Netflix has granted public screening access to Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated documentary “13th” for classrooms, community groups, book clubs, and other educational settings.

The streaming service said Tuesday that there has been a groundswell of interest from elementary school, universities, another other educational institutions asking for permission to screen the film. “13th” — which takes its title from the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery — explores the link between slavery and the modern-day prison system.

“We have been overwhelmed and inspired by the response to ’13th’ from people of all ages,” said Lisa Nishimura, Netflix’s VP of original documentary programming.



Netflix Pushes ‘13th’ Oscar Bid With Oprah Winfrey, Ava DuVernay Interview Special


“Communities across the country are feeling the full weight of this particularly divisive moment in time,” Nishimura added. “And when some are capitalizing on this fear, we are especially inspired by the next generation, who are able to acknowledge the complex system they have inherited while simultaneously vowing to change it. Like DuVernay, they understand that we must come face to face with our past before we can fix our future.”

“13th” was the opening film at the New York Film Festival and was released Oct. 6 on Netflix. DuVernay begins the film by pointing out that 25% of those incarcerated in the world are imprisoned in the U.S. and contends that maintaining such a system amounts to perpetuating slavery.

Following the Netflix debut, advocacy organizations such as the ACLU, Center for Media Justice, cut50, and hosted dozens of community screenings across the country to support their organizing efforts — from Oakland, Des Moines, and Columbus, Ohio; to Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“13th” is competing for the best feature documentary Academy Award against “Fire at Sea,” “O.J.: Made in America,” “Life, Animated,” and “I Am Not Your Negro.”

Netflix original documentaries that are also part of the educational screening program include Oscar-nominated shorts “Extremis” and “The White Helmets,” as well as “The Ivory Game,” “Winter on Fire,” “Audrie & Daisy,” and “Into the Inferno.”


Stories about President Donald Trump secretly meeting with Vladimir Putin, or banning vaccinations, or refusing to send aid to a California disaster area were bound to draw a lot of readers and attention.

Readers of those stories in recent days have raised at least a couple of problems with them: 1) They’re not true.  2) They’re an ethically-challenged way to promote a Hollywood movie.

The fake news promotion of “A Cure for Wellness” — which became widely known on Monday — has created a small furor on social media and in conversations among film promotion experts. The aficionados mostly lambasted 20th Century Fox and Regency Enterprises for misleading consumers, in an attempt to boost ticket sales for the psychological thriller, which opens this weekend. Other marketing authorities said the sub-rosa campaign for the film succeeded because it drew lots of conversation in the days before its launch.

The two film companies acknowledged Monday that they hired a fake news creator to build websites and stories on a variety of subjects. Many were tied to Trump. Others were politically charged: citing a purported Utah bill to jail and publicly shame women who received abortions and referring to a “groundbreaking study” on the mental health challenges of liberals. The made-up stories had only oblique references to director Gore Verbinski’s film.



Film Review: ‘A Cure for Wellness’


Only after the fake news promotion had been written about by multiple news outlets, did the content on the fake news sites change. Then, only headlines for the fake stories appeared. Clicking on the headlines led readers to a website for “A Cure for Wellness.”

The film is a dark tale about a high-powered young executive who goes to Switzerland to recover his company’s CEO from a health spa, only to be caught up in a mysterious treatment regimen that is far from benign.

A Fox spokesman said the studio would not discuss who came up with the publicity stunt, or any other details of the promotion. Regency, the production company founded by business magnate Arnon Milchan, also did not respond to requests for more information.

One veteran movie marketing official, who doesn’t work for a rival studio, called the planting of fake news to sell a movie “monumentally stupid.”

“On moral level, I give it an F. On an execution level, I give it an F,” said the expert, who declined to be identified, out of fear of losing future business opportunities. “We don’t need more fake news stories. We don’t need more lies right now. There is already plenty of that out on the web. It’s already hard enough for people.”

In a joint statement Monday, Fox and Regency suggested that the theme of fake news tied into the movie’s exploration of a fake cure.

“‘A Cure for Wellness’ is a movie about a ‘fake’ cure that makes people sicker,” the statement said. “As part of this campaign, a ‘fake’ wellness site was created and we partnered with a fake news creator to publish fake news. As our movie’s antagonist says, ‘There is a sickness inside us. And only when we know what ails us, can we hope to find the cure.'”

But the movie marketing critic said that tie-in was far from obvious to the vast majority of those reading the fake news stories, which were republished or mentioned thousands of times on social media in recent days. “Those stories did not tie in — in any positive way — back to the movie,” said the critic.

