Indie Filmmakers Debate Post-Sundance: ‘Where Is Harvey?’ (Video)

Change continues to buffet the independent film industry, and about 100 writers, directors and producers got together on Thursday to talk about it, courtesy of Rick Rosenthal’s Whitewater Films. Over Mexican food and under Rosenthal’s white...

Relativity Snatches Up Pablo Escobar Script, ‘Silver or Lead’

Relativity Media announced on Tuesday that it has picked up the rights to "Silver or Lead," a screenplay by Piers Ashworth, which tracks the manhunt for Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.

Enrique Urbizu is attached to direct the story of how General Hugo Martinez risked his life as the head of  the elite task force responsible for bringing the godfather of the Medellín cartel to justice for his crimes. The film's title is derived from the antagonist's famous phrase, "Plata o Plomo," meaning take his silver or take his lead.

Also read: Relativity Media and MediaWeaver Sign Production Deal

Relativity, which will produce in partnership with Atmosphere Entertainment MM, has already secured Martinez's life rights, as well as those of DEA agent Joe Toft, who was also involved in the pursuit, capture and death of Escobar in 1993.

Simon Strong's award-winning book “Whitewash: Pablo Escobar and the Cocaine Wars" was acquired by Relativity to provide the source material for Ashworth's script, which he developed from an original draft by Michael Kane.

Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh and president Tucker Tooley will serve as producers on their project with Mark Canton, Donald Kushner and Leigh Ann Burton. Atmosphere’s David Hopwood will co-produce.

“Relativity is proud to attract such a dynamic team to help tell Pablo Escobar’s life story. We have been fans of Enrique’s award-winning work and Piers’ powerful script and are thrilled to have them on board," Tooley said in a statement. "This has been a long coveted project and we look forward to working with people who are as passionate about the story as Mark, Donald, and Leigh Ann.”

This is the second Escobar-related feature film of late to come to fruition. Benicio Del Toro is attached to play portray the infamous criminal in writer/director Andrea di Stefano's "Paradise Lost," which stars Josh Hutcherson as a young surfer who falls for Escobar's niece.

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Sundance Selects Picks Up Alexandre Moors’ ‘Blue Caprice’

Sundance Selects has acquired the North American and Latin American rights to Alexandre Moors’ "Blue Caprice," the company announced on Tuesday.

Moors' directorial debut investigates the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks from the point of view of the two killers, John Allen Muhammad and 17-year-old Lee Boyd Malvo.

Isaiah Washington stars as Muhammad; Tequan Richmond plays Malvo.

Also read: Beltway Sniper Film ‘Blue Caprice’ at Sundance: ‘Killers Aren’t Born, They’re Made’

The drama, set to open Film Society of Lincoln Center and MOMA’s 2013 New Directors/New Films Festival later this month, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

April Yvette Thompson, who has a brief part as Malvo’s mother, summarized the film's hypothesis by telling the audience at Sundance that "killers aren’t born, they’re made."

R.F.I. Porto wrote the screenplay for the film; it was produced by Isen Robbins, Aimee Schoof, Ron Simons, Stephen Tedeschi, Brian O’Carroll, Kim Jackson and Will Rowbotham.

"Alexandre Moors has made one of the most distinct and haunting American independent films of the year featuring unforgettable performances by Isaiah Washington and Tequan Richmond," Jonathan Sehring, president of Sundance Selects/IFC Films, said in a statement. "We're thrilled to be able to release this and look forward to working with the producers and Cinetic to make this a big success.”

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James Franco Protests Australia’s ‘Really Silly’ Decision to Ban Gay-Themed Film (Video)

James Franco is asking the Australian Classification Board to reconsider its decision to ban "I Want Your Love," a feature film from Franco's "Interior. Leather Bar." co-director, Travis Matthews.

"This just is such a disappointment to me and just seems really silly," Franco says in a video uploaded to Matthews' YouTube channel on Monday. 

Also read: Who Is James Franco? Artist Marina Abramović Wants Her Film to Answer That

Matthews' film --'I Want Your Love" --exploring gay male relationships has been banned from screening at festivals in Australia due to scenes containing explicit sex that the censors don't believe have any narrative context.

Franco disagrees.

"Travis is making this film, including sex because he wants to explore story and character in the nuances that sex contains," the actor says. "Because films have been banned because of sex, sex in films hasn't had a chance to grow and become a sophisticated storytelling device."

"I Want Your Love" was scheduled to be screened twice at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival this month, but organizers have reluctantly replaced the programming and apologized to the audience.

"We're shocked that Classification Australia have taken this path. 'I Want Your Love' has screened to critical acclaim at dozens of festivals around the world. Australia is the first film festival to have it banned," a message on the MQFF's website reads. "We're sorry our audience won't be able to make up its own minds about adult content."

Franco, who returns to the box office this weekend in Sam Raimi's "Oz the Great and Powerful," agrees that adults should "be able to choose" their own viewing. 

"They're not going in blind. I don't know why, in this day and age, something like this -- a film that is using sex, not for titillation, but to talk about being human -- is being banned," he concludes. "It's just embarrassing."

