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‘Exporting Raymond’ imports laughs

Doc fosters buzz with Austin premiere

A documentary on an American TV show in Russia opening a film festival in Austin? As Frank Barone might have said, “Holy crap!”

Though its official release doesn’t come until March, the doc “Exporting Raymond” — the story of “Everybody Loves Raymond” co-creator Phil Rosenthal producing a Russian version of the hit CBS sitcom — had its debut at the Austin Film Festival Oct. 21.

On Oct. 27, Samuel Goldwyn Films acquired U.S. distribution rights, targeting a spring release, while Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions has ancillary rights.

Quips Rosenthal: “I’m very excited that Samuel Goldwyn is releasing my movie. Goldwyn was always my favorite part of ‘MGM.’ ‘Metro’ sounded very corporate, but ‘Goldwyn’ sounded warm and Jewish but not too Jewish, like Mayer. They have a history of working with great, wonderful, beautiful people, and I’m lucky they’re making an exception in my case.”

While it’s relatively common for a Stateside sitcom to be adapted overseas, it’s still rare for it to happen in Russia, and rarer still for the show’s creator to have firsthand involvement. But not only did Rosenthal go to Russia to add his input, he chronicled the process in the doc that is his directorial debut. John Woldenberg exec produced, with Jim Czarnecki producing.

The humor comes from many directions, from the hopelessly unguarded appearances of Rosenthal’s real-life parents to the painstaking effort Rosenthal has to make to convince the writers and actors on the Russian “Raymond” that the show they’re adapting was actually funny. Not lost on Rosenthal was how much this echoed the hurdles of getting the show on the air with CBS to begin with.

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