Sarah Barnett Named Sundance Channel President

Sarah Barnett has been promoted to president and general manager of the Sundance Channel. Barnett, who was named executive vice president and general manager in 2009, is being promoted as Sundance prepares to roll out the network’s first wholly o...

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.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Seeking an Oscar for Elle Fanning: A24 Acquires 'Ginger & Rosa'

Watch Emma Watson Say 'That's Awesome!' Like an American (Video)

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

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...

Steven Spielberg to Head Cannes Film Festival Jury

Steven Spielberg, the Oscar-winning director, will head the jury of the Cannes FIlm Festival, the festival announced on Thursday.

The 66th Cannes Film Festival will take place from May 15-26 of this year.

The Oscar-winning director, fresh off the success of his epic "Lincoln," said in a prepared statement: “My admiration for the steadfast mission of the Festival to champion the international language of movies is second to none. The most prestigious of its kind, the festival has always established the motion picture as a cross cultural and generational medium.”

Spielberg has been a regular presence at the international film festival over the decades. His first film, "Sugarland Express," was selected for the festival in 1974 and won Best Screenplay.

Gilles Jacob, the president of the festival said in a news release: "I’ve often asked Steven to be Jury President, but he’s always been shooting a film. So when this year I was told 'E.T., phone home,' I understood and immediately replied: 'At last!'"

Here is the official news release:

Steven Spielberg, Jury President of the 66th Festival de Cannes

“My admiration for the steadfast mission of the Festival to champion the international language of movies is second to none. The most prestigious of its kind, the festival has always established the motion picture as a cross cultural and generational medium.”

Taking over the reins from the Italian Nanni Moretti, American director and producer Steven Spielberg agrees to head up the jury of the 66th Cannes Film Festival taking place May 15-26 this year.

“As they say across the Atlantic”, said Gilles Jacob, President of the Festival de Cannes, “Steven Spielberg is a Cannes ‘regular’: Sugarland Express, Color Purple. But it was with E.T. that I screened as a world premiere in ‘82 that ties were made of the type you never forget. Ever since, I’ve often asked Steven to be Jury President, but he’s always been shooting a film. So when this year I was told “E.T., phone home”, I understood and immediately replied: “At last!”

“Steven Spielberg accepted in principle two years ago”, declared Thierry Frémaux, General Delegate of the Festival. “He was able to make himself available this year to be the new Jury President and when meeting him these last few weeks it has been obvious he’s excited about the job. Because of his films, and the many causes he holds dear, he’s year-in year-out the equal of the very greatest Hollywood filmmakers. We are very proud to count him among us.”

“The memory of my first Cannes Film Festival, nearly 31 years ago with the debut of E.T., is still one of the most vibrant memories of my career, Spielberg goes on. For over six decades, Cannes has served as a platform for extraordinary films to be discovered and introduced to the world for the first time. It is an honor and a privilege to preside over the jury of a festival that proves, again and again, that cinema is the language of the world."

Steven Spielberg was born in Ohio in 1946. A film enthusiast from a very young age, one of his first shorts, Amblin – got him through the doors of Universal Television which produced his first films. Success came very quickly: Duel (1971), originally made for television, was so well received that a feature length version was released in theatres.

The first film he made for cinema, Sugarland Express, was selected for the Festival de Cannes in 1974 and won Best Screenplay.

Following these promising auteur debuts, he had a series of international successes: Jaws (1975); Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and E.T. (1982) which was presented as the closing film of the Festival de Cannes and was the very last Festival screening shown in the former Palais Croisette theatre.

In 1993, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, like many of his films, beat all records for box-office takings in the United States: his big budget entertainment movies, of great and varied inspiration, brought about a renewal of the Hollywood entertainment genre, creating new ties with the themes of adventure and sci-fi, and are hugely popular with an extremely wide audience of all ages.

The abundant imagination that characterises Steven Spielberg and has him say of himself “I dream for a living”, is combined with boundless curiosity, a delight in innovation and a virtuoso talent for directing.

