AFI Sets Nov. 7 for 2013 Film Festival

The 2013 AFI Fest will present films from new and experienced filmmakers in five locations in Hollywood between Nov. 7 and Nov. 14, the American Film Institute announced on Tuesday.

Sponsored by Audi, the public will have free access to narrative, documentary, animated, experimental and short films at the TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman's Chinese Theatre), the Chinese 6 Theatres at the Hollywood & Highland Center, the Egyptian Theatre of the American Cinematheque and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

Also read: 'Eat Sleep Die' Wins AFI Fest's New Auteurs Grand Jury Prize

“AFI Fest is where the films of talented emerging filmmakers have the opportunity to screen alongside the current works of masters of the art form,“ festival director Jacqueline Lyanga said in a statement. “Last year’s festival included many extraordinary films from across the globe, from the world premiere of Steven Spielberg’s 'Lincoln' and Ang Lee’s 'Life of Pi' to first-time feature filmmaker Tosh Gitonga’s 'Nairobi Half Life,' whose film was AFI Fest’s Audience Award Breakthrough winner and Kenya’s first-ever Foreign Language Film Oscar submission.”

The festival, which launched in 1987, brought over 200 filmmakers from all over the world to Los Angeles in 2012 to present their films. Highlights included a secret screening of the newest James Bond film, "Skyfall" and the world premiere of Sacha Gervasi's "Hitchcock." Gala screenings included David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook," Dustin Hoffman's "Quartet" and DreamWorks Animation's "Rise of the Guardians."  

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Sundance, Black List Partner to Aid Aspiring Filmmakers

The Black List and the Sundance Institute have partnered to offer a bevy of services to aspiring filmmakers, formalizing a relationship between two organizations dedicated to developing new talent.

Aspiring screenwriters who upload their scripts to the website of the Black List by April 15 can ask to receive a Black List referral and apply to the Sundance Institute’s 2014 January Screenwriters Lab for free.

Lab fellows will be able to upload their scripts for free and producers and directors who have been lab fellows since 2010 are eligible for a free membership to the Black List.

“In the last three years alone, more than a dozen scripts sourced from the annual Black List have been made into films that premiered at Sundance Film Festival,” Black List founder Franklin Leonard said in a statement. “Put simply, no single organization in the United States has done more to promote American filmmaking voices in the early stages of their development than the Sundance Institute. It’s a tremendous honor to formalize a relationship and share in their work.”

Though initially launched as a survey of industry executives’ favorite unproduced screenplays, the Black List has expanded into the service business. Screenwriters can pay to upload their screenplays for members to review and can pay an additional fee to have the scripts evaluated by industry professionals.

Leonard aims to turn the service into an industry mainstay, facilitating connections between aspiring screenwriters and the people who can help turn script into film.

Both Sundance’s Feature Film Program and the Black List have endorsed successful works. Three of the last five best pictures winners and seven of the last 12 screenwriting Oscars have gone to scripts that appeared on the Black List while the Sundance program supported Oscar nominee “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and 2013 Sundance favorite “Fruitvale.”

“We are very excited to collaborate with Franklin Leonard and The Black List to identify new writers to be considered for support by the Feature Film Program Labs,” Michelle Satter, Founding Director of Sundance's Feature Film Program, said in a statement. “Additionally, we want to expand the audience for our Lab fellows and see The Black List website as a great avenue for industry discovery, promotion and potential support.”

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Rock Documentary, Brad Pitt-Produced Look at Oil Industry Openers at 2013 Tribeca Film Festival

Forty-six of the 89 feature-length films slated for the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival were announced on Tuesday, including the world premieres for the documentary, narrative and viewpoints selections. 

The festival, founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff after 9/11 to help revitalize the lower Manhattan neighborhood, runs April 17 to 28.

As previously announced, the documentary "Mistaken for Strangers" will make its world premiere on opening night. The film follows the Brooklyn-based band the National on tour and is directed by Tom Berninger, brother of lead singer Matt Berninger. The opening screening will be followed by a performance by the National.

“Big Men,” the Brad Pitt-produced African oil industry documentary written and directed by Rachel Boynton, opens the world documentary section. The narrative selection competition kicks off with “Bluebird” (pictured below right) starring Amy Morton, which director Lance Edmands gives a small Maine logging town the butterfly-effect treatment.

And “Flex Is Kings,” directed Deidre Schoo and Michael Nichols, opens the viewpoints section with a film about the Brooklyn street dance performance called "flexing."

