Tag Archives: Netflix

Jane Campion Presents Benedict Cumberbatch with Cinema Vanguard Award at 37th SBIFF

Posted by Larry Gleeson




SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (March 9, 2022) – Day 8 of the 37th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented by UGG featured a tribute to Benedict Cumberbatch, who received the Cinema Vanguard Award. Cumberbatch was honored for his remarkable career and most recent performance in Jane Campion’s THE POWER OF THE DOG on Netflix.



During Cumberbatch’s conversation with Hammond, guests enjoyed clips from his acting career, including 12 Years A Slave, The Imitation Game, Sherlock, Dr. Strange, Patrick Melrose, Stephen Hawking’s Universe, and Power of the Dog.

Following Cumberbatch’s conversation with Hammond, Jane Campion presented him with the Cinema Vanguard Award. When presenting, Campion told Cumberbatch, “Every generation has their wunderkinder. First, there was Olivier, then there was Daniel Day-Lewis… and now there is you.”



Upon accepting his award, Cumberbatch said: “Vanguard means to be at the front of something, doesn’t it? You can’t really be at the front of anything without anyone behind you… I do feel like I’m standing on the shoulders of many, many people… I thank every single one of you that has paid for a ticket and gone to a theater…”



The Cinema Vanguard Award recognizes actors who have forged their own path, taking artistic risks and making a significant and unique contribution to film. Previous honorees include Carey Mulligan, Laura Dern, Michael B. Jordan, William DeFoe, Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Rooney Mara, Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Amy Adams, Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, Nicole Kidman, Peter Sarsgaard, Christoph Waltz, Vera Farmiga, Kristin Scott Thomas, Stanley Tucci, and Ryan Gosling.

Upcoming live conversations and tributes will include presentations to Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem and the women’s panel. The 37th Santa Barbara International Film Festival, presented by UGG®, will take place IN-PERSON through March 12, 2022. 200+ films, filmmaker Q&As, industry panels, and celebrity tributes, will be held throughout Santa Barbara, including at the historic Arlington Theatre. This year’s lineup is available on SBIFF’s mobile app. For additional information or to buy passes, visit sbiff.org.

About the Santa Barbara International Film Festival

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and educational organization dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema. Over the past 36 years, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 100,000+ attendees and offering 11 days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums, fulfilling their mission to engage, enrich, and inspire the Santa Barbara community through film. In 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. After a capital campaign and renovation, the theatre is now SBIFF’s new state-of-the-art, year-round home, showing new international and independent films every day. In 2019, SBIFF opened its own Education Center in downtown Santa Barbara on State Street to serve as a home for its many educational programs and a place for creativity and learning.

(Press release courtesy of Sunshine Sachs, Michelle Tarangelo. Video courtesy of YTS Film)

Netflix Takes Over Distribution for Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Rachel Lutack

The world of film distribution is truly changing with the news that the streaming service Netflix will be taking worldwide rights to Martin Scorceses’s gangster film The Irishman. Typically a studio big-hitter, the Scorsese-Robert De Niro $100 million re-team was under the umbrella of Paramount Picture – the company has an overall feature deal with the director running through 2019. Indiewire reports that the studio was not prepared to take the huge risk that this film would require, however.

The Irishman will star De Niro as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a hitman for the mob who was rumored to be involved in the death of Jimmy Hoffa. The screenplay was adapted by Steve Zaillian from Charles Brandt’s book I Heard You Paint Houses. Part of the risk of Scorsese’s film (aside from the $100 million budget) is that he plans to use special effects to turn De Niro back into a 30-year-old man. Al Pacino may also be going through the treatment for the film, although his involvement is still in negotiations.

Paramount was originally handling North American distribution with STX Entertainment with taking over foreign rights after a $50 million deal at Cannes last year. Despite the great ambition of the project, Scorsese is known for turning out massive numbers at the box office, with The Wolf of Wall Street bringing in $392 million globally.

Now that Netflix has taken over, that will likely mean STX is out as well. The newly minted distributors plan to release the film in 2019, with a limited theatrical release prior to that for an Oscar push. When all is said and done, the freedom of a platform like Netflix may be just what Scorsese needs to make his vision a reality.

(Source: mxdwn.com)

Netflix snags NOLA-shot ‘Mudbound’ in $12.5 million deal: report

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Mike Scott, NOLA.com

Mudbound, the New Orleans-shot race drama that debuted this month at the Sundance Film Festival to sweeping acclaim, has been picked up by Netflix. The online streaming service paid $12.5 million for distribution rights to director Dee Rees’ film, the biggest deal to come out of this year’s fest, according to Variety and other industry publications.

