FRIDAY, Oct. 23

Magnus Von Horn Cited By Chicago Festival 

Magnus Von Horn’s Polish drama “Sweat” has won the international feature film competition at the 56th Chicago International Film Festival, North America’s longest-running competitive film festival.

“Sweat” stars Magdalena Kolesnik as a fitness motivator and explores three days in her life. Julian Swiezewski, Aleksandra Konieczna and Zbigniew Zamachowski also star.

The jury called the film “exciting and coherent, with breathtaking framing and compositional choices that work beautifully together with its art direction.” The Silver Hugo Jury Prize was presented to “Careless Crime,” and Iranian film directed by Shahram Mokri, while the Silver Hugo for Best Director was awarded to Andrei Konchalovsky for his Russian film “Dear Comrades!”

Cohen Media Group Partners With Kino Lorber

Cohen Media Group has entered into an agreement with Kino Lorber Inc. in which Kino will distribute all Cohen Media Group and Cohen Film Collection Blu-ray and DVD titles.

The deal was announced jointly by CMG Chairman and CEO Charles S. Cohen and Kino Lorber President and CEO, Richard Lorber. The arrangement will begin with Cohen’s December releases, starting with Cohen Film Collection’s “Buster Keaton Collection Vol 4: Go West and College,” with a street date of December 8.

Over 200 Cohen Media Group and Cohen Film Collection titles will become available through Kino Lorber and on Kino Lorber’s transactional VOD platform, Kino Now.

‘The Last Sermon’ Release Date Scheduled

Gravitas Ventures has set a Dec. 15 release date for the documentary “The Last Sermon,” which follows Jack Baxter and Joshua Faudem as survivors of a suicide bombing of the live music bar where they were filming.

The film includes interviews at refugee camps and mosques to understand the essence of Islam and uncover the truth about the international terrorists who almost killed them.

“The Last Sermon” had its world premiere at the 2020 International Human Rights Film Festival of Tunis, Tunisia where director Baxter accepted the Prix de l’Espoir, and had its American premiere at the 10th Queens World Film Festival where it won Best Documentary Feature and the Truth Seeker Award.


Hawaii-Set Project Based on Jack London Story

“Mulan” star Jason Scott Lee has boarded the action/adventure “The Wind and the Reckoning,” based on Jack London’s short story and adapted by John Fusco.

The Wind and The Reckoning” is set in the Hawaiian Islands in the late 1800s and is about a man and his family who contract leprosy, escape forced quarantine and are pursued by a lawman who turns from hunter to protector. Lee will play the lead role of Ko’olau.

David Cunningham  will direct. Fusco and Cunningham will produce alongside Dale Johnson. Lee can currently be seen starring in Disney’s live-action remake of “Mulan” as the villainous Bori Khan. He also starred in “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story” in the lead role. Lee is repped by Buchwald and Authentic.

Weta Digital Hires Joe Marks

Weta Digital has hired Joe Marks as chief technology officer to oversee the company’s technology initiatives that span visual effects as well as the newly announced Weta Animated division.

“I’m thrilled to have attracted technology leadership of Joe Marks’s caliber to Weta Digital. A pivotal part of the future of VFX and animation rests in artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud computing. Joe’s deep experience in these areas makes for a perfect fit at Weta as we continue to push the boundaries of our industry,” said Prem Akkaraju, CEO of Weta Digital.

Marks joins Weta Digital from Carnegie Mellon University, where he served as executive director of the Center for Machine Learning & Health. Marks is best-known for his prior roles at Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs (MERL) and Disney Research.

Haley Lu Richardson Joins ‘Statistical Probablility’

Haley Lu Richardson will executive produce and star in a feature adaptation of “The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight” with Matt Kaplan and his ACE Entertainment banner producing.

Jennifer E. Smith’s “The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight” follows a young couple who begin to fall for each other on their flight from New York to London. Katie Lovejoy wrote the screenplay.

Richardson stars  in HBO Max’s “UnPregnant,” stars in the upcoming “After Yang,” opposite Colin Farrell. Her other feature credits include “The Edge of Seventeen,” “Support the Girls,” “Five Feet Apart” and “The Chaperone.”


Saban Schedules ‘Wander’ for Theaters, On Demand

Saban Films has scheduled a Dec. 4 opening in theaters, on demand and on digital for the conspiracy thriller “Wander,” with Aaron Eckhart starring.

“Wander” is directed by April Mullen from a script by Tim Doiron. It also stars Katheryn Winnick, Heather Graham and Tommy Lee Jones.

Echhart’s character is hired to probe a suspicious death in the small town of Wander, then becomes convinced the case is linked to the same conspiracy cover up that caused the death of his daughter. The film was shot last year in New Mexico.

Jonathan Mostow Directing Refugee Thriller 

Jonathan Mostow  has signed on to write and direct the feature film based on the true story of American businessman Chris Catrambone, founder of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station.

“Chris Catrambone is living proof of how one person’s passion can save lives,” said Mostow. “When he saw the world standing idle as scores of refugees drowned in the Mediterranean, he took it upon himself to do something. I’m honored to be able to tell his story.”

