.  Gone are the days that we can hope that things will change without us.”

Everyone involved in the film was buoyed not just by Parker’s fervor but also by the sense they were telling a story that might do what is increasingly difficult in entertainment:  to get people talking about things that matter.  “This is a film that has the potential to stir controversy but also spark big conversations,” says Aaron Gilbert.  “That’s part of what has us all so excited about it.”

Says Preston Holmes:  “I think the more that people know about the true history of our country … the more understanding it will foster between us as Americans and as human beings.”

Nate Parker is sanguine about the likely reactions to the film.  He knows there are those who it will rankle and many who may learn about Nat Turner’s heart stopping actions for the first time, but he hopes for one particular reaction across the board:  empathy.

“I hope that you cannot watch this film and not have empathy,” he concludes.  “My goal was to create the mirror of all mirrors on this subject and I challenge the grand wizard of the KKK to not be moved by the film’s humanity.  When I see Nat Turner in the final moments of the film, it moves me to tears every time.   He is so heroic … and this is what I was missing my entire life.  It’s the pride you’ve longed for, the pride you’ve never felt or been allowed to feel.”

“For me, this film is about the hope of untethering the industry from our dark past, about the opportunity to retell the narrative of America in new ways.  It is an attempt at a rebirth in a sense – a rebirth where we acknowledge the truth so we can move forward, a rebirth in which, to new audiences, the phrase THE BIRTH OF A NATION will now refer to Nat Turner’s legend – the antithesis of what Griffith intended.”

For Parker, the film will succeed if it not only shines a light on the hidden past but also ignites conversations about intolerance, equality and the devaluing of black lives in our era – an era in which racial narratives thought by some to belong to the past still play out over and over.  Parker sums up:  “It’s not until we have an honest confrontation about how we got where we are now that we will ever be able to heal.  Gone are the days that we can hope that things will change without us.”

This emotionally-charged portrait of the human condition balances hope, humor and sensitivity, all delivered by a superbly talented and primarily female ensemble.

Based on stories from Alice Munro’s 2004 collection Runaway, Julieta charts the biography of one woman played by two newcomers to Pedro Almodóvar’s cinema – Emma Suárez, as Julieta in middle age, and Adriana Ugarte as her younger self.

Structured as a flashback, the complex narrative takes in a dreamlike night of passion, a love triangle, subsequent tragedy and Julieta’s retreat into depressive isolation.

Rather than melodrama, Almodóvar has said he was after something more austere this time – “pure drama”.

“Not that my other films are impure,” Almodóvar explains in Spanish (he skips in this interview between his native language and slightly rusty English, sometimes turning the standby interpreter beside him). “‘Impurity’ has a moral meaning in Spanish, which I don’t like. I just wanted much more restraint.”

His intention was to strip out the familiar traces of his style: “Nobody sings, no one talks about cinema and there’s no humour. I had to force myself there; sometimes during rehearsals the odd comic line would come up, which was a relief for the actors. But after the rehearsals, I decided, no humour. I thought it was the best way to tell such a painful story. And also, you know, it’s fantastic that in my 20th film I could make a change. I mean, this is very welcome.”

Almodóvar had hoped to adapt Munro’s stories for some time and even tipped his viewers a wink by sneaking a copy of Runaway into a scene in The Skin I Live In. Intended to be his first English-language film, his adaptation, originally titled Silence, was to star Meryl Streep. In the end, however, he balked at working in English, and at the Canadian cultural specificity of Munro’s world, and set the story closer to home – Madrid, Galicia, the Pyrenees. “It’s not a faithful adaptation, but once I moved it to Spain, I had to make it really mine.”

Julieta is both raw and beautiful. Its centerpiece is a mother’s desperate desire to reconnect with her estranged daughter.

A haunting portrayal of guilt’s lingering quality and just how long it takes for wounds to heal, this emotionally-charged portrait of the human condition balances hope, humor and sensitivity, all delivered by a superbly talented and primarily female ensemble.

He loves Munro’s stories, he says, because “there’s so much about her that I identify with – she’s a housewife who writes” (in recent interviews, he often refers to himself today as “a housewife”).

The essence of Munro’s writing, he says, is “a great strangeness. What I like best about her is something that’s impossible to translate to cinema, her commentaries around the main incidents – minor comments – but they become the most important thing in the story. At the end, I feel I know less about the character than at the beginning. For me, that’s a very positive thing.”

In the end, Almodóvar decided to have his protagonist played by two very different performers, a choice that yields a moving reveal when a towel is removed from Julieta’s head after a bath to reveal that Ugarte has been replaced by Suárez, visibly 20 years older. “I don’t trust ageing makeup,” says Almodóvar. “It pulls me out of a film. When you use an actor who has aged, there’s something that you can’t imitate – the eyes, the way she looks at things, the rhythm of walking, the body language.”

This coup de cinéma is all the more poignant for viewers who may remember Emma Suárez from the 90s as the angelic-looking lead of Julio Medem’s surreal existential dramas The Red Squirrel and Earth. Two decades on, her looks and acting style have acquired a stately severity that is absolutely compelling and all the more moving for being so contained.

As for the younger Julieta, she’s played with hyper-alert energy by Adriana Ugarte, the star of a hugely popular couture-themed TV series, El tiempo entre costuras (literally, The Time Between Stitches). The director cast her purely because she was superb in her audition, he says; he has no interest in Spanish TV. “For me, it isn’t a reference. I can’t judge the actors in Spanish TV fiction. I mean, they are… brrr! Poor things!” he laughs. “They don’t have time to do a good job.”

Almodóvar didn’t plan on casting two leading ladies to play the same role, but as the script evolved, he couldn’t resist. “I was inspired by Luis Buñuel’s The Obscure Object of Desire, where two actresses played the same character at different ages,” the director said at the film’s press conference. “One is a free spirit, and one has experienced life: it adds to the wealth of the character. And I liked the collaboration.”

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Almodóvar is quick to share credit with the females who surround him. “This film was made with six hands,” he explained with obvious pleasure.

Even the script for Julieta began with a woman: the well-known Canadian short story writer, Alice Munro. Almodóvar liked Munro’s “less is more” approach. “Her work contains a great deal of mystery,” he said. “When I get to the end of one of her stories, I feel like I know less than when I began to read it. This is the most exciting feeling for me.”

He also liked Munro’s “marvelous train scenes,” which reminded him of Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, so he bought the rights to three stories from her prize-winning book Runaway and turned them into a screenplay.

“In the first draft of script, the film was in English, and set in New York—as opposed to the original Canadian setting—but then I began to have doubts.” Here, too, women helped him. “I owe everything to my assistants, Lola, Barbara and Augustine. They made me reanalyze the first draft. A Spanish family is very different from an American or Canadian family; it’s a totally different culture. In America, the mother knows at some point children will become independent and leave home, that they’ll see their children very little. But in Spain, we never break ties with family members, even after they leave home, and that makes this story even more poignant.”

Almodóvar admits that he is “not very faithful in adaptation.”

“When I read something great, I want to explore why it moved me,” he explained, “and inevitably, the story evolves. The reality here is that Munro’s book gave me a chapter, but then I took charge. Aside from the series of sequences that take place in the train, her story really became my own.”

Once again, it was the female character in Munro’s stories who moved him. “With this film, I came back to a place I’ll never leave altogether: the feminine universe. I’ve done lots of movies about mothers, but this one, Julieta, is the most vulnerable of all, with the least capacity to fight. As a scriptwriter, I wanted to turn her into a victim of losses that sap her power as a person until she is almost a zombie, walking the streets without hope or direction.”

That’s not to say that Almodóvar is methodical to the point of science; to the contrary, his actors say he likes to go with the flow and try many different approaches—without losing his original vision. Each of his cinematic visions is marked by a great deal of thoughtfulness, intense dedication and, above all, heart.

Almodóvar wants his collaborators to be as inspired by a project as he is. With that goal in mind, he provides references that both he and his actors study as preparation for the film.

In the case of Julieta, the list was both academic and staggering: Joan Dideon’s book The Year of Magical Thinking; Emmanuel Carrère’s book Other Lives But Mine; Stephen Daldry’s film The Hours; and Roberto Rossellini’s Europa ‘51. All of them explorations of grief and loss that Almodóvar thought would help his actors plumb what he described as “that region of loneliness, the anguish of abandonment felt by Julieta.”

And then came the rehearsals: long, intense, and discarded on the first day of shooting.

Ugarte laughs at the memory. “I thought I understood Julieta, but then we started shooting and I realized that Pedro was reinventing the character every day,” she said. “He was super clear and direct, but he always wanted more. At first, you feel really lost, even terrified, but then it gets really stimulating. You build trust, you learn to forget your ego. He’s not just an excellent director; he’s a master of sensitivity. He’s like a father.”

Almodóvar’s films are supremely personal. A great deal of his inspiration comes from real life—”a chance encounter, a nightmare I had, or my own fears when I’m awake,” he said.

He revealed that the vivid colors that fill his films are an instinctive rebellion against his own mother, who always wore black. “Black can be a glamorous, sophisticated color—unless it’s imposed on a child by his mother. Then it’s not just a form of mourning, it’s a curse!”

The director also admitted that he identifies with his characters, even though they are female. “I identify with them all, for the best and worst reasons,” he said. “They all represent me in one way or another. After all, I’m 60-something years old. I don’t feel like an old man, but I’m getting there, and I understand her maturity. I never would have been able to make this film before now, but because of my age, I have a better understanding of fate, of the tragedies that can happen.”

Julieta was a surprising departure from what Almodóvar calls his “usual melodrama.”

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“My films have always been so baroque: lots of pop songs, exaggerated colors, characters with strong personalities who never hide their feelings at all, the opposite of a Puritan attitude,” he said. “But here, with Julieta, I found myself creating a drama that was very restrained. Temperate, almost somber.”

He couldn’t even find music to fit the film. “I’ve worked with the musician Alberto Iglesias for over two decades, but when I showed him a rough cut of Julieta, he had the same reaction I did,” the director remembered. “He said, ‘I don’t think it needs any music at all!’ We wound up very restrained, with just the one song in the end credits, where the lyrics felt as if they could be part of the dialogue at that final moment.”

Suarez, who plays the older Julieta, understood. “The beauty of Pedro’s work is that it reflects not just his life, but society,” she said. “The side of society that we rarely see, the female side. His films help us question ourselves, they help us grow as individuals. It’s so important that that type of cinema exists.”

Julieta also reflects his personal mood. “In the last three years, I’ve suffered physical pain and great solitude.” If he had written the script in a different decade, he says, he could imagine Julieta going out, meeting people in the streets of Madrid. “She would be involved in others’ problems. Now it was very easy for me just to talk about her kind of solitude. I know a lot about solitude.”