With Mudbound being hailed as an instant contender for next year’s Oscars, Netflix will reportedly release the film simultaneously online and in theaters, following it with an award-season campaign. It is unclear how soon Netflix plans to release the film.


Based on Hillary Jordan’s 2008 novel of the same name, “Mudbound” tracks the complicated relationship between two families — one white, the other black — living in rural Mississippi just after World War II. Carey Mulligan plays a refined Memphis woman who relocates with her new husband (Jason Clarke) and their two young daughters to the Delta. Rob Morgan and Mary J. Blige play the heads of a black family that farms cotton on a leased part of Mulligan and Clarke’s land.

Also starring are Garret Hedlund and New Orleans native Jason Mitchell.

(Source: nola.com)

How an award-winning documentary was allegedly blacklisted by Netflix

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Jason Guerrasio

In just four years, Netflix has become by far the most watched destination for documentaries, beaming titles to 190 countries and an astounding 83 million global subscribes.

That has given Netflix a lot of power in a relatively small corner of Hollywood to make or break titles — and for one director, that meant a dramatic setback in his movie’s release.

Netflix’s decision to come in early on documentaries like “The Square,” “Virunga,” “What Happened, Miss Simone?” and “Winter on Fire” led to Oscar nominations, while recent titles like “Making a Murderer” and “Amanda Knox” have fed subscribers’ addiction for true-crime stories.

As Netflix’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, boasted in 2015, “People who have never watched a documentary in their life are watching them on Netflix.” And the Netflix Original branding has become an instant stamp of legitimacy for filmmakers.

But what’s less talked about, beyond the mountains of cash Netflix dishes out for premium content, is when a filmmaker inevitably decides he or she doesn’t want to make a deal with Netflix.

It may not happen often, but in one case, turning down a Netflix Original deal seemingly led a filmmaker’s movie to be blacklisted from ever being shown on the streaming giant.

A Netflix deal gone bad

Much of what you hear about Netflix’s nonfiction (as opposed to the TV series division) is that it gives immense freedom to artists. Werner Herzog told Business Insider of making “Into the Inferno” for Netflix: “They saw the film and liked it and that was that. They trusted me in a way that was very, very pleasant.” The “Amanda Knox” codirectors told Business Insider that the leeway Netflix gave them was a “giant luxury.”

So when Craig Atkinson got the attention of Netflix, he thought he had made it to the big time.

Best known for working as a cinematographer with Oscar-nominated filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, Atkinson in 2013 decided to embark on his directorial debut, “Do Not Resist,” in which he examines the militarization of the police in the US. Atkinson spent three years shooting around the country, gaining the trust of law enforcement so he could tell a vérité story.

But the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting of Michael Brown by the police changed everything. Atkinson, 34, and his producer Laura Hartrick, 28, visited and captured footage of the tactics used by riot-gear-dressed officers that was more raw and unfiltered than what the evening news had been showing.

“Do Not Resist” was suddenly covering a topical story. And as Atkinson was in postproduction before the movie’s world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, Netflix came calling.

“The Saturday before the premiere I got a call from one of the executives at Netflix,” Atkinson told Business Insider. (He asked that the Netflix executive remain anonymous for this story.) “We spoke at great length about the project, the person said it was an incredibly timely film, and they were interested in it.”

CraigAtkinson_HeadshotDirector Craig Atkinson. Tiffany Frances

The next day, Atkinson got a call from the same executive saying that Netflix wanted to make an offer to buy the film and brand it as a Netflix Original title, but the person asked whether Atkinson would be open to making changes to his film.

“I was still unsure about the film,” Atkinson said. “I didn’t think we made a perfect film, so I was open to collaboration, but the person told me the deal couldn’t be made until I said I was open to this, so I said OK because I wanted to see what the deal was going to be.”

On Monday, Atkinson received the offer from Netflix. He and his team were going to premiere at Tribeca on Thursday, and if they were to accept the deal, the offer stated they would have to agree by noon on the day of the film’s premiere or the offer would be null and void.

The deal for worldwide rights to the film was in the mid-six figures, and the agreement stated that Netflix would retain all creative approvals over the final cut and the film’s title. It also had a budget line of $70,000 for “finishing” (money for additional editing or other changes Netflix saw fit).