Mostow’s credits include “U-571,” “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” “Breakdown,” “The Last Ship,” “From the Earth to the Moon” and “Flight Of Black Angel. Scott Gardenhour is producing. The project is slated for a late 2021 start to production.

Ellen Barkin Joins ‘Man From Toronto’

Tony and Emmy winner Ellen Barkin has joined Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson in Sony’s action comedy, “Man from Toronto.”

Patrick Hughes will direct the film written by Robbie Fox and Chris Bremner, from a story by Fox and Jason Blumenthal. Sony Pictures will release the film on Sept. 17, 2021.

The story follows the chaos that ensues after the world’s deadliest assassin and a stranger, played by Hart, run into each other at an Airbnb. Todd Black, Blumenthal and Steve Tisch are producing. The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

TUESDAY, Oct. 20

Minari’ Wins Top Trophies at Virginia Fest

Lee Isaac Chung’s family drama “Minari’ has won the audience award for narrative film and the ensemble cast award at the Middleburg Film Festival, presented as a four-day hybrid event.

The film follows a Korean-American family that moves to a tiny Arkansas farm in search of their own American Dream. Starring Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Scott Haze and Will Patton, the film is inspired by Chung’s own childhood.

The audience award for best documentary film at the Virginia festival went to Byran Fogel’s “The Dissident,” which explores the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia’s efforts to control dissent.

Ken Burns Award Goes to ‘Hold Your Fire’

The Better Angels Society, the Library of Congress and the Crimson Lion/ Lavine Family Foundation have awarded the second annual Library of Congress Lavine/ Ken Burns Prize for Film to Stefan Forbes’ documentary “Hold Your Fire.”

The film will receive a $200,000 finishing grant to assist with post-production costs. Produced by Amir Soltani and Tia Wou, “Hold Your Fire” is a feature-length documentary that uncovers the untold story behind the longest hostage siege in New York Police Department history in 1973 at a Brooklyn sporting goods store, when four young Black men stealing guns for self-defense were cornered by the NYPD and a  violent gun battle ensued.

Harvey Schlossberg, an NYPD officer with a doctorate in psychology who had been tasked with finding a solution to the tragic hostage crises at Attica and the Munich Olympics, helped stave off a bloodbath and create modern hostage negotiation. Production on “Hold Your Fire” began in 2014.

‘Poisoned’ Heading for Movie Adaptation

“Poisoned,” Jennifer Donnelly’s young adult fantasy novel is in development as a feature film as a followup to her “Stepsister,” which was launched as a film project last year.

Both projects are set with the same producers. Endeavor Content acquired the rights to the novels, partnering with the female creative producing team of Lynette Howell Taylor’s 51 Entertainment and Bruna Papandrea’s Made Up Stories.

“Poisoned” is a reimagining of Snow White with the central character Sophie being aided by seven mysterious strangers to survive in the forest while facing a terrifying enemy. “Stepsister” is feminist retelling of Cinderella. Emma Frost has written the screenplay for that film adaption.

MONDAY, Oct. 19

Longoria Starring in Story of Sci-Fi Surveillance

Eva Longoria has joined Ice Cube in an untitled science fiction movie for Universal Pictures with Patrick Aiello and Timur Bekmambetov producing.

Rich Lee will direct from a Kenneth Golde script that contains themes of privacy and surveillance. Universal plans to go into production this month on the project, which is part of their five-picture deal with Bekmambetov for projects similar to his 2014 film “Unfriended,” which utilized his Screenlife format within the world of smartphones and computer screens.

Longoria was most recently seen in “Dora and the Lost City OfGold” and “Sylvie’s Love.” She is attached to “Flamin’ Hot” for Searchlight, “Spa Day” for Sony and “24/7” for Universal, which she will also direct. The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

Paradigm Signs Film2Future Organization

Paradigm Talent Agency has signed a two-year agreement to be the exclusive agency partner for Film2Future, a non-profit organization building a direct pipeline into the entertainment industry for underserved, low-income youth aged 14-18.

Film2Future has built a four-year curriculum in filmmaking and content creation, offering successful placements in college and paid internships for those seeking careers in the entertainment industry. Under the partnership, the agency will offer workshops, mentorship programs and paid internships to Film2Future students.

Since 2016, over 125 students have completed Film2Future’s intensive program, and more than 50 students over the age of 18 have accepted paid internships or production positions at studios and production companies, including Shondaland, Netflix, NBC, CBS and more, working on shows like “Glow,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”

Gravitas Buys ‘King of Knives’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Gravitas Ventures has acquired worldwide rights to the holiday comedy “King of Knives” for digital release on Dec. 1, Variety has learned exclusively.

The story centers on baby boomer parents and and their millennial daughters, written by Lindsay Joy with story by Gene Pope and directed by Jon Delgado. The film stars Pope, Mel Harris, Roxi Pope and Emily Bennett.

The film won best narrative feature film at the Williamsburg International Film & Music Competition and top narrative feature at the International Independent Film Awards. Brendan M. Gallagher of Gravitas negotiated the deal with Evan Krauss of Eisner LLP on behalf of Pope III Enterprises.