He has often talked about solitude in the past; in one book of interviews, he recalls feeling isolated as a 10-year-old because other kids weren’t interested in discussing Ingmar Bergman. “In this case,” he says, “solitude is something I choose. Anyway, you have to experience loneliness for this sort of work.”

How so – because he needs to be alone to write?

“It’s a mixture of everything,” he shrugs. “It’s a mixture of time passing, of getting older, the fact that going out is much less exciting. I’m at an age when everything is less exciting and I have to look for inspiration much more inside myself and my home than outside.”

Bookings have opened for the third annual European Film Festival, which is poised to bring the cream of Europe’s cinematic fare to Cinema Nouveau theatres in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban from 6 to 15 May 2016.

This is a unique opportunity for South African audiences to see eleven top-drawer films that have been lauded at recent international festivals and awards ceremonies across the world.

Says Festival Director Katarina Hedrén: “This year’s selection of films does not represent a theme, but rather an ambition to portray a diverse Europe, as well as provoke thought and entertain.

It tells the stories of ordinary people, superstars, struggling people and happy ones too. Of events and moments that seem insignificant but are defining and meaningful to those experiencing them, and of immense catastrophes happening alongside ordinary life, though no one seems to notice. Of love, loneliness and alienation.

“What they have in common is that all 11 are well-crafted films by talented, empathetic and inquisitive filmmakers that we hope will reach and please a diverse audience here in South Africa”.

Norbert Spitz, Regional Director of the Goethe-Institut: “Hedrén has put together a selection that allows us to discover unconventional, surprising and moving portraits of life in the multifaceted place that Europe is.

“As Europe is busy rethinking itself and its place in the world, there is one thing that we can continue to be sure of: more than ever, artists and thinkers are needed to share their voices, to challenge and question Europe, and to show us new facets of what it means to arrive in Europe, to live in Europe – or to leave it and look at it from the outside.”

Venues:

Cinema Nouveau – Rosebank Mall, Johannesburg
Rosebank Mall (Level 1), cnr Bath & Baker Streets, Rosebank

Cinema Nouveau – Brooklyn, Pretoria
Brooklyn Mall (Lower Level Shop 12), Bronkhorst Street, New Muckleneuk

Cinema Nouveau – V&A, Cape Town
King Warehouse, Red Shed, Victoria and Alfred Waterfront

Cinema Nouveau – Gateway, Durban
Gateway Theatre of Shopping (Expo/Explore Floor), 1 Palm Blvd, Umhlanga Rocks

 

Bookings are now open, with tickets priced at R55. To book, visit www.cinemanouveau.co.za or www.sterkinekor.mobi, or call 0861 668 437. For more information, visit www.eurofilmfest.co.za or join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook: #EuroFilmFestSA

FILM SELECTION:

Macondo-Filmladen-1-cropMACONDO (Austria) Drama, 98min  German & Chechen with English Subtitles (2014). Following the death of his father, 11-year old Ramasan and his family live in the Macondo refugee settlement outside Vienna. As the oldest child and the only male, he is the head of the household – a role which comes with more responsibility and autonomy than Ramasan is equipped to handle. The arrival of his father’s best friend, Isa, allows Ramasan to be a child again, but it also means losing some of the freedom he has gotten used to. Macondo was part of the official competition of Berlin International Film Festival 2014 and won Sudabeh Morezai the award for best emerging filmmaker at the Hong Kong International Film Festival. Director: Sudabeh Mortezai/ Cast: Ramasan Minkailov, Aslan Elbiev, Kheda Gazieva. http://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/macondo/

belgian-rhapsodyBELGIAN RHAPSODY (Belgium) Musical comedy / 95min  Flemish & French with English Subtitles (2014) ’50% Flemish, 50% Walloon, 100% Belgian’, is the tagline of this musical take on the divide between Dutch-speaking and French-speaking Belgium. The Flemish brass-band Saint Cecilia and their Wallon counterpart, En Avant, compete for the title of Europe’s best brass-band. The sudden loss of Saint Cecilia’s soloist just before the finals, prompts the conductor’s daughter, Elke, to recruit En Avant’s star-soloist, the self-absorbed Hugues. What follows is a hot mess of grudges, stereotyping, good music and a budding love story. Seasoned filmmaker Vincent Bal started out as an actor, before shifting to directing for film and TV. His 2012 film, The Zigzag Kid earned him the European Film Academy’s Young Audience Award. Director: Vincent Bal. Cast: Amaryllis Uitterlinden, Arthur Dupont, Jos Verbist, Tom Audenaert. http://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/belgian-rhapsody/

 

ChocolatCHOCOLAT (France)Genre: Drama/ 110min / French with English Subtitles (2016) Starring Omar Sy from The Intouchables (2011) and Swiss circus-artist (and Charlie Chaplin’s grandson) James Thierrée, this bio-pic tells of Cuban-born Rafael Padilla, who rose to fame in France in the late 1800s. Under the stage-name Chocolat and together with the white clown Footit, Padilla gains popularity with racist circus-routines that reduce him to a buffoon. When he tries to carve out a more dignified niche for himself, the same audiences that loved the racist cliché turn their back on him. Roschdy Zem has explored the theme of racism both as an actor and director. He continues to do so in this bio-pic, praised for its historically accurate feel. Director: Roschdy Zem. Cast: Omar Sy, James Thierrée, Clotilde Hesme. (Courtesy of Ster Kinekor) http://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/chocolat/

 

labyrinth-filesLABYRINTH OF LIES (Germany) Genre: Drama/ 122min / German with English Subtitles (2014) Johan Radmann is a newly appointed public prosecutor in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1958. Through a journalist, he learns that many Nazis returned to ordinary life with impunity after the war. Inspired by the memory of his late idolized father, Radmann decides to make sure that justice is done. The young idealist soon realizes that many of the war-criminals occupy powerful positions in society, and are prepared to go to great lengths to make sure that he does not succeed in his quest. Labyrinth of Lies was Germany’s submission for the 2016 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. (Courtesy of Ster-Kinekor) Director: Giulio Ricciarelli. Cast: André Szymanski, Alexander Fehling, Friederike Becht http://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/labyrinth-of-lies/

 

fire-at-sea-2016-002-boy-on-boatFIRE AT SEA (Italy)Genre: Documentary / 108 min / Italian with English Subtitles (2016) Gianfranco Rosi moved to Lampedusa, where he documented not primarily the catastrophe lived by those who seek refuge in Europe, but the curious absence of disruption in the lives of ordinary Lampedusans. Rosi follows Samuele, the precocious 9-year old son of a fisherman, who goes to school, loves hunting and suffers from sea-sickness. Parallel to the boy’s life, Rosi invites us into that of Pietro Bartolo, a medical doctor, who does not only attend to Samuele’s lazy eye, but also to the fleeing women, men and children arriving at Lampedusa. Rosi’s gentle, poetic and unprejudiced touch won him the Golden Bear for Best Film at the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival. Director: Gianfranco Rosi. Cast: Samuele Pucillo, Pietro Bartolo.  http://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/fuoco-ammare/

 

a_family_affair2A FAMILY AFFAIR (Netherlands) Genre: Documentary / 120min /  Dutch & English with English Subtitles (2014) When his 95-year old grandmother – a former model and socialite – invites Tom Fassaert to visit her in South Africa, he seizes the opportunity to find out more about the dynamics and events that have left his father greatly disillusioned and his uncle Rene scarred for life. During his time with the conflicted and divisive matriarch, Fassaert gains insight into a history and psyche more complex and surreal than he could have imagined, and into the inner workings of a woman who challenged preconceived notions of motherhood long before it was fashionable to do so. Fassaert’s family document opened the 2016 edition of the prestigious International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). Director: Tom Fassaert.Cast: Marianne Hertz, Rob Fassaert, Rene Fassaert.  http://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/a-family-affair/

 

BodyBODY (Poland) Genre: Drama/ 90min / Polish with English Subtitles (2015) A fascination for bodies (“physical, astral and dead, objectified, adored and hated”) lies behind Szumowska’s sombre comedy about three people trapped in individual universes of pain and absence.  Olga’s unprocessed grief over her dead mother manifests in self-hatred and severe anorexia. Her distant coroner father – a coroner – seems as unaffected by his daughter’s distress and the loss of his wife as by the dead bodies he deals with on a daily basis. Anna is a kind but lonely physical therapist with psychic abilities, who seeks to help the reluctant family to heal.bBody won Malgorzata Szumowska the awards for Best Director at Berlin International Film Festival and the European Film Awards in 2015. Director: Malgorzata Szumowska/ Cast: Janusz Gajos, Maja Ostaszewska, Justyna Suwala http://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/body/

montanha_1MONTANHA (Portugal) Genre: Drama/ 91min / Portuguese with English Subtitles (2015) The death of David’s grandfather is imminent, yet the 14-year-old does not feel prepared to visit him in hospital. This mature coming-of-age drama unfolds during the course of a couple of days in Lisbon, during which David severs ties with his childhood. He roams around aimlessly as if he is looking to dissolve, killing time with a friend and his crush Paulinha – the only one David cares to hold on to. The further he drifts from his past, the closer he connects with the present and the notion of a future he never used to think of. João Salaviza’s award-winning drama, which follows David’s transition into adulthood, is regarded by the filmmaker as his farewell to cinematic adolescence. Director: João Salaviza/ Cast: David Mourato, Maria João Pinho, Rodrigo Perdigão. http://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/montanha/

 

FlowersFLOWERS (Spain) Genre: Drama / 99min /  Spanish with English Subtitles (2014) One day a bouquet of flowers appears at Ana’s doorstep, the subsequent week another bouquet arrives, and the week after that, yet another one. The anonymous sender upsets Ana’s partner, with whom she shares her flat and meals, but not much more. He holds the flower shop accountable for allowing just anybody to send flowers to anyone. After the death of a crane operator, his mother and his ex-wife are equally surprised to regularly find fresh flowers at the spot where he succumbed. Flower bouquets at the sites of road accidents, as anonymous love letters or as mere proofs of existence, inspired this award-winning film. Director: John Garrano & Jose Mari Goenaga. Cast: Nagore Aranburo, Itziar Ituño, Itziar Aizpuru. http://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/loreak/

 

Something must breakSOMETHING MUST BREAK (Sweden) Genre: Drama/ 81min / Swedish with English Subtitles (2014) Based on an auto-fictional novel by Eli Levén, who co-wrote the movie-script, Something Must Break, tells of Sebastian, a passionate, but self-destructive gender-queer 20-something. About to be beaten up, Sebastian is saved by Andreas. Despite Andreas identifying as straight, a complicated and intense love story develops between the two. Though a provocateur defiant in the face of conformity, Andreas is still troubled by his feelings for Sebastian. Sebastian struggles to not be overcome by the feelings for a non-committal, anxious lover, and also gets ready to let Ellie out – the woman inside, who is growing stronger every day. Ester Martin Bergsmark’s debut feature has screened at festivals across the world and won numerous awards.Director: Ester Martin Bergsmark. Cast: Saga Becker, Iggy Malmborg, Shima Niavarani. http://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/something-must-break/

 

amy_winehouse1-xlargeAMY (UK) Genre: Documentary/ 128min / English (2015) Asif Kapadia’s much talked about documentary follows Amy Winehouse from the early days of her extraordinary career, until the heart-breaking end. Relying mainly on never before shown footage, this intimate document traces the journey of the talented jazz-singer/songwriter until she achieved levels of fame no one could have dreamed of and the impacts on Winehouse and her family. Where media headlines focused on the drug-addict, who was a singer, Kapadia’s attention is on the extraordinarily gifted artist, who got stuck in drug abuse and self-destruction.Among the many awards Asif Kapadia has won, are the 2016 Academy Awards for Best Documentary and the British Academy Film Awards equivalent.  (Courtesy of Ster Kinekor). Director: Asif Kapadia.Cast: Amy Winehouse, Mitch Winehouse, Yasiin Bey. http://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/amy/

A film about love, truth and the secrets people keep in relationships, and what happens when those secrets are exposed to the light of day.

