Indie Roundup

Deals. What a busy seven days! Cannes starts in a week, so distributors are clearing the decks by firming up their release schedules for the next several months in anticipation of more deals to come. We've already reported on the acquisitions of Blood: The Last Vampire and The Eclipse, but that just scratches the surface (complete details can be found at indieWIRE):

Crude. First Run Features picked up Joe Berlinger's documentary about a lawsuit pitting 30,000 rain forest dwellers in Ecuador against oil giant Chevron. (60 Minutes broadcast a story on the case this past Sunday.) A theatrical bow is planned in New York on September 9, followed by expansion to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other cities.

Beeswax. The Cinema Guild acquired rights to Andrew Bujalski's low-key comedy / drama. They plan to open the film in New York on August 7, followed by a national release. Jette Kernion called it "a good movie that does some surprising things in a quiet way."

Also acquired: Uruguayan comedy Gigante, crime drama La Linea, psycho-sexual tale Death in Love, and bleak but black comedy Sugisball, whose very cool trailer (in Estonian!) is embedded below.

Box Office. Was it the power of my review? (Probably not.) Jim Jarmusch's very fine The Limits of Control raked in $18,607 per-screen at the three theaters in New York and Los Angeles where it opened over the weekend, according to Box Office Mojo, demonstrating Wolverine-like power. The film expands to eight more locations on Friday. Tyson, James Toback's doc about the controversial former heavyweight boxing champ, and Il Divo, Paolo Sorrentino's dramatic biopic about a controversial former Italian prime minister, followed modestly behind, grossing $5,757 and $5,657 per-screen, respectively.

After the jump: New Sundance Director of Programming; festivals in Los Angeles and Seattle unveil lineups.


Fest News
. Trevor Groth has been named Director of Programming for the Sundance Film Festival, according to indieWIRE, replacing John Cooper, who was promoted to the top position at the fest after the departure of Geoff Gilmore to Tribeca. By promoting from within, Cooper sends a strong signal that he is perfectly happy with the direction the programming team has been taking in recent years.

Groth has been serving with the Sundance programming staff since 1993 and was named a Senior Programmer in 2003. He took on a second job as Artistic Director for the CineVegas Film Festival in 2002. While it's not unusual for programmers to work for more than one festival at the same time, I would imagine his new Sundance post is a full-time, year-round position. That would mean the reins at CineVegas will likely be passed on to someone else. The next edition of CineVegas will run from June 10-15.

Right after CineVegas comes the Los Angeles Film Festival, held from June 18-28 in Westwood Village. Director of Programming Rachel Rosen, Senior Programmer Doug Jones, and their team have assembled another sterling lineup, which was announced yesterday. The fest will feature Michael Mann's Public Enemies as its centerpiece, with opening and closing night presentations yet to be announced. Could Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen be one of them? The first film debuted there two years ago.

After a quick glance, the films that caught my eye: Convention, doc by AJ Schnack; Bronson, brutal prison drama by Nicolas Winding Refn; Call If You Need Me, crime drama by acclaimed Malaysian helmer James Lee; My Dear Enemy, Korean road trip comedy; outdoor screenings of Black Dynamite and Soul Power; Tom Laughlin talking about and screening his seminal work, 1971's Billy Jack; and Jon Voight doing likewise for Midnight Cowboy. Plus, the great, sprawling, ambitious, mesmerizing, frustrating, infuriating, and powerful United Red Army by Koji Wakamatsu, Curtis Harrington's 1961 debut Night Tide, with Dennis Hopper; and a three-film series "Hell on Wheels: Hot Rods and Fast Times."

Starting in about two weeks, the Seattle Film Festival will take over the city by the sea, running from May 21-June 14. In the Loop opens the fest, Humpday will be the centerpiece, and OSS117: Lost in Rio will close things out. The official site is not quite ready to display the lineup, but Quiet Earth has details on some of the 203 (?!) feature films.