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12 items from 2007

Doing what they do best: MPAA take 'Side's

19 December 2007 | ioncinema | See recent ioncinema news »

- While the CIA spend their time destroying proof in the form of interrogation video tapes, the MPAA are conducting some censorship of their own: rejecting the poster one sheet for Alex Gibney's documentary Taxi to the Dark Side. Sounds familiar? Roadside Attractions had to go thru the same b.s with The Road to Guantánamo (click on the title to see the original and revised versions of that poster). Th!NKFilm's Mark Urman stated in Variety, "the change renders the art illogical, without any power or meaning." Alex Gibney who'll we'll be featuring next month before he heads out to Sundance to preem Gonzo: The Life and Times of Hunter Thompson said "not permitting us to use an image of a hooded man that comes from a documentary photograph is censorship, pure and simple...intentional or not, the MPAA's disapproval of the poster is a political act, undermining »

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Participant Prod & Magnolia join forces for Gibney docu

3 December 2007 | ioncinema | See recent ioncinema news »

- Multi-tasker Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) is about to embark on one busy year - the documentary filmmaker has not one, not two - but potentially three films that will receive theatrical releases this year. Variety reports that Participant Productions and Magnolia Pictures (who distributed the Enron doc) are pairing up on Alex Gibney's Burning down the House a docu that looks at the murky world of political lobbying and  This is a subject that has caused huge controversy in the Us since political lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sent to prison after being convicted on a series of criminal felony counts relating to his lobbying activities. The film is now in post-production and will follow in the footsteps of Thinkfilm's January release of Taxi to the Dark Side and Sundance festival premiere of Gonzo: The Life and Times of Hunter Thompson. Taxi is an »

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17th Gotham Award winners: a 'Wild' night indeed

28 November 2007 | ioncinema | See recent ioncinema news »

- It was a night of multiple winners instead of winners with multiple wins at the 17th annual Gotham awards - where the Ifp recognize the best in independent filmmaking through 6 simple award categories. With only Todd Haynes' Dylan project as a possible threat, it was perhaps an easy win for Sean Penn's Into the Wild. And thought Craig Zobel got shut out in two categories, the director was rewarded with the Breakthrough director award. Michael Moore's popularity has not diminished as he picked up documentary film award of the year (evidently for Sicko) and Reitman's Juno continued its rise in popularity with Ellen Page picking up breakthrough actor award over Emile Hirsch's perf in Into the Wild. Voters were dead-locked in the ensemble category: Before the Devil Knows You're Dead was perhaps the favored of the category and people didn't forget Focus Features' summer »

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Sundance Film Festival 2008: Documentary Competition Lineup

28 November 2007 | ioncinema | See recent ioncinema news »

- New works from documentary filmmaker faves in Alex Gibney (Gonzo: The Life and Times of Hunter Thompson), Margaret Brown (The Order of Myths) and Patrick Creadon (I.O.U.S.A.) and many first time doc filmmakers make up the section in this year's documentary Comp lineup. I don't count many Iraq-war related items listed below, telling us that the doc vague of such films is officially D.O.A. Click on the individual links below for more info on each film (including official sites and trailers). Documentary COMPETITIONAn American Soldier directed and written by Edet Belzberg ("Children Underground"), a look at one of the U.S. Army's all-time top recruiters, Sgt. 1st Class Clay Usie.American Teen directed and written by Nanette Burstein ("On the Ropes"), an irreverent, frank account of four Indiana high school seniors.Bigger, Faster, Stronger directed by Christopher Bell and written by Bell, Alexander Buono and Tamsin Rawady, »

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Shortlist for docu Oscar unveiled

20 November 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

NEW YORK -- The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Monday unveiled the 15 films on its 2007 documentary feature Oscar shortlist.

Four ThinkFilm releases made the cut, a record for the company and one of the biggest lineups ever for any distributor. They are Tony Kaye's abortion epic Lake of Fire, Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman's World War II expose Nanking, Alex Gibney's Iraq War study Taxi to the Dark Side and Sean Fine and Andrea Nix's look at a Ugandan musical competition War/Dance.

The biggest boxoffice hit among the bunch by far is Michael Moore's health-care expose Sicko, from the Weinstein Co., but other high-profile releases were left off the list. Jonathan Demme's Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains and Amir Bar-Lev's child prodigy study My Kid Could Paint That from Sony Pictures Classics were expected to make the cut but didn't. Other notable absentees were Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg's look at Darfur, The Devil Came on Horseback; Picturehouse's gamers study The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters; and ThinkFilm's space-themed In the Shadow of the Moon.

Aside from Taxi, other films covering the Iraq War that made the list included Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro's Body of War, Charles Ferguson's No End in Sight and Richard Robbins' Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience.

Features about other wars made the cut, too, including Steven Okazaki's White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen and Nicole Newnham's World War II art study The Rape of Europa.

Virtually all films on the list were topical, including Tricia Regan's look at special-needs children, Autism: The Musical »

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Gore to keynote indie confab

30 October 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Current TV co-founder and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore will give the keynote speech at the symposium "A Day of Dialogue: The Future of Non-Fiction Film."

The event will be held Nov. 6 at Tribeca Cinemas in New York.

The event, organized by the cable/satellite TV network and Web site CurrentTV with Fader magazine film production arm Fader Films, features discussions with emerging and veteran filmmakers interested in socially relevant nonfiction topics.

The participants include a who's who of bigwigs from the indie film world. Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp), Albert Maysles (Gimme Shelter), Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), Alex Gibney ("Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room") and Marc Levin (Mr. Untouchable) will be on hand with Cinetic Media's John Sloss, Magnolia Pictures' Eammon Bowles and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment's Bingham Ray.

The forum will begin with the helming talk "Inside the Directors Studio," followed by filmmakers breaking into small groups to meet with sales agents, film fest programrs and distribution execs. Participants will be able to pitch their ideas to a Current TV creative exec at the end of the day. »

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Mr. Untouchable

26 October 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

What all this nostalgia is about for 1970s Harlem drug lords is hard to say, but Universal will release American Gangster, a fictionalized portrait of heroin kingpin Frank Lucas, just days after Magnolia comes out with Mr. Untouchable, Marc Levin's documentary on the original black Godfather, Nicky Barnes, from that same era. Barnes himself, now in the Witness Protection Program, tells his story, assisted by a talking-heads squad of lawyers, DEA agents, informants, journalists, hustlers, his ex-wife and members of Barnes' drug council, whom he ratted out after he was sent to prison.

It's undeniably fascinating, but you might want to take a shower after hanging out with this unsavory bunch. Boxoffice looks weak, with possibly better results in DVD and cable.

The problem is that Levin provides no real point of view. Indeed, he seems much too taken with all the surface gloss and displays little interest in the socioeconomic background that gave the rise to this particularly odious Mr. Big. Levin perhaps can claim that he lets people hang themselves with their own words. And ironies like the '70s black youth who sees Barnes, not Yankees slugger Reggie Jackson, as his "hero" are duly noted, then the movie moves on.

The real irony is that it was not a cop, informer or DOJ attorney who tripped up Barnes but a magazine article. When the New York Times put Barnes on its magazine cover in 1977, dressed like a superstar, with the headline "Mister Untouchable", he was a sitting duck. President Carter himself ordered the all-out effort to change his wardrobe to prison stripes.

Barnes and his fellow gangsters all read Machiavelli's The Prince from cover to cover while serving prison stints in the late '60s and absorbed that system to power. It worked for a while, though the film is light on details. Eventually, Barnes -- an ex-junkie, as were many of his lieutenants -- wallowed in jewelry, clothes, women and champagne as heroin brought in $72 million annually. The Italian Mafia trained and trusted him. In turn, Barnes modeled his organization along traditional Mafia lines, creating his own black crime family known as the Council.

Levin shot interviews with Barnes for several days in an undisclosed location. (He has a $1 million contract out on his life.) His face is in shadows, and the camera mostly focuses on his hands, featuring a gold watch and one large diamond ring. On the table are props: champagne in one shot, a single bullet in another and a pile of money or (probably fake) heroin in others.

Those few members not incarcerated for life, which includes ex-wife Thelma Grant and Council member "Jazz" Hayden, tell their versions of the story of crime, punishment and revenge. The theme from "Superfly" and other appropriate music of the era plays in the background. Usage of archival footage is mostly unimaginative, and the repetition of photos further testifies to the film's visual dullness.

Key points pass by too quickly. That these gangsters called themselves Muslims is not further explored. Nor is Barnes' inability to answer whether he was a tool for white men. Jazz makes the outrageous claim that when the Barnes family handed out money or food to the community, "these guys cared about Harlem." What they cared about was enslaving the community to their drugs.


Magnolia Pictures

HDNet Films in association with Damon Dash Enterprises and Blowback Prods.


Director: Marc Levin

Producers: Mary-Jane Robinson, Alex Gibney, Jason Kliot, Joanna Vicente

Executive producers: Todd Wagner, Mark Cuban

Director of photography: Henry Adebonojo

Music: Hi-Tek

Editors: Emir Lewis, Daniel Praid

Running time -- 90 minutes

MPAA rating: R »

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No End in Sight

27 July 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Magnolia Pictures

A damning appraisal of America's handling of the Iraq war, post-Mission Accomplished, No End In Sight may not offer up any fresh revelations, but this effectively assembled documentary puts it all in valuable, if depressing, perspective.

Executive produced Alex Gibney, who directed "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," the film (it might just as easily have been called, "Iraq: Not the Smartest Guys in the Room") took home the Documentary Special Jury Prize from Sundance this year.

First-time director Charles Ferguson examines the quagmire that is the U.S. involvement in Iraq through first-hand accounts by some of those who knew the score, like former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Ambassador Barbara Bodine (who was in charge of Baghdad in the spring of 2003) and a number of military officials, including Colin Powell's former chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson.

Ferguson's talking heads paint a vivid portrait of an administration whose lack of a thought-out, post-invasion exit strategy led to a succession of alienating policy snafus, which, in turn, incited the waves of insurgency that shows no signs of abatement.

While the film dutifully dispenses the factoids -- 3,000 U.S. fatalities, 20,000 American wounded and an escalating price tag that has eclipsed the $2 trillion mark -- it's most potent in its sobering distillation of that pre-existing data.

Factor in Campbell Scott's efficiently impartial narration, and No End In Sight achieves the neat trick of feeling like a Michael Moore movie, but with no Michael Moore in sight. »

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Magnolia, Red Envelope nab Iraq docu

1 June 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Magnolia Pictures and Red Envelope Entertainment have acquired North American rights to Charles Ferguson's Iraq documentary No End in Sight, which premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival.

Oscar-nominated Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) executive produced the film that has been touted as one of the more unique examinations of the U.S. occupation of the Middle East because of its focus on the circumstances surrounding the decision to attack.

" 'No End in Sight' is remarkable, a stirring, perfectly assembled catalog of the almost unimaginable short-sightedness that passed for strategy in Iraq," Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles said. "This film is a must-see for anyone who cares about how American government has conducted itself and where we're going as a country."

Bowles negotiated the deal along with Red Envelope Entertainment head Bahman Naraghi, Magnolia head of business affairs Jason Janego and Cinematic Media's John Sloss. »

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30 films bow at Silverdocs

18 May 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

WASHINGTON -- Silverdocs: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival announced its full slate of films Thursday.

Silverdocs 2007, which runs June 12-17 in suburban Silver Spring, Md., will present 100 films representing 42 countries selected from 1,735 submissions with nine World, six North American, four U.S. and 11 East Coast premieres.

"Silverdocs celebrates the passion and creativity of independent filmmakers and their ability to unite people across cultures and continents," festival director Patricia Finneran said.

"This year we explore the environment, the war and its impact, powerful personal perspectives on contemporary history and the future of real; we invite new audiences -- and the next generation of media makers -- to share in the discovery of these diverse stories, and engage in a global dialogue," she added.

Notable filmmakers presenting their work this year include Jonathan Demme (The Agronomist, Stop Making Sense), Silverdocs' Charles Guggenheim Symposium honoree, who will present the theatrical World Premiere of his film on the aftermath of Katrina, New Home Movies From the Lower Ninth Ward. Others include three-time Emmy-winning director Jim Brown (Pete Seeger: The Power of Song); Al Maysles (The Gates); Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side); Annie Sundberg and Rick Stern (The Devil Came on Horseback); Marco Williams (Banished); Doug Prey (Big Rig), Mike Mills ("Does Your Soul Have a Cold?") and Liz Garbus (Coma). »

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De Palma pic 'Redacted' on Optimum slate

11 February 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

London-based indie distributor Optimum, now owned by Canal Plus, snared U.K. rights to Brian De Palma's Iraq War thriller Redacted from New York-based producer and broadcaster HDNet Films.

The Brit company also snaffled U.K. rights to Alex Gibney's documentary Hunter S. Thompson about the cult hero gonzo journalist.

De Palma's movie recounts the story of a group of American soldiers stationed in Iraq and is produced by HDNet Films co-presidents Jason Kliot and Joana Vicente, along with The Film Farm's Simone Urdl and Jennifer Weiss. The film is currently in pre-production and will start shooting in April, HDNet said.

Thompson is billed as the first documentary to examine the life of Thompson. Directed by Gibney ("Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room") and produced by HDNet Films Kliot and Vicente with Graydon Carter, the film aims to draw on over 200 hours of home movie and documentary footage that Thompson's family granted the filmmakers.

"Both films will give audiences an exciting new perspective on a talented artist," Optimum managing director Will Clarke said. »

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Miramax, SPC lead WGA docu noms

12 January 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Miramax Films and Sony Pictures Classics nabbed a pair of nominations each in the WGA Awards' documentary writing category, while Lionsgate figured in another of the category's noms.

Those nominated included:

Deliver Us From Evil, written by Amy Berg, Lionsgate.

The Heart of the Game, written by Ward Serrill, Miramax.

Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos, story by Mark Monroe and John Dower, screenplay by Mark Monroe, Miramax.

Who Killed the Electric Car? written by Chris Paine, SPC.

Why We Fight, written by Eugene Jarecki, SPC.

The WGA's inaugural docu award went to Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me in 2005, and Alex Gibney won the award last year for "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room."

"Since the creation of the award, there has been a more than 50% increase in U.S. documentaries containing a writing credit," the WGA said.

About 35 films were submitted for consideration this year, representing a 40% increase compared with last year, officials said.

Winners in all categories of the WGA Awards will be announced at the guild's annual gala, set for Feb. »

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