The best-selling novel that swept readers away with its transporting story of fate, love, moral dilemmas and the lengths one couple will go to see their hard-fought dreams realized, comes to the screen as a lush, classically star-crossed romance starring written for the screen and directed by Derek Cianfrance.

Derek Cianfrance and Michael Fassbender on the set of THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS, written and directed by Derek Cianfrance and based on the acclaimed novel by M. L. Steadman.

Writer-director Derek Cianfrance and Michael Fassbender on the set of The Light Between The Oceans, based on the acclaimed novel by M. L. Steadman.

M.L. Stedman’s novel The Light Between Oceans was published in the U.S. by Scribner in July, 2012 and was immediately embraced by readers and critics alike, appearing on both The New York Times and USA Today’s bestseller lists and as Amazon’s Best Book of the Month for August of that year. Since then it has been translated into over 35 languages.

As mesmerizingly beautiful as it is heartbreaking, M.L. Stedman’s novel “The Light Between Oceans” was a literary sensation upon its publication in 2012. Set on the remote edge of Western Australia in the years following the devastation of the Great War, the book lured readers into a seductively old-fashioned tale of love and impossible choices beneath which lay roiling, contemporary questions of right and wrong, the effects of war and peace, the wonders of connection and the dangers of blind scruples.

This is where Tom Sherbourne, a shell-shocked veteran, devotes himself to his new job as lighthouse keeper on the otherwise uninhabited Janus Rock, surrounded by nothing but the vast sea, seeking solace in the solitude. He intends to remain alone, but unexpectedly meets Isabel Graysmark, a vivacious young woman from the town of Partageuse across the harbor, herself grieving two brothers lost in the war.

Despite the obstacles, their love flourishes in the stark isolation and they are soon married. Passionate for each other and hoping to be part of creating a new life together, they try to start a family, but fate intercedes. Then, one night, a mysterious rowboat holding a dead man and an infant girl washes ashore, setting off a chain of decisions—some impetuous, others wrenching— that unravel with shattering consequences.

Cianfrance immediately felt the cinematic potential of a story that invokes the power of landscape, the aftermath of war, the all-consuming state of passion and, most of all, the ageless tradition of romances that push a couple into illuminating moral borderlands. He adapted Stedman’s book faithfully, yet with a filmmaker’s eye for the details that propel human relationships into both bliss and catastrophe.

“’The Light Between Oceans’ is a film about love, truth and the secrets people keep in relationships, and what happens when those secrets are exposed to the light of day,” says Cianfrance. “It is a moral drama, but at the core, it is a timeless love story.”

“The Light Between Oceans” marks the first time director Derek Cianfrance has adapted a novel, but he has long been interested in creating a cinema of intimacy and probing into themes of love, family legacy, loneliness and choices—the very same themes that made Stedman’s novel so resonant to so many. He won acclaim in 2010 for writing and directing “Blue Valentine,” a visually inventive portrait of a marriage breaking apart, then garnered accolades for writing and directing “The Place Beyond the Pines,” a lyrically told crime drama that turns a bank heist into an intense father-son love story.

“I’ve essentially made exploring relationships and families my life’s work to this point,” he says. “I feel as if my mission as a filmmaker is to explore the most intimate relationships in both private and expansive ways.”

Derek Cianfrance

Derek Cianfrance (Director/Screenwriter) attended the University of Colorado’s film school, where he studied under avant-garde film legends Stan Brakhage and Phil Solomon. His first three student films each took the university’s top filmmaking prize, earning him the Special Dean’s Grant for Achievement in the Arts as well as the Independent Film Channel Award for Excellence in Student Filmmaking. At age 23, he co-wrote, shot, directed and edited his first feature film, “Brother Tied,” which premiered at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival to much acclaim. The film went on to screen at over 30 film festivals worldwide, winning several honors, including the Special Jury Prize for Bold Original Expression at the Florida Film Festival. Cianfrance then ventured into documentary filmmaking, where he worked on a number of different films covering a variety of different subject matters, including: “Run-D.M.C. and Jam Master Jay: The Last Interview”; “Battlegrounds: King of the World”; “B.I.K.E.”; and “Quattro Noza,” for which he was awarded the Best Cinematography Award at Sundance in 2003. His second narrative feature film, “Blue Valentine,” which he directed and co-wrote, starred Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. The film had its world premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and also screened at a number of other festivals around the world, including TIFF and the Cannes Film Festival. Gosling received Golden Globe® and Critics’ Choice Award nominations for his performance in the film and Williams received Oscar®, Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice Award nominations as Best Actress. Cianfrance received the Most Promising Filmmaker Award from the Chicago Film Critics Association. Cianfrance then co-wrote and directed “The Place Beyond the Pines,” starring Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes and Bradley Cooper. The film premiered at TIFF 2012 and was named one of the Top Ten Independent Films that year by the National Board of Review. Cianfrance is currently adapting S.C. Gwynne’s “Empire of the Summer Moon” for Warner Bros.

With “The Light Between Oceans,” Cianfrance saw a chance to explore that duality in an entirely fresh way. The allure of Stedman’s book was in part its fable-like elements: a secluded island escape, a love affair removed from the constraints of society, a crying baby found at sea, and a grieving woman whose husband and only child disappear without a trace. But what really drew him in was the chance to explore how even the most isolated and intense love must find a way to weather the toughness of truth and the consequences of life’s harshest choices.

It’s no coincidence that the story of “The Light Between Oceans” takes place on Janus Rock, aptly named after the two-faced Roman God of endings and beginnings. Like Janus, the characters of Tom and Isabel are caught between two poles: between a past haunted by war’s destruction and a future they hope to imagine together; between hiding away from the darkness of the world and chasing the flickering promise of light; between doing what seems fair in the moment and seeing what is truly just. The trick was wrapping all of this into a film that is also a spellbinding romance and, ultimately, a reckoning.

For Cianfrance, the best way in was through the personal emotions he experienced while reading the book himself. “I wanted to be incredibly faithful to the book,” he explains. “The most meaningful compliment on the film I’ve received so far was from Stedman herself, who said she spent the day weeping after attending a screening…weeping because she felt that she was understood. She said, ‘Isn’t that the point of life, that we, as human beings, are trying to be understood by each other?’”

Like millions of fans around the world, Cianfrance was transfixed by Stedman’s writing, h, her ability to create equal parts suspense and poetry out of dark secrets and doom-laden decisions. He remembers openly crying on the subway while reading the book, despite the stares. “In the years since, I’ve seen other people crying while reading the book in cafes, parks and subways and it validates for me that this is such a deeply human and universal story,” he says. “I think people are drawn to it because it is so honest about the pain of love and about love lost, but also because it then becomes a beautiful rendering of redemption and healing.”

Already able to visualize the story unspooling on the screen, Cianfrance made the decision to go after the story with total commitment. At that point, the novel had been acquired by DreamWorks and was in early stages of development by producer David Heyman (“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” “Gravity,” the “Harry Potter” films) of Heyday Films. Heyman, too, had fallen for the book at the suggestion of executive producer Rosie Alison (“Testament of Youth,” “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”).

“I’m very drawn to stories where you can see all sides, and this is a story that economically shows all sides,” Heyman says. “You see not just Tom’s, Isabel’s and Hannah’s sides in what happens, but every character you meet seems to bring in another layer. In that way, the story takes you on a personal, emotional journey that I think people will want to discuss long after they’ve left the theatre.”

Adds Alison, “The book has a hard, diamond-like quality in its take on love, loss and self-sacrifice. In a sense it’s a psychological thriller in which the mystery is where the strongest love lies.”

Cianfrance approached Heyman ready to fight for the project, telling him he was destined to make the film, and his enthusiasm was irresistible. Having seen “Blue Valentine” and “The Place Beyond the Pines,” Heyman already knew Cianfrance’s nuanced writing and strong visual style were a match for the vivid immersiveness of the book.

“There’s no artifice to Derek’s work,” Heyman says. “That was so key to this adaptation because it’s such a charged story. We were fortunate that Derek connected with these characters in a profound way. The spirit of the book is written on every page of his script and felt in every frame of the film.”

THE LIGHT BETWEEN THE OCEANS 1Cianfrance wrote the screenplay without input from Stedman, but the author was omnipresent in his head. “Even though we never talked, I had such a deep relationship with her in my mind. I treated her words as scripture. I read the book so many times, I had it memorized,” he explains. “I always tried to remain true to the feelings I had reading it for the first time. That was my North Star.”

He also made sure to keep the book’s rigorous lack of judgment towards its complex characters intact. “Something that really attracted me is the fact that there are no bad people in the story,” he explains. “That doesn’t mean everyone makes the right choices or that they don’t hurt other people, but in their hearts and in their minds and in their souls they are good people. And as a filmmaker interested in humanity, it was a great privilege to try to tell a story where the supposed ‘villains’ of the story might be the people you love most.”

While Cianfrance was steadfast in his respect for the material, he was equally as dedicated in wanting to find that mysterious alchemy that allows works of literature to live and breathe in movie theatres. In fact, he himself faced many wrenching decisions during the adaptation: decisions about where to compact Stedman’s carefully-structured tale and where to translate scenes into something more explicitly visual so it could feel alive in flesh and blood.