Another marketing executive questioned why Fox and Regency would want to come anywhere close to the volatile issue of concocted news stories, a subject that is stirring anger and anxiety across the political spectrum since last year’s presidential election.

“We now live in a time where things are really turbulent and movies really are about an escape and that to me is the false, difficult note here,” said the marketing executive, who also asked not to be named. “You are trying to relate your movie to a current event — which I get — but it’s a current event that most people are trying to turn away from.”

Social media users generally gave the marketing subterfuge negative marks, too. “Tone deaf,” said one person on Twitter, where another added: “Sets a frightening precedent for Hollywood to manipulate.” A third said: “Boycott #CureForWellness for highly irresponsible creation of fake news in today’s environment. Wait until it’s free or bootlegged.”

Russell Schwartz, who teaches film marketing at Chapman College, was less critical of the “Cure” campaign, saying it appeared to have the desired effect of drawing attention to the film just before Friday’s opening. But he, too, questioned the value of hitching the movie to such a volatile subject. “The fact they tied into so many sensitive issues right now, I think that might have been too great of a reach for them,” said Schwartz, who is also co-principal of Pandemic Marketing Group.

Another marketing veteran, who works for a Hollywood production company, said all the chatter about the “A Cure for Wellness” campaign made it a success, .

“If you can drum up this much attention in the week a movie is being released, I don’t think that is a bad thing,” said the executive. “You want as much awareness and buzz as you can get.”

The booster did question the extent of the fake stories’ attempts to hide their connection to “A Cure for Wellness.”  “They were fooling people as long as possible, but people have to know this is about a movie,” said the executive. “When you are going to open in a few days, you have to sell some tickets.”


A tonal shift in “Logan,” the final film in the “Wolverine” franchise, drew concerns internally that it would be too dark, according to Twentieth Century Fox Film chairman Stacey Snider.

“Inside, there was real consternation about the intensity of the tone of the film,” she said in a Q&A at the Recode Media conference Tuesday in Laguna Niguel, Calif.. “It’s more of an elegy about life and death. The paradigm for it was a Western, and my colleagues were up in arms. It’s not a wise-cracking cigar-chomping mutton-sporting Wolverine, and the debate internally became, isn’t that freakin’ boring? Isn’t it exciting to imagine Wolverine as a real guy and he’s world-weary and he doesn’t want to fight anymore until a little girl needs him?”

“Logan” is scheduled for release on March 3 with Hugh Jackman reprising his title role. The movie’s marketing machinery kicked into overdrive with a spot in the Super Bowl that kicked up a fresh wave of social-media chatter about the raw nature of the movie compared with its predecessors in the successful Fox franchise.

Snider also spoke out on behalf of the Fox Searchlight business, countering the conventional wisdom that the encroachment of Netflix and Amazon as buyers in the festival circuit has challenged consumers.

“What Amazon did with ‘Manchester By the Sea’ is remarkable,” she said. “But I was with my colleagues at Sundance this year also and they were able to secure two hotly pursued projects, ‘Step’ and ‘Patty Cake$’ for less money than the competition was offering because when it comes to those films and curated, hand-carried approach to market, that comes with years and years of experience. “It’s not to say it can’t be modeled but the people who have been doing it with such incredible success with ’12 Year a Slave,’ ‘Wild’ and ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ speak an artistic language that is important to speak.”

In addition, Snider spoke out strongly in support of the exhibition business, which she sees as the most important link in the distribution chain, albeit one that needs to be balanced with the growing demand for some kind of premium VOD release in homes.

“If the supposition is that the movie business corners whatever market we have in creating huge global cinematic experiences, then then the last thing we want to do is commoditize it and make it feel interchangeable with the home entertainment experience,” she warned.

Snider went so far as to suggest her studio was even more vulnerable than some of her rivals to a weakened exhibition business.

“When I think about how Fox is situated compared to Warner Bros. or Comcast or Disney, we’re more dependent on exhibitors than any of the other companies,” she said. “It really does genuinely matter to us.”

But she stopped well short of suggesting that some kind of alteration in film distribution was inevitable. “It’s not about smashing the window, its about opening it up a little,” she said. “I don’t think its controversial to say for a business not to be able to sell what it makes for periods of time is anachronistic.”


Covert Media has sold the Star Wars spoof “Star Worlds” to multiple markets at the Berlin Film Festival, a week after launching sales.

Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, whose credits include the Scary Movie franchise, “Epic Movie” and “Vampires Suck” are writing and directing the project, titled “Star Worlds Episode XXXIVE=MC2: The Force Awakens The Last Jedi Who Went Rogue.” Covert Media’s CEO Paul Hanson (“District 9”) is producing the film alongside Broken Road Productions’ Todd Garner (“True Memoirs of an International Assassin”).

