The 2023 Sundance Film Festival returns to Austin, Texas, as one of the premier independent film festivals. Watch films on the mountains in Utah or from the comfort of your home — or hotel room. New this year: Short Films and Indie Episodic programs.
Netflix has acquired the freediving documentary The Deepest Breath. The film, which was produced by A24, Motive Films, Ventureland and Raw, will have its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2023.
The Deepest Breath follows the connection forged between two athletes as they navigate the vigorous and competitive world of freediving. In the film, a champion freediver trains to break a world record with the help of an expert safety diver, and the two form an emotional bond. The film follows the paths they took to meet at the pinnacle of the freediving world, documenting the thrilling rewards — and inescapable risks — of chasing a dream through the silent depths of the ocean.
“The setting and emotional power of this story is what initially drew me into wanting to make this documentary,” the documentary’s director, Laura McGann, said in a statement. “Filming around the world and with the remarkable subjects at the heart of The Deepest Breath has been the most inspirational and rewarding experience of my career. The entire team is delighted to be partnering with Netflix to share what we believe is a fitting tribute to the exceptional world of freediving and the fearless athletes in our film.”
The horror short film Appendage, by writer/director Anna Zlokovic and starring Rachel Sennott (Shiva Baby) and Eric Roberts, will expand to a Hulu Original feature film with 20th Digital Studio as part of a nine-film slate currently in development for Hulu.
Appendage is now playing at the Sundance Film Festival.
The films will expand directly on the shorts from the “Bite Size Halloween” collection, featuring previous writers or directors, or inspired by past shorts. The films deal with topical social issues such as mental health, ecological collapse, reproductive rights, interracial adoption and online hysteria.
The first confirmed titles of the horror film collection include:
- Appendage is the story of a young fashion designer whose anxiety physically manifests. The film opened season two of 20th Digital Studio’s “Bite Size Halloween” on Hulu, a short film series that ranges from horror comedy to psychological thrillers and everything in between. Zlokovic has signed to write and direct the feature film version and casting is underway.
- Grimcutty, written and directed by John William Ross, is a teen tech horror thriller, shot outside Los Angeles in fall 2021 and now in post-production. The film stars Shannyn Sossamon (Wayward Pines, Sleepy Hollow), Usman Ally (A Series of Unfortunate Events, “Veep”), Alona Tal (“Seal Team”) and newcomer Sara Wolfkind.
- Wormeater, a rural British family trauma body horror from writer/director Ben Steiner, recently completed filming in the U.K. with stars Kate Dickie (“Game of Thrones,” The Green Knight) and Jemima Rooper (“The Girlfrend Experience,” upcoming “Flowers in the Attic: The Origin). The film is a thematic successor to Steiner’s 2018 20th Digital short Urn.
- The Hug will expand on the story of the animatronic “Pandory the Panda” who terrorized children in his Pizza Palace in a viral 2018 short from 20th Digital. The original creators, writing/directing team Jack Bishop and Justin Nijm have signed on.
- Clock by writer/director Alexis Jacknow and inspired by the “Bite Size Halloween” 2020 short of the same title will follow a woman’s desperate attempt to fix her broken biological clock.
Additional scripts from “Bite Size Halloween” filmmakers are currently in development and will be announced at a later date.
FilmRise, the New York-based film and television studio and streaming network, has acquired exclusive theatrical, digital and broadcast distribution rights to Marvelous and the Black Hole for the United States and Canada.
The feature, about an unlikely bond between a young girl and an eccentric magician, stars four-time Emmy Award-winner Rhea Perlman (“Cheers,” “Matilda,” “The Mindy Project”) and Miya Cech (Always Be My Maybe, “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”). In the film written and directed by Kate Tsang, a teenage delinquent (Cech) befriends a surly magician (Perlman) who helps her navigate her inner demons and dysfunctional family with sleight of hand magic.
Refinery 29 named Miya Cech an “Unforgettable Breakout Star” of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
“The combination of releasing Kate Tsang’s directorial debut film featuring the terrific performance of 2021 Sundance Film Festival breakout star Miya Cech opposite the masterful comic timing of Rhea Perlman in a unique coming of age comedy, was irresistible,” Danny Fisher, CEO of FilmRise, said in a statement. “This film is a stellar addition to our growing library of films by underrepresented filmmakers telling untold stories.”
The film had its worldwide premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, its New York premiere at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival and received the Grand Jury Award from the 2021 IFF Boston Film Festival. The film also screened at the 2021 Mill Valley Film Festival; the 2021 Atlanta Film Festival; the 2021 Sun Valley Film Festival, where the film won the One in a Million Narrative award; the 2021 Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Emerging Filmmaker Award; and the 2021 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Audience Award.
The film is the third recipient of AT&T and the Tribeca Film Institute’s Untold Stories grant, an initiative that selects one project per year by an underrepresented filmmaker with an “untold story.”
Sony Pictures Entertainment has announced home release dates for The Truffle Hunters, which will become available on digital, Blu-ray Disc and DVD Aug. 17.
Directed by Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw, The Truffle Hunters is a documentary about a group of aging men, in their 70s and 80s, hunting in the forests of Piedmont, Italy, for the rare and expensive white Alba truffle, which to date has resisted all of modern science’s efforts at cultivation. They’re guided by a secret culture and training passed down through generations, as well as by the noses of their expertly trained dogs. They live a simpler, slower way of life, in harmony with their loyal animals and their picture-perfect land, seemingly straight out of a fairy tale. They’re untethered to cell phone screens or the Internet, opting instead to make their food and drink by hand and prioritizing in-person connections and community.
The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020 and was released on March 5 of this year by Sony Pictures Classics.
The three home editions each include a featurette, “The Story of The Truffle Hunters,” in which filmmakers Dweck and Kershaw talk about how they entered the storybook world of truffle hunting and embraced the eclectic personalities behind the culinary quests.
Fox Entertainment’s AVOD platform continues to push original content with the Feb. 8 announcement that it will debut on Feb. 12 the 2020 Sundance Film Festival selection Beast Beast, written and directed by Danny Madden, based on his short-film Krista, and executive produced by Alec Baldwin.
The movie, also the 2020 Audience Award and Georgia Film Award winner at the Atlanta Film Festival, chronicles the lives and trauma surrounding three people living in a southern town.
“We’re proud to support talented filmmakers like the Beast Beast team as we expand our growing indie library with premium titles and help these incredible films reach broader audiences,” CCO Adam Lewinson said in a statement.
Beast Beast is set in a quiet southern town, where popular and charismatic theater kid Krista (Shirley Chen) finds herself increasingly drawn to Nito (Jose Angeles), the new student in her high school who catches her attention with his impressive skating videos. The two share an easy rapport and quickly grow close. Unbeknownst to her, their lives and that of her gun-loving neighbor, Adam (Will Madden), will soon become intertwined — until they reach a breaking point. The movie also stars Courtney Dietz (Queen America) and Daniel Rashid (Being Frank).
Beast Beast captures what it means to come of age in an era marked by technology and social media, where violent clashes awaken dormant passions and teenagers are faced with growing up all too quickly.
Beast Beast was an official selection at SXSW and also received the Grand Jury Prize at Champs-Elysees Film Festival’s U.S. In Progress. Produced in association with Baldwin’s company, Persona Entertainment, the film is also executive produced by Casey Bader and Jim Cummings with Benjamin Wiessner, Matt Miller and Tara Ansley serving as producers. Kristian Zuniga serves as Director of Photography.
Tubi recently announced record monthly active users (MAU) of 33 million in August, an increase of 65% year-over-year. With total view time surpassing 200 million hours of content streamed each month since April, Tubi has more than 30,000 movies and TV shows from more than 250 content partners, including nearly every major studio.
HBO Max has acquired U.S. rights to the documentary On the Record following the film’s premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It marks the streamer’s first festival acquisition.
In the film from Impact Partners and Jane Doe Films, director/producers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering spotlight Russell Simmons’ sexual misconduct accusers.
“The fierce determination of Drew Dixon and all of the women who bravely chose to share their stories in On the Record moved us profoundly,” Sarah Aubrey, head of original content at HBO Max, said in a statement. “I’ve been impressed with Amy and Kirby’s work over the years covering this complex subject matter, and look forward to this film finding the widest possible audience.”
On the Record presents the story of music executive Drew Dixon (producer of hit records by Method Man and Mary J. Blige, Estelle and Kanye West, and Whitney Houston) as she grapples with her decision to become one of the first women of color, in the wake of #MeToo, to come forward and publicly accuse hip-hop mogul Simmons of sexual misconduct. The film chronicles not only Dixon’s story, but that of several other accusers — Sil Lai Abrams, Sheri Hines, Jenny Lumet, Alexia Norton Jones — delving into the ways women of colors’ voices are all too often silenced and ignored when reporting these crimes, as well as the various cultural forces that conspire to make them reluctant to do so.
“Kirby and I are so proud to be teaming with HBO Max to give this film the outstanding platform it deserves and can’t wait for the public to see and hear the voices of these courageous women,” Ziering said in a statement.
“Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering are national treasures,” Dan Cogan and Jenny Raskin of Impact Partners said in a statement. “We are honored that HBO Max has decided to embrace this highly-anticipated film as their first festival acquisition ever, and we are thrilled for them to share it with their new audience.”
Indie film distributor Breaking Glass Pictures has set a Nov. 19 release date for Queen of Hearts, which will be available to home audiences on DVD and On Demand.
The Danish drama film — directed by May el-Toukhy, and starring Trine Dyrholm, Gustav Lindh, Magnus Krepper, and Preben Kristensen — will also be available on Apple iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, and Vudu.
Queen of Hearts follows a woman named Anne (Dyrholm), who is a brilliant and dedicated lawyer, specializing in children and young adults. She lives a picture-perfect life, with her doctor husband (Krepper) and twin daughters. She winds up jeopardizing both her career and family when she seduces her teenage stepson (Lindh), which leads her to make an irreversible decision.
The film celebrated its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it won The Audience Award for World Cinema Dramatic. It also won The Goteborg’s Dragon Award and the 2019 Nordic Council Film Prize, and was selected as the Danish entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy awards.
A Nicolas Cage drama, a James Franco genre mash-up and film festival winners are among six FilmRise titles coming to Blu-ray Disc in March from MVD Entertainment Group.
The lineup begins with five titles streeting March 12th.
The Nicolas Cage action-drama Vengeance: A Love Story, a film in the vein of Death Wish, stars Cage as a detective seeking justice for a single mother that is brutally assaulted in front of her 12-year-old daughter.
Chloë Grace Moretz stars in The Miseducation of Cameron Post, based on the novel by Emily M. Danforth. The story follows Cameron as she’s sent to a gay conversion therapy center where she forms a bond with a group of fellow teenagers, and together they fight for survival. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Bonus features include an audio commentary with director-co-writer Desiree Akhavan and producer-co-writer Cecilia Frugiuele; a behind the scenes photo gallery; the theatrical trailer; and an accolades trailer.
Clio Barnard’s Dark River, winner of the Platform Prize at the Toronto International Film Festival, is the story of a woman that returns home to her family farm after the death of her father. Having been gone for more than 15 years, she is forced to face dark memories from her past while attempting to rekindle the relationship with her brother.
Life in the Doghouse is a documentary that showcases the work done by Danny Robertshaw and Ron Danta at Danny & Ron’s Rescue. In their 10-plus years of working together, the duo has saved more than 10,000 dogs. Bonus features include deleted scenes, a trailer and a photo gallery.
The final March 12 release is the modern cult classic The Greasy Strangler. Bonus features include audio commentary with director Jim Hosking, Michael St. Michaels and Sky Elobar; exclusive cast and crew Interviews; the original theatrical trailer; the red band trailer; and a teaser trailer.
Due March 26th is Dan Bush’s The Vault, a genre mash-up that opens like a pretty standard heist film about a bank robbery, but the tables take a turn when it’s revealed that the bank is haunted. The Vault Stars James Franco, Taryn Manning and Clifton Collins Jr.
Netflix has acquired worldwide distribution rights to the Sundance Audience Award-winning documentary Knock Down the House, which chronicles the campaigns of four female progressive candidates, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, against powerful incumbents in the 2018 midterm elections.
The Sundance Institute also announced Knock Down the House as the winner of the Festival Favorite Award, selected by audience votes from the 121 features screened at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
The film, directed by Rachel Lears and produced by Lears, Robin Blotnick, and Sarah Olson, also features Amy Vilela, Cori Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin.
When tragedy struck her family in the midst of the financial crisis, Bronx-born Ocasio-Cortez had to work double shifts in a restaurant to save her home from foreclosure. After losing a loved one to a preventable medical condition, Amy Vilela didn’t know what to do with the anger she felt about America’s broken health care system. Cori Bush was drawn into the streets when the police shooting of an unarmed black man brought protests and tanks into her neighborhood. Paula Jean Swearengin was fed up with watching her friends and family suffer and die from the environmental effects of the coal industry. At a moment of historic volatility in American politics, Knock Down the House follows these four women as they decide to fight back despite having no political experience.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with Netflix on the release of Knock Down the House,” said director Lears, who also co-wrote the film in addition to producing, in a statement. “This platform will allow us to reach huge audiences worldwide, including viewers who may not usually watch independent documentaries. We’re also very excited to be working with Netflix on a campaign to spark wider cultural conversations about our democracy and how it can continue to evolve.”
“It is a transcendent moment when skilled filmmakers are able to train their lens on a major transformation,” said Lisa Nishimura, VP of Original Documentaries for Netflix, in a statement. “With intimacy and immediacy, Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnik, bring viewers to the front lines of a movement, as four women find their voice, their power and their purpose, allowing all of us to witness the promise of true democracy in action.”