“In any adaptation, I think the greatest challenge is that of subtraction, what you must leave out,” he says. “It’s like sculpture; once you embrace that, it can be the wind beneath your wings. Eventually you can expand the moments and themes that you love and push the boundaries to find even more truthfulness. This is when it really starts to become alive. There are, of course, key differences between cinema and literature and one of those is the way time plays out. There has to be a different way of handling pace and also of handling secrets and revelations.”

The latter especially intrigued the director, who always saw a central theme of the story as the way secrets within a marriage can be both wrecking and uniting. “The way cinema reveals secrets was as important to making the adaptation work,” Cianfrance says. “For example, in the book, Tom and Isabel both learn the truth about the baby at the same time, but in the movie, Tom sees it first, so you see and feel Tom carrying this weight alone.”

Only after he’d completed several drafts did Cianfrance meet Stedman for the first time. “I was so nervous,” he remembers, “Because I respect her so greatly and truly hoped I could do her work justice. We had dinner together and she was just one of the most charming, thoughtful, loving human beings I’ve ever met. She’s a very private person, but she became a great support to me as I made the film. I felt very sensitive to the fact I was taking her creation somewhere new, and her trust went a long way in giving me the confidence I needed to make the film.”

Says Stedman, “I’m so fortunate that, through Heyday Films and DreamWorks, this project found its way into the hands of the wonderful Derek Cianfrance. He has expertly and lovingly brought the world of the book to life in a new medium, complete with brilliant cast, cinematography and music. The result is an exquisitely beautiful and emotionally authentic film that stays true to the spirit of my novel, yet also embodies the deeply personal interpretation of the director and his actors. It’s been a great privilege to watch it come into being.”

The producers were thrilled with the structure of the screenplay. “We knew we had something special,” says producer Jeffrey Clifford (“Chloe,” “Up in the Air”). “Derek’s script distilled the essential emotions of the novel in authentic and naturalistic ways and really brought to life the strength of the characters.”

The cast was equally as affected by Cianfrance’s draft. “The script moved me to tears, as the book did,” says Michael Fassbender, who takes on the conflicted character of Tom Sherbourne. “Tom and Isabel’s love story is so beautifully told. When we see something on screen that we relate to as human beings—and I think people will see themselves in Tom and Isabel—that is when cinema is most powerful.”

THE LIGHT BETWEEN THE OCEANS 2

As “The Light Between Oceans” begins, Tom Sherbourne, a combat veteran haunted by time spent on the western front battlefields in a brutal war that took the lives of 60,000 of his countryman, arrives in Western Australia. Trying to escape the looping cycles of grief, guilt and trauma, he finds a perfect way to be secluded, yet useful, as the lighthouse keeper who meticulously keeps the beacon between the Indian and Southern oceans burning. Yet, rather than isolation, Tom finds himself instead being opened up in previously unimaginable ways by the love of a woman who truly wants to know his heart—a love that nearly unravels him.

Portraying this extraordinary unfolding of a solitary, principled man is two-time Academy Award® nominee Michael Fassbender in what is his most intimate and humane role to-date. Though he has riveted audiences as the sexually-compulsive Brandon in “Shame,” as the mutant Magneto in the “X-Men” series, as a cruel slave owner in “12 Years a Slave” and as the ingenious leader of Apple in “Steve Jobs,” this role was unlike any other he has tackled before.

THE LIGHT BETWEEN THE OCEANSThat difference excited Derek Cianfrance. He explains, “I’ve been absolutely hypnotized and blown away by Michael’s presence on the screen for years. What always stood out to me was how smart he is, how his brain works on screen—it is larger-than-life. But with this character, I wanted to see the heart of Michael Fassbender—the heart that goes along with his physicality and intelligence. I wanted him to put his soul and vulnerability on the screen. I wanted to see the battle between Michael’s heart and Michael’s mind.”

Cianfrance continues, “When we met, I asked Michael if he had ever been in love, and when he laughed at me and said ‘yes,’ I felt an instant kind of brotherhood with him. TAnd there was really no one else at that point. I felt it was destiny for him to be Tom. Tom is like a boiling pot of water with a lid on it. On the surface, he is very contained, but underneath there is a storm brewing.”

And Fassbender was drawn to that storm as well; drawn to a man who has an almost urgent need to be decent in the wake of war’s amorality, even more so when he falls in love. “Reading the book and script, I was impressed by Tom’s principles, loyalty and strength of character,” Fassbender says. “He’s a stoic, honest man, but he’s also a man trying to mend himself. He’s carrying all these mental scars from combat, yet when he meets Isabel, her freshness and innocence motivate him to take a chance on opening his heart.”

“The Light Between Oceans” is driven by the passionate performances of its cast, but the foundation of those performances is the film’s authentic recreation of an evocative place and time. Director Derek Cianfrance wanted to immerse viewers in the primal atmosphere of Janus Rock with its harsh beauty and tempestuous weather, as well as the parochial small towns of Western Australia still reeling, both psychologically and socially, from World War I.

As for what Cianfrance hopes audiences will take away from this journey, he summarizes, “I hope people come away having experienced an undeniable love story, a classic fable in which love and truth battle each other. And hopefully they’ll leave the theatre debating with each other about who they most identify with and about who made the right choices and why.”

Wonder Woman: DC finally hits a home run

Reviewed by Tim Leibbrandt (07/06/17)

The DC Extended Universe has not had an easy ride. The three previous entries – Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad – all suffered critical lashings for their messy plots, morose demeanour and patchy edits. Perhaps unexpectedly for fans and studio execs alike, after Batman and Superman dropped the ball, it now falls on Wonder Woman to save the day both in her debut solo outing and in the DCEU itself.

WONDER WOMAN

The good news is that Wonder Woman is more than up to the task! Clearly, it was no fluke that Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince/Wonder Woman stole the show in the few scenes which featured her in Dawn of Justice, and she’s every bit as magnetic and show-stopping here. She effortlessly captures the character’s sheer strength, determination and unwavering belief in the fundamental good of humanity, while counterpoising these with just enough fish out of water naiveté and uncertainty to make for a thoroughly engrossing lead.  It is the small moments that make her relatable and thoroughly believable in the role and she owns it.

Under the assured direction of Patty Jenkins (who directed Charlize Theron to Oscar glory in 2003’s Monster) the film is easily one of the most enjoyable comic book films in recent memory. It is also a resounding triumph in the face of ridiculous Hollywood logic that would seek to downplay the viability of female-centric superhero films.

This is surely a residual hangover from the failure of Elektra and Catwoman over a decade ago, which is hugely unfair given what godawful hack jobs they were. Wonder Woman marks the first time that a female-fronted superhero film has seriously been attempted, and it shines.

Broadly speaking, it doesn’t necessarily re-invent the wheel or aim to deconstruct the genre. It follows the standard Superhero origin movie arc quite closely and, in the hands of a less competent team, would be easily forgettable. What makes all the difference is how exceptionally well everything is handled. The script is sharp, concise and astutely avoids the inconsistencies that arose from severely over-complicating Dawn of Justice.

It is a story with something to say for itself about courage, love, acceptance and choices of morality. It’s aware of the significance of its characters and themes, and their growth is clearly motivated and supported throughout the story. Particularly effective are the subtle ways in which the supporting characters learn to accept themselves through their interactions with Diana, while simultaneously helping to shape her understanding of the world of humanity in the process.  Chris Pine excels as WWI pilot Steve Trevor and the chemistry between him and Diana becomes a driving force of the film rather than a tacked-on obligatory romance.

The exhilarating action sequences also rely on a number of well-worn tropes like slow motion camera panning, but do so in a way that feels entirely fresh and exciting.  The camera work is exceptional and is noticeably distinct from generic fight cinematography, making great use of unusual angles and closer shots. Even at its most intense, things are never so hectic that you lose track of what’s going on and where you should be looking. Every punch, kick and leap has impact.

Jenkins builds the intensity slowly, revealing Diana’s abilities progressively so that audiences learn along with the characters. Whether charging into a hail of bullets in no man’s land, bursting through walls, and hurling tanks you’re invested in the character’s development and rooting for her all of the way.  Even when the film suffers its one major misstep and veers into flashy CGI lightning territory for the climax (which at this point needs to be outright banned in superhero films), it’s at least set against a backdrop of serious emotional catharsis.

Contributing greatly to Wonder Woman’s success (in genre terms at least) is how self-contained the whole thing feels. While we know that the Justice League team-up is due at the end of the year, there is nothing deferred to sequel resolution in the current film.  It sets out to tell a story and does just that. Ironically, the fact that it’s so satisfying leaves one wholeheartedly wishing to see more of Gadot in the role; far more than a post-credits hype nugget could ever muster.

Wonder Woman is a triumph of stunning visuals, engrossing characters and thrilling action sequences topped off with affecting emotional resonance.  It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s so enjoyable that the flaws largely fall by the wayside while watching it. As the accolades pour in, we can but hope that it will blow open the door for a wave of female-helmed and fronted blockbusters in the future; it is so blatantly a perspective that we need.

Darkly gothic prequel an uneven mix of xenomorph action and bloated pretension

Reviewed by Tim Leibbrandt (27/05/17)

Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant has its work cut out for it. While its predecessor Prometheus was initially intended as a standalone epic set in the Alienverse, it ultimately deferred a wealth of unanswered questions which the new sequel has to deal with. At the same time, the story is now firmly entrenched within the continuity of the Alien franchise and is thus beholden, at some point in the future, to segue into that seminal first story of the Nostromo.

Alien Covenant 3

While Prometheus was visually stunning (and featured spectacular use of 3D to create depth inwards rather than trying to make things jump out) it ultimately made little sense. There were very few answers to the intriguing questions posed in the earlier scenes of the film, and far too many plotholes. Also, the characters were ridiculously dense and, almost without fail, would act in the exact opposite way to which they were specifically trained; to catastrophic effect. In a nutshell, the film was drop dead gorgeous, but severely lacking in grey matter and the capacity to deal with its lofty philosophical conundrums.

Alien: Covenant has a different set of strengths to Prometheus, but also retains many of its weaknesses. Once again, the plot is largely unsatisfying. The writers more or less admit defeat at being able to deal with the grandiose scope promised by Prometheus and what answers they do offer really don’t feel like adequate payoff for the 5 year wait.

The plot holes are back in full force. The turning point which sets the course for the direction of the story relies on such a spectacularly unlikely coincidence that it could only make sense if the Covenant was fitted with the Infinite Improbability Drive from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Without a hint of subtlety, characters actually declare things like “I’m going to wander off by myself into the woods to take a leak”. There is also an apparent homage to one of the most universally reviled aspects of Alien3’s story that is just as dissatisfactory here.

On the positive side, the film is again visually stunning, but in a very different way to its predecessor. Trading-in the gorgeous, expansive landscapes of the prior film, Covenant instead assumes a darkly Romantic, gothic tone that bears more than a few markers of screenwriter John Logan’s outstanding Showtime series Penny Dreadful. It’s the first time in quite a while that HR Giger’s seminal influence on the first film starts to poke it’s head out in spirit.

In many ways, Alien Covenant is carried by the outstanding performance of Katherine Waterston as terraforming expert Daniels “Dany” Branson. Waterston’s performance more than holds its own in a franchise defined by the looming figure of Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley. Her presence is magnetic, balancing naivety, self-assurance, grief and determination, and Waterston effortlessly does more than her fair share of work to keep the audience invested.

Michael Fassbender’s dual turn as androids David (returning from Prometheus) and Walter (an updated model and part of the crew of the Covenant) serves as the symbol of the film’s stately self-importance and is effective in conveying two different riffs on the same character; even if he frequently veers on outright onanism. Surprisingly, Danny McBride is actually excellent as Tennessee Faris, the cowboy-hat sporting chief pilot of the Covenant. For the most part, the rest of the colonists form an extension of the idiocy of Prometheus’s crew and Weyland-Yutani would do well to start screening their crews for common sense before sending them off on interplanetary colonization missions.

Another area where the film shines is that it manages to make some of the well-worn tropes of the Alien life-cycle fresh and horrifying again. It’s been a while since a chestburster had the kind of impact of the legendary scene with John Hurt in the 1979 Alien film. While the first burst is always the deepest, the SFX team do at least manage to bring back some of that sense of visceral horror. The creature effects are fantastic and the new variation on the xenomorph is utterly chilling. There are a few moments which perfectly capture the biomechanical look and feel of the original.

Ultimately, How one feels about Alien: Covenant as a whole really depends on what you think about the direction that the franchise is being taken by Scott. If you’re of the school that finds the ambiguity of the universe and lack of defined origin stories to be a part of what makes the first two Alien films so enjoyable,  then the explanations offered here are unlikely to spin things in a positive direction. If you’re willing to go with the pompous but grand thematic arc that is being built, you’ll probably find Covenant rewarding and occasionally insightful.

For what it’s worth, I’m firmly in the former camp. There’s a fine line between exposition and revealing your tricks.  The ‘Nazis ate my sister’ backstory of Hannibal Rising did nothing but detract from the sublime inexplicable terror of Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, and I find this new Alien backstory to be shifting the dynamics in a similar direction.  As it stands in the franchise, Alien: Covenant is in the same category as Alien3 and Alien Resurrection:  chockfull of big ideas and occasionally exhilarating xenomorph action, but just as frequently cringey, misguided and silly. Far from the worst entry in the series, it is steered off course by its own hubris.

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King Arthur is a hyperactive, story-less mess

Reviewed by Tim Leibbrandt (12/05/17)

If ever there was a concept that should have been a home run it’s Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur. Mix equal parts knightly lore, razor sharp humour and East End street smarts and you should have a fail safe recipe for success. And indeed the trailers suggested that this was one to be excited about, an exhilarating Knight’s Tale-esque reinvention of a beloved medieval yarn. Sadly however, rather than achieving full-fledged sword-pulling glory, Ritchie proves a false claim to the throne and only manages to wiggle the sword a bit.

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The first twenty minutes of the film comprises a patchy montage of Vortigern’s (Jude Law) insidious usurping of his brother – Arthur’s father – King Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana). There is an accompanying epic battle sequence including massive CGI war-elephants, evil mages and zero context whatsoever. It feels like watching a recap of a hypothetical previous instalment. The key point to take home is that Uther’s son is the only one who can wield the sword Excalibur (currently embedded in a rock) and end Vortigern’s reign. As such, he has been hidden from Vortigern as a peasant.

Relying on the fact that the audience is familiar with the basic points of the King Arthur legends, the story quickly moves to Londinium, where we watch young Arthur grow up in another montage sequence. Here we actually legitimately get something resembling Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur, where the signature template set by classics like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch (rapid-fire dialogue, a million quips a minute, cheeky heists, schizoid continuity and plenty of cockney swag) is transposed on Arthurian legend. The next 45 minutes or so are hugely enjoyable as adult Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) and his lads find themselves at odds with the law and staging audacious escape plans.

The ultimate tragedy is that the film can’t keep this up. Far too soon, it resumes the ‘highlights package’ approach to editing, dropping the Ritchie-isms in favour of generic action fare. By the end, everything that was interesting and unique about this take has fallen away and you’re left with the kind of mediocre action mess we’ve seen many, many times before. Yes there are a few fun set pieces, but nothing that really hits the mark or warrants a recommendation.

What’s puzzling about the way that King Arthur: Legend of the Sword rushes through things is that rumour has it that Warner Bros. were hoping to score a six movie franchise out of it. If that’s the case, why edit the first installment like it’s a (poor) summary of at least 3 films? Why not take your time and build the world and its characters if there’s no particular hurry?

As it stands, King Arthur is an extremely flimsy base on which to build a franchise, a hyperactive, story-less mess that ultimately has nothing by way of compelling narrative or interesting characters to offer. More’s the tragedy given the 45 minutes or so that point to what it could have been.

A significant South African film – a vibrant visual experience with profound food for thought

Reviewed by Daniel Dercksen  (5 May, 2017)

Johnny 1With Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie,  writer-director Christiaan Olwagen delivers a refreshing film that is as radical as the Voëlvry music movement that rebelled against the autocratic dictates of the apartheid government and changed the hearts of a generation of South Africans who wanted to break free from oppressive separatism.

 

 

A charming and inoffensive yarn

Reviewed by Tim Leibbrandt (28/04/17)

In Going in Style, three senior citizens and life-long friends, Joe (Michael Caine), Willie (Morgan Freeman), and Al (Alan Arkin), find themselves in a moment of crisis.  The company which they have given several decades of their lives nukes their pensions in a corporate restructuring scheme, threatening the trio with homelessness and an inability to receive much-needed medical attention if they are unable to find money within 30 days. In response, they hatch a scheme to rob the bank which is facilitating the company’s plan. A loose remake of 1979 film of the same name, Going in Style is not above trolling viewers who expect that story to follow the same direction as the original.

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The issue with Going in Style is that it is in fact rather lacking in style. It never taps into the energy or sets the mood required to make a compellingly audacious caper. Truth be told, it just doesn’t seem smart enough to pull its ambitions off. The film certainly means well and makes a valiant effort, but the whole thing has the overarching pace of a leisurely stroll which detracts from the down-to-the-minute tension which should pervade a daring heist story.

It’s certainly fun to watch the leads enjoy themselves, and the film’s treatment of aging is refreshing. Also to its credit, the story has some crucial and relevant points about growing inequality, neoliberalism, corrupt banking systems and the disregard of employees for profits, and these do go a fair way in generating empathy for the leads. Going in Style’s strength is definitely in the interactions between the main trio characters; with a special mention of Joe’s relationship with his granddaughter which is thoroughly endearing too. You believe that their actions are motivated by love and that is at least a welcome twist to the usual self-enrichment of heist films.

But it’s hard to shake off the feeling that things ultimately don’t quite adds up. There’s a scene involving a grocery store that muddles things tremendously and is very sloppily handled. Constraints are placed on the big heist to create tension and then largely ignored. There are a number of gaps in the plan. Most of the law enforcement and banking figures serve as cartoonish archetypes in order to retain a moral high ground for the main trio.

If you’re looking for a sly, exhilarating heist film, this probably isn’t the one.

If you enjoyed the dynamics of the pub reunion scene in The Sense of an Ending and wished that Jim Broadbent and co followed it up by attempting to rob a bank, you’ll probably find plenty to enjoy in Going in Style.

It’s a charming and inoffensive yarn that, while prone to plodding quite a bit, is elevated to ‘pretty good’ status by Freeman, Caine and Arkin’s performances.

Silence Is Golden

By Daniel Dercksen (21/04/17)

Rating: 5/5

It’s not easy to fully understand what Faith means, believing in your God, trusting that your moral compass is unshakable; devoting yourself to it with heart and soul, and having full confidence in your convictions.

With Martin Scorsese’s masterful and epic Silence, you embrace all of it from the opening when the imperious sounds of nature on a black screen falls silent, until it greets you at the end of a soul-shattering journey.

(L-R) Andrew Garfield as Father Sebastião Rodrigues and Liam Neeson as Father Ferreira in the film SILENCE by Paramount Pictures, SharpSword Films, and AI Films

(L-R) Andrew Garfield as Father Sebastião Rodrigues and Liam Neeson as Father Ferreira in Silence

Silence is a labour of consummate passion that tells the story of two 17th century Portuguese missionaries who undertake a perilous journey to Japan to search for their missing mentor in Japan at a time when feudal lords and ruling Samurai were determined to eradicate Christianity in their midst; Christians were persecuted and tortured, forced to apostatize, that is, renounce their faith or face a prolonged and agonizing death.

Based on Shusaku Endo’s 1966 award-winning novel, it faithfully examines the spiritual and religious question of God’s silence in the face of human suffering, with a brilliant screenplay by Scorsese and Jay Cocks.

Andrew Garfield delivers one of most powerful performances of his career as Father Rodrigues and will break your heart with his impassioned journey into the soul of a man whose belief is tested to the extreme. Equally brilliant is Adam Driver as Rodrigues’s fellow priest, and Liam Neeson adds authority as the all-important Father Ferreria.

Also unforgettable is Tadanobu Asano as the wily and treacherous Interpreter who walks a frightening path between devout Christian villagers and their Samurai tormentors.

Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto perfectly captures 17th century Japan, particularly the emotional landscape of the characters, allowing us to feel their anguish, desolation and torment, exquisitely contrasted by the lushness of the rural landscape, complimented by Dante Ferretti’s magnificent production and costume designs.  Editor Thelma Schoonmaker allows us to feel the heartbeat of the story as she captures the serenity of isolation as well as the severity of Mother Nature with storming seas and torrential downpour of rain.  Underscoring the tender emotional impact is the musical score by Kim Allen Kluge and Kathryn Kluge.

Silence is a must-see and eye-opening odyssey into humanity that has never been more relevant than today, where people still contemplate faith and doubt, weakness, and the human condition.

It is impossible to fully understand or explain the solitude of our souls, those moments when we take a journey into the essence of ourselves.

With Silence, Scorsese poignantly shows that it is those silent, meditative moments that shape our humanity and respective destinies, and how important it is to respect and revere the differences that cause conflict and torment.

It’s a film like Silence that showcases the transformative power of film, as well as the magical allure of the art of filmmaking at its best, and the craft of storytelling at its most powerful.

Silence is most definitely a rewarding and meaningful cinematic experience, and equally important for those who feel lost in their lives and need to be reminded of how fragile the human condition is when darkness descends.