All three films will premiere on April 18.

In all, the 2013 slate includes feature films from 30 different countries, including 53 world premieres, 7 International premieres, 15 North American premieres, 6 U.S. premieres and 8 New York premieres, festival organizers said in a statement.

A total of 113 directors will present feature works at the festival, with 35 of these filmmakers marking their feature directorial debuts. Among those directors, 26 are women. The 2013 film slate was chosen from a total of 6005 submissions.

Following are the films announced on Tuesday; the remainder of the festival's films will be announced Wednesday.


World Narrative Feature Competition

Alì Blue Eyes: Directed by Claudio Giovannesi, written by Filippo Gravino and Giovannesi; Italy. A coming-of-age story about an Muslim immigrant who will stop at nothing to fit in.

Before Snowfall: Directed by Hisham Zaman, written by Kjell Ola Dahl and Zaman; Norway, Germany, Iraqi Kurdistan Region. Zaman brings the moral crisis of honor killing front and center in this international drama.

Bluebird: Directed and written by Lance Edmands; U.S. On a freezing January evening, the seemingly inconsequential actions of a school bus driver forever changes life in a small Maine logging town.

The Broken Circle Breakdown: Directed by Felix van Groeningen, written by Carl Joos and van Groeningen; Belgium. A couple from different worlds (he plays in a bluegrass band, she runs a tattoo shop) fight to save their marriage after their daughter is born.

Hide Your Smiling Faces: Directed and written by Daniel Patrick Carbone; U.S. During a hot summer in rural America, two brothers are confronted with devastation as death forces its way into their young lives.

Just a Sigh: Directed and written by Jérôme Bonnell; France. In the short break between performances, a stage actress makes a quick trip to Paris and meets a mysterious English stranger.

Lily: Directed by Matt Creed, written by Amy Grantham and Creed; U.S. Nearing the end of her treatment for breast cancer, a woman focuses on life with newfound clarity, reevaluating her relationship with an older man and her feelings about her long-absent father.

The Rocket: Directed and written by Kim Mordaunt; Australia. Set against the lush backdrop of rural Laos, this drama tells the story of scrappy ten-year-old who yearns to break free from his ill-fated destiny.

Six Acts: Directed by Jonathan Gurfinkel, written by Rona Segal; Israel. North A naïve teen is determined to improve her social status by hooking up with her new school’s coolest guy. 

Stand Clear of the Closing Doors: Directed by Sam Fleischner, written by Rose Lichter-Marck and Micah Bloomberg; U.S. When an autistic teen is scolded for skipping class, he escapes into the subway for a days-long odyssey among the subway’s disparate denizens. 

Sunlight Jr.: Directed and written by Laurie Collyer; U.S..  – A Quickie-mart employee and her paraplegic boyfriend are blissfully in love until she gets pregnant and their happy life comes crashes down. Stars Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon.

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?: Directed and written by Arvin Chen; Taiwan. Strait-laced optometrist is finding the typical married life difficult until he bumps into an old flame, setting off an unexpected array of dormant emotions.

World Documentary Feature Competition

Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys: Directed and written by Jessica Oreck; Finland. In the forests of Finnish Lapland, two brothers carry on the generations-old tradition of reindeer herding.

Alias Ruby Blade: A Story of Love and Revolution: Directed by Alex Meillier, written by Tanya Ager Meillier and Meillier; U.S. Kirsty Sword Gusmão went to Timor-Leste to document injustice and struggle for independence in an area closed to Western journalists.

Big Men(directed, written by Rachel Boynton; U.S. Director Rachel Boynton gains unprecedented access to Africa's oil companies.

The Genius of Marian: Directed by Banker White and Anna Fitch; U.S. Weaving past into present, filmmakers immerse the audience in the daily life of a mother suffering with Alzheimer’s.

The Kill Team: Directed by Dan Krauss, written by Lawrence Lerew, Linda Davis and Krauss; U.S. In 2010, the media branded a platoon of U.S. Army infantry soldiers “The Kill Team” following reports of its killing for sport in Afghanistan.

Let the Fire Burn: Directed by Jason Osder; U.S. Documentary of the incidents leading up to and during the 1985 standoff between the extremist African-American organization MOVE and Philadelphia authorities.

Michael H. Profession: Director: Directed and written by Yves Montmayeur; Austria, France. A career-spanning documentary about director Michael Haneke’s work, offering insight into his creative process through on-set footage and interviews.