The film is currently in pre-production targeting a fall shoot. The film is being fully financed and produced by Covert Media, which launched worldwide sales on the film in Berlin.

“Star Worlds” has been acquired by Constantin Film for Germany, Eagle Pictures for Italy, Tripictures for Spain, and Gussi for Latin America. Rights have also been sold to Eagle Films for the Middle East, Movie Cloud for Taiwan, PVR Pictures in India, Tanweer in Malaysia, and to Red Pictures for Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam.

“With their comedic take on the franchise’s most beloved characters both old school and new, ‘Star Worlds’ will leave no convention, cliché, or iconic moment untouched,” Covert said.

Executive producers on “Star Worlds” include Covert’s Elissa Friedman, Media Content Capital’s Sasha Shapiro and Anton Lessine and Broken Road’s Jeremy Stein.

Mel Brooks spoofed the first three “Star Wars” movies in 1987 with “Spaceballs,” which starred Brooks, Bill Pullman, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Daphne Zuniga and Dick Van Patten.


The protagonists, the production… everything has a few screws loose in “Buddies in India” — a Chinese action-comedy in which a naive monkey trainer and a coddled tycoon’s son are forced to travel to India together. Mainland comedian/martial artist and first-time director Wang Baoqiang plugs into the frenemy road movie formula from colossal hit “Lost in Thailand” (in which he starred) while aiming to recapture the spirit of Jackie Chan’s mid-career blockbusters. Unfortunately, he’s hamstrung by his inexperience as a helmer, and the film ends up as an improbable mess full of rowdy vulgarity. Still, such is the craving for family entertainment during China’s Lunar New Year holidays that “Buddies” made enough friends to gross more than $105 million at the Chinese box office.

One of three projects produced under a China-India state agreement in 2014, “Buddies,” like the other two — Jackie Chan vehicle “Kung Fu Yoga” and Huo Jianqi’s “Xuanzang” — are ultimately Chinese films that make use of Indian locations, without significant creative input from Indian talent or cross-cultural perspective.

Wang’s pic is a tenuous variation on “Journey to the West” with the two leading roles taking on rudimentary characteristics of Monkey King and Monk Xuanzang, since they’re preyed upon by villains all the way to India. As an odd-couple road movie, it’s a poor knockoff of “Lost in Thailand,” and screenwriters Shu Huan & Ding Ding (who worked on “Lost”) seem to be making up the escapades as they go along, shamelessly scattering around fat women, fart jokes and even blatant product placements for a brand of condoms. Crucially missing are credible human motivations or skilled balance of physical with verbal humor.

Wu Kong (Wang) lives with a swarm of monkeys in a crumbling loft earmarked for redevelopment. His kung fu skills enable him to resist eviction until Tang Sen (Bai Ke, leading man in popular web series “Surprise”), the heir to the Bao Tang Property Group, counterattacks with an arsenal of robotic toys — thus setting the infantile, cartoonish tone. Tang’s gravely ill dad (Chen Peisi) dispatches him to India to retrieve his will. Naturally, he blackmails Wu into becoming his son’s bodyguard.

Like tourists on a package tour, Tang and Wu are rushed off to attend a local wedding where none of them appears to know the bride and groom. Wang, who trained in the Shaolin school of martials arts from an early age, randomly breaks into fights and exhibitionist acrobatics. Next they move to a sari factory decorated solely for him to fight spear-wielding Indian women amid colorful cascading cloths.

By the time the pair sign up for a chili-eating contest presided over by Bull King (Vikramjeet Virk), the audience should give up trying to make sense of the story. The scene is the culmination of all the bruising, insults, and facial grotesqueries that Wu is put through, and accepts with masochistic glee. That any viewer who can laugh along or feel “entertained” is itself rather disturbing.

When the pair finally reach their destination at the Temple of Hanuman, it cues another chopsocky showdown, this time with a lethal assassin whom Tang’s scheming uncle Chasu (Huang Bo, reprising a role in “Lost”) has coaxed out of retirement. Portrayed by Liu Xiao Ling Tong, the veteran actor who played Monkey King on TV for decades, his resemblance to the gnarled hero of “Machete” is worth a laugh but not enough of a payoff. The revelation of why Tang Senior contrived to make his son and Wu travel together sounds like a throwaway.

The film’s greatest weakness is the sheer outlandishness of the character ensemble, right down to the cameos, and the lack of logical motives for extreme behavior, such as Tang’s jilted fling (Liu Yan) who courts him with hot branding irons. Even consummate comedian Huang can’t give Chasu more life beyond facial contortions. Wu and Tang seldom get a chance to really bond; they’re too busy brawling or dodging assassination attempts. Wu’s attachment to his monkeys and Tang’s reliance on robotic toys and gadgets for friendship could have made an interesting contrast and bridging point, but it’s not properly explored.

