In today’s film news roundup, Bruce Dern’s “The Lears” and “Angels Are Made of Light” are acquired, Cold War drama “Stanley Cage” is launched and a documentary about Madonna’s early music career gets a release.


Vertical Entertainment has acquired North American rights from NeoClassics Films to “The Lears,” starring Bruce Dern in a modern-day interpretation of William Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” Variety has learned exclusively.

The film also stars Anthony Michael Hall, Sean Astin, Aly Michalka, Nic Bishop and Victoria Smurfit. Vertical is planning a day and date platform release on Feb. 15 in 10 markets.

Written and directed by Carl Bessai, “The Lears” premiered in 2017 at the Nashville Film Festival. Smurfit recently won the Irish Film & TV Academy Award for best supporting actress for her role in the film.

Dern portrays a world-renowned architect nearing retirement who summons his four dysfunctional children to a weekend family retreat in one of his signature architectural creations, a Malibu beach estate. When they arrive, he reveals that he has decided to marry his younger personal assistant, portrayed by Smurfit.

The deal was negotiated by Josh Spector at Vertical and Frederic Demey of Cineville International on behalf of the filmmakers. The movie was shot in Malibu and other parts of the Los Angeles area. It was produced by NeoClassics Films’ CEO Irwin Olian, in association with Bessai’s Raven West Films Ltd.


Grasshopper Film has bought U.S. distribution rights to James Longley’s “Angels Are Made of Light,” a documentary about the lives of young students at a neighborhood school in Afghanistan.

Longley has been nominated for Oscars for the docs “Iraq in Fragments” and “Sari’s Mother.” The film will open in theaters this summer, followed by releases on the home video, digital and non-theatrical markets.

“Angels are Made of Light” traces the inner lives of young students and their teachers at a school in the old city of Kabul. It premiered at the 2018 Telluride Film Festival and has since been an official selection of the Toronto Film Festival, International Documentary Festival Amsterdam and the New York Film Festival.

Longley producated and served as director of photography and editor. Co-producers are Signe Byrge Sorensen, Joslyn Barnes and Torstein Grude. Executive producers are Danny Glover, Jeff and Lara Sanderson, Anatoly Savin and Basil Shadid.


Skanda Media Group has set Cold War action-drama “Stanley Cage” as its debut project.

Nagendra Karri, whose interest in Cold War history and its influence in the molding of the current world drove development over the last three years, wrote the script and will direct. Greg P. Russell, who has been nominated for 16 Academy Awards for sound mixing on blockbusters such as “The Bodyguard,” “Skyfall” and “Transformers,” is executive producing. Keith Barrrows, a film and music production executive with over 30 years experience in Hollywood, is also producing.

“This film has been inspired from the declassified files of the covert agents, deployed to thwart the domestic and foreign influence of organized crime syndicates that took control of the American way of life after the collapse of the Soviet Union empire,” Karri said.

Skanda Media executives include Sri Ranga Jeyaratnam, Chetna Jhamb, Nisha Yogeeshwar, Amit Singh and Carmen Fischer.


The Orchard has set a March 12 digital release for the docu-drama “Madonna and the Breakfast Club,” written and directed by Guy Guido.

The movie explores Madonna’s days as a drummer, guitarist, keyboard player and songwriter in the Breakfast Club, a band she formed with Dan Gilroy during the 1970s. It’s based on first person interviews with Gilroy and his brother Ed, as well as band mate Gary Burke. The film includes actress Jamie Auld re-enacting pivotal scenes from Madonna’s early life in Queens.