FilmRise has acquired exclusive worldwide rights in all media to “The Champions,” a documentary about the rescue and redemption of five pit bulls from NFL star Michael Vick’s dog-fighting ring, Variety has learned exclusively.
“The Champions” made its world premiere at the Hamptons International Film Festival. It won the 2015 Zelda Penzel “giving voice to the voiceless” award and the people’s choice award at the 2015 Denver Film Festival.
“‘The Champions’ is a story about hope and resilience, but most importantly, the relationship we as humans have with animals,” said FilmRise CEO Danny Fisher.
The film marks producer-director Darcy Dennett’s documentary debut.
“We are humbled and overwhelmed by the positive response we have received to the film so far, and hope that securing wider distribution will allow many more people to share in the uplifting story of these extraordinary dogs and the inspirational work of Best Friends Animal Society and BAD RAP in 2016,” Dennett said.
BAD RAP is a support organization for pit bulls and owners.
Authorities seized more than 70 dogs, mostly pit bulls, in 2007 after raiding Vick’s property in Virginia. Vick and three others were convicted on federal offense conspiracy charges and imprisoned. Vick was suspended by the NFL indefinitely, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2008 and resumed his career in 2009.
FilmRise’s most recent acquisitions are “Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans”; the highest grossing film in China’s history, “Monster Hunt”; and “Janis: Little Girl Blue.”
The deal for “The Champions” was negotiated by FilmRise’s Danny Fisher and Max Einhorn with Preferred Content’s Zac Bright and Kevin Iwashina, representing the filmmakers, along with legal counsel Jake Levy of Franklin, Weinrib, Rudell + Vassallo.