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Ghost in the Shell: US Remake lacking a ghost in its shell

Reviewed by Tim Leibbrandt (03/04/17)

When it comes to reviewing something like the long-awaited US live action take on Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 anime classic Ghost in the Shell –  though officially it’s an adaption of the manga by Masamune Shirow which that film was based on – the inevitable pressing question is ‘Does it suck?’ The short answer is not nearly as much as it could have; although it’s not a masterpiece either. Rupert Sanders’s Americanised remake gets just enough things right that the parts where it drops the ball are decidedly frustrating.

Scarlett Johansson plays The Major in Ghost in the Shell from Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures in theaters March 31, 2017.

Scarlett Johansson plays The Major in Ghost in the Shell from Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures in theaters March 31, 2017.

The story mixes it up with the lore from the various films and animated series, sticking closely to the core plot of the 1995 film with a surprising amount injected from the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series. While these tweaks keep things fresh for long-time fans, I’m not convinced that the changes were for the better, especially with regards to the story’s themes. All of the major set pieces which have been carried across from Ghost ‘95 have changes which diminish their impact significantly, particularly the infamous ghost-hacking scene (which curiously is never referred to as such. Licencing maybe?)

While the film is rather attractive visually and goes to great lengths to create an immersive world, it lacks the sense of ‘lived in-ness’; that the original and films like Blade Runner nailed. Everything is a little too glossy and pristine. It often feels like walking through a Samsung Electronics store rather than the grime-tinged world of the anime original. To be frank, it could use a little more ghost in its shell. That being said, it is at least an ambitious and coherent cinematic world. The VFX team hit a number of home runs: the mechanical geishas are exquisite (and terrifying!) and the task of believably pulling-off Batou’s (Pilou Asbæk) augmented eyes in a live action context is no mean feat.

Where the film blatantly stumbles is in trying to deal with the philosophical issues of humanity, technology and mind/body dichotomies so effortlessly handled by the original. The filmmakers are out of their league here and awkwardly forcing characters to spout philosophical babble at random moments does not a profound film make. (Especially when you look at how Alex Garland did so much more with much less in the far superior Ex Machina.)

The remake was obviously met with a lot of white-washing controversy when Scarlett Johansson was cast in the lead as Major Mira Killian (originally Major Motoko Kusanagi); which is not such a black and white an issue, given that the character’s humanoid ‘shell’ is entirely artificial. Taken for what it is, Johansson does fine in the lead but only really has one standout moment of capturing the character’s central identity conflict. It’s not clear that Paramount’s logic that the film needed a recognisable Western name like Johansson for the film to be successful holds any water (the film has currently only made half of its $110 million budget back).Of the cast, Takeshi Kitano’s Chief Daisuke Aramaki is the only character to really pull off being legitimately ‘cool’, and is definitely a much needed highlight.

In a nutshell, it’s hard to argue for Ghost in the Shell 2017 as an essential watch. It hits enough of its marks that it can’t be dismissed outright, but it’s definitely not a substitute for the original either. If you’re a fan then you’re likely to flit between like and dislike the more you reflect on it. For first-timers, it’s accessible enough to enjoy, but unlikely to persuade you as to why the franchise enjoys such acclaimed cult status.

Gritty and Violent Jagveld

Reviewed by Tim Leibbrandt (17/03/17)

While Afrikaans cinema is unquestionably synonymous with syrupy rom coms (the cinematic equivalent of sokkie treffers), there certainly seems to be a move into darker, genre territory if Byron Davis’s Jagveld and last year’s serial killer outing Die Onwaking are anything to go by. This movement is still finding its feet, and neither of the afore-mentioned films have quite managed to synthesise their cinematic influences into a homogeneous whole just yet. Or at least not to the same degree as Kalushi effortlessly managed recently. Nonetheless, Jagveld is certainly something very different for its cast, and it’s going to be tough not to picture these roles next time we see Leandie du Randt, Neels Van Jaarsveld and especially Edwin van der Walt pop up in something.

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Written by Deon Meyer (who is also the film’s producer), Jagveld tells the story of Emma le Roux (played by du Randt), a sweet, pacifist school teacher on her way to visiting her family on their farm in the Great Karoo. Along the way in the thick of the desert, le Roux accidently witnesses a clash between a police officer and a drug smuggling syndicate resulting in the officer’s death. Realising that Emma has seen everything, the syndicate – a nasty bunch lead by Van Jaarsveld’s Bosman and sporting names such as Baz, Boela and AJ – turn their attentions to hunting her down in order to snuff out the loose end. As it transpires, Emma may not be the easy target they were expecting.

Jagveld is as gritty and violent as one would expect and there are certainly some superbly crafted shots of grizzly action and glistening blood. Largely, it fits into a subgenre of revenge exploitation films which would include films like I Spit on Your Grave and, to an extent, The Last House on the Left.  At times, the film seems a tad uncritical in its embracing of these tropes and is occasionally extremely uncomfortable (rape and attempted rape scenes always are). In this respect, it’s curious to see who the sponsors are that made the film happen.

There’s an important distinction between self-awareness and self-consciousness, and Jagveld often flits between them a little too sporadically. The tone shifts quite a bit, being bleakly serious one second and striving for the nonchalant cool of Kill Bill the next (it must be mentioned that du Randt does a pretty great Uma Thurman). The conclusion’s sudden veer into absurdity pushes these tonal jumps a little too far. If Jagveld had fully committed to a ‘wink wink, nudge nudge’ approach to genre critique it would have been one thing, but it was jarring to see the characters in question act so blatantly against their own self-interest in order to set up a standoff action sequence.

If you ignore the massive plot-holes and hugely questionable morality, Jagveld is a well shot, atmospheric and occasionally exhilarating revenge thriller, albeit one which you’ve seen many times before. It’s no better or worse than the majority of its Hollywood counterparts and if nothing else, the marketing team deserve a huge pat on the back for getting targeted South African film promotion right. Here’s hoping for more South African genre cinema.

Miss Sloane will seduce your sensibility

Reviewed by Daniel Dercksen (16/03/17)

If you are looking for a first-rate political thriller with bite that is savvy and shrewd, Miss Sloane will seduce your senses and twist your perception.

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We are fed politics on a daily basis through television, print and social media and gossip, and are awestruck by the power it has, and intrigued by the back-stabbing, corruption and mendacity that feed this beast.

Miss Sloane takes us on an intimate and invigorating journey into the high-stakes world of political power-brokers, with Jessica Chastain in the title role of the most sought-after and formidable lobbyist in D.C.

Known equally for her cunning and her track record of success, she has always done whatever is required to win. But when she takes on the most powerful opponent of her career, she finds that winning may come at too high a price.

The crafty narrative by former lawyer Jonathan Perera marks the writer’s first screenplay sizzles under John Madden’s direction; Madden fully understands the world and lives of the characters and respectfully brings the story to life, perfectly capturing its enigmatic allure, cruel callousness , and dazzling power games.

If there’s one reason to see this film, it’s for Chastain’s captivating performance, as she skillfully walks the tightrope between a highly secretive personal life, and an even more guarded cutthroat career.

When she needs to satisfy her sexual urges, we meet a gloomy and lonesome woman who is fragile and vulnerable, when she faces her shrewd adversaries and conniving rivals, Sloane is a cold and calculated killing machine, a ferocious predator who pushes legal and ethical boundaries to ensure the passage of a controversial law.

It is through her eyes that we pull back the curtain on the secretive and powerful lobbying industry, revealing how Capitol Hill games are played — and won (or lost).

Sam Waterston is excellent as the head of an old-school lobbying firm, allowing Miss Sloane to do whatever it takes for her clients — even if that means bending the rules.

But when the head of the powerful gun lobby calls on her to help convince women to oppose a bill that will impose new regulations on the sale of firearms, she turns him down flat and instead joins a scrappy boutique firm representing the backers of the law.

Alongside the firm’s CEO (Mark Strong) and a group of young up-and-comers, Miss Sloane schemes, manoeuvres and manipulates her way to what could be a stunning victory, but her zeal for winning threatens both her career and the people she cares about.

The film is at its most powerful when Sloane is severely compromised, vulnerable and under investigation by the Senate, and meets her match in the form of Senator Sperling, a long-serving Democratic legislator who chairs the Senate committee investigating Miss Sloane, featuring a brilliant performance by John Lithgow.

Miss Sloane is a powerful character driven narrative that showcases some other great acting talent: Mark Strong is ruthless as Sloane’s new boss, the brilliant CEO of a boutique DC lobbying outfit who fights hard to win for his clients, but never crosses the line, legally or ethically; Gugu Mbatha-Raw is riveting as a poised, well-informed associate lobbyist who becomes Sloane’s new protégée and for whom gun safety is a major issue; Alison Pill is perfectly cast as a junior associate who turns against Sloane; and Jake Lacey impresses in his role of a male escort who develops an unusual connection with Sloane.

Miss Sloane is one of those rare films that cunningly manipulates its audience just as a master lobbyist can, and when a vicious twist is ultimately revealed, we fully understand how politics work, and awaken to realise that the art of politics is the art of manipulating, where you cannot believe anything or trust anybody.

One thing you can absolutely trust is that Miss Sloane is a well-crafted film with top performances that provides first rate entertainment for discerning audiences seeking savvy viewing that leaves plenty food for thought.

Revenge is bittersweet in Nocturnal Animals

Reviewed by Daniel Dercksen (10/03/17)

Writer-director Tom Ford spins his magic in the provocative mind bender Nocturnal Animals, a captivating narrative of a story-within-a story where two different worlds, and disparate lives collide head-on, where nothing seems to be what it is, and everything becomes twisted.

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Ford adapted Austin Wright’s 1993 book Tony and Susan, telling the intriguing story of one woman caught between her past and her present, while she consumes and is consumed by a story in the here and now.

Amy Adams is ideally cast as a cold and calculated woman whose world is painted in money. When she leaves a passionate but poor young writer for greener pastures, she soon discovers that money cannot buy love and happiness. When the writer re-enters her life in the form of a book he wrote and dedicated to her, she reluctantly reads it and falls in love with the man she thought she knew.

In the novel a man tragically loses his wife and daughter to lustful psychopaths, and seeks to solve the mystery. As we delve deeper into the mystery, we also dig deeper into the fragile disposition of a lonely woman .

Jake Gyllenhaal is sensational, delivering another powerful performance in the dual role of a young, impassioned writer, and his fervent fictional alter-ego who suffers an equally devastating loss.

Love spurting from an imagined scenario in Nocturnal Animals is more lethal than the real world, it is this potent combination of both extremes that strikes a mean blow and leaves lovers battle-scarred.