Experienced action director Guo Yong (“Rise of the Legend”) devises solid choreography, but his creations are poorly integrated into the plot and physical surroundings. Shot mostly in Rajasthan (where “Kung Fu Yoga” also took place), capturing its imposing culture and colorful scenery onscreen should be a piece of cake for Hong Kong DP Chan Chi-ying, yet his compositions and lighting are shoddy. Some brief Bollywood dance numbers choreographed by the well-known Chinni Prakash are just OK, but help relieve the nonstop brawling. Outtakes of Wang’s on-set injuries show obvious Jackie Chan aspirations.

The title, which means “Uproar in Tianzhu (the Tang dynasty name for India) references “Uproar in Heaven,” a famous episode in “Journey to the West,” made into a classic animation in the 1960s.

Film Review: 'Buddies in India'

Reviewed at UA KK Mall, Shenzhen, Feb. 1, 2017. Running time: 99 MIN. Original Title: "Da Nao Tianzhu."


(China-India) A Beijing Enlight Pictures, China Film Co. (in China), China Lion Film (in U.S.) release of a Wuxi Happy Pictures Co., Youth Enlight Pictures Co., Zhejiang Someway Media Co., Beijing Hairun Pictures Group, Tianjin Maoyan Pictures presentation of a Beijing Enlight Pictures production in association with One Horse Pictures Co, Shanghai Meng Mi Culture Media Co., Beijing Unimedia Film & TV Co. (International sales: Beijing Enlight Pictures, Beijing.) Producers: Wang Changtian, Shu Huan, Liu Yanming, Peter Zheng. Executive producers: Sun Hebin, Yu Songya. Co-producers: Wang Yiyang, Yang Jinsheng, Fan Jun. Co-executive producer: Zaza Pang.


Director: Wang Baoqiang. Screenplay: Shu Huan, Ding Ding. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Chan Chi-ying. Editor: Tu Yiran. Music: Peter Kam


Wang Baoqiang, Bai Ke, Yue Yunpeng, Liu Yan, Chen Peisi, Liu Xiao Ling Tong, Lin Yongjian, Ma Yuke, Yuen Bo, Vikramjeet Virk. (Mandarin, Hindi, English dialogue)

BERLIN—Partnering on an anticipated title from a distinguished Latin American woman director which offers an original take on Latin-America-U.S. emigration, Sandro  Fiorin’s Miami-based FiGa Films has boarded Julia Solomonoff’s upcoming “Nobody’s Watching.”

One of the foremost sales companies of Latin American films, FiGa Films will handle international sales on this singular Latin American/U.S production.

Largely set in New York, and spoken in English and Spanish, “Nobody’s Watching” marks Solomonoff’s follow-up to “Sisters,” backed by Walter Salles, and “The Summer of la Boyita,” co-produced by Pedro and Agustin Almodovar’s El Deseo. Solomonoff produced Julia Murat’s “Pendular,” which plays in this year’s Berlinale Panorama section.

“A film about immigration but not about a man searching for a green card,” in Solomonoff words, “Nobody’s Watching” stars Argentine actor Guillermo Pfening (“The German Doctor,” “Boyita”). Pfening plays Nico, an attractive Argentinean and famous actor back in Argentina who lives in New York and works as a part-time servant, house-keep and male nanny. He becomes unexpectedly attached to baby Theo, who will stir in him a new tenderness and a search for home, the film’s synopsis runs.

But Nico’s world is shaken by the unexpected arrival of Martin, his former producer and lover, forcing him to confront the true reasons for his running away.

“The film examines an immigrant experience that doesn’t often land on the screen: the unexpected gains that ‘failure’ can provide and the realization that actual success lies in the journey of self-discovery,” Solomonoff commented, adding that “Nobody’s Watching” has “a very particular identity –  It’s Latino and it’s American indie, with a gay protagonist and directed by a woman… New York-specific (but no postcards here).”

A project which has attracted the enthusiasm of prominent – and often women – producers in Latin America and beyond, “Nobody’s Watching” is produced by Felicitas Raffo and Andres Longares at Cepa Audiovisual, as well as Natalia Agudelo Campillo and Nicolas Herreno Leal for Colombia’s MadLove, and Lucia Murat at Taiga Filmes e Video in Brazil. Aleph Motion Pictures’ Jaime Mateus Tique and LA Panda Productions’ Elisa Lleiras produce out of the U.S.