Famous for his commercial successes, he also astonishes with his more intimate and socially engaged works which confront audiences head-on: The Color Purple (1986), Empire of the Sun (1987) and Schindler’s List (1993), which brought him the highest accolades as well as a clutch of Oscars, including Best Director.

His filmography is a constant to and fro between dream and reality, switching from entertainment films to serious reflections on history, racism or the human condition, testimony to his hope for a peaceful, reconciled world.

In his 40-year career, he has made 27 films, most of which are important moments in the history of world cinema: everyone has seen, or will one day see Saving Private Ryan (1998), Minority Report (2002), Catch Me If You Can (2002), War of the Worlds (2005), or the recent The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (2011), his first film in 3D.

His Lincoln, a captivating portrait of the man who abolished slavery in the United States, is currently a huge success in his own country as well as in France where it has already been seen by over a million people. The film enabled Spielberg to set Daniel Day-Lewis up for his third Oscar as Best Actor (no other actor before having accomplished this feat).

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Jurassic Park 4' to Arrive June 2014, Steven Spielberg to Produce

Cannes Classics: Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, Agnes Varda, Roman Polanski Headline

How Oscar-Nominee ‘War Witch’ Improvised the Gut-Wrenching Tale of Child Soldiers

“Amour” was always the clear favorite in the Oscar foreign-language category, and its win on Sunday was one of the least surprising parts of a generally unsurprising ceremony.

But if Michael Haneke’s drama hadn’t been in the mix, there’s a good chance that Kim Nguyen’s “War Witch” would have emerged as a serious contender for the prize.

The film is the wrenching story of a teenage girl who becomes a child soldier in an unnamed African country – and then, because she can see the dead, the “witch” of the gang of rebels.

Also read: 10 Moments to Remember From a Long, Strange Awards Season

Starring the remarkable Rachel Mwanza, who won the best-actress award at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, it will receive a post-Oscar release from Tribeca Film on Friday in New York and March 8 in Los Angeles.

Born in Montreal to a Vietnamese father and a French-Canadian mother, Nguyen has made four features. He was able to secure a visa for Mwanza and bring her to the Oscars.

How did you hit upon the story?
I was hunting for good stories, and I just found this amazing story about Johnny Htu, who was a Burmese child soldier. Johnny was nine years old, and he woke up one day and said he was the reincarnation of God. He became a kind of half God. He was forbidden to walk on the soil, because they were afraid it would soil his visions, so he was carried around all day. And he would smoke cigars every day.

Also read: Somali Refugees From 'Asad,' Congolese Actress From 'War Witch' to Attend Oscars 

As a storyteller I thought his story had power and humanity and all the elements that make a good film. And slowly I got pulled into the child-soldier element.

Did you meet with child soldiers while writing the script?
I went to Burundi to meet ex-child soldiers. What I saw in Africa was this complete superimposition of these heavy, intense, war-ridden countries where the love stories are the same as here. You still have boyfriends and girlfriends, and the girlfriends that are jealous because the boyfriend came home late last night. It's very simple. I find that odd and beautiful at the same time, and I wanted to try and convey that.

The story has its supernatural elements – but did you feel pressure to accurately convey a world of child soldiers in which truly horrifying things have happened?
Absolutely. And for me, the way to get it right was not to try to make the characters symbols for any political point of view. In fact, for many drafts we were so worried that we wouldn’t give the right message that we weren’t telling a good story. In the end, that was the greatest gift that this film has given me: to accept brutal honesty and truth. 

In what way?
The best example is the rebels forcing children to kill their own parents. It’s not a generalized way of indoctrination, but it’s quite frequent. We kept trying to make it so maybe the [lead character] didn’t really kill her parents. Maybe she got slapped and lost consciousness, and the general put his finger on her finger, and we keep thinking that she did kill them but she didn’t. And it didn‘t work. In the end, we just had to say, “No, this is how it is.”

Where did you find your lead actress, Rachel Mwanza?
Well, I was really fearful that we weren’t going to find the right actress, because in this case I wouldn’t have a movie. One of the reasons we chose to shot in the Congo is because there was great amazing natural talent there. I guess it‘s from the heritage of verbal storytelling, you know?