Ford skillfully manipulates our emotions through the severe actions of the characters in both narratives, we experience their agony and ecstasy, and live our own truth through their respective destinies.

Ford’s ‘’cautionary tale about coming to terms with the choices that we make as we move through life and of the consequences that our decisions may have’’, is relevant in our increasingly disposable culture where everything including our relationships can be so easily tossed away.

Ford is a great observer, his direction is never intrusive, he allows the stories to speak for themselves, and the actors to spontaneously breathe life into their characters.

Sometimes we hurt those we love the most, and with Nocturnal Animals, the cruel intentions of a scorned lover results in ultimate revenge.

Nocturnal Animals shows us how easy it is to hurt someone we love without even seeing them, probing their intimate thoughts and seducing their fragile emotions, abusing them when they are at their most vulnerable, then twisting the fantasy of love and awe into a warped and hurtful reality.

Although the hurt inflicted in the fictional reality of Ford’s duel-tale, it is the torment in the real-life story that cuts the deepest.

Yes, love hurts in Nocturnal Animals, but Ford also shows us the healing power of love, when love is real, and not corrupted by pretentious fabrication.

As Ford states: ‘’This is a story of loyalty, dedication and of love. It is a story of the isolation that we all feel, and of the importance of valuing the personal connections in life that sustain us.’’

Nocturnal Lives will most definitely alert your senses when love comes knocking on your door, knowing that love is not a toy, but a force to be reckoned with.

If you are looking for discerning entertainment with bite, filled with suspense, intrigue and mystery, Nocturnal Animals will definitely not disappoint.

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The Grotesque Fantasy Of Hero Worship

Reviewed by Daniel Dercksen (08/03/17)

In a world obsessed with hero worship, where we adulate glory and eminence, and forget about the person behind the idol, Ang Lee gives us a refreshing satirical view of what it takes to be trapped between being a hero and a person with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.

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During a time where American patriotism is rebooted and the mighty dollar rules, and the War in Iraq has become a stale memory,  Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is a socially relevant film that shows how revered hero’s – on the sports field, music world,  cheer leaders, or in battle during war – become adulated puppets on a string.

When Billy Lynn receives a medal for bravery for saving his platoon leader and instinctively killing the enemy during a one-on-one skirmish in Iraq, the medal blinds those who worship him, and frightens the people in his life who become outsiders in his life.

Lee brilliantly contrasts four different points of view during Lynn’s walk to fame during a Victory Tour, a young man who is passionate about being a soldier and being ‘loved’ for who he is and what he is willing to do to save his fellow Bravo Squad brothers;  a soldier who fails to understand the blind worship and gets caught up in the glory of fabricated fame and becoming a trophy;  a brother and a son who becomes an outsider to his family; and a young man who falls in love with another trophy (a cheerleader played by Makenzie Leigh) .

These different viewpoints inject the narrative with tension and skilfully draw us into an intimate connection with the character and how he relates to the different situations.

The film reminds strongly of Milos Forman’s Hair, who equally ridiculed the essence of war and the fate of young men destined to serve for glory, and Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, where the soldier almost becomes a clown trapped in a war of horror.

Lee’s visual sensibility astounds. After working on Life of Pi (2012), Lee wanted to up his use of technology in film-making, especially in terms of frame rate, since he thought pursuing a higher frame would help him find answers. For Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk Lee used an unprecedented shooting and projection frame rate of 120 frames per second in 3D at 4K HD resolution, which Lee terms the “whole shebang”.

It marks is the first feature film ever to be shot in such a high frame rate, over twice the previous record (Peter Jackson’s 2012 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, shot at 48 fps) and five times the standard speed of 24 fps

Lee undertook such a bold step after reading Ben Fountain’s novel, since he wanted the film to be an “immersive” and “realistic” experience of the reality and emotional journey of soldiers.

British actor Joe Alwyn shines radiantly as Billy Lynn, brilliantly capturing the heartache, fear and elation of a young man who becomes of age during his valour.

The reality and fantasy of war clash head on in the film during the super spectacular halftime show of the Thanksgiving Day football game, where the glory of being a war hero outshines the reality of what really happened to the squad.

A blood stained military uniform tarnished during battle becomes a costume during a grotesque live stage broadcast to millions of TV viewers, where soldiers are forced to entertain, just as they are trained to follow the harsh rules of war.

War has become mass entertainment in a zillion dollar industry, a frivolous amusement to quench the thirst of bloodthirsty worshipers who have become bored with their video games.

It shows that war is definitely not an entertaining and amusing spectacle, and that the tragedy and horror that befalls its victims can never compete with the fantasy of war ruthlessly staged by oblivious worshipers.

If there’s one scene you will always remember from Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, it’s the touching ending, where Billy Lynn bravely confronts the motive that inspires heroism and redeems his fear.

Jackie – a commanding and introspective journey

Reviewed by Daniel Dercksen (03/03/17)

Film allows us the unique opportunity to share the intimate mindscape of iconic legends, and with Jackie, screenwriter and journalist Noah Oppenheim, probes the most private thoughts of Jacqueline Kennedy, one of the most famed, admired and envied figures in the world.

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Oppenheim’s conscientious screenplay, masterfully envisioned with gentle sensibility by Chilean director Pablo Larrain, and brought to life with Natalie Portman’s commanding performance, unveils what we think we know, and reveals a flawless portrait of woman who was trapped in a web of mendacity when she was at her  most vulnerable shortly after John. F Kennedy’s assassination.

Portman never attempts to mimic or impersonate Jackie, but embodies the character physically and emotionally, with fervent passion and complete understanding; the emotional truth of her Oscar-worthy performance is heart-breaking, to such an extent that you want to reach out and hold her in your arms, comforting her desperate outcry.

The ultimate goal of film is allowing us to feel.

Jackie most definitely affords us a wonderful opportunity to share the path the characters walk, and experience their emotional state. When you leave the film it is as if you are walking away from Jackie’s private residence and waving goodbye to a trusted friend.

Billy Crudup is equally brilliant as the journalist who probes the vulnerable disposition of a woman whose fragile state of mind exposes the truth as she carefully manipulates her revelations.

As always, Peter Sarsgaard is in top form as Jackie’s equally  shattered brother-in-law who was also the Attorney General of the United States,  Robert F. Kennedy — an icon in his own right, who would be assassinated  while running for President in 1968.

John Hurt delivers a memorable performance as Jackie’s priest, who really sees Jackie be herself, her most confessional self, and wrestle with why God would ever create this amount of pain.

If there’s one aspect of the film that really hits home, it’s the gut-wrenching moments Jackie shared with Kennedy when he collapsed in her lap after his assassination; action is character, and what Jackie does shows her integrity and allows us to share her pain and tragic loss.

The authenticity of Larrain’s fictional reality is mind-blowing; you will take a step into the past and relive the shocking truth of a story that is as relevant today as when it hit the headlines in 1963.

It shows the strength of a woman who had to face the world with pride and dignity when she was stripped of her status and lost a great love in her life.

If you enjoyed a film like The Iron Lady, that transcends the traditional biopic-genre, and brings to life a refreshing new interpretation, then you will enjoy Jackie. Although it is set against the world of politics in the 60s, it is not at all a political film, but simply the story of a woman whose love of a man and family was destroyed by malevolent powers beyond her control.

It poignantly shows the face of humanity at its most vulnerable, and the importance of never allowing the past to become a jaded memory, but something we should always carry in our hearts and treasure with utmost respect and dignity.

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As a commentary on nostalgia, T2 is completely on point

Reviewed by Tim Leibbrandt (24/02/17)

Trainspotting 2 is very much like a 20 year high school reunion in that it relies on a nostalgic desire to reconnect with the past and one leaves it unsure as to whether or not it was a particularly good idea to do so.

It’s not that the film is bad, it definitely isn’t. It’s beautifully shot and the fully reunited cast still very much own the iconic roles that more or less launched their careers. By the same token, there is something crushingly depressing about how little the characters have grown over the past two decades. This is certainly intentional and a fundamental part of the film’s conceit, but it makes for some pretty bleak watching.

 T2 moves away from the biting social commentary of the original, which is a huge pity as current Scottish views on independence and the post-Brexit world could have made for fertile ground indeed.

When the plot does veer in that direction (a ridiculous scene involving a European development fund scheme and an improvised music number called “There Were No More Catholics Left!” for instance) it tends to be far too incredulous to really make a statement. The inevitable update to the “Choose Life” monologue doesn’t really hit the mark either.

T2 instead focuses on being a character piece, the youthful idealism of the original replaced with the crushing regret of 20 subsequent years of wasted lives. The entire gang have returned and have taken to calling each other by their first names (which is unexpectedly jarring to say the least!) and there is certainly a pleasure in seeing them together once more.

T2 provides an answer to the questions posed by the end of the original and, in emphasising how entrenched in their own self-destructive cycles the characters are, it is a rather depressing and hopeless resolution.

The film goes for an ironic take on nostalgia, with Jonny Lee Miller’s Simon (Sick Boy) telling Ewan McGregor’s Renton at one point: “Nostalgia: that’s why you’re here. You’re a tourist in your own youth.” This is as much addressed to the audience as McGregor’s character and being meta doesn’t change the fact that the film methodically revisits all the major locations and events of the first film, right down to awkwardly forced cameos.

The same is true of the soundtrack, which starts off trying to be as iconic as the original, and when nothing quite sticks, it falls back on the safety net of Underworld’s  Born Slippy.

When it comes down to it, there is really only one standout scene (involving a chance encounter in a toilet stall) that ever truly recaptures the unhinged energy of the original and the feeling in the cinema noticeably shifted for those 5 minutes. It’s a fantastic, memorable moment that really brought home the fact that the rest of the film wasn’t quite as earth-shattering as one might hope.

As a commentary on nostalgia, T2 is completely on point: the relapse will never recapture the fond memories of an earlier time because life goes on whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.Put into practice as a cinematic experience, this translates into a rather bleak portrait that leaves viewers in limbo; not disappointed but not elated either.

They do at least find the perfect way to sum up the new film’s sentiments in the closing scene.

The Lego Batman Movie is loving parody/homage done right

Reviewed by Tim Leibbrandt (10/02/17)

2016 was a rough year to be a DC Comics fan at the movies. Between the (overzealous) critical evisceration of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad and the ongoing success of Marvel offerings like Civil War and Doctor Strange, the days of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy reigning atop the pile seem very far away indeed.

Fear not though, because redemption is at hand, and from an extremely unlikely source!  I’m sure this joke is being used ad nausea, but screw it: Lego Batman is the hero Bat fans deserve and the one they need right now.