Oxyana: Directed by Sean Dunne; U.S. Oceana, West Virginia — known as “Oxyana” after its residents’ epidemic abuse of OxyContin — is a tragically real example of the insidious spread of drug dependency throughout the country.

Powerless: Directed by Fahad Mustafa, Deepti Kakkar, written by Mustafa; India.Film sheds light on the people of Kanpur, India, who put themselves in harm’s way to get electrical power is all too common.

Raw Herring: Directed by Leonard Retel Helmrich and Hetty Naaijkens-Retel Helmrich; Netherlands. Raw Herring celebrates the cultural legacy maintained by Holland’s last great herring fishers even as new trends and foreign competition threaten their way of life. 

Red Obsession: Directed and written by David Roach and Warwick Ross; Australia. – Documentary about France’s Bordeaux region as it struggles with and courts the spike in demand, sending prices skyrocketing.

Teenage: Directed by Matt Wolf, written by Jon Savage and Wolf; U.S. Documentary repositions the historical origin of teenagers and shows why those years are more than just a stepping-stone to adulthood.


A Birder's Guide to Everything: Directed by Rob Meyer, written by Luke Matheny and Meyer; U.S. On the eve of a widowed father’s second wedding, 15-year-old son leads members of his local Young Birders Society on rollicking, interstate search for an extremely rare duck.

Bending Steel: Directed by Dave Carroll, written by Ryan Scafuro and Carroll; U.S. Follows Chris Schoeck as he parlays his extraordinary strength into the pursuit of his lifelong dream — becoming the Coney Island Strongman.

BIG JOY: The Adventures of James Broughton: Directed by Stephen Silha, Eric Slade, and Dawn Logsdon; U.S. Follows poet-filmmaker James Broughton's deeply intertwined creative and personal lives.

Bridegroom: Directed and written by Linda Bloodworth Thomason; U.S. Gives an intensely personal edge to the ongoing debate over the legal rights of same-sex couples.

Cutie and the Boxer: Directed by Zachary Heinzerling, written by Ada Bligaard Soby; U.S. Once a rising if unruly star in the ’70s art scene, eighty-year-old “boxing” painter Ushio Shinohara now struggles to establish his artistic legacy.

Dancing in Jaffa: Directed by Hilla Medalia, written by Philip Shane and Medalia; U.S.. Renowned ballroom dancer Pierre Dulain stars in this charming documentary that offers a unique perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Deep Powder: Directed by Mo Ogrodnik; U.S. A boarding school senior makes a cocaine run to Ecuador. 

Farah Goes Bang: Directed by Meera Menon, written by Laura Goode and Menon; U.S. Coming-of-age tale about a girl who hits the road with her buddies to stump for John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election, hoping the trip will be her opportunity to finally shed her unwanted virginity.

Flex Is Kings: Directed by Deidre Schoo and Michael Nichols; U.S. Journey to the edge of Brooklyn and of street performance itself in this sparkling portrait of the freeing power of art.

Floating Skyscrapers: Directed and written by Tomasz Wasilewski; Poland. Two young men meet at an art opening and sparks fly in this story of finding love.

Harmony Lessons: Directed and written by Emir Baigazin; Kazakhstan, Germany, France. Symbolism and striking cinematography help us navigate the complicated landscape of a teenager’s mind in this insightful Kazakh film about violence among children.

Jîn: Directed and written by Reha Erdem; Turkey. Erdem relays in radiant detail the effects of the decades-long Turkish-Kurdish conflict.

Kiss the Water: Directed by Eric Steel; U.S., U.K. Travel to Scotland’s far northern highlands and explore the life and remarkable influence of Megan Boyd, fishing fly-maker extraordinaire.

Lenny Cooke: Directed by Benny Safdie and Joshua Safdie; U.S.. – World Premiere, Documentary follows Lenny Cooke, the most hyped high school basketball player in the country, ranked above future greats LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in 2001. A decade later, he has never played a minute in the NBA.

The Moment: Directed by Jane Weinstock, written by Jane Gloria Norris and Weinstock; U.S. Narrative film about the mysterious disappearance of an artist.

Northwest: Directed by Michael Noer, written by Rasmus Heisterberg and Noer; Denmark. Territory, power and pride are the seismic forces in this adrenaline-fueled narative crime thriller.

Odayaka: Directed and written by Nobuteru Uchida; Japan. North American Premiere, Narrative film about the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011.

