Short Takes, April 2003

NEWS BRIEFS

ITN Archive Partners with Al Jazeera

ITN Archive entered a ground-breaking five year agreement with Al Jazeera which will enable the UK-based archive to license the Middle-Eastern broadcaster's archive footage to its customers worldwide.   

Al Jazeera has quickly gained an unparalleled reputation for its exclusive coverage from the Middle East and has generated some of the most iconic images of recent times. With a viewership of 35 million in the Arab world, it is the only independent Arabic language satellite news channel broadcasting out of the Middle East.

ITN Archive will have access to the entire Al Jazeera archive and will shortly be bringing the cream of the Al Jazeera back-catalogue to its London headquarters. In the future, Al Jazeera will be supplying regular compilations of its best pictures from its numerous bureaus, including Baghdad.

Alwyn Lindsey, sales director of the ITN Archive said in a prepared statement, "We're extremely excited at the prospect of working closely with a cutting-edge partner like Al Jazeera, particularly with the current international focus on events in the Middle East".

International New Media Festival Reorganizes

The Banff Television Foundation, the Atlantic Digital Media Festival Society and Technology PEI announced a new deal with regard to the annual International New Media Festival (INMF) held in Brudenell, PEI (Prince Edward Island). Under the terms of the deal the Banff Television Foundation becomes the festival's owner, organizer, manager and producer; Technology PEI retains its role as the lead sponsor with a strong five-year commitment to the festival; and the Atlantic Digital Media Society relinquishes its role with the event. The festival will continue to operate in Prince Edward Island with the seventh edition taking place in October 2003.

 The International New Media Festival is a three-day event attracting new media producers, industry visionaries, professionals, artists and innovators from around the world who take part in a number of interactive panels, sessions and new media screenings focusing on the creative process and elements necessary for the development of new media content. Other attendees include developers, buyers, broadcasters and investors who help identify current growth opportunities and future trends in the industry. As part of the festival, the Awards Competition recognizes creative achievement and innovative works by new media producers worldwide.

Everest Scales Top of Box Office

Marking an historic achievement in the film industry, MacGillivray Freeman Films' Everest, which tells the story of three climbers who reached the summit of Mt. Everest in 1996, has amassed over $120.6 million in worldwide box office (earning $84.4 million in the US and Canada alone) in just under five years, making it the highest grossing documentary and giant screen film of all time. 

The film, directed by Greg MacGillivray, Stephen Judson and David Breashears, and produced by MacGillivray, Judson and Alec Lorimore, set all records for the giant screen format by grossing $100 million in under two years and becoming the first giant screen film to appear on Variety's Top 10 Box Office Chart. Of note is that Everest reached its current milestone after playing in only 243 theatres worldwide, in a total of 236 cities on six continents, giving Everest an unprecedented per-screen average of $496,296.

"Everest became a cultural phenomenon that captured the attention of the entire world, not only because of the tragic storm that cost eight lives, but because this was a film people connected to emotionally," noted MacGillivray in a prepared statement. He cited the storytelling power and unique immersive experience of the IMAX® theatre medium as part of the film's success. 

NewFilmmakers Heads to Left Coast

NewFilmmakers Los Angeles kicked off its weekly independent film series in February at Cinespace, LA's only digital theater supper club. The mission of New Filmmakers Los Angeles is to show new and challenging short and feature length independent films in the high-tech digital environment of Cinespace, thereby providing emerging filmmakers an opportunity to reach industry professionals, distributors and film enthusiasts in the Los Angeles area.

"It used to be a filmmaker's hardest task to gain distribution, but in recent years it has become equally as difficult to get a festival screening," stated Henry Turner, executive director of New Filmmakers Los Angeles. "In Los Angeles there are a lot of film repertory houses and theaters specializing in independent films that have distribution, but no consistent outlet for unsigned indie films. NewFilmmakers will give industry reps and the general public an opportunity to have an advance look at new, unsigned independent films on a weekly basis, away from the high-pressure atmosphere of a film festival." Turner is a veteran of the Slamdance Film Festival, where he headed the shorts programming competition and hosted the Slamdance Lounge Screening Series in Park City for several years.

The weekly program will take place every Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. at Cinespace. For additional information on New Filmmakers and submission guidelines, go to www.NewFilmmakers.com. To attend a weekly screening, reserve dinner seating at 323. 817.FILM.

DOCS WATCH

 Women Make Movies Onscreen

Women Make Movies has acquired two new docs, Anat Zuria's Purity, about how Jewish religious laws affect women, and Charlotte Lagarde and Lisa Denker's Heart of the Sea, about a female surfing legend who battled breast cancer. The group recently began a theatrical run of Lourdes Portillo's Señorita Extraviada, a festival fave that aired on PBS' P.O.V. last year. The film, about the unsolved murders of women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, began with playdates in Los Angeles and San Diego this past February.

Magnolia Blossoms with Bukowski

Magnolia Pictures has acquired the Sundance 2003 competition documentary, Bukowski: Born Into This. The film, directed by John Dullaghan, was produced by the director with consulting producers Diane Markow and John McCormick. Magnolia's Eamonn Bowles acquired the movie on the final day of the festival and will release it this summer.

"We're really jazzed to be handling this film," Bowles said in a prepared statement, "Director John Dullaghan and crew have done a magnificent job in turning a long-time obsession into a striking film with a surprising emotional pull."

The documentary, about the life and work of the late LA-based writer Charles Bukowski, features interviews with Sean Penn, Bono, Harry Dean Stanton and others.

AWARDS ROUND UP

For the first time ever, the Writers Guild of America, east and west, nominated a documentary for best original screenplay. Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine was included in the Guild's 2002 nominations for outstanding achievement.

The American Cinema Editors (ACE) nominated the following editors for the 2003 ACE Eddie Awards for Best Editing in the documentary category: Jun Diaz for The Kid Stays in the Picture; Kurt Engfehr for Bowling for Columbine; and Allan Holzman for Sounds of Memphis.

FESTIVALS WRAP UP

Scott Hamilton Kennedy's OT: Our Town won the Palm Springs International Film Festival's Audience Favorite Award. 

Sevan Matossian's Our House won the grand jury award for best documentary at the 2003 No Dance Festival, which celebrates alternative digital film.

The Bangkok International Film Festival presented French director Agnès Varda (The Gleaners and I) with the Golden Kinnaree Lifetime Achievement Award during the opening night ceremony on January 17.

Jeff Blitz's Spellbound won the audience award for best documentary at the fifth-annual Sarasota Film Festival. The jury in Sarasota picked Gary Null's Deconstructing the Myth of AIDS for the Cultural Impressions Documentary Film Award, with a special mention going to AJ Schnack's Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns). Mirra Banks' Last Dance won the Programmer's Choice Prize.

Following the 2003 Sundance Film Festival prize winners report from last month's Short Takes, Terminal Bar, a short doc by Stefan Nadelman, won the Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking, while Ocularist (Vance Malone) and Asylum (Sandy McLeod and Gini Reticker) were the documentary shorts that received Honorable Mention honors.

PASSINGS

 Pioneer Journalist Robert St. John Dies at 100

Robert St. John, pioneer journalist and war correspondent, subject of the one-hour The Living Century documentary (which premiered last month at the San Diego Cinema Society), passed away on February 6 at the age of 100.    

St. John covered the major events of the 20th century, and wrote more than a score of books after he was booted off the radio in the McCarthy era. In addition to his longevity, he was also known for his endurance in front of a microphone, which included a 117 hour stint during World War II.

St. John is survived by his second wife, Ruth, and his half-brother, Richard.

Jaime Kibben, 55, Dies in Car Accident While Working on Mid-East Doc

Jaime Kibben, a veteran documentary filmmaker who worked for years as a sound engineer on the MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour, died in January in a car accident in Israel on his way to catch a flight home to San Francisco. Friends said Kibben, 55, had been working on Holy Land: Common Ground, a documentary to further the peace process in the Middle East.

Kibben began his career in 1965 as a professional musician. He later worked as a sound recordist. In 1990, he received an Emmy nomination for his musical composition work on Thanh's War, a documentary about a Vietnamese-American man who returns to his old village.

His recent films include the controversial The Will of Dean Snider, about a filmmaker friend with Parkinson's disease who chose to take his own life rather than suffer the degenerative effects of his affliction, and The Greening of Cuba, about how organic farming replaced chemical-based agriculture in that country following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Kibben's films La Confianza Perdida and Ya No Mas! focus on acquaintance rape and domestic violence, and have been used as teaching tools by social workers and schools.

From 1990 to 1996, Kibben worked with Elizabeth Farnsworth, senior correspondent for the MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour, and filmmaker John Knoop, on 27 reports in 10 countries, from Salinas, Kan., to Thmar Pouk, Cambodia.  

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