LEGO

Following the great reception of the character in 2014’s The Lego Movie, it was only a matter of time until he got the solo treatment. And as with its precursor, rather than just being a shameless cash-grab, the new film is also far smarter and sharper than one would suspect from its premise. Will Arnett’s excellent voice-over work does a wonderful job of selling the riffs on the idea of Batman as an overachieving jack-of-all-trades loner.

The film begins with a hilarious play on rom-com tropes. Thwarting yet another excessively-complicated scheme by the Joker (voiced by Zach Galifianakis), Batman hurts his feelings when he suggests that he doesn’t view the Joker as a special arch nemesis and that he’d prefer to ‘fight around’. Heartbroken, the Joker vows a particularly unorthodox revenge scheme, pulling in much of the hero’s rogues gallery at the same time.

Going into further details would really spoil the fun, but suffice it to say that the story adopts the same ‘playing in the toy box’ approach that the Lego Movie took, with unexpected cameos popping up at every turn.

Key to the film’s success is the number of levels that it works on simultaneously. Parody is always most effective when it’s affectionately making fun of something, and this is particularly true of Lego Batman.

The film is an endearing tribute to the character and hardcore fans will have their hands full trying to spot all of the rapid-fire references, nods and homages to every incarnation of his 78 year existence which are peppered throughout. Crucially though, being able to recognise these Easter eggs is not essential to enjoying the story, and it is remarkable what a great Batman tale the film turns out to be. Never fully reverting to the campiness of 60s Adam West Batman and never reaching total Zack Snyder gloom either, Lego Batman achieves the extraordinary feat of presenting a version of the character which sums up a bit of every incarnation. And it works.

There are only two major points where Lego Batman doesn’t hit the mark: the finale (which possibly pushes the ridiculousness a little too far) and then the musical numbers. The ingenious score features a number of subtle nods to the memorable Batman themes of films past, but I wish that they had splurged a little more on getting the right people in for the film’s lyrical entries. They’re entirely forgettable and don’t come close to the genius of Tegan and Sara’s Everything is Awesome from The Lego Movie (or even Batman’s “Darkness, No parents” song from the same film for that matter).

While these niggling issues prevent the film from attaining outright classic, they don’t really hamper it from being an absolute blast from start to finish. Highly recommended for fans and non-fans alike, The Lego Batman Movie is loving parody/homage done right and a glowing reminder that when one removes all the brooding and angst, there was a reason these characters resonated so strongly in the first place.

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TIMTim Leibbrandt is a freelance writer and musician based in Cape Town. He is co-editor of the online South African contemporary art magazine ArtThrob and plays bass for Cape Town thrash band Infanteria.

 

 

RINGSRINGS Gore Verbinski’s 2002 version of The Ring is fondly remembered for creating an atmosphere of slow-burn dread with a strong emphasis on unsettling and grainy surrealist VHS imagery rather than jump scares and gore effects. It remains the undisputed king of the 00’s wave of Hollywood remakes of Japanese cult horror films.

15 years later, and the creative team behind Rings are presented with a number of intriguing possibilities about where to take the premise of a killer VHS tape when increasing dematerialisation of video and smartphone streaming is the order of the day. Unfortunately Rings largely opts out of really playing with these avenues and tends to be self-consciously restrained when it does. Rather than looking at how big bad Samara Morgan would deal with having to off millions of Youtubers simultaneously (for instance), it contents itself with copy/pasting of digital rips of the original tape, which doesn’t really shift the core dynamics that much. In other words, Rings plays it safe and the film is largely unmemorable as a result. Sure looking at how the film’s premise would practically play out is a hugely ambitious task and runs the risk of being excessively campy, but at least it would take the concept further and justify a new 2017 film rather than just treading water.

Following a truly silly opening sequence – which should have been left on the cutting room floor due to how irrelevant it is to the rest of the plot – the majority of the new film is reasonably watchable. There are a few standout performances (Vincent D’Onofrio and Johnny Galecki’s tweaked reinterpretation of his Big Bang Theory character come to mind) and the middle act in particular does an alright job of being entertaining. The trouble is that Rings is never quite as innovative as it thinks it is and nothing here will be remembered as a standout moment for the franchise. It also cribs a number of core ideas which were far better explored in the 15 minute short film of the same title (directed by South African Jonathan Liebesman and released as a bonus feature on the original’s DVD in 2005). There are a few interesting elements added to Samara’s increasingly tragic backstory, but the character remains a tad one-dimensional.

There have certainly been some very strong mainstream Hollywood horrors of late (Lights Out, Don’t Breathe and Mike Flanagan’s masterful Ouija: Origin of Evil for instance) and Rings is left feeling rather lacking in comparison. In its unwillingness to develop the source material in any way, it suffers from many of the same problems as 2016’s Blair Witch.  Light on both scares and atmospheric dread, Rings is what you could call a ‘mild peri-peri’ horror. It resists being particularly inventive (which the original certainly was for its time) and series stalwarts are likely to be left feeling disappointed. Newcomers will also probably be wondering what the fuss was all about.

Reviewed by Tim Leibbrandt. 

Split4SPLIT It should be heartening for M. Night Shyamalan that after roughly 15 years of failing to live up to the promise of The Sixth Sense and the heinously underrated Unbreakable, audiences still seem to want him to succeed. Even after one of the most appalling final act own-goals in cinematic history (Signs) and a string of high budget clunkers (looking at you The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth). So when the campy low budget 2015 horror comedy The Visit turned out to be wickedly enjoyable, phrases like ‘career resurgence’ were tossed about prematurely. Sure it was fun, but Split is the real comeback film. Financing the film himself to reduce the pressure of studio commercial returns, Split bears the fruit of Shyamalan’s apparent recent soul-searching and contains far more of the DNA of an “M. Night Shyamalan film” than The Visit did.

James McAvoy is absolutely outstanding as Kevin. As of now this is almost certainly his career defining role and every personality is completely fleshed-out and distinct, even when the personalities are fighting for control and he is forced to switch sentence by sentence. The success or failure of the film hangs entirely on his portrayal of Kevin (and Dennis, and Miss Patricia and Hedwig and Barry and and and…) and he throws himself into the role with such gusto that it could easily have been a one-man show and remain eminently watchable. Which would also be a pity as Anya Taylor-Joy proves that her phenomenal performance as the lead in last year’s The Witch was no fluke. The scenes between her character, Casey, and Hedwig (Kevin’s naïve, Kanye West-loving 9 year old boy personality) are an absolute masterclass, delivered so effortlessly that it’s only really when you reflect on the absurdity of what you were watching in retrospect that the strength of the performances become fully apparent.

Shyamalan gives both Kevin and Casey wildly unpredictable story arcs, veering between the horrifying, the tragic and the strikingly poignant.  Sure there are a few aspects of the plot which don’t really add-up or are undercooked, but the strength of Shyamalan at his best has always been that the audience is so caught up in the emotional centre of the core characters’ journey that you don’t even notice. Split is a dark, shocking and occasionally hilarious story with phenomenal performances from McAvoy and Taylor-Joy that sweeps you up and holds you captive until the very end.

Reviewed by Tim Leibbrandt.   Read more about Split

rogue-oneROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY Conceived as a stopgap to fill the two year wait between ‘Episode’ instalments (and presumably to ensure a continued return on Disney’s multi-billion dollar investment), Rogue One marks the first of a series of Star Wars one shots which seem to be aimed at filling in the sizeable gap between Episode III and Episode IV. Set directly before the events of A New Hope, Rogue One  tells the story of how the rebel alliance were able to obtain the plans for the Death Star, paving the way for their crucial victory at the end of A New Hope. Helmed by director Gareth Edwards (Monsters, 2014’s Godzilla), Rogue One has a number of things working for it straight off the bat. Due to the setting, it exudes the look and feel of the original film. Classic stormtroopers, classic Star Wars ships and vehicles. Darth Vader. The nostalgia-feels are strong with this one, and following a significant difference in tone with the prequel trilogy (and a semi-throwback Episode 7), the argument could be made that this is all Star Wars fans have ever really wanted; more of what they originally loved. In this department, Rogue One smacks it out of the park, this feels like a story taking place at the same time as the original films.Another crucial box which it checks is in the characters. The core rebel team is a ragtag band of flawed individuals who are just doing the best they can to make a difference. The characters are distinct and likeable and while they are not given very much (or any) backstory, they display a number of idiosyncrasies, quirks and foibles which make them come across as very human. Ironically it is the re-programmed imperial droid K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) who displays the most personality and characterisation. Nonetheless, Felicity Jones’ Jyn Ers, Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Îmwe and Riz Ahmed’s Bodhi Rook all give particularly great performances. Prequels are tricky in that the endings are largely precluded, but Rogue One achieves the admirable task of making you care about its characters, which is arguably a huge reason the original trilogy is so beloved. Ben Mendelsohn’s suitably arrogant and self-absorbed turn as Orson Krennic is another standout performance.That being said, it’s just as well that the cast were able to flesh-out their characters in physical/gestural ways because the dialogue is by far the weakest part of the film, often exceptionally cringe-worthy and clunky. As the film moves at a rapidfire pace, jumping from planet to planet at a hyperspeed, it often feels rushed and could have used a tighter edit to cut some of the unnecessary stuff (a scene with Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera and a tentacled alien thing is a particularly mindblowing moment). It’s great that it’s a self-contained story rather than obviously holding-off details for later installments (I’m looking at you Force Awakens!) but it still asks the audience to just accept things which are happening without much motivation or explanation.Rogue One is the kind of film which lends itself to trailers in the sense that there are a number of spectacular moments which hit all of the right notes, but the film doesn’t necessarily cohere as well as it should. There are also far too many clichés (a lone imperilled child separated from its parents, a ‘Bond villain’ monologue) and the repetition of certain Star Wars tropes is becoming a bit tiresome (although Rogue One has far more legitimacy to pitting rebels against a Death Star than Force Awakens’ slacker approach). It’s not a perfect film, but Rogue One delivers in one crucial area which has been missing from everything since Return of the Jedi: it reintroduces heart to the Star Wars universe. It’s a character-centric story which doesn’t allow the effects to overshadow its emotional core. And it really does feel like an authentic return to the world of the original trilogy. Even for casual fans of the series, it’s worth watching once at least, if for no reason other than to fill one of A New Hopes’ gaping plot-holes. Reviewed by Tim Leibbrandt.  Read more about the film

tom-hanks-inferno-2016INFERNO It’s always amused me that in The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown describes Robert Langdon as looking like Harrison Ford in Harris tweed” but they cast Tom Hanks instead. I’m not suggesting that Hanks hasn’t done well in the role (2009’s Angels and Demons was highly enjoyable and a huge improvement over its iffy predecessor), but somehow it seems to encapsulate the woes of translating the book series into film. Which is funny really, because Dan Brown’s writing should really lend itself to film. Its popularity has little to do with the w