‘David Byrne’s American Utopia’ Directed by Spike Lee To Debut in Theaters in September — Film News In Brief

International Documentary Association IDA logo
Courtesy of International Documentary Association

Iconic Events Releasing, Participant, River Road Entertainment, Warner Music Entertainment and HBO Entertainment announced that “David Byrne’s American Utopia,” directed by Spike Lee, will have its theatrical premiere as a one-night-only event on Sept. 15. 

“David Byrne’s American Utopia” is a filmed recording of Byrne’s Broadway show of the same name. The live show received a Special Tony Award, while the film debuted on HBO Max in 2020 and received six Emmy nominations. The theatrical event, which will take place in venues nationwide, will include a special introduction by Byrne as well as a never-before-seen conversation between Byrne and Lee. 

The show and film feature songs from throughout Byrne’s solo career and his time as the frontman of Talking Heads, stringing them together with interludes about dance, community and democracy. Byrne performs backed by his band, which includes Jacquelene Acevedo, Gustavo Di Dalva, Daniel Freedman, Chris Giarmo, Tim Keiper, Tendayi Kuumba, Karl Mansfield, Mauro Refosco, Stéphane San Juan, Angie Swan and Bobby Wooten III. 

Tickets for “David Byrne’s American Utopia” in theaters are on sale now at local box offices and at www.americanutopiaintheaters.com. Tickets for the Broadway show, which returns on Sept. 17, are on sale now at www.americanutopiabroadway.com.

International Documentary Association Announces 37th Annual Documentary Awards Timeline

The International Documentary Association (IDA) announced the timeline of documentary awards for the 37th annual ceremony. The event will take place in-person in February.

The IDA recognizes the vital work of documentary storytellers and attempts to showcase inclusive documentary culture. Through the association, IDA connects audiences with the top documentarians, provides resources, create community and work to defend the rights and freedoms of documentary artists, activists and journalists in the industry.

“As the documentary form expands and evolves, the IDA Documentary Awards is celebrating the role nonfiction storytelling plays in contemporary society,” said Rick Pérez, executive director of IDA. “We are excited to return to an in-person event that will continue our tradition of honoring excellence and also commemorate the organization’s 40th anniversary.”

Awards kick-off on Oct. 25, with features and shorts shortlist announcement, followed by the all awards nominees announcement on Nov. 15. On Dec. 13., the IDA member voting opens for Best Feature and Best Short categories, with the voting closing on Jan. 21. Award winners will be announced in-person on Feb. 5.

IDA will take place at the Paramount Theatre on the Paramount Studios lot, to celebrate both the year’s nonfiction films and programs and the organization’s 40th year of serving the documentary community. The event will comply with all COVID-19 health orders from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Gravitas Acquires ‘Paper Tiger’

Gravitas Ventures has acquired the North American distribution rights to “Paper Tiger,” written and directed by Paul Kowalski. The drama/thriller film will be released on VOD/digital on Aug. 24.

Starring Lydia Look, Alan Trong and Elaine Kao, “Paper Tiger” follows an immigrant mother who fears her mentally-ill teenaged son is turning into a school shooter. The movie first debuted at Austin Film Festival in 2020 and won the audience award and a jury mention.

Seth Numrich, John Harlan Kim, Carrie Wampler and Lynn Chen round out the cast. “Paper Tiger” is produced by Pin-Chun Liu and Kowalski, alongside Bonnie Buckner and executive producer Michael Y. Chow for XRM Media.

“In a time of growing isolation, polarization and mental health concerns around the world, I hope the film reaches audiences that can connect with and explore the type of tragedy that can result when communication shuts down,” Kowalski said.

RLJE Films Releases Trailer for Sion Sono’s “Prisoners of the Ghostland”

RJLE Films released a trailer for Nicolas Cage vehicle “Prisoners of the Ghostland,” the newest film from prolific Japanese director Sion Sono. 

The film follows Cage as Hero, a notorious bank robber freed from jail by a wealthy warlord known simply as “The Governor” (Bill Moseley), whose adopted granddaughter Bernice (Sofia Boutella) has gone missing. The Governor offers Hero his freedom on the condition that he finds and rescues Bernice.

As the trailer reveals, Hero sets off, strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct in five days if he doesn’t accomplish his mission. “Each arm is equipped with an explosive device. Your trousers are also equipped with explosives,” Moseley drawls as The Governor, met with a “Really?” in Cage’s signature deadpan. Swords, guns, fists, mummy-like figures and more haunt Hero’s journey to save Bernice and redeem himself. 