And so we did an open call for actors. We already had the intuition that kids from the street could be pretty amazing, because of their rawness and their fearlessness. And it turned out to be pretty true. In the cases where these people could project their own personal lives onto the screen, it was just amazing. And Rachel was the best of them. She had this nonchalance. I guess when you live in the streets and you sleep on the side of the road, you don't care anymore about what people think. You're just there. And that's an amazing tool for an actor.

Was she living on the streets?
She was living on the streets. But as soon as we cast her we established a reinsertion program. She has a caretaker and she has a place to live, and she's back in school. But at the time she was still living on and off the streets.

Does she want to act more now?
She does. I'll have to be honest, there's a long way before she can work. She doesn’t know how to read yet. She’s learning, and she’s getting better. And she has her Facebook page so we can contact her. But she’s still a long way from understanding the subtleties of dialogue. I thinking there’s at least five to 10 years of work.

So Uncle Kim, which is what I am, tells her that she should learn another trade. But she hates me for doing that. She’s a teenager. [laughs] We bought Rachel a phone, and she said, “Kim, I can't put music on this.” There wasn't an MP3 reader and she couldn't take pictures, so she wanted a better phone.

How could she act in your film if she couldn’t read?
Because we work in such a different way. The actors never read the script, and we filmed in continuity. Every day it was like directed improvisations. All of the script and the dialogue was written, but the idea was to direct the improvisation in such a way that the dialogue would appear even though they never read it. And what's strange is that it did. Maybe 85 percent of what is on the page is there on the screen, and the rest is better.

How did you hit upon that process?
I had seen “Fish Tank,” and Andrea Arnold's work method was a huge inspiration. It blew me away in regards to performances. For me, that's my mantra: everything for authentic performances. You don't have a film, for me, if you don't have those performances.

I think Andrea Arnold is really influenced by Cassavetes, and their approach really echoes what I want to do from now on: organize everything so the actors are projecting their own selves on the screen. It makes it really real and raw.

It it hard to get financing when the process is that unconventional?
It was for a while. But Canada has a funding system that is quite organized and specific, and we were fortunate that the script had the strength to convince script analysts that it should be done.

The hardest part was convincing people that there shouldn‘t be Caucasian actors in the film. I’ve seen a lot of films where Africa gets saved, symbolically, by North America. And I wanted to give a voice to the real heroes in the stories.

You’ve made several other films, but “War Witch” was your first to get an Oscar nomination and receive this kind of attention. What was different this time around?
I do feel that “War Witch” was a breakthrough for me, where I was rediscovering my initial impulses to do film. The first three films, they’re my babies and I love all of them. But I did feel that when I did the one before this, “City of Shadows,” I had reached a kind of wall where the pressures of funding institutions, producers, co-production deals and all of that put a kind of varnish over the film that. It wasn’t raw and I didn’t feel that my hand was at the heart of the actors, in a way. I let down the actors because I didn’t push them to where they should have gone.

But in a way, I guess you have to do these films and scrape your knees and stand up.

So what did you do differently?
The big thing was not overpreparing, oddly enough. You prepare in a different way. You prepare in the way of understanding the characters, understanding the people, getting drunk with people in Kinsasha and understanding their lives. It’s not storyboarded anymore. It’s more like, we look at what’s happening and where the actors want to go and we bend our method to what they’re doing on the set. Very different from the previous films.

Related stories from TheWrap:

10 Moments to Remember From a Long, Strange Awards Season

Somali Refugees From 'Asad,' Congolese Actress From 'War Witch' to Attend Oscars

Tribeca Films Acquires U.S. Rights to Child Soldier Drama 'War Witch'

‘Super Troopers 2’ May Shoot This Year

A sequel to the 2001 cult comedy hit “Super Troopers” could begin shooting as early as this year, according to Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme, two-fifths of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe. 

Broken Lizard, formed at New York's Colgate University in 1990, has written and starred in such films as “Super Troopers,” “Club Dread” and “Beerfest,” all of which member Jay Chandrasekhar directed.