These are general terms most first-time filmmakers will encounter at any company looking to buy their film. Numerous filmmakers told Business Insider, however, that there’s often an open dialogue between the filmmaker and the buyer about suggested changes before signing an agreement. Negotiations can, of course, vary from filmmaker to filmmaker, especially based on someone’s experience and profile.

“So I’m reading the deal and it doesn’t specify changes,” Atkinson said. “It says that they have full control and they can change the title. The deal is time-stamped for high noon on the day of our premiere, so now the clock is ticking. In my mind I’m thinking maybe they are catering to a certain audience and they want to change the film. I was so overwhelmed and unprepared to be in this position.”

‘Trust us’

Atkinson was unable to land a sales rep, which at this point in a movie’s life is an essential ingredient (though he was able to get an entertainment lawyer).

Sales reps have an understanding of the marketplace and use their connections within the industry to get the film they’re representing the best deal both domestically and internationally. A rep would have told Atkinson that the figure he was offered was substantially higher than what he would get from any of the independent film distributors that would be tracking his film at the Tribeca Film Festival, or from a documentary-heavy network like HBO or A&E.

Atkinson told Business Insider that colleagues in the industry who have either worked with Netflix or know people who have worked with the company told him that Netflix was giving him a low offer.

Business Insider spoke with documentary insiders and sales agents who agreed that it was a low offer by Netflix standards but respectable for a first-time filmmaker (some filmmakers Business Insider spoke with said they would have taken the deal in a heartbeat).

With the deadline for the deal quickly approaching, Atkinson’s lawyer, Jody Simon, a partner at the firm Fox Rothschild, was able to negotiate the price of the movie up $100,000 more, but the lawyer also relayed to Atkinson a sobering fact about how Netflix negotiates.

“During the course of the conversation our lawyer had with the Netflix lawyer, he got a lecture, as he described it, from the Netflix lawyer about the fee because he was pushing back about how it seemed incredibly low for an all-rights deal,” Atkinson said. “The Netflix lawyer lectured him on how it was their algorithm that determined the price of the film and that there’s really no discussion to be had because this algorithm determined how much the film should be worth and that basically was the end of discussion.”

Simon confirmed the content of the conversation with Netflix’s lawyer to Business Insider, adding that it was the first time he’d encountered a deal figure put together by an algorithm. Still, he said, he’s not surprised by it.

“I find it as a culture clash between the tech people and the creative people,” Simon said. “They really just do things differently — Hulu and Amazon and Netflix. They draft differently. A lot of it is inside baseball and pretty subtle, but it’s a different approach and a different way of thinking.”

When asked for a comment about Atkinson’s recounting of events, a Netflix representative told Business Insider: “Every deal at Netflix is unique — we have no comment about the specifics of our deal negotiations.”

The negotiation with Netflix was a sobering reality for Atkinson, who was getting his first taste of the way the company uses its analytics to make decisions that at traditional distributors often come through gut instinct and decades of trial and error. (Numerous sources in the acquisitions field told Business Insider they did have data they refer to when choosing movies to acquire but did not rely on it heavily.)

It wasn’t just the money that concerned Atkinson, however. He could never get the Netflix executive to give him specifics on what the company wanted to change in his film.

Craig Shot Ferguson Vanish Films finalAtkinson filming “Do Not Resist” in Ferguson, Missouri. Vanish Films

“I have student loans to pay off, so the money would have been great,” Atkinson said. “But the bottom line was if we couldn’t put in some kind of provision where we mutually agree on changes, it’s a deal-breaker.”

Atkinson’s inability to relinquish control of his film had to do greatly with the way he got access to make “Do Not Resist.” Atkinson, the son of a police officer, and Hartrick promised the multiple law-enforcement agencies featured in the movie that the film would be an authentic portrayal of their job and that only the two filmmakers would edit the movie.

“So here we are again looking at this contract where I have to make a decision,” Atkinson said. “If I’m going to compromise myself and say I don’t care what I told these cops, just so I can get the deal. And I thought we were going to have a sympathetic ear because of the severity of the situation and it has to do with people’s safety, and when we asked to just put in the contract specific changes you want so we can go forward, they wouldn’t do that.”

“Their response to that was basically, ‘Trust us,'” Simon said.

After two sleepless nights, Atkinson finally told Simon on Wednesday to tell Netflix he was declining the offer. Atkinson would see what kind of offers the film would get from playing at Tribeca.

‘There’s only one way in’

“Do Not Resist” had five sold-out screenings at the Tribeca Film Festival and was beginning to find interest from distributors. Atkinson still couldn’t find a sales agent to take it on (he later found a sales rep to handle his international sales).

Craig Atkinson Cindy Ord GettyAtkinson accepting the best documentary prize at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. Cindy Ord/Getty

During the festival, Atkinson sat down with companies like Magnolia Pictures and Samuel Goldwyn Films to discuss potentially acquiring “Do Not Resist.” The possibility of the movie still getting on Netflix wasn’t dead, as any company that acquired the movie would have service deals with Netflix to make it available to stream on the service following its theatrical and home-video release.

On top of that, the movie won the best documentary prize at the festival: a $20,000 cash prize sponsored by … Netflix.

But Atkinson came back down to earth when he learned after the festival that suddenly all the prospective buyers of the movie pulled out. He said he was told that Netflix blocks any service deals for movies on the streaming platform after they have turned down Netflix Original deals. Buyers told Atkinson that in today’s market, in which being on Netflix and other streaming services is so important, his movie was no longer an attractive title because a company could no longer own all revenue streams.

Netflix did not comment when asked by Business Insider about a policy of blacklisting titles that reject an Original deal, or whether requiring creative control over its Original documentaries was standard.

“Around that time I saw the [Netflix] executive at a party and I said, ‘What happened?’ And the person answered, ‘Yep, there’s only one way in,'” Atkinson said.

‘Is this how it goes down?’

Two months after the Tribeca Film Festival, and still trying to forget the bad taste from the Netflix experience, Atkinson moved forward by putting together a self-distribution theatrical release for “Do Not Resist.” He also began a conversation with Amazon to be the film’s home for a streaming release afterward.

Then suddenly Netflix contacted him again.

“I get a text from the Netflix executive,” Atkinson said. “The person wanted to know if I had sold the rights to the film yet because they are still interested. The person felt bad for how everything went down and saw how great the film was doing on the festival circuit.”

Atkinson and the executive came to an understanding, with the executive agreeing to relinquish some of the creative control, according to Atkinson.

But when Atkinson went back to Netflix’s lawyer to hammer out the financial side of the new agreement, the lawyer had no idea of the new conversation.

“He said, ‘We would never give up that control — I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ Basically that the deal was still the original deal,” Atkinson said. “He thought that I was coming back to Netflix begging to make a deal.”

When Atkinson tried to get back in touch with the Netflix executive, he said, his texts and calls were never returned. He hasn’t heard from the executive since.

“As a first-time filmmaker I was like, ‘Is this how it goes down?'” Atkinson said. “Netflix can say they respect the artist all they want, but you can tell where their loyalties are, and it’s not with the artists.”

Atkinson moved forward with his own theatrical release. He said the $20,000 cash prize that Netflix sponsored at Tribeca helped greatly. And he signed a streaming deal with Amazon (for about a third of the amount he would have gotten from the Netflix deal). “Do Not Resist” will be available on Amazon on Wednesday.

‘We dodged a bullet not taking the deal’

Atkinson said he wanted to go public with his experience because he wanted filmmakers and fans of Netflix to understand that for as much good as Netflix was providing mass audiences with exceptional content, he believed himself to be living proof of some cracks in its process.

“This will be a concern for filmmakers because Netflix are the titans,” a major figure in the documentary industry who asked to remain anonymous told Business Insider after hearing of Atkinson’s experience. “If the documentary community is to remain vital, it needs a multiplicity of voices and points of view, and by narrowing the pipeline Netflix is privileging a very few voices.”

Prominent documentary filmmaker Robert Greene (“Kate Plays Christine”), however, isn’t surprised at all by Atkinson’s story.

“Netflix helped the video store to go out of business, and they have now replaced it with a fairly absurd business model that seems to only value certain kinds of things, and it’s just depressing,” Greene told Business Insider. “It has always been difficult to get films with a voice seen, and it used to be that Netflix represented something better. Another choice. Another possibility. But that seems to be going away, and I would just tell young filmmakers don’t make decisions based on what’s going to get on Netflix, because art survives and eventually Netflix is going to get boring.”

Atkinson said that looking back, he had no regrets about turning down the more lucrative Netflix offer.

The film has played around the US, often in theaters filled with active police officers, who take part in Q&A sessions and interact with their communities, an experience that would have been lost if the film played only on Netflix.

“It’s fantastic business by Netflix,” Atkinson said. “Tell a filmmaker it’s the most timely film you’ve ever seen, make an offer, and if you can’t get it, do what you can so the film’s not seen by anyone.”

Atkinson pauses for a moment to compose himself.

“We dodged a bullet not taking the deal,” he said. “They would have destroyed three years of work.”

(Source: http://www.businessinsider.com)

Streaming And The Shifting Dynamics Of 21st Century Indie Film Distribution

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Justine Harrison

Ten years ago, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA would have been a Miramax or Paramount Vintage picture. Now? It’s being distributed by a company that began as an online bookseller.

The history of Hollywood is a long and winding one. Over the course of its existence, it has been everything from a series of content factories to an accessory for giant multinationalscreen-shot-2016-11-30-at-3-40-24-pm hybrid companies. It has been through numerous cycles of boom and bust. It has given us both The Terminator and Terminator: Genisys (or as I prefer to call it, Terminator: Spylling Arror). And, as with any institution that exists for an extensive period of time, Hollywood’s methodologies have grown and changed. Low budget genre pictures are no longer made by the dozens on a production assembly line. Directors and actors work job to job, rather than on contracts built around a set number of films. The general structure and tone of blockbusters has changed time and again. And, just as the methods of producing films and the type of films that get made have changed, so too have the methods of getting them out into the world.

When Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea opens in theaters this week, it will be the latest offering from Amazon Films, the film distribution branch of the online bookseller screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-3-42-49-pmturned general internet juggernaut. It will receive both a theatrical and a home media release, but ultimately those are loss leaders for its eventual premiere on Amazon Prime’s streaming service. It will join Chi-Raq, Wiener Dog, The Neon Demon, The Handmaiden and others as part of a sales pitch to its potential audience. That pitch goes something like this – “We have distinctive films by distinctive filmmakers, and if you subscribe to our service, you will have access to them through what is currently being sold as the most accessible way to watch movies and television.” Netflix does something similar with its own original content, although they generally give more promotional focus to their serialized content as opposed to their standalone films. Streaming is still a relatively recent factor in the state of non-blockbuster film distribution, and it has major implications for film as a whole that are still being worked out. But on a purely business level, it is easy to understand why distribution for smaller films has turned so sharply towards streaming in the past few years. Through streaming, Netflix, Amazon and their peers in distribution are making a move that their predecessors could not.

Many of the biggest independent and semi-independent film distributors from the last century have either folded or been dramatically transformed. Miramax and New Line, arguably the biggest and most powerful of these mini-major studios, are now much smaller companies. The Weinstein brothers left Miramax in the 2000s to form The Weinstein Company, and Disney ultimately chose to sell the company off. Its film library, which includes every one of Quentin Tarantino’s pictures up to Kill Bill, is now distributed by former rival Lionsgate. New Line has similarly lost much of the influence it once had, and it now exists as a subsidiary of Warner Brothers. Warner Independent Pictures (Before Sunset, A Scanner Darkly)and Paramount Vantage (No Country for Old Men, Nebraska) have been completely shut down. These companies and subdivisions lived and died on their ability to sell and spread comparatively small, specific movies as comparatively small, specific movies. New Line made its name with A Nightmare on Elm Street and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchises, both of which were huge hits in comparison to their budgets. Miramax sold itself as a haven for filmmakers championed as auteurs – Tarantino, Kevin Smith and their peers. Paramount Vantage distributed the Coens after a string of unsuccessful movies, and Warner Independent Pictures backed Richard Linklater on two of his more ambitious projects (his first return to Jesse and Céline, ten years after Before Sunrise and a cell-shaded adaptation of Phillip K. Dick’s quietly dystopian drug war story, featuring a post-rehab pre-Iron Man Robert Downey, Jr.). While some of these movies have become blockbusters, none of them (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aside, and even with the success of the cartoon, New Line could not put Disney money behind their adaptation) could initially have been sold as such. So they narrowed their focus, and tailored their products to a specific audience that they could reach. When they overplayed their hand, or the audience moved on, they failed.


Streaming enables the targeting of a more specific audience than ever before, for both good and ill. Amazon can play specifically to folks who want to see Manchester by the Sea or The Neon Demon and guarantee that they will have an audience, but it will be just as easy for a movie to get lost in the endless backrows, particularly if it is only pointed out to a specific audience. It’s why I’m glad Amazon has been making a push to get their movies into theaters, and why simultaneously I want them to push harder. They’ve distributed some really amazing movies, and I want those movies to have a life beyond an ad saying that they are now streaming on Amazon Prime.