Co-production partners include Isabel Coixet’s Miss Wasabi in Barcelona, Juan Perdomo at the Dominican Republic’s Perdomo Productions, Georges Schoucair at Shortcuts International in Lebanon and film producer-director Bogdan Apetri.

“It’s a privilege to collaborate with such a strong team, often of very talented women,” said FiGa’s Sandro Fiorin.


BERLIN—Confirming the market appeal of France’s Cedric Klapisch after his “The Spanish Apartment” trilogy, his latest film, drama comedy “Back to Burgundy,” will have been sold significantly across the world by the end of the Berlin Festival.

More than 20 territories have already been secured, more will be closed in the next few days.

“Back to Burgundy’s” powerful rollout comes as a promo of “Gauguin,” starring “Black Swan’s” Vincent Cassel, on which the Cohen Media Group has U.S. rights, was presented to buyers at Berlin. Directed by Edouard Deluc (“Welcome to Argentina”), and penned by Deluc, Etienne Comar,(“Django”), Tomas Lilti (“Irreplaceable”) and Sarah Kaminsky (“Raid: Special Unit”), “Gauguin’s” first major territory deals look set to go down in the next few days.

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Written by Klapisch and regular co-scribe Santiago Amigorena and screened to buyers at Berlin’s European Film Market, “Back to Burgundy” turns on long-gone brother Jean who returns home to France’s Burgundy as he and his siblings inherit their family vineyard. Saving it, they discover their roots.

Klapisch’s comedy drama stars three young French actors who have burst into the scene in the last decade to awards and significant roles: Pio Marmaï (“The First Day of the Rest of Your Life,” “Living on Love Alone”), Ana Girardot (“Next Time I’ll Aim for the Heart”) and François Civil (“Elles”).

Studiocanal itself will distribute “Back To Burgundy” in its home territories of France, Germany, U.K. and Australia/New Zealand, a practice on its key foreign-language titles.

Spain (Avalon), Benelux (Cineart) and the Middle East (Salim Rania) were licensed at Berlin.

Poland, Canada and Italy will close by the end of the Festival, said Anne Cherel, Studiocanal SVP, international film sales.

Produced by Bruno Levy for Klapisch’s Ce Qui Me Meut label,  “Back to Burgundy” has also secured distribution in Japan with Kino Films, a frequent Studiocanal client, South Korean arthouse distributor-exhibitor T-cast, Taiwan (Movie Cloud), Singapore (Shaw) and Indonesia.

French films can be a hard sell in South East Asia. A “prestige mainstream title,” however, “Back to Burgundy” is “quintessentially French, about wine, family, and roots. It is what people love about France, and reveals the strong relationships between the vineyard workers and the wine itself,” said Cherel.

Pre-sales also took in Switzerland’s Frenetic, Spentzos in Greece, Portugal’s Lusomundo, Cinecolombia and Mexico’s Cinemas Nueva Era. Further buyers are the Czech Republic’s Cinemart, Acme for the Baltics, Lev in Israel and Brazil’s Esfera Filmes.

“‘Back to Burgundy” was bought by big distributors. It was perceived as a broad commercial French film also because Cedric Klapisch is well-known after the success of ‘Spanish Apartment,’ ‘Russian Dolls’ and ‘Chinese Puzzle,’”  Cherel said.

Shot over the four seasons, “Back to Burgundy” is also a film about natural cycles, whether generational renewal in a family or those of a vineyard. To establish change throughout the year, Klapisch hired a photographer to take a picture of a tree every day at 3 pm for one year. How the three siblings change is the heart of the film.


BERLIN — Buenos Aires-based sales company Meikincine has taken worldwide sales rights outside Chile to Lissette Orozco’s first documentary feature “Adriana’s Pact,” which world premiered Feb. 14 at the Berlinale’s Panorama Dokumente Section.

In “Adriana,” a woman living in Australia is arrested and accused of having collaborated with Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. She will confront the reality of her country’s history and that of her family. Based on a true case, Adriana worked as a personal assistant to Manuel Contreras, the head of Pinochet’s secret police, who died two years ago. the film is directed by the protagonist’s niece.

“Adriana” is produced by Gabriela Sandoval, Carlos Núñez and Benjamin Band at Chile’s Storyboard Media as well, as Orozco’s Salmón Producciones, in association with Carnada Films, Ursus Films, La Post -all from Chile- and Colombia’s 235.

During its development stage “Adriana” received support from the Tribeca Film Institute. Project also took a first award at in Chile  and Best Pitch at Mexico’s DocsDF.

“Adriana” has been selected for March’s 32nd Guadalajara Film Festival.

