John Cena and Kathy Bates Join Political Thriller ‘The Independent’ – Film News in Brief

John Cena Kathy Bates

John Cena and Kathy Bates Star in ‘The Independent’

The Exchange announced that John Cena and Kathy Bates have been added to the cast of “The Independent,” a political thriller feature starring Brian Cox and Jodie Turner-Smith.

“The Independent” is set in the final weeks of the most polarizing presidential election in history. The film follows a young journalist (Turner-Smith), who partners with her idol (Cox) to take on a conspiracy that places the fate of the election, and the country, in their hands. Bates will play the first female presidential candidate, while Cena will play the independent presidential candidate.

“We’re incredibly excited to partner with Kathy Bates and John Cena on ‘The Independent,’” said Brian O’Shea of The Exchange. “Kathy’s exceptional acting skills, paired with Cena’s global appeal and ability to transform on-screen, makes them incredible additions to this film. We couldn’t be happier that they’ve signed on.”

The film comes from director Amy Rice, working from a Black List script written by Evan Parter. Ryan Cunningham of Anonymous Content and Emmy award-winning producers Sam Bisbee of Park Pictures and Thea Dunlap are set the produce “The Independent,” alongside Caddy Vanasirikul of The Exchange and Parter. Lance Acord and Jackie Kelman Bisbee of Park Pictures and O’Shea and Nat McCormick of The Exchange are serving as executive producers.

DGA Makes Exception to Theatrical First-Run Rule for 2022 Awards

Films that receive a day and date digital release will be eligible for the Directors Guild’s Theatrical Film Award at the 2022 ceremony, the guild announced Friday. The exception will be made only for this year, as film releases continue to be affected the pandemic, the DGA specified.

The exception applies to films that have a qualifying theatrical run and are marketed as a theatrical film, even if they have a simultaneous digital release. The DGA said it will return to requiring an exclusive theatrical qualifying run for the 75th awards in 2023.

Siân Heder and Amir ‘Questlove’ Thompson Receive Sundance Film Festival Vanguard Award

Sundance Institute announced that it will present the 2021 Vanguard Award to filmmakers Siân Heder for her work on the feature film “Coda” and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson for his directorial debut “Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised).” The online celebration will take place on Oct. 20 and feature conversations with both Heder and Thompson.

The Vanguard Award, presented by Acura, annually honors artists whose work highlights the art of storytelling and creative independence. This year, the award has expanded to honor the work of both a fiction and nonfiction storyteller.

Heder’s “Coda” premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Dramatic section — winning the Audience award, Directing award and the Grand Jury prize. Thompson’s “Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Documentary section — where it also won the Audience award and Grand Jury Prize for Documentary.

“We are especially honored to recognize the visionary and award-winning directors Siân Heder and Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson with the Vanguard Award. We were thrilled to bring enthusiastic audiences together at our Festival to experience the humanity, originality, and independent spirit of their culture-changing films. Siân and Ahmir join Sundance-supported directors Radha Blank, Ryan Coogler, Dee Rees, Marielle Heller, and others in this annual celebration of singular independent storytellers,” said Michelle Satter, Sundance Founding Senior Director, Artist Programs.

“I’m so grateful to Sundance for the incredible support that they have given to me on my journey as a filmmaker. I am thrilled and honored to join the company of the artists who have previously received this award, as well as my co-honoree, Ahmir, and his brilliant film,” said Siân Heder.

“I’m extremely honored to receive this award. Storytelling has always been the fiber of my creativity, be it DJing, writing articles/books, podcasting, or teaching. Of course, I share this honor with the entire team behind “Summer Of Soul.” It was an honor to bring this historic event to light for audiences to experience,” said Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson.

“Summer of Soul”  is streaming on Hulu in conjunction with Disney General Entertainment’s Onyx Collective; Searchlight Pictures released it theatrically.

