11 items from 2014
One of the underdogs of the London Film Festival, Snow In Paradise may have gone unnoticed by many in attendance – though it isn’t for lack of merit. Based on a true story, the film tells the tale of a former criminal who finds Islam and turns away from his old life, but not before being pushed to breaking point by the events and people which surround him.
Newcomer Frederick Schmidt steals the show with an intense and powerful central performance as the renamed ‘Dave’. Set against the London backdrop, Dave’s journey from petty criminal is engrossing as he moves up the criminal ladder and becomes gradually more unhinged, thanks to his ability to convey the many hidden depths of the character. He is strong and intimidating, loyal and eager to please. You both fear for him and care desperately, wanting him to find a new path. It is »
- Amanda Keats
But theatrical docs are a niche market, as Chinn admits. That’s why he joined forces last December with his cousin, Jonathan Chinn, a Los Angeles-based, Emmy-winning reality showrunner, to launch Lightbox. The new company is dedicated to a broader range of factual programming across a wider variety of platforms.
“Jonathan has a reputation for being at the more thoughtful end of reality programming in the U.S., while I’m seen as being at the more commercial end of feature documentaries. So we thought, what’s the sweet spot between the two?” Chinn says.
In less than a year, Lightbox has harvested a first crop of commissions from Esquire Network, VH1, Espn and FX. In August, the U. »
- Adam Dawtrey
Exclusive: Award-winning producer John Battsek (Searching For Sugarman, The Imposter) is ramping up for a new feature documentary on glam rock/hair metal band X Japan. Megastars in its native Asia who sell out arenas overseas, X Japan has yet to break stateside with as much success. Formed in 1982, X Japan’s evolution into glam-metal-pop superstars is laden with as much dramatic backstory as any international rock outfit. The lineup, anchored by co-founding drummer-pianist-songwriter Yoshiki, has navigated breakups and the deaths of two members while selling over 30 million albums and singles to date.
With director Stephen Kijak (Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, Stones In Exile) at the helm, principal photography on the Passion Pictures production will begin October 11 at New York’s Madison Square Garden when the band plays their first concert since 2010. New York also is where X Japan first landed stateside when it signed with Atlantic Records in »
- Jen Yamato
Add this to the growing list of upcoming Muhammad Ali projects. A new documentary from Passion Pictures, the executive producer of the critically-acclaimed "Searching for Sugar Man," and "The Imposter," which is said to be centered on the recorded conversations of Ali. Executive producer John Battsek (who claims "When We Were Kings" was an inspiration) said about the doc: “It’s a film built around phone conversations that Ali recorded for many years with his family. That’s the spine of the film. It’s a very personal perspective on Ali, from Ali – in a way – through a 20-year period of his life when he was »
- Tambay A. Obenson
With British cinema overrun as ever with grimy London gangland tales, there is precious little territory that hasn’t yet been covered within the genre: Even the narrative tension between crime and spirituality in “Snow in Paradise,” an ultra-brooding study of a small-time hoodlum’s conversion to Islam, feels less novel than it should do. A glum but not inauspicious directorial debut for accomplished editor Andrew Hulme, this obscurely titled thriller suffers from key scripting deficiencies for which its concentrated, low-hanging atmospherics and a hot-wired lead performance go only so far to compensate. An artsy proposition for genre aficionados and a coarse one for arthouses, “Paradise” may find itself in commercial purgatory even on home turf.
In 2012, Sally El Hosaini’s remarkable debut feature, “My Brother the Devil,” freshened up a story of East End gang warfare with a complex personal conflict over closeted sexuality and Muslim faith; warmly reviewed »
- Guy Lodge
I am mostly against the critical valuation of real people in documentaries. I’ve written about this in the past, specifically in response to the reviews of The Imposter that judged subject Frederic Bourdin more than the film itself. I also wondered last fall whether it is okay to highlight the “best” characters of a given year in the form of the Cinema Eye Honors recognition of “The Unforgettables.” On that, I eventually came around to agreeing that memorable documentary characters deserve recognition if not a competitive prize that puts one above the rest (and the Ceh don’t mean for them to be “the best,” just unforgettable). Even calling them characters makes me conflicted at times, but within the film space and narrative, that is what they are. Ranking these characters, though, or calling them “best” or “worst,” isn’t something I feel comfortable doing. However, it is more acceptable to discuss a documentary character positively »
Raw has a prolific factual output, and last year produced more than 100 hours of television. In the U.S. it produces “Gold Rush,” which airs on the Discovery Channel worldwide, and is the channel’s highest-rating series of all time; “Locked Up Abroad” for National Geographic, which is the longest-running series in the network’s history; and “Paranormal Witness,” which continues to grow its audience for SyFy.
“We are delighted to be joining forces with Discovery in a deal that strengthens our ability to tell great stories and bring them to new »
- Leo Barraclough
Curzon has acquired UK rights and Madman Entertainment has picked up Australia and New Zealand.
The Green Prince screens in the World Documentary competition and chronicles the recruitment by Israeli secret services of the son of a Hamas leader.
The Green Prince is an A-List Films, Passion Pictures and Red Box Films production, co-produced with Telepool and Urzad Productions in association with The Documentary Company, Yes Docu, and Sky Atlantic. »
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Jeremy Kay)
Park City - The documentary that styles itself as a genre film is a risky gambit -- for every example that pulls off the disguise (think Bart Layton's elegantly shifty "The Imposter"), there's at least one other that carries a faint whiff of desperation, employing thriller tactics in the hope of sexing up serious-minded material, selling its subject and audience short in one fell swoop. Early on in Nadav Schirman's "The Green Prince," a smart, tightly assembled film that kicked off the World Documentary Competition at the Sundance Film Festival tonight, there's reason to fear the film will fall into the latter »
- Guy Lodge
Butler aims to turn Raw into a major force in film and drama production, building a slate of bold, authored U.K. and U.S. productions, working alongside Raw’s founder Dimitri Doganis, creative director Bart Layton, CEO Joely Fether and the department’s head of development Zander Levy.
As deputy head of film at Film4, which is the feature film arm of broadcaster Channel 4, Butler has been working across its production slate. Previously, she served as senior commissioning executive with responsibility for new talent and running Film4’s lower-budget feature slate.
- Leo Barraclough
After nine years at Channel 4’s film arm Film4, Butler will move to work alongside Raw’s Founder Dimitri Doganis, Creative Director Bart Layton, new CEO Joely Fether and head of development Zander Levy.
According to Raw, Butler will spearhead the company’s drive to become “a major force in film and drama production building a slate of bold, authored UK and Us productions”.
Butler will leave Film4 at the end of February.
- email@example.com (Andreas Wiseman)
11 items from 2014
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