Film marks the first documentary on Meikincine’ slate, which also takes in Salvador del Solar’s “Magallanes,” Daniel Rodríguez Risco’s “Seven Seeds.”

“We had no doubts after watching ‘Adriana’ as we felt deeply moved by this special and sensitive film and also very touched by Lissette´s courage to share, research and face her personal story,” Meikincine’s director Lucia Meik told Variety.

Orozco explained that her aunt Adriana was an idol of her’s when she was a child. “I had privileged access to a story which confronts my aunt and the dark secrets of my country,” Orozco said.


There was a time in the 1970s and early ’80s when Joseph Beuys’ name was on the lips of every self-respecting art lover. His liberating expansion of what art could be infuriated the conservative establishment and energized generations of fellow artists and gallery goers. Together with Andy Warhol (temperamentally Beuys’ polar opposite), no one since Marcel Duchamp had so shaken up how we categorize art, and his legacy is crucial for an understanding of today’s scene, from Ai Wei Wei to Marina Abramovic. Yet such are the vagaries of fame, and such the specificities of Beuys’ work, that younger generations now have difficulty placing his legacy. If Andres Veiel’s “Beuys” is meant to change this, the effort unfortunately fails. Messily organized and unable to convey the revolutionary importance of Beuys’ vision, the documentary will have little impact and will likely be relegated to museum screenings.

In remarkably prescient ways, Beuys knew how to use his distinctive image to make inaccessible performance art seem comprehensible and practically friendly (Abramovic should take lessons on that score). With his deeply sunken eyes and semi-skeletal face, likely the result of malnutrition during the War, he bore a passing resemblance to Max Schreck, yet the trademark hat, dowdy vest and, most of all, broad, ready smile belied his potentially forbidding aspect. Beuys embodied Picasso’s statement that art is “an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy,” with the enemy being the establishment in all its forms, especially those who use capitalism to numb democracy.

Veiel (“Black Box BRD”) attempts to wrestle with a very broad overview of Beuys’ character and methodology in the opening section, mentioning a few of his most iconic works, including “7,000 Oaks” and his felt-shrouded piano installation. From there, he jumps back for a cursory mention of the artist’s early life in Cleves, followed by a longer discussion of a 1944 plane crash when he was a Luftwaffe rear-gunner. Beuys famously used this trauma as a sort of origin myth, claiming he was wrapped in animal fat to keep warm before hospitalization; Veiel makes no attempt to counter the fat story, which has largely been debunked, although Beuys frequently used it to explain why he used animal fat in some of his installations (his father’s margarine factory surely is a clue).

Nothing in the documentary is contextualized: A montage of the artist’s early graphic work is presented without any discussion, which means there’s no sense of his development nor of the ways he used various media.  Curiously, it then jumps to 1965 and his groundbreaking installation “How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare” (reimagined by Abramovic in 2005).

From there, Veiel moves through other works, stopping a while to look at the installation that earned him fame in New York, “I Like America and America Likes Me.” Beuys’ rocky relationship with the Düsseldorf Art Academy is referenced, and there’s much footage of him being questioned on stage about “what is art?” Characteristically, his answers were always generous and full of humor, but that didn’t endear him to those who continued to scratch their heads at his insistence on the term’s limitless nature.

In the press notes, Veiel says he filmed about 20 interviews and originally cut the film in an entirely different way; now there are only five talking heads (Beuys’ wife and two sons are thanked in the credits but do not appear apart from photographs). The re-editing decision could be the problem, as it feels the director and his team simply don’t know how to organize such a vast amount of material.

Frustratingly, there’s no historical context. Beuys’ heyday came during a period of volatile political-artistic ferment, from the Red Brigade to Fassbinder’s feverish output, and to ignore this seems downright perverse considering the political nature of the artist’s work. Beuys expert Caroline Tisdall boldly calls “7,000 Oaks” one of the most important art projects of the 20th century, but such an extraordinary statement cries out for further discussion, which is delivered.

About the only visible structure in the documentary is the clever use of contact sheets, which allows Veiel to zero in on a particular photo or group of photos and then enter that moment. One wise decision made was to only show Beuys’ installations in footage from the time, rather than as they appear now in museums. Seeing them as they were created, or with the artist in the room, makes them come alive, whereas their importance pales in the sanitary confines of a gallery space. Beuys’ vision was dynamic and challenging; he still needs a documentary to capture not just the man, but his impact.

Berlin Film Review: 'Beuys'

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 14, 2017. Running time: 107 MIN.


(Documentary – Germany) A Piffl Medien release of a Beta Cinema presentation of a Zero One film, Terz Film, SWR, WDR production, in association with Arte. (International sales: Beta Cinema, Oberhaching, Germany.) Producer: Thomas Kufus.


Director, writer: Andres Veiel. Camera (color, b&w): Jörg Jeshel. Editors: Stephan Krumbiegel, Olaf Voigtländer


Caroline Tisdall, Rhea Thönges-Stringaris, Franz Joseph van der Grinten, Johannes Stüttgen, Klaus Staeck. (German, English dialogue)

BERLIN — Alejandro Fernández Mouján’s “Damiana Kryygi” and Laura Citarella and Verónica Llinás’ “Dog Lady” are some of the nine independent Argentinean films sold to streaming site Mubi by Juan Facchini and Rita Falcón’s Kino Bureau, a Buenos Aires-based sales company.

“Kryygi” is a documentary on an Aché  girl, from eastern Paraguay, which won best documentary at the 2016 Biarritz Latin America Film Festival.

Competing at the 2015 Rotterdam fest, Laura Citarella and Verónica Llinás’ observational arthouse portrait “Dog Lady” turns on a mysterious woman living with ten dogs in a Buenos Aires suburb.

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“There is a growing interest in Latin American cinema among international audiences, as well as in films produced outside of the U.S.,” Falcón stated.

Other films licensed are  “About 12,” the directorial debut of actor Martin Shanly; a pubescent dramedy about a posh school misfit, “Kryygy” is co-produced by Gema Films and Oceano Films; and “About” FROM 2MCine and Nabis Filmgroup.

The rest of features are all produced by Argentinean collective El Pampero Cine.

“This deal will allow our programmers to curate some of the best contemporary Latin American films at a global scale,” Mubi’s director of acquisitions Quentin Carbonell told Variety.

Editor-director Alejo Moguillansky directs three titles: “The Golden Bug,” co-directed by Fia-Stina Sandlund, following an Argentine-Swedish co-production in Buenos Aires shooting a biopic of the 19th-century realist author and proto-feminist Victoria Benedictsson; “Castro” which won best Argentine film at 2009’s Bafici; and “The Parrot and The Swan,” a dance, fiction and documentary mix.

Other features are Laura Citarella mystery comedy’ “Ostende,” Mariano Llinás mystery drama “Extraordinary Stories” and –also directed by Llinás– the documentary “Balnearios.”

“Unlike classic channels, which look for cast-driven films or recognized brands, these new platforms demand a wide range of genres and styles, relying especially on good stories.” said said Facchini.

With Mubi, which focuses on arthouse, the audience is looking for new contents, different to what is available on traditional channels,”

Founded 11 years ago in Silicon Valley by Efe Cakarel, the VOD platform, which is rather like an onlinene cinematheque,  is present in more than 200 countries.


Great horror cinema is so often about playing the long game, waiting out the slow burn, that it can be tricky to achieve in short form: A 20-minute runtime affords even the deftest filmmaker precious little room to nurture intrigue, ramp up tension and deliver a bone-deep payoff. Four talented female filmmakers give it their best shot in the polished portmanteau pic “XX,” with predictably mixed results — though it says much about the difficulty of the proposal in the first place that the most satisfying entry in the quartet isn’t really a horror film at all. That’d be the comically antic contribution by cooler-than-thou musician-turned-filmmaker Annie Clark (better known in the media as St. Vincent), whose auspicious directorial presence alone adds a coat of cult potential to the project. Meanwhile, more experienced hands Karyn Kusama, Roxanne Benjamin and Jovanka Vuckovic turn in more traditional chillers in a range of registers, though none achieves more than a passing shiver.

A disparate palette of styles is to be expected, even required, in a venture of this nature. From Clark’s high-kitsch farce to Kusama’s solemn spin on Ira Levin, there’s no aesthetic throughline to be found here. (Unless, that is, you count the structural glue provided by Mexican stop-motion animator Sofia Carrillo, whose ornately gothic haunted-toybox interstitials link the segments and prettily go with nothing at all.)

Conceptually, however, “XX” doesn’t hang together as well as it might. Though it’s a rare, welcome showcase for female talent in a largely male-steered genre — with all four films written and directed by women and boasting active female protagonists — anyone expecting a unified feminist subtext from the who will come away disappointed. While three of the films deal compellingly with the psychological strain of motherhood, Benjamin’s straightforward monster romp stands in the way of that becoming a binding theme. (At an earlier stage, directors Mary Harron and Jennifer Lynch were set to complete shorts for “XX”; one wonders what further dimension they’d have brought to the collective.)

Vuckovic kicks things off with “The Box,” the only adaptation among the four; drawn from a short story by Jack Ketchum, it’s also the most teasingly ambiguous of these mini-narratives. On a pre-Christmas family shopping expedition to New York City, young Danny (Peter LaCunha) is intrigued by the large red gift box carried by a sinister stranger, though after being offered a look inside, the boy goes strangely, silently off-color. From that evening on, he refuses to eat; his mother (Natalie Brown) watches helplessly as this inexplicable affliction gradually spreads to her husband (Jonathan Watton) and daughter (Peyton Kennedy). Vuckovic builds this uncanny scenario with a genuinely queasy command of atmosphere and a bloodied streak of grotesque humor, as this perfect suburban family is practically living dead by Christmas — but it’s too evasive to leave the viewer lastingly unnerved.

Next, Clark ups the comic ante in “The Birthday Party,” a delirious quick-sketch farce grounded by the anxious energy of Melanie Lynskey — the most prominent name in “XX’s” combined ensemble, making the best of its most flamboyant role. Overplaying just enough to match the film’s pop-art hyper-reality, Lynskey plays a flailing, manic mother attempting to throw a perfect birthday bash for her seven-year-old daughter. It’s a plan that moves even further past her capabilities when she finds her husband dead and, in a defiant act of illogic that might be the film’s most horror-evoking trope, decides to keep up appearances anyway. Conceived, played, designed and scored (by, naturally, St. Vincent herself) in a gaudy, inventively high key, it plays less like a horror film than an extract from one of Liz Taylor’s more eccentric late-’60s vehicles, leaving one interested to see what Clark could deliver at feature length.

Clark’s co-writer Benjamin (a horror-anthology pro, having contributed to “Southbound” and co-produced the “V/H/S” films) next takes the reins in “Don’t Fall”: perhaps the most disposable of the four, but also the most faithful to its chosen strain of the genre. We’re in 1980s creature-slasher territory here, as a college-student camping trip goes violently awry when the kids stray into some stretch or other of sacred desert. There’s less going on here at the level of character or internal terror than in the other three, making it less interesting as an individual entity. But it’s a skilfully coordinated retro runaround, and a showreel that demonstrates Benjamin’s viability as a director for any commercial horror franchise.

As the most established director here, Karyn Kusama comes to “XX” with less to prove, particularly after a successful foray into creep-out fare with “The Invitation.” Still, she reveals a fresh, freakier side of herself in “Her Only Living Son,” which stars Christina Kirk as a(nother) nerve-raddled mother foiled in her well-meaning attempts to mark her child’s birthday. This time it’s the child himself, an abusive, shape-shifting brute who resembles Rosemary’s Hormonal Adolescent, who’s the chief obstacle to her plans, while the woman’s entire world turns against her over the course of the day; sporadically spin-prickling and well-played by Kirk, it’s the film here that feels most like a potential feature hemmed in by its brevity.

Technical attributes across the four visually distinct films are solid, with particular standouts in the viscerally grisly makeup effects in Vuckovic’s entry and the garishly heightened design contributions to Clark’s. Even at their least individually striking, each of these mismatched tasters stirs an appetite for a fuller, meatier meal from its maker — cooked as bloodily rare as possible, please.

Film Review: 'XX'

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Midnight), Jan. 22, 2017. Running time: 81 MIN.


A Magnet Releasing presentation of an XYZ Films production. Produced by Todd Brown, Nick Spicer. Executive producers, Nate Bolotin, Aram Tertzakian. Co-producer, Dwjuan Fox.


"The Box"Produced by Karen Shaw, Daniel Bekerman.Directed, written by Jovanka Vuckovic, adapted from a story by Jack Ketchum. Camera (color), Ian Anderson."The Birthday Party"Produced by Roxanne Benjamin. Executive producers, David A. Smith, Christopher Alender.Directed by Annie Clark. Screenplay, Clark, Roxanne Benjamin. Camera (color), Tarin Anderson. Editor, Josh Ethier."Don't Fall"Produced by Roxanne Benjamin, Chris Harding. Executive producers, David A. Smith, Christopher Alender.Directed, written by Roxanne Benjamin. Camera (color), Tarin Anderson. Editor, Courtney Marcilliat."Her Only Living Son"Produced by Travis Stevens.Directed, written by Karyn Kusama. Camera (color), Patrick Cady. Editors, Josh Ethier, L. Gustavo Cooper.


Natalie Brown, Jonathan Watton, Peter DaCunha, Peyton Kennedy, Melanie Lynskey, Sheila Vand, Sanai Victoria Cunningham, Lindsay Burdge, Seth Duhame, Casey Adams, Breeda Wool, Angela Trimbur, Morgan Krantz, Christina Kirk, Kyle Allen, Mike Doyle, Brenda Wehle, Morgan Peter Brown, Lisa Renee Pitts..