March 29, 2010

Production News: 'South of the Border,' 'Restrepo' Coming This Summer

Cinema Libre Studio acquired the North American rights to South of the Border, the documentary from Oliver Stone, which chronicles his travels to South America in
the winter of 2009, and his conversations along the way with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales (Bolivia), Lula da Silva (Brazil), Cristina Kirchner (Argentina), as well as her husband and ex-President Néstor Kirchner, Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), and Raúl Castro (Cuba). The film premiered at the 2009 Venice Film Festival, then screened at the New York Film Festival.  Cinema Libre will premiere the film June 25 in New York City.

"Not only is it a genuine honor to work with one of the greatest American directors but his insightful documentary shows how these leaders of Latin America are being intentionally villainized by the US mass media," said Philippe Diaz, founder of Cinema Libre Studio, in a statement. "This unique dialogue needed the eye and the courage of a director like Stone to convince us that these leaders are fighting for a more humane society which means defending themselves against American corporate interests."

Said Stone: in the statement, "In January 2009, I traveled to Venezuela to interview President Hugo Chávez and better understand his portrayal in the US media. Once we began our journey, however, we found ourselves telling a larger and even more compelling story about the region, which we call South of the Border. I look forward to partnering with Cinema Libre to bring this film to an American audience, and to the opportunity it affords us to launch a national conversation around the
influence of American policy on our neighbors to the South." 

Latin America is somewhat familiar territory for Stone. His documentary Commandante, based on a series of interviews he conducted with Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 2002, premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. HBO was set to air it that year, but the cabler pulled out in the wake of Castro's crackdown on dissidents following a hijacking incident. Stone made a follow-up doc, Looking for Fidel, which HBO did air in 2004. Here's an interview the BBC website with Stone about those two films.


Restrepo, the Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning doc about a year on the frontlines with a platoon of US soldiers in Afghanistan, is coming to theaters this July through National Geographic Entertainment, according to Anne Thompson's blog in indieWire

National Geographic Channel had already been slated to air the film this fall, but between now and July, there are no indications that Restrepo will play the festival circuit, although according to
Thompson, Sebastian Junger, the film's director and producer with Tim Hetherington, is coming out with a book, War, based on his experiences with the platoon.


According to TV Newser, Discovery Communications acquired the rights to former US VP candidate and current right wing demagogue Sarah Palin's proposed eight-part series on her native Alaska, entitled Sarah Palin's Alaska. The
series, which will be executive-produced by reality TV titan Mark Burnett (Survivor; The Apprentice), will air on TLC.

"Our family enjoys Discovery's networks," said the former Alaska Governor, in a statement. "I look forward to working with Mark to bring the wonder and majesty of Alaska to all

"With a dynamic personality that has captivated millions, I can't think of anyone more compelling than Sarah Palin to tell the story of Alaska," added Burnett in the statement.

Burnett has worked with Discovery before, on the Eco-Challenge specials that ran in the 1990s, but one wonders if National Geographic was ever a candidate to air the series. After all, Palin is an analyst at Fox News Channel, whose parent company, News Corporation, owns National Geographic Channel. Wouldn't Fox want to keep her in the family, rather than lose her to a rival outlet?  But more curious, as the much-touted, but undeclared, Republican candidate for President in 2012, she's already gaining lots of airtime through her well-paying analyst position, with the added bonus of free consultation from political operatives/Fox colleagues Roger Ailes and Karl Rove. This gig on TLC, while showing real promise as the biggest Alaska-based series since Northern Exposure, with the former Governor providing the celeb cred, may be cutting a little too close in giving her the opportunity to show off her media appeal in a different context, amid the all-too-long drumroll to Decision 2012.


Elsewhere in TV Land, Realscreen reports that the UK-based Burning Gold Productions is submitting the short film Chimpcam: The Movie, a spinoff from Burning Gold's The Chimpcam Project, to 2010 Wildscreen Festival Panda Awards, under the category "Best Newcomer"-namely, chimp producers Cindy, Emma, Kilimi, Lyndsey and Lucy and directors Ricky, Qafzeh, Kindia, Liberius, David and Louis. If Wildscreen has restrictions as to the number of award recipients, things are bound to get raucous among the primates.

The Chimpcam Project aired on BBC2's Natural World in January. Researchers at the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland studied the intelligence of chimps through a series of experiments, one of
which was to test their reaction to seeing moving images of themselves, then give them cameras to make their own film. Here's the result:


Now, the Chimpcam Project team claims this is the first movie made entirely by chimps—but there is a precedent. Over 20 years ago, Zippy the chimp debuted his Monkey-Cam on Late Night with David Letterman. See for yourself: