The documentary Whaam! Blam! Roy Lichtenstein and the Art of Appropriation will be released for digital rental (VOD) and digital purchase March 21, and on DVD April 25 from Virgil Films.
Roy Lichtenstein is considered to be one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century. Along with Andy Warhol, he created the Pop Art movement by appropriating items from modern American culture and incorporating them into art that found favor and acclaim in the galleries and inner echelons of the art world. Warhol’s appropriation of the Campbell’s soup can — taking it from the shelves of our grocery stores and elevating it into a piece of fine art — is the most remembered icon of this era. Lichtenstein sought to do the same, choosing to take what was then considered the tactless “low art” of the masses — comic books — and elevating the form into “high art” for the galleries of Manhattan and a more “sophisticated” audience. But unlike the Campbell’s soup can, the comic art appropriated by Lichtenstein was created by comic illustrators who also considered themselves artists, and they were not pleased by the unauthorized acquisition of their work by Lichtenstein.
Whaam! Blam! Roy Lichtenstein and the Art of Appropriation (with a title that’s based upon two of Lichtenstein’s most famous paintings — Whaam! and Blam) offers a balanced analysis of Lichtenstein and features both advocates and critics of his work. Proponents enthusiastically defend him and argue he did nothing wrong and created unique, original, stunning art that provides worthy commentary about the American condition during the 20th Century. Then conversely, critics stand behind the original artists like Hy Eisman, Russ Heath, and the more than 30 other comic artists appropriated by the painter and argue that these original sources have been cheated of their work, recognition and compensation.
Virgil Films will release the Spanish-language horror film The Returned (Los Que Vuelven) via digital sellthrough and VOD Feb. 28.
In Spanish and Guarani (with English Subtitles), the new thriller is from Laura Casabé, winner of Best Director at Sitges’ New Visions.
Compared to Stephen King’s Pet Sematary by Mulderville.net, the film takes place in 1919 South America and follows a landowner’s wife who is desperate for a child of her own after suffering multiple miscarriages and a stillborn death. She finds hope, however, in a seemingly outlandish plan. With the help of their servant, she prays to a mythical deity to resurrect her stillborn son. The plan works, but with the child comes something else: something evil, something horrifying.
The documentary Burlesque: Heart of the Glitter Tribe will be released for digital purchase and VOD Feb. 14, and on DVD March 14 from Virgil Films.
Burlesque: Heart of the Glitter Tribe is a feature documentary about the passion and personalities at the heart of today’s new wave of burlesque. On stage and in candid conversation, 12 of today’s hottest performers reveal the naked truth about an exotic world where artifice is a route to authenticity and pretending to be someone else is the ultimate journey to become yourself.
The drama Match will be released Feb. 7 via digital sellthrough and VOD from Virgil Films.
From director Sean McGinly (Two Days, The Great Buck Howard), Match is a story about two people who meet on an online dating site. What starts as a casual flirtation quickly becomes intimate and intense. The story is told using only the emails and texts the characters send to one another. The result is a voyeuristic experience that uses graphics as well as the actors’ performances to take you into the minds of two people in a way that says something about modern dating culture.
The film stars Austin Nichols (“John From Cincinnati,” “Ray Donovan,” “The Walking Dead”) and Ahna O’Reilly (The Help, “The Morning Show,” Where The Crawdads Sing) with a special appearance by Spencer Garrett (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, “Winning Time: The Rise Of The Lakers Dynasty”).
Virgil Films and Entertainment has promoted Tim Maggiani to co-president, sharing duties with Joe Amodei, who is president and CEO of the Philadelphia-based company.
Maggiani was previously VP of digital services.
“Tim is a proven leader and he has been one of the driving forces behind the continued growth of Virgil Films in so many ways,” Amodei said in a statement. “Since joining the team in May 2006, Tim has been able to adapt and steer the company through the constantly changing industry and changes in the way content is consumed today. From DVD to streaming and transactional releases Tim been my right-hand man through it all.”
After attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Maggiani joined Virgil as an intern, working with the staff to market films on DVD before advancing in the ranks to eventually spearhead the company’s move into the digital marketplace.
Virgil Films’ current projects include the dramedy High Expectations, starring Kelsey Grammer; the Holocaust documentary Return to Auschwitz: The Survival of Vladimir Monk; and biographical documentary Anne Murray Full Circle.
Virgil Films will release the sports drama High Expectations, starring Kelsey Grammer, via VOD and for digital purchase Jan. 17, and on DVD Feb. 28.