The Patience Stone: Directed by Atiq Rahimi, written by Jean-Claude Carrère and Atiq Rahimi; Afghanistan, France, Germany. Narrative. A woman tends to her comatose husband, an injured rebel fighter in an unnamed, war-torn village, only whispering of her fear for their two young daughters' lives.

Run and Jump: Directed by Steph Green, written by Ailbhe Keogan; Ireland, Germany. Narrative. After a stroke leaves her husband disabled and fundamentally changed, a spirited Irish wife struggles to keep her family members together.

Taboor: Directed and written by Vahid Vakilifar; Iran. Narrative. A lone motorcyclist travels the empty streets of Tehran at night.

Wadjda: Directed and written by Haifaa  Al-Mansour; Saudi Arabia, Germany. Narrative. Meet Wadjda (Waad Mohammed., a feisty, funny and wholly unconventional ten-year-old girl determined to scrounge up enough money to buy a bicycle, despite the societal repercussions sure to follow.

What Richard Did: Directed by Lenny Abrahamson, written by Malcolm Campbell; Ireland. Narrative. Charismatic Richard leads a group of devoted friends through the rituals of their final summer break together: partying on the beach, hazing younger students, hooking up. But the good times will not last forever.


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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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Sundance Expands Film Festival to Hollywood This Summer

Sundance is coming to Los Angeles. The Sundance Institute will launch a four-day film festival in Hollywood this summer, an extension of the Sundance Film Festival’s NEXT section.

That section of the Park City, Utah-based festival features films that take risks with visual and narrative style, defined by little more than their audacious filmmakers. It launched in 2010, and has been home to such projects as Craig Zobel's divisive thriller "Compliance," Mike Birbiglia's "Sleepwalk With Me" and Alexandre Moors' unreleased "Blue Caprice."

The new festival will feature unreleased films, panels, a shorts program and the annual ShortsLab: Los Angeles, a short filmmaking workshop. There is no lineup yet for this summer.

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

Running from Aug. 8 to 11, NEXT Weekend will be headquartered at Sundance’s own Sundance Sunset Cinemas in West Hollywood and will have additional screenings around the city at venues like the Museum of Contemporary Art and Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Sundance has already expanded to London.

“The best part of independent filmmaking is the freedom to tell your stories your own way, to take risks and not be beholden to convention of any kind. At the core of NEXT Weekend are artists that are taking risks and pushing boundaries,” Robert Redford, president & founder of Sundance Institute, said in a statement. “As such, it’s fitting that Sundance Cinemas will be the home for this festival and these films.”

The festivities will begin with an outdoor screening Aug. 8 at the cemetery and end with screenings at venues across the city.

The Los Angeles summer festival lineup grows more and more crowded, as this new event follows June’s Los Angeles Film Festival and July’s Outfest. 

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Former Village Voice Film Editor Dennis Lim to Program Lincoln Center Film Society

The Film Society of Lincoln Center has appointed former Village Voice film editor Dennis Lim as its new Director of Programming, a position previously held by Robert Koehler.

Koehler is resigning due to unspecified family health problems and moving back to Los Angeles.

Koehler, a critic and festival programmer, took the job in September after Richard Pena, head of programming for both the center and the New York Film Festival, stepped down. Koehler has written for such publications as the Christian Science Monitor and Variety.

“I am leaving the position of Director of Programming both with a sense of regret, particularly the feeling of personal separation from a wonderful staff and programming team, as well as absolute confidence, given the entrance of Dennis Lim, who has been a friend, colleague and fellow cinephile for several years and whom the Film Society is extraordinarily fortunate to have in a leadership role,” Koehler said in a statement.

Lim, who was the film editor of the Village Voice from 2000 to 2006, is a regular contributor to both the New York and Los Angeles Times. A professor at New York University, he is also the founding editor of Moving Image Source, the online magazine of New York's Museum of the Moving Image, where Lim has organized film series.

The Film Society of Lincoln Center spotlights independent and international filmmakers through screenings, retrospectives and festivals. As director of programming, Lim will oversee the curation of those events. He will begin April 1. In the interim Kent Jones, who oversees programming for the New York Film Festival, will do the same for the society as well.

Rose Kuo, executive director of the film society, described Lim as “an ideal partner and leader” thanks to his “important contributions to film writing and his talent as a programmer.” 

“I’m excited and honored to be joining an institution that has played a central role in the vitality of New York film culture and meant a great deal to me personally as a writer and a moviegoer,” Lim said in a statement.

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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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‘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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