‘Albatross’ Film Finds Its Home At TIFF

Slater Brothers Entertainment announced that they have signed on as the worldwide representatives of award-winning hyphenate, Myle Yaksich’s “Albatross,” which finds its home at TIFF. The film has recently wrapped production and will be shown to buyers next month. The psychological thriller stars David Keeley, Sarah Orenstein, Romaine Waite, Katherine Gauthier, Jill Frappier, David Huband and Thom Nyhuus. “Albatross” is executive produced by Jennie Lew Tugend and Grant and Todd Slater.

Yaksich said, “Riddled with opposing philosophical perspectives, ‘Albatross’ forces us to examine timeless issues; race, gender, sexuality and be-longing.”

Slater commented “We are thrilled to handle Myle’s provocative and stunning film. The picture delves into the human psyche and is a tour de force of acting. We think the subject matter will emotionally really connect and move audiences.”

Middleburg Film Festival Announces First Round of Film Slate

The Middleburg Film Festival will open with Reinaldo Marcus Green’s “King Richard” on Oct. 14 and close Oct. 17 with Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog.” The festival will be in-person in Northern Virginia’s wine and horse country. Other films on the slate are Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast,” which will screen as the centerpiece film; Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s “Flee,” as the documentary spotlight; Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Hand of God,” as the international spotlight; and Sean Baker’s “Red Rocket” as the Friday spotlight.

Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival Releases 2021 Lineup

The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival (HSDFF) has released the lineup of films and honorees for its 30th edition, which will take place Oct. 8-16.

The opening night presentation will be a screening of Samuel D. Pollard and Rex Miller’s “Citizen Ashe,” a biographical piece about the tennis player Arthur Ashe. The centerpiece films will be “The Rescue” directed by E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, which follows Tham Luang cave rescue, and “Neutral Ground,” C.J. Hunt’s film about the 2015 removal of four Confederate monuments from New Orleans. The festival will close with “Julia,” Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s film about Julia Child.

Pollard will be honored with the HDSFF career achievement award. The impact award will go to Garrett Bradley, director of the 2020 documentary “Time.” This year’s honorary festival chair will be Dawn Hudson, CEO of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Other highlights from the festival include Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s “Flee” and Brad Lichtenstein’s “When Claude Got Shot.” For more information, visit www.hsdfi.org.

Cinema Audio Society to Honor Paul Massey with CAS Career Achievement Award

The Cinema Audio Society announced that the organization will honor sound mixer Paul Massey with the CAS career achievement award at the 58th CAS Awards on March 19, 2022.

CAS president Karol Urban said, “Paul has been crafting the final sound for films that have become part of the fabric of our popular culture and collective experiences for decades.”

Massey said, “I am overjoyed, honored and humbled to receive this CAS career achievement award. It means so much to me accepting this recognition from my peers who I respect so much.”

Massey served as the sound mixer for “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2019), which won him an Academy Award and a BAFTA, as well as “Ford v Ferrari” (2019) and “Almost Famous” (2000), which won him a BAFTA. He studied music growing up in London, then moved to Canada where he recorded and mixed albums, commercials and scores with various musicians such as The Police. Massey then began to move into film and television and has since worked at studios such as Sony and 20th Century Fox.

Tehran International Short Film Festival Named An Academy Award Qualifying Fest

Moving forward films awarded at the Tehran Short Film Festival festival will be eligible to receive Oscars.

The Tehran Intl. Short Film Festival is organized by the Iranian Youth Cinema Society (IYCS). Few other festivals in the region have received this honor —  Egypt, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and India are the only nearby countries with Academy Award-qualifying festivals, according to IYCS and festival director Sadeq Musavi, who also said there are only 127 short film festivals worldwide that provide Oscar eligibility.

“At present, there are over 10,000 festivals being organized across the world. Most of them are unreliable. Meanwhile, the Tehran International Short Festival has a good status in the world. Although the festival is not decidedly familiar, it can be considered as the most important short film festival in West Asia,” Musavi said. “Free registration will be set aside after the restrictions on international payments are lifted, and, like other festivals, we will collect a registration fee from participants and the festival will be able to cover all its expenses.” Musavi also said that the festival is the only one in the region to offer a free admission program.

The Tehran short film festival takes place every year in October and is a member of Intl. Short Film Conference. The 2020 edition of the festival screened 55 films, which were produced across five different continents.