Indie Roundup

Deals. Michel Gondry's doc The Thorn in the Heart may not have generated much positive buzz when it premiered at Cannes last week, but it impressed the folks at Oscilloscope Laboratories. They acquired North American rights to the film and are planning a theatrical release, according to indieWIRE. Thorn examines the life of Gondry's aunt, a schoolteacher for more than 30 years in rural France. David Hudson at IFC's The Daily gathered links to the coverage, in which one critic calls Thorn a "glorified home movie" and another predicts that "normal people will simply walk out of it," while others defend it as "a lovely, minor-key ode" and "mildly diverting."

Box Office. Stephen Elliott's Easy Virtue led the way, earning a very tidy $110,443, according to Box Office Mojo, which averages out to $11,044 per screen. Jessica Biel gives her best performance so far as an American race car driver who marries a young British man (Ben Barnes) after a whirlwind romance, and then must deal with his stuffy mother (Kristin Scott Thomas), curiously distanced father (Colin Firth), and flighty sisters. It's a romantic comedy with dramatic depth, light on its feet yet unafraid to stand still and contemplate fate and mortality.

Expanding into 52 theaters in its second week of release, Rian Johnson's con man comedy The Brothers Bloom rode a wave of appreciative reviews to a per-screen average of $7,394, just a little ahead of Olivier Assayas' critically-acclaimed family drama Summer Hours, starring Juliette Binoche. (We've embedded the lively trailer for the latter title below.) The highly-praised doc Burma VJ opened on one theater with a modest take of $5,554 -- not bad on a crowded weekend.

After the jump: The festival beat goes on in Seattle and at Silverdocs.


Festival News. The Seattle International Film Festival is a gargantuan beast, this year unleashing 268 features and 124 shorts from 62 countries over 25 days upon a generally adoring and appreciative public. I've only been able to sample the festival once, but that was a memorable week. I still remember the crowds for weekday, daytime screenings -- generally the poorest attended at fests -- and the knowledgeable audiences. It's a terrific sampler program; you know you'll encounter a fair number of less-accomplished films, but there's also the opportunity to make your own discoveries and connections, as well as the prospect of catching up on the best of recent world cinema.

The fest got underway last week with Armando Iannucci's comedy In the Loop. A tribute to Spike Lee is set for tonight, with the filmmaker receiving an award and participating in an interview and Q&A session before a screening of his latest, Passing Strange. Seattle resident Kim Voynar compiled a good, lengthy preview, complete with her informed recommendations, at Movie City News. Local alt-weekly The Stranger has a passel of reviews and impressions. And the official festival site is packed with even more information.

Silverdocs - 2009A continent away, Silverdocs unveiled the lineup for their upcoming seventh edition, which runs from June 15-22 in Silver Spring, Maryland (near Washington, DC). The documentary festival opens with Kristopher Belman's basketball-themed More Than a Game and concludes with Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer's The Nine Lives of Marion Barry, with Barry in attendance. (That should make for a lively post-screening Q&A!) A.J. Schnack's Convention, billed as a world premiere, will be the Centerpiece Screening.

The fest features an appearance by Muhammad Ali to present Pete McCormack's Facing Ali and a beard and moustache contest following the film Splitting Hairs. My top picks are all on Friday, June 19: Jeffrey Levy-Hinte's thrilling concert doc Soul Power, a free outdoor screening of Al Reinart's spectacular space chronicle For All Mankind, and Michael Paul Stephenson's hilarious, poignant Best Worst Movie. More information is available at the festival's official site.