(Source: http://www.birthmoviesdeath.com)

FILM REVIEW: Divines (Benyamina, 2016): France

Viewed by Larry Gleeson as part of AFIFEST 2016 presented by Audi.

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-11-01-54-amDivines is the first feature length film by self-taught director Houda Benyamina. Benyamina, Actress Oulaya Amamra, and Divines were AFIFEST 2016 winners of the New Auteurs Audience Award, the Breakthrough Audience Award and a Special Jury Mention for Acting.

The film opens in surreal fashion with an out of focus frame containing a smoke and fog-like effect reminiscent of a meditation and indicative of the filmmaker’s use of dream logic.

Quickly, homage is made to Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver, with lead character, Dounia, played exquisitely by Oulaya Amamra, standing in front of a mirror pretending to fire a pistol while asking, “You looking at me?” Later in the film another homage to Scorcese is made from his early work,  Mean Streets, with Dounia on her knees  in the middle of the street pleading with God.


And, without too much adieu, Benyamina quickly takes us into the inner world of her lead character, Dounia. In a sacred space Dounia sneaks voyeuristically in a low-key lit, high-angle omniscient shot looking down on a theater stage during an audition. She likes what she sees in the form of Djigui, a dancer with moves and passion, played by Kevin Mishel.

A transition is made to a rambunctious classroom. Soon, Dounia is arguing with hyper intensity as Dounia questions her teacher’s values and choice of vocation. The moment culminates with Dounia quitting school vowing to “show them.” Her vocation is to make money.

Another transition is made to a slow motion sequence in a darkly lit dance club playing diagetic music from a singing disc jockey. Here we see Dounia’s troubled mother inebriated and looking for love in all the wrong places – a common scenario throughout Divines for Dounia’s mother.

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-11-08-25-amBefore long, Dounia witnesses a drug stash in the back of the theater. Dounia seizes the moment and takes the stash to a local dealer with her best friend, Maimouna, an Iman’s daughter, played by Deborah Lukumuena. The circle is complete as the drug dealer, Rebecca, played handsomely by Jisca Kalvanda, rounds out a strong cast of mostly female characters.

Throughout Divines, Dounia is searching for dignity. She lives in a Roma (gypsy) camp on the outskits of Paris and is frequently called Bastard. She discovers drug dealing as a way to gain respect and power. Before long, however, Dounia finds out the price she must pay for her vocation might be too high.

In Divines, Benyamina illuminates an emerging Parisian subculture made up of colorful, fringe characters steeped in Islam highlighting their highly creative, unique, and authentic stories. In furthering her artistic vision to democratize cinema, Benyamina formed a mutual assistance cinematic trade association, 1000 Visages (Faces).


Possibly quite coincidentally, American mythologist, Joseph Campbell’s tome, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” a seminal work on archetypal heroes and myths shared by world religions and traditions, contains the association’s name in the book’s title. However, I believe Benyamina has dissected the work drawing extensively from its teachings as we witness the transformation of Dounia.

For a first feature, Benyamina’s Divines is polished. Costuming is realistic. The camera work and editing augment the film’s reality well. The musical score sets the mood and aids in pacing. And the acting is quite good. Highly recommended.

Film Capsule: The Art of Conflict (Vaughn, 2012): USA

The Art of Conflict, reviewed by Larry Gleeson during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, is a well-researched documentary directed by Valeri Vaughn and narrated by younger brother, comedic actor, Vince Vaughn. The Art of Conflict tells the acrimonious story of the conflict in Northern Ireland with large wall-sized building murals scattered throughout the various neighborhoods in Northern Ireland. The conflict originated from the territory’s religious, social and economic struggles of the mid to late nineteenth century. Vaughn focuses her storytelling on the period known as “The Troubles” (the early 1970’s) and thereafter brings the conflict into present day.


During the Q & A following the viewing, both Vaughns presented and fielded questions from the audience. Vince tended to dominate the conversation as he began by providing the background to the film’s birth. He happened to be in Ireland and decided to partake in a Black Cab taxi tour. Along the way he began noticing several murals as the cabbie showed him the sights while filling his ears with some local history. As the Vaughns are of Irish heritage Vince became intrigued. This was in 2005.

Without missing a beat, he claims he immediately telephoned Valeri about the possibility of her undertaking the subject matter of the murals as a project knowing Valeri’s early penchant for making documentaries. Valeri acquiesced and agreed to do it.

The Art of Conflict was seven years in the making including several visits to the Emerald Isle. Numerous interviews and many hours of footage later, a very real piece of art began to emerge as the peace process undertaken at the time began showing aspects of progress evidenced by thematic changes in the mural landscape.

