Rewinding the past seven days of the wonderful world of independent films:
Deals. Twilight fans will have the opportunity to see Kristen Stewart in a different type of role later this year. In Udayan Prasad's The Yellow Handkerchief, based on a story by Pete Hamill, Stewart jumps into a stranger's car. She and the driver (Eddie Redmayne) are soon joined by a newly-released convict (William Hurt) as they travel through rural Louisiana toward a hoped-for reunion with the ex-con's beloved (Maria Bello). Samuel Goldwyn Films has acquired U.S. rights and is planning a theatrical release, according to indieWIRE.
Hans-Christian Schmid's legal thriller Storm will also hit theaters later this year, indieWIRE says, courtesy of Film Movement. Kerry Fox stars as a prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague; she must convince a witness (Anamaria Marinca from 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) to testify in order to convict a former officer of war crimes.
Box Office. Arriving with this year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in hand, Yojiro Takita's Departures took the #1 spot among indies. Set in and around a Japanese business tasked with preparing bodies for burial, the drama earned $8,327 per screen at the nine theaters where it opened in New York and Los Angeles, Box Office Mojo reports.
Also performing well in its debut weekend, Pressure Cooker grossed $8,151 at one theater in New York. The documentary, directed by Jennifer Grausman and Mark Becker, follows a high school culinary arts class in Northeast Philadelphia, where teacher Wilma Stephenson tries to help her students earn college scholarships. We've embedded the fiery trailer below.
After the jump: Outfest lineup, plus Transformers 2 in Los Angeles.p>
Festival News. Los Angeles will play host to two major film festivals this month and next. The 15th edition of the Los Angeles Film Festival kicks off on June 18 with the "coming-of-middle-age story" Paper Man. Jeff Daniels stars as a writer "caught between the pressures of deadlines, the expectations of his wife, and the constant presence of the superhero who's lived inside his head since 2nd Grade." Ryan Reynolds plays the imaginary superhero, with other roles filled by Emma Stone, Lisa Kudrow, Kieran Culkin, and Hunter Parrish. The comedy / drama was written and directed by first-timers Michele and Kieran Mulroney.
Transfomers: Revenge of the Fallen will enjoy its U.S. Premiere at the festival, but not, as I speculated in the past, as the opening or closing night presentation. Michael Bay's action spectacle will screen on Monday, June 22, two days before its theatrical release, begging the question: why bother? The bottom line is that the film needs to have a splashy, red-carpet, star-studded press event either in Westwood or Hollywood; holding its "U.S. Premiere" at the fest, which takes place in walkable Westwood, is of more benefit to the festival than the studio, from a financial standpoint.
Closing night honors on Sunday, June 28 belong to Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo, which is a nice way to start building awareness before its U.S. theatrical release in August. More information on the festival is available at their site.
Hot on the heels of LAFF comes the 27th Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, better known as Outfest. They've recently launched their web site for this year's fest, which is well-designed and packed with information.
Benjamin Bratt (pictured, left) stars in the opening night gala presentation, La Mission, as a reformed inmate / recovering alcoholic / single father / bus driver. When he learns his teenage son is gay, his life is thrown into turmoil. Director Peter Bratt happens to be Benjamin's brother.The film screens on June 9.
Ten days later, Dare closes things out. Adam Salky's film stars Emmy Rossum as an aspiring actress who transforms from good girl to slinky seductress, ending up in a love triangle with her former best (male) friend (Ashley Springer) and her new boyfriend (Zach Gilford). Alan Cumming and Sandra Bernhard also appear.
On their site, director of programming Kim Yutani offers "Top 10 Tips for Navigating Outfest 2009." In all, 87 separate public programs will be held over 11 days.