“Prisoners of the Ghostland” premieres in theaters and on demand on Sept. 17. Watch the trailer below.

Filmhub Launches New Product to Help Channel Buyers License Titles Based on Data and Topics

Film distribution disruptor Filmhub has launched a new product, Collections, which helps channel buyers explore the company’s content library of over 10,000 titles.

Channel buyers can now sort Filmhub’s catalog by various categories such as topic, theme, periods, places and influences. This is all built on top of Filmhub’s industry-defining licensing platform that allows buyers to license a film and receive delivery of the assets in one click.

“As we’ve talked to hundreds of buyers at VOD services across the world, one of their biggest complaints has been that it is impossible to sort through titles that are presented to them in CSV spreadsheets,” said CEO and co-founder Alan d’Escragnolle. “Traditional distributors live off of these spreadsheets, and they simply don’t work. So, similar to how consumers now browse their favorite streaming services by topics such as ‘Visually Stunning,’ ‘Festival Favorites,’ ‘Stoner Films,’ ‘LGBTQ+,’ ‘French New Wave,’ we’re now empowering Channel buyers with these dynamic tools to make their curation lives easier.”

BlackStar Film Festival Announces 2021 Winners

The BlackStar Film Festival, which celebrates BIPOC film and video artists, announced this year’s winning films.

“Writing With Fire,” which profiles India’s only newspaper run by Dalit women, won Best Feature Documentary, while “Eyimofe (This Is My Desire)” took home Best Feature Narrative. Renee Osubu’s short film “Dear Philadelphia” won the Vimeo Staff Pick Award, and Annalise Lockhart’s “Inheritance” won the Lionsgate/Starz Speculative Fiction Award.

Claudia Owusu and Ife Oluwamuyide won the BlackStar Pitch, receiving a grant and mentorship from WarnerMedia OneFifty, while Beeta Baghoolizadeh and Shane Nassiri won the Honorable Mention.

BlackStar Film Festival, which is celebrating its 10th year, featured a lineup of approximately 80 films, including 19 world premieres and representing 27 countries.

DGene Opens Volumetric Capture Stage

DGene, a Silicon Valley and Shanghai-based AI developer, has opened a research and development and production facility in Baton Rouge, La. The centerpiece of the new site is a 900-square-foot volumetric capture stage that utilizes AI technology to create “holograms” of people and objects for use in augmented reality, virtual reality, holographic displays, mixed-reality glasses and framed video.

As volumetric video is projected to become a billion dollar industry in the future, DGene is developing tools to make the production of 3D imagery practical and efficient.

“We are excited about the potential of volumetric capture, and working to make it affordable and routine,” said DGene CTO Jason Yang. “We want to work with content producers to create compelling, new forms of immersive experiences.”

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival Appoints Claudia Puig as Programming Director

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced Claudia Puig as programming director.

In her role, Puig will lead the curation of the film slate for the 2022 edition of the festival. The program will include a broad array of over 200 international and independent films serving diversity and inclusion, with most films being U.S. premieres. Puig will also take charge of Q&As and seminar discussions with attending filmmakers, while reporting to Roger Durling, executive director of the festival.

Durling spoke on Claudia’s appointment to the festival. “Claudia has tremendous film festival programming expertise, and we are thrilled to welcome her to the team. We have the utmost faith in her ability to bring forward a program of unmatched quality to share with our community; and with both Claudia and I being Latino, this marks a first for any major Film Festival’s artistic leads.”

The 37th Santa Barbara International Film Festival, presented by UGG, will take place live on March 2 through March 12, 2022. Official events including screenings, filmmaker Q&As, industry panels, and celebrity tributes will be held throughout the city, including the historic Arlington Theatre. This year’s lineup will be announced Feb. 2022.

Gotham Film and Media Institute Appoints Four New Members to its Board of Directors

New additions to the board are Alina Cho, Franklin Leonard, Hanna Rodriguez-Farrar and Celia Winchester. The newest appointees will help advance the organization’s mission of fostering an independent storytelling community. Existing board members include Nancy Abraham, Anthony Bregman, Jeb Brody, Gerry Byrne, Dan Crown, Mark D’Arcy, Amy Emmerich, Phillip Engelhorn, Kai Falkenberg, James Janowitz, Soledad O’Brien, John Schmidt and Drew Wilson. Co-chairs Anthony Bregman and Jim Janowitz spoke of the new appointees. “The Gotham Board of Directors welcomes our newest members in recognition of their support and commitment to this organization and to the film and media industry.”