“Super Troopers,” which stars the quintet as a group of lovable, degenerate cops working in Vermont near the Canadian border, grossed $23 million at the box office for Fox Searchlight. Made on a shoestring budget, it alienated many with its crude humor but endures among a young adult crowd.

There have been rumors and discussion of a sequel for years, but Heffernan and Lemme told the website GuySpeed.com this week that it may happen as soon as this year.

“We wrote the script and handed it in to Fox, and now we’re just negotiating the time and the place and hopefully shoot it some time this year. I have to start growing my mustache now,” Heffernan said.

Fox and representatives for various members of the group did not immediately respond to TheWrap's calls for comment.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Comedy Central and The Onion Get Sporty

'Project X' Sequel Already in the Works

Tom Hardy, Solar Pictures Developing Project About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Tom Hardy wants to play a British soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder in “Samarkand,” a project the actor is developing with Solar Pictures and Greg and Olly Williams, an individual with knowledge of the project told TheWr...

Drafthouse Film Acquires Punk Documentary ‘A Band Called Death’

Drafthouse Films has acquired North American distribution rights to “A Band Called Death,” Jeff Howlett and Mark Covino’s documentary about the titular proto-punk band. Formed in 1971 by a trio of teenage brothers in Detroit, Death was one of the first punk bands, predating the likes of the Clash and The Ramones.

It disbanded after years of struggling to make a living, only to experience a revival as people rediscovered the band’s music 30 years later.

The film, which premiered last year at the Los Angeles Film Festival, will screen at March’s South by Southwest Film Festival. Drafthouse, the film distribution arm of the Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain, will release it in theaters and on VOD this summer. 

“Howlett and Covino’s film rewrites punk history and also transforms a better-than-fiction music story into a moving, emotional story,” Evan Husney, Drafthouse's creative director, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to be introducing the legacy of Death to audiences around the country.”

Haven Entertainment’s Matthew Perniciaro and Kevin Mann produced, with Jerry Ferrara and OGB Inc.’s Scott Mosier. Cinetic Media’s Linzee Troubh negotiated the deal on behalf of the producers with Drafthouse’s James Emanuel Shapiro.

Related stories from TheWrap:

The Eagles Talk and Dave Grohl Rocks as Sundance Gets Musical

SXSW Film Festival: More Commercial, More Comedy, (A Little) Less Music

Jennifer Lawrence Wins Best Actress Oscar for ‘Silver Linings Playbook’

Jennifer Lawrence has won the Oscar as Best Actress of 2012 for her portrayal as a young widow in “Silver Linings Playbook.” The 22-year-old actress won in her second nomination; her first came two years ago for “Winter’s Bone.&...

‘Silver Linings Playbook’ Dominates the Indie Spirit Awards

(See TheWrap's Complete Oscars Coverage)

The Film Independent Spirit Awards embraced the mainstream hit over the scrappy indie on Saturday afternoon, with David O Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook” winning the Best Feature award in a field that also included the Sundance sensation and Oscar nominee “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

With additional wins for director, screenplay and lead actress (Jennifer Lawrence), the show marked a triumphant return for writer-director David O. Russell, who won the Spirit Award for Best First Feature 19 years ago for his debut, “Spanking the Monkey.”

“Silver Linings Playbook,” which is up for eight Academy Awards at Sunday’s Oscars show, became the second consecutive Spirit Awards winner for the Weinstein Company, which also released last year’s Spirit and Oscar champ, “The Artist.”

The eligibility of both films was questioned when they were nominated; “The Artist” was made by French director Michel Hazanavicus and its two lead actors were French, which would have put it in the International Film category had its not qualified because of its director’s permanent residency status.

With a reported budget of $21 million, “Silver Linings Playbook” is $1 million over the stated limit for Spirit Awards qualifying, but the jury that decides nominations has the discretion to add films that don’t fall within the strict limits.

Also read: Oscar PowerGrid Face-off: Jessica Chastain vs. Jennifer Lawrence

Other nominees for the top prize included Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom,” Richard Linklater’s “Bernie” and Ira Sachs’ “Keep the Lights On.”

Since 2000, 10 of the 13 Spirit Awards winners, and nine of the last 10, have also been Best Picture nominees at the Oscars – though only “The Artist” has won both awards, leading to the phrase “win on Saturday, lose on Sunday.”

The "SLP" producers said they expected that the Spirit Award would go to "Beasts of the Southern Wild." "We were sure that we were going to lose today, and we're sure we're going to lose tomorrow [at the Oscars]," said producer Bruce Cohen in the press room afterwards.

“Beasts,” which drew loud applause in the room every time it was mentioned, did not go home empty-handed. It won an award for Ben Richardson's cinematography.

And Russell's film didn't completely run the table: John Hawkes won the Lead Actor role for "The Sessions" over Bradley Cooper for "Silver Linings."

Matthew McConaughey won the Supporting Male award for playing the strip-club owner in "Magic Mike," and began his speech by crooning, "I had to take my pants off to win a trophy."

Helen Hunt, the one Oscar nominee in her category, won the Supporting Female award for her role as a sex therapist in "The Sessions."

Michael Haneke's "Amour," a prohibitive favorite for the Oscars' foreign-language award, was named Best International film. The 70-year-old Haneke, who just arrived in town from directing an opera in Madrid, said "I think I'm the oldest man in the room."

Kirby Dick's and Amy Ziering's "The Invisible War" was named Best Documentary.

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" was named Best First Feature, while Derek Connolly won the first award of the night, Best First Screenplay, for "Safety Not Guaranteed." Connolly appeared sedated during a long, rambling acceptance speech that drew hoots from the audience, and ended when actor Bryan Cranston came onstage and poured Connolly a shot of whiskey. 

A few minutes later, Connolly was escorted out of the Spirit Awards tent by security.

The show also presented some awards that had previously been announced. The Robert Altman Award, which goes to a film's director, casting director and ensemble cast, went to Sean Baker's "Starlet."

Four sponsored awards, which come with cash grants, were given to Mynette Louie for "Stones in the Sun," Adam Leon for "Gimme the Loot," Peter Nicks for "The Waiting Room" and Laura Colella for "Breakfast With Curtis."

The show was hosted by Andy Samberg, whose tepidly-received monologue included the observation that it is "the only awards ceremony watched by more people at the actual show than on television."

It will be televised on IFC at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Best Feature: “Silver Linings Playbook”
Best Director: David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Best Screenplay: David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Best First Feature: “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”
Best First Screenplay: Derek Connolly, “Safety Not Guaranteed”
John Cassavetes Award (Given to the best feature made for under $500,000): "Middle of Nowhere"
Best Female Lead: Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Best Male Lead: John Hawkes, "The Sessions"
Best Supporting Female: Helen Hunt, "The Sessions"
Best Supporting Male: Matthew McConaughey, "Magic Mike"
Best Cinematography: Ben Richardson, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Best Documentary: "The Invisible War"
Best International Film: "Amour,"  Michael Haneke
Robert Altman Award (Given to one film's director, casting director, and its ensemble cast):
“Starlet”
Director: Sean Baker
Casting Director: Julia Kim
Ensemble Cast: Dree Hemingway, Besedka Johnson, Karren Karagulian, Stella Maeve, James Ransone

Piaget Producers Award: “Stones in the Sun,” Mynette Louie
Someone to Watch Award: “Gimme the Loot,” Adam Leon
Stella Artois Truer Than Fiction Award: “The Waiting Room,” Peter Nicks
Jameson Find Your Audience Award: “Breakfast With Curtis,” Laura Colella

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Moonrise Kingdom' – Finding the Voice of a Dark-Horse Writing Contender

How David O. Russell 'Grew Up' to Become the Ultimate Actors' Director

With 6 $100 Million Nominees, Oscar's Slate Is One of the Richest Ever

Benh Zeitlin on 'Beasts of the Southern Wild': 'We Want to Create New Myths'

Recent Posts