June 2004 Indie Preview
By Dan Krovich
So Big It Takes Three Distributors
What is certain to be the biggest indie release of the month just got its distribution together three and a half weeks before it opens. After Disney passed on releasing the film (garnering it even more press), Michael Moore’s latest doc will be released by a partnership between Fellowship Adventure Group (the company the Weinsteins formed to release the film), Lion’s Gate, and IFC Films on June 25th. The film will be released on 1,000+ screens, and with the free advertising that its controversy and Palm D’Or win will provide, its status as The Indie of June is pretty much guaranteed.
When Fox Searchlight picked up the film at Sundance, it reportedly committed to a 1200 screen release of the film, a signal that they felt they could sell the film to a somewhat mainstream audience, something that Searchlight has done a pretty good job of recently (Bend it Like Beckham, 28 Days Later). Writer/director Jared Hess and his writing partner and wife Jerusha Hess expanded their short film Peluca, which premiered at Slamdance into their debut feature film, telling the story of a high school oddball who helps his friend campaign for class president against the popular girl.
While You’re Waiting for Fahrenheit 9/11
Michael Moore isn’t the only one who makes documentaries with a liberal slant. These two documentaries won’t get the same press that Moore’s will and don’t have the same distributor power, but if they make it to your city they should tide you over until Moore's big gun comes to theaters.
The Hunting of the President
Made by television producer and Clinton family friend Harry Thomason, this examination of the “vast right-wing conspiracy” against Bill Clinton from his time in Arkansas through his impeachment trial is not likely to be too objective. There’s bound to be some interesting footage and a compelling argument here and there, but chances are your take on the film will probably match whatever your opinions are going into it.
Along with the companion book “The Corporation : The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power” by Joel Bakan, The Corporation takes the legal definition that gives a corporation the same status as a person. If that’s the case, exactly what kind of person is it? By applying the World Health Organization’s diagnostic criteria, the filmmakers conclude that a corporation is by its very nature, a psychopath. Multiple award winner, including the World Cinema Documentary Audience Award at Sundance, the film will be making its way across the country over the next several months, beginning in San Francisco on June 4.
Crowd Pleasing Indies
The Story of the Weeping Camel
Not exactly a documentary by purist standards because it contains some staged scenes, this crowd pleasing film may appeal to the same audience that enjoyed Winged Migration. With a nod to the films of Robert Flaherty (Nanook of the North), the filmmakers present a slice of life in the remote Gobi Desert of Mongolia. When a mother camel rejects her newborn after a difficult birth, the family of herders that care for the camels turn to traditional methods to try to create the mother/child bond. With a simple style and support from the National Geographic society, it should be the animal-lovers movie of the summer.
Seducing Doctor Lewis
In the same vein as underdog tales Waking Ned Devine and The Full Monty, Seducing Doctor Lewis tells the story of a sad-sack village that turns to mischievous means to save itself. The French-Canadian film was a huge hit in the French-speaking areas of Canada, out-grossing such films as Return of the King, The Matrix Reloaded, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Subtitles seemingly haven’t gotten in the way of it’s charm as it has picked up Audience Awards at English-speaking film festivals, including Sundance as well.
You May Have to Wait For DVD
The folks in New York and Los Angeles will get to see these films as they open there this month, but rollout to the rest of the country is less certain. You may have to wait for DVD to check out these foreign films.
Turkish director, Ferzan Ozpetek, is best known for two gay-themed films, Steam: The Turkish Bath and His Secret Life, but he examines a different repression in Facing Windows, the winner of Best Film at the Italian version of the Oscars. A romance-thriller about a woman in a going nowhere marriage who is awakened to desire (of baking pastries and of the handsome man who lives in the apartment with the window facing hers) when she and her husband take in and care for an elderly gentleman, Facing Windows has been given the tag of “Hitchcockian.”
Time of the Wolf
Michael Haneke, the maker of the brutal Funny Games and The Piano Teacher among others and definitely not known for making cheerful films, is certainly someone that you would trust to make a post-apocalyptic film. After an unknown disaster, a middle class family in France seeks refuge in their country home only to have the father murdered and the rest of the family wandering the desolate countryside before joining a small group of fellow survivors. When a film is described as particularly grim and depressing even for Haneke, you know you’re in for something.
Father and Son
Alexander Sokurov returns to the editing room, making a film with a slightly more traditional style after the one 90 minute shot Russian Ark. Father and Son is the second film in his “Family Trilogy” after Mother and Son and before his planned Two Brothers and a Sister. Of course, in this case “more traditional” means that the film will actually have edits as Sokurov’s film tend to eschew straightforward narrative, instead opting for hypnotic, meditating mood setting.
Marty Doskins's June Forecast
Stephanie Star Smith's June Forecast