May release calendar gears up for reopening of cinemas
Vertigo announces May 21 release date for My New York Year.
Following news that the UK Government had targeted May 17 as the date when cinemas in England should be able to reopen, the film release calendar is beginning to show signs of life. Vertigo was quick to announce May 21 as the release date for My New York Year (pictured above), starring Sigourney Weaver and Margaret Qualley. The film is based on the book (and was originally titled) My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff, and premiered at the 2020 Berlin Film Festival.
Vertigo has also dated Darius Marder’s awards contender Sound of Metal, starring Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke, for May 17, and then British indie Surge, starring Ben Whishaw on May 28. Sound of Metal stars Ahmed as a heavy metal drummer who loses his hearing, and who seeks to regain it via a cochlear implant, also spending time at an addiction centre for deaf people. Ahmed received a best actor nomination at both the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards, and is considered likely to achieve BAFTA and Oscar nominations. Supporting actor Paul Raci is also in the running for awards recognition. The release is supported by BFI Audience Fund.
In Aniel Karia’s 2020 Sundance premiere Surge, which was backed by BBC Film and BFI Production Fund, Whishaw stars as an airport security worker who spins out of control after a breakdown.
Republic has confirmed a May 21 release for Rare Beasts, which is the writingdirecting debut of Billie Piper – the actress stars in this “anti rom-com” which premiered at Venice in 2019 and also played BFI London that year. Dogwoof has confirmed May 21 for its first physical theatrical release of the year: The Human Factor directed by Dror Moreh, who was Oscar-nominated in 2013 for his documentary The Gatekeepers. Moreh’s latest feature presents a behind-the-scenes look at the 30-year effort to bring peace to the Middle East, recounted from the perspective of the US mediators trying to bring the parties together.
AMONG TITLES YET TO SEE RELEASE IN THE UK, CHLOE ZHAO’S NOMADLAND RECEIVED A BOOST FROM THE GOLDEN GLOBES, WINNING BEST DIRECTOR AND BEST MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
MUBI has dated Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow for May 28. This drama adapted from Jon Raymond’s novel The Half Life is set in 19th-century Oregon in a frontier community in the pioneering fur-trading days, and stars John Magaro and Orion Lee as two men who form a partnership to bring baked delicacies to a population sorely missing home comforts. First Cow picked up three nominations in this year’s Independent Spirit Awards: best feature, best director and best supporting male (for Lee).
Dated for May 17 on the FDA’s release calendar at filmdistributorsassociation.com is Dominic Cooke’s The Courier, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as British businessman Greville Wynne, who in 1960 was recruited by MI6 as an intermediary between the agency and a friendly source in the Russian intelligence service. Lionsgate distributes.
Golden Globes boost Nomadland and Minari
Among titles yet to see release in the UK, Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland received a boost from the Golden Globes on Sunday night (February 28), winning best director and best motion picture – drama. Disney’s Searchlight made the film, and Disney will release in UK. Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari won best foreign language film – Altitude has the film for the UK, although the distributor may pursue a strategy that sees the film reach audiences ahead of cinemas reopening. Daniel Kaluuya won best supporting actor for Judas and the Black Messiah – which will be released in the UK by Warner Bros. Jodie Foster won best supporting actress for The Mauritanian – which is set for release by Amazon Prime Video on April 1. Other key wins were for films already released in the UK, such as Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Soul and The United States vs Billie Holiday.
British indies land in Amazon Prime Video chart
A trio of British indie classics has landed in the Amazon Prime Video chart, thanks to a price promotion. Leading the way for the three titles is Shane Meadows’ This Is England, which at time of writing is at number 17 in the chart, with Stephen Daldry’s Billy Elliot at 47, and Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting at 71. All are available on VOD for just 99 pence.
MUBI scores with Gianfranco Rosi retrospective
MUBI is gearing up for the release this Friday of Gianfranco Rosi’s Notturno (see “The coming session”, below) by presenting a complete retrospective of the Italian documentary filmmaker’s features. His most lauded work Fire at Sea (2016) landed on MUBI last Tuesday (February 23), preceded the day before by Sacro GRA (2013). Debut feature Boatman (1996) will join MUBI on March 5, the same day as Notturno. Below Sea Level (2008) and El Sicario, Room 164 (2010) will follow.
Sacro GRA and Fire at Sea both earned places in MUBI’s top 10 chart for the week ending February 28. Notably, Sacro GRA appeared three places higher than Fