As the new crop of 2023 festival favorites roll out, Focus Features presents A Thousand And One in over 900 carefully curated theaters, testing the appetite for specialty fare at a challenging moment.
Short film and video director A.V. Rockwell’s feature-length debut stars Teyana Taylor as free-spirited Inez, who kidnaps her six-year-old son Terry from the foster care system. Holding onto their secret and each other, mother and son set out to reclaim their sense of home, identity, and stability in a rapidly changing New York City. Reviews are stellar, see Deadline’s. The winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize is at 97% with critics on Rotten Tomatoes, 82% with auds. The fest called it “an elegant ode to the terribly beautiful power of family as an anchor in an ever-changing world, making us into who we are in ways we can only haltingly understand.”
This film, like Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight in 2016 (also from Focus) needs strong word of mouth for theatrical. The distributor amped up screenings ahead of release, including sneak peeks from women’s groups to loyalty club members at AMC and Regal. The idea is that exposure and reviews coming out of Sundance should support the wider number of runs. Rockwell, who also wrote the film, is up and coming. Taylor, an R&B singer, dancer, choreographer, video producer and fashion designer has an enthusiastic following.
Producers are Eddie Vaisman, Julia Lebedev, Lena Waithe and Rishi Rajani, Brad Weston. Executive Producers: Oren Moverman and Rachel Jacobs.
Also opening: Neon presents horror Enys Men, written and directed by Mark Jenkin (Bait), starring Mary Woodvine, in 62 theaters. A wildlife volunteer on an uninhabited island off the Cornish coast descends into a madness that challenges her grip on reality and pushes her into a living nightmare. Opening week Q&As in New York and Los Angeles with director Jenkin. Premiered at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight last year, Deadline review here.
Magnolia/Magnet Releasing has two opening: In Viaggio: The Travels Of Pope Francis in New York and LA, and Quentin Dupieux’s goofy, gory Power Rangers sendup Smoking Causes Coughing. Magnolia released the absurdist director’s Mandibles (2021) and Rubber (2010).
In Viaggio by Gianfranco Rosi (Fire at Sea, Notturno) is a decade-long chronicling of the head of the Catholic church. In the first nine years of his pontificate, Pope Francis traveled to 53 countries, focusing on his key issues: poverty, migration, environment, solidarity and war. Composed mostly of archival footage, the documentary grants rare access to the public life of the pontifical, not only from the elevated security of a pulpit but from the more democratic grounds of unpaved streets and vast public avenues. The film by the previous Golden Lion winner premiered at the Venice Film Festival. Deadline review here.
Smoking Causes Coughing, a parody about a group of vigilante superheroes in tights and helmets called the Tobacco Force, stars Gilles Lellouche, Vincent Lacoste, Anaïs Demoustier, Jean-Pascal Zadi. It debuted at Cannes, see Deadline review.
Strand Releasing presents Ursula Meier’s French drama The Line opens for a one-week NY theatrical engagement at the Metrograph. Written by Stéphanie Blanchoud, Meier, Antoine Jaccoud. After a violent argument with her mother, Margaret (Stéphanie Blanchoud), 35 years old, is subject to a strict restraining order. No longer allowed to contact her mother (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) or approach the family home, she returns every day to the invisible and impassable frontier. Premiered at Berlin. Deadline review here.
The Ciesla Foundation presents Aviva Keppner’s latest documentary Imagining The Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting, directed with Ben West, at NYC’s Quad Cinema. Q&A’s with Keppner (The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, Yoo-Hoo Mrs. Goldberg, The Spy Behind Home Plate) Fri/Sat/Sun). It moves to LA and other markets –Washington, DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, San Francisco, Phoenix — through April. The film addresses misrepresentation and offensive imagery of native peoples in sports, TV, movies, pop-culture and beyond.
Brainstorm Media presents Acidman, written and directed by Alex Lehmann and starring Thomas Haden Church Dianna Agron and Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris, in 10 theaters. A daughter tracks down her estranged father, now living in the Oregon wilderness obsessed with UFOs, and together they attempt to make first contact.
The Horror Collective presents Summoning Sylvia opening on about 25 screens in LA, NY, Dallas, Chicago, Santa Barbara, Memphis, Columbus, Cincinnati, Phoenix and Detroit. Written and directed by Wesley Taylor and Alex Wyse. A gay bachelor party takes a spooky turn when sinister spirits are suddenly summoned and the groom’s straight ex-military brother crashes the proceedings.
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