In the film, Jack finds himself adrift after his father, legendary Coach Davis, cuts him from his renowned soccer club. Estranged from his dad, at odds with his brother and desperate for purpose, he turns to his ex-girlfriend Sofia. Inspired by her tough love and unwavering pursuit to become a recording artist, he takes one last shot at his lifelong dream, by trying out for a rival soccer club.
The film also stars Taylor Gray, Ally Brooke and Briana Scurry.
The coming-of-age drama Reversal will be released for digital purchase and on VOD Dec. 6 from Virgil Films and Entertainment.
Set in the competitive world of high school wrestling and based on a true story, the story follows Leo Leone, who has been wrestling since he was 7 years old. As the only son of wrestling coach (and ex-state champion) Edward Leone, Leo’s dedication to the sport is tied up in his love for his father. Now Leo is 17. His life has been an endless cycle of training, sacrifice, and starving to make weight — a process that is becoming ever more difficult during adolescence. He’s tired of denying himself everything, and is feeling the lure of a world beyond the mat.
Living paycheck to paycheck, working a dead-end job in the mines while coaching for no money, Leo’s father Ed sees a wrestling scholarship as his son’s only chance to escape the treadmill of life in a small Pennsylvania town. But though his motives are good, Ed is pushing his son too hard. As the high school state championships near, the struggle between father and son escalates. The pressure leads Leo into excessive training and life-threatening behavior, and creates rivalries within the team.
With the help of his friends and the love of his girlfriend Shaw, Leo finds the strength to grow up and make serious choices between living his own life or letting his father live through him, following the path prescribed or following his dreams.
The documentary Mystic Vibrosis: A Guide to Living Indubiously will be released for digital purchase and rental (VOD) Nov. 22 by Virgil Films and Entertainment.
Mystic Vibrosis: A Guide to Living Indubiously is the story about how the biggest challenges in life, can turn out to be the biggest blessings.
Evan and Spencer Burton of the band Indubious, both bandmates and brothers, were born with a debilitating genetic disorder called Cystic Fibrosis. Convinced at an early age of their inevitably short life expectancy, the brothers have persevered to not only survive their illness, but find their strength and purpose through their challenges. Now, seven albums later (including a No. 1 billboard chart topping album), with numerous national tours and legions of loyal fans, Indubious has been catapulted onto the world stage as a powerful force for change and the future of conscious music. After receiving a double lung transplant in 2011 from a man named Marcus Jackson, Evan had never met the family of his late donor Marcus Jackson, until now. For the first time Evan gets to sit with Ella Jackson, Marcus’s mother, to share their stories, to heal, and to revel in the magic and miracle of life.
The documentary Anne Murray: Full Circle will be released via digital sellthrough and VOD Nov. 15 and on DVD Dec. 13 from Virgil Films.
The film takes audiences on a personal and emotional journey showcasing in-depth interviews with Murray exploring her evolution as a ground-breaking, trailblazing female Canadian artist from the ‘60s and ‘70s to a global superstar, selling more than 55 million albums in pop, country, and adult contemporary music over a 40-year career.
The film is Murray’s personal story in her own words. The documentary showcases an original, in-depth interview with her, sharing anecdotes, memories, and observations from her 40-plus years in the music business starting with her breakout song “Snowbird” in 1970 reaching No. 1 in the United States and her first Gold Record. Her commitment to simultaneously raising a family and giving her all on tour took an emotional toll, but it also inspired her to push for change.
Featuring interviews with Shania Twain, k.d. lang, Bonnie Raitt, Jann Arden, Kenny Loggins, Gordon Lightfoot, manager Bruce Allen, former manager Shep Gordon and others, the film explores not only the creative and business challenges of an international career, but also Murray’s lasting impact.
It was a visit to Normandy, France, for the commemoration of D-Day in 2015 that prompted Christian Taylor to embark on her first feature film.
She had followed her son Hunter — part of an honor guard of the 101st Airborne Division for the 71st commemoration of the invasion — to observe the ceremony and take a holiday. She was struck by the enthusiasm of the French people.
“I was so blown away by the gratitude,” says Taylor. “I wanted to know where it came from, and I learned for the first time that the French people have been celebrating their liberation from the moment that it happened, regardless of all the destruction and the damage and the death. And so, as l listened to their stories and learned that 20,000 French people lost their lives in the Battle of Normandy, I realized there was so much more to the story that we never heard as Americans.”
Her exploration of that history resulted in the documentary The Girl Who Wore Freedom, available via digital purchase and VOD Nov. 1 from Virgil Films.
It was one woman’s story that she encountered back in 2015 in the town of Carentan, France, that sparked her quest.
“A pretty French woman came up and asked Hunter to take a picture; the French people all want their pictures taken with soldiers that come from the unit that liberated them,” she recalls. “And after we took the picture, she said, ‘The jacket that I have on was given to my mother in 1944 by an American GI.’ And I’d never been that close to history so I couldn’t believe it, and I said, ‘Is your mother still alive?’ And she said, ‘Well, yes, she’s right here.’”
Thus, she met Daniele “Dany” Patrix Boucherie, who was 5 on D-Day in 1944. After the liberation, Dany’s mother fashioned a red, white and blue dress from parachutes for her to wear to celebrate. She continued the tradition as Dany grew. The story became the inspiration for Taylor’s documentary, which expanded into a chronicle of untold stories of D-Day from the men, women and children who lived through German occupation and Allied liberation of Normandy.
Taylor had videotaped that initial meeting with Dany, and that would become a way into the story.
“She had to become the symbol, but the meat of the story was in the other stories that I discovered,” she says.
After several trips back to France, she developed relationships with other French people who had experienced the liberation. One story, in particular, was striking.
“It’s a story that was completely buried,” she says. “Tom Hanks wanted to tell it for ‘Band of Brothers’ and the family wouldn’t give them permission. But because I gave the family first right of refusal to tell their story they gave me permission to tell it.”
The family’s Brecourt Manor in Ste. Marie du Mont was the site of German gun emplacements trained on Utah Beach back in 1944.
“Dick Winters, who was the leader of the ‘Band of Brothers’ and the main character in the series, he was the one that found the gun emplacements and destroyed them all before the Americans landed on Utah Beach, and so there were roughly 200 casualties on Utah Beach as opposed to Omaha, where there were over 2,000,” she says.
At the time the farm was owned by Michel DeVallavieille.
“When it was liberated that morning on D-Day, the guys from Easy Company went to check inside the house, and [the French] were afraid that they were going to be shooting in the house, so the son came out to talk with them and he just kept saying he was a Frenchman and walking near them and an American GI shot him five times in the back,” Taylor says. “He didn’t die, but he spent the next eight months recovering and then that same man built the Utah Beach Museum in their honor and made coins to give them for gratitude every time the veterans came back. To me, that was the most poignant, powerful example of a story that no American had heard.”
Charles DeVallavieille, the son of the man who was shot by Americans at Brecourt Manor, is interviewed in the documentary and is the director of the Utah Beach Museum and works to bring GIs back to Normandy to commemorate D-Day.
Thus, while the story started with a dress, The Girl Who Wore Freedom blossomed into a chronicle of enduring gratitude for freedom.
“Initially, I thought it was because the Germans were so bad to them, that they were so excited to be liberated because the Germans were so horrible, but the truth of the matter is that the Germans in Normandy were not that terrible, actually,” she says. “The French people weren’t excited because the Germans were so bad. The French people were excited because for four years they couldn’t gather in groups. They had to show papers everywhere they went. They had people watching them on their streets — and sometimes living in their house. It was the inability to do what they wanted to do when they wanted to do it.”
Basically, it was freedom that drove the French as the Americans came in.
Making the film has been a real “grassroots effort” with many of those that worked on it, including reenactors, volunteering, Taylor says.
“We raised a lot of money by donation and 80% of our donors gave $50 or less, and then half of the film I paid for out of my savings,” she says.
She was able to show a rough cut of the film for the 75th anniversary of D-Day at the Utah Beach Museum.
The final film opened the Boston Film Festival and won Best Documentary and Best Editing. It won more than 30 awards over the course of its film festival run. Unfortunately, it opened during the pandemic, making it hard for Taylor to get the film widely seen. (It has been shown on Delta and Air France flights.)
She hopes as it is gains a wider audience, The Girl Who Wore Freedom will inspire viewers and push them to not just thank veterans for their service, but to hear their stories.
“Once you understand the bigger picture, it’s really transformational,” she says. “My son that’s in the military said after he went back to Normandy and he saw the gratitude of the French people, it changed his mind about military intervention overseas, because he realized that we imprint our American spirit of democracy on the heart of those we liberate or we help, and it begins to change the world.”