Watch Franco's plea:

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Independent Box Office: ‘Stoker’ Debuts to $22K Average

“Stoker,” the psychological thriller from director Park Chan-wook, averaged an impressive $22,689 per theater in its specialty box-office debut this weekend.

Fox Searchlight released the film, starring Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, and Nicole Kidman, in seven theaters and its grossed $158,822 over the three days. In "Stoker," a mysterious and charming man comes to live with a young woman and her unstable mother after her father dies.

Also read: 'Jack the Giant Slayer' $28M Box Office Is Beans Compared to Budget

Also debuting was “Leviathan,” the documentary about the commercial fishing trade in the North Atlantic. It took in $10,018 on one screen at New York's IFC Center, distributor Cinema Guild reported.

Tribeca Films' “War Witch,” the Best Foreign Language Oscar-nominated tale of a 14-year-old African girl telling her unborn child the story of her life amid a war, opened to $10,260 on two theaters.

Also opening was "Hava Nagila," a documentary on the history, mystery, and meaning of the ubiquitous Jewish standard that follows the around-the-world journey of the song from Ukraine to Youtube. Harry Belafonte, Connie Francis and Leonard Nimoy appear in the film, which took in $9,521 from a single New York theater for International Film Circuit.

The Weinstein Company expanded “Quartet,” Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut set in a retirement home for musicians, from 356 theaters to 725. It took in $1.7 million, an average of $2,428 and raised its domestic total after eight weeks to $8.9 million.

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‘Stoker’ Review: When Style Becomes Self-Parody

The translation of foreign films for American audiences involves subtleties as much as it does subtitles. The unspoken social norms of a Japanese movie, say, or the lugubrious personal tragedy of a French film work perfectly within their own cultural c...

‘How to Survive a Plague’ Miniseries Being Developed by ABC Studios

David France's 2012 documentary "How to Survive a Plague" has been optioned by ABC Studios, which is planning to develop the film into a dramatic miniseries.

The film, which was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Documentary Feature Film category, chronicled the early days of AIDS activism by the coalitions ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group).

Also read: 'How to Survive a Plague' Has a Message for the Young: AIDS Isn't Over

France, who wrote and directed the film, will executive produce the miniseries project, along with Howard Gertler (who produced the film) and John Lyons.

In addition to the Academy Award nomination, "How to Survive a Plague" was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and was an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival.

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Tribeca Picks Rock Documentary ‘Mistaken for Strangers’ as Opening Night Film

"Mistaken for Strangers" will be the opening night film at the Tribeca Film Festival this spring.

The film follows the indie band The National on tour. It was directed by Tom Berninger, who also happens to be the brother of The National's lead singer Matt Berninger.

It's an edgier choice to kick off the festival than "The Five-Year Engagement," the Judd Apatow-produced romantic comedy that opened Tribeca last year.

"Mistaken for Strangers" also will have its world premiere at the festival. The opening screening will take place on April 17, will be followed by a special performance by The National.

For the uninitiated, The National is a Brooklyn-based band that has been likened to Leonard Cohen and Wilco. Their 2010 album High Violet sold more than half a million copies worldwide. A brand new studio album from The National is slated for a May release.

Their songs have also been featured on the soundtracks to films like "Win Win" and "Warrior."

"When my brother asked me along on tour as a roadie, I thought I might as well bring a camera to film the experience,” Tom Berninger said in a statement. “What started as a pretty modest tour documentary has, over the last two and a half years, grown into something much more personal, and hopefully more entertaining. It's a huge thrill to be showing this movie at the Tribeca Film Festival."

Tribeca runs through April 28.

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Sofia Coppola’s ‘The Bling Ring’ Arrives in June; Sundance Darling ‘The Spectacular Now’ Set...

A24 will release Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring" June 14 and James Ponsoldt's Sundance hit is set for "The Spectacular Now" Aug. 2, the independent distributor announced on Thursday.

A24 acquired both projects in January -- "The Bling Ring" on the eve of Sundance and "Spectacular" after it screened well at the Utah-based festival.

Coppola's film stars Emma Watson as one member of a group of real-life kids who tracked celebrities' wherabouts in order to rob their homes. They stole more than $3 million of goods from the likes of Paris Hilton.

Coppola wrote and directed the film based on Nancy Jo Sales’ Vanity Fair article, “The Suspects Wore Louboutins."

Also Read: Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller Get Sundance Buzz for Teen Spirit in 'The Spectacular Now'

Ponsoldt's film stars Miles Teller as Sutter, a high-school senior who refuses to think about his future as those around him begin to plan for college and the next phase of their lives. After breaking up with his girlfriend, he meets Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a sweet, hard-working girl whose life contrasts with his own more hedonistic approach. 

"(500) Days of Summer's" Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber wrote the script.

A24 launched publicly last August and just released its first movie, Roman Coppola's "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III." It will open two more in March, "Ginger & Rosa" and "Spring Breakers," before turning to these two summer titles.

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Relativity Taps ‘The Rite’ Director to Oversee Film Version of ‘Tunnels’ Fantasy Novels

Mikael Håfström will direct a film version of "Tunnels," a fantasy adventure book series, for Relativity Media.  Håfström has previously worked on "The Rite" and "1408." Andrew Lobel is rewriting...

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