Some of the changes were a concerted effort by the two primary opposing groups, the Catholics and the Protestants, as they tried to peacefully co-exist and to allow the peace process to provide some relief from the tensions of an existing war carried out in their respective neighborhoods and business establishments.

It seemed that the Irish Nationalists, predominantly Catholic, wanted peace a bit more. I don’t believe the Vaughn’s depiction of the conflict was tilted towards either side. A point was made during the Q & A that every effort was made to ensure the piece was as balanced as possible.

With the long history of repression, to me it stands to reason, that the Catholic Nationalists would want peace more as they have fought for rights historically back to the Land Use Agreement.

Literally, Vaughn very well could have produced a Burnsian-style documentary detailing the conflict and its origin. On one hand it’s remarkable she didn’t. While on the other hand, it’s remarkable what she did do.

She captured a very unique time in history using wall murals as an impetus for further inquiry. She delved into the major events and characters of the times and bars no holds eschewing historical photographs, archival footage and present day interviews in telling the story of a bloody, soulless conflict pounded home by the murals and their shapelessness and faceless depictions.

It appears Ms. Vaughn has embarked on a journey of storytelling here that is just beginning. Wholeheartedly recommended.

Netflix Reveals Trailer for Acclaimed Film DIVINES

DIVINES, one of the most critically acclaimed and talked-about films at this year’s Cannes film festival and recent awards winner at the American Film Institute’s AFIFEST 2016 presented by Audi, will be available to Netflix subscribers exclusively today, November 18th. Get a first look below!

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-11-01-54-amThe funny, suspenseful and often emotional drama tells the story of Dounia, a tough, but naive teenager who sees getting rich or dying trying as her most viable option in life. Set in a ghetto near Paris where drugs and religion reign supreme, Dounia is hungry for her share of power and success. Enlisting the help of her best friend she decides to follow the footsteps of a respected and successful neighborhood dealer. But when Dounia meets a strong-willed and sensual dancer, her life takes a surprising turn.

Houda Benyamina’s energetic directorial debut was awarded the Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for the best first feature film presented in one of the event’s selections. Most recently, the film received multiple accolades yesterday AFIFEST. Benyamina,  Oulaya Amamra, and Divines were winners of the New Auteurs Audience Award, Breakthrough Audience Award and the Special Jury Mention for Acting.

Cast: Oulaya Amamra (Dounia), Déborah Lukumuena (Maimounia), Kévin Mischel (Djigui), Jisca Kalvanda (Rebecca), Yasin Houicha (Samir), Majdouline Idrissi (Myriam)

The film was written by Romain Compingt, Houda Benyamina and Malik Rumeau and produced by Marc-Benoît Créancier.

(Excerpted from http://www.broadwayworld.com, BWW News Desk)

Netflix buys exclusive distribution rights for South Korean film ‘Pandora’

LOS ANGELES, Nov 8 ― Netflix and South Korean film production and distribution company Next Entertainment World announced today an international licensing agreement for the anticipated nuclear disaster film Pandora.

Pandora will be available to stream exclusively on Netflix to its members in 190 countries, excluding South Korea, next year. In South Korea, the film will be available to stream after its theatrical release. Its opening date in Korean cinemas has not yet been set.

This is the first time a Korean title has been pre-sold to Netflix.

“We are excited to work with Next Entertainment World Netflix and South Korean film production and distribution company Next Entertainment World announced today an international licencing agreement for the anticipated nuclear disaster film Pandora.to bring such high-quality Korean titles like Pandora to our members worldwide,” said Rob Roy, vp content acquisition at Netflix. “Netflix is committed to bringing the best of global entertainment to the world and in an era where the Internet knows no bounds, this is another step towards delivering great stories to fans no matter where they live.”

Says Kim Woo-taek, CEO of NEW: “We are delighted to partner with Netflix, a world-class content distributor, to be able to present Pandorato global audiences in over 190 countries. Following the recent success of Train to Busan in Asia, we hope the nuclear-themed Pandora can win much love from the audiences worldwide.”

Pandora, a CAC Entertainment film, is directed by award-winning screenwriter-turned-filmmaker Park Jung-Woo, who is known for the science fiction horror film Deranged. Disaster strikes a nuclear power plant in a small, quiet town when an earthquake unexpectedly hits. The Pirates star Kim Nam-gil plays a man who risks his life to save his family and country from the impending nuclear disaster. The film also stars Kim Young-ae (The Attorney), Jung Jin-young (Miracle of Cell No. 7) and Kim Dae-myeong (Misaeng).

Netflix made headlines earlier this year when it announced that it was investing US$50 million (RM210 million) in Okja, a fantasy film by Bong Joon Ho that is also due for simultaneous release over Netflix and in cinemas next year. Top execs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos stated plans to expand Netflix’s slate of Korean originals in addition to shows such as Drama World that have recently premiered. ― The Hollywood Reporter/Bloomberg


The AFI FEST Interview: DIVINES Director Houda Benyamina

Disenchanted and unimpressed by the parameters of life in the slums of Paris, a fearless and ferocious teenager named Dounia unabashedly dreams of prosperity, not only for herself but also for her charismatic best friend and alcoholic mother. In her audacious pursuit of money, power and respect, she aligns herself with a ruthless gangster who uses her as a pawn to exact revenge on a rival drug lord. When their plan goes off the rails and escalates into violent territory, Dounia is forced to reconcile the allure of quietly escaping to the life of her dreams with the reality of the ramifications of her actions. Shot in a style that is at once melodic and discordant, DIVINES is a cinematic haiku of empowerment, youthful angst, racial inequality and the consequences of poverty.

Winner of the Camera d’Or prize at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, DIVINES is the feature film debut of director Houda Benyamina.

AFI: Oulaya Amamra gives an intense performance as the raw and uninhibited protagonist Dounia.  How did you develop that character?

Houda Benyamina: One year of physical training was necessary. Dounia is a fighter whoscreen-shot-2016-11-06-at-10-20-16-am develops an incredible lust for life and you had to feel it through Oulaya’s body. Her body had to embody this strength and this lust for surpassing herself; that is why Oulaya took boxing and parkour lessons. Apart from that, the character had to be in peak physical condition to keep up with the pace of the rehearsals and of the shooting. This was long and intense, and needed stamina.

Dounia has a cat-like side, she slides in and out of underpasses, passageways; she is at the same time deep down and high up. So Oulaya’s task was to watch documentaries on felines to grasp their way of being and moving. She also viewed a lot of gangster films and films in which the hero is transforming. We were looking for an organic transformation and this required an important identifying process. Oulaya suggested lots of ideas of clothing. During a whole year she wore Dounia’s clothes, she ate, slept and lived like Dounia. She even went sleeping in a gypsy camp because she had to understand her character’s rage due to a feeling of injustice, and to be able to find in herself Dounia’s anger for being ostracized.

AFI: What was your rehearsal process?

HB: During the shooting I developed a sort of safety line around the actors to protect them from any lapse in concentration. The camera, for instance, was on all the time so that the crew did not have to care about it and could keep focused on the actors. To me the film set is like a sanctuary, a holy place. I ask everybody to be extremely concentrated, full of solemnity toward the actors acting. And it is very important to me.

AFI: Questions of race and class inequality come up in the script. How did those themes shape the characters and plot?

HB: DIVINES is a film on spirituality and holiness. What was important to me was the apocalyptic ending. How does one rise from the ashes? How does one learn [that] there are so many things which shape us: family, social class, education, politics — but through these primary determinisms, I wanted to raise the question of free will and how it appeared in these characters looking for appreciation and dignity. Injustice is my driving force to creation. I feel close to my characters, who oscillate between darkness and light; I like exploring the two sides of human beings. Social inequality and the hunger to overcome are present for sure, but they are elements of the characters and not their essence. The essence centers on them and their inner lives.

Most important was to arouse emotion, because it makes us think and allows us to understand and question society. I intended to make a universal film with universal issues of love, friendship, the quest for recognition and dignity, and ambition.

AFI: You’re a celebrated short filmmaker. What made you want to make the transition to feature film?

HB: It was important to find someone who understands me and has the same artistic and human values, and I found him: my producer, Marc-Benoît Créancier. Once we had made my medium-length film SUR LA ROUTE DU PARADIS together, it was obvious to me to make a feature film. As a film director and a great believer I have lots of doubts and I ask myself lots of questions. My producer helps me overcome them; he encourages and guides me and he trusts me so much that making a feature film with him was a foregone conclusion.

AFI: In one sentence, what statement or question would like to linger with the audience following the screening?

HB: What do I really need to succeed?

DIVINES screens at AFI FEST 2016 on Saturday, November 12, and Monday, November 14, as part of the New Auteurs section of the festival.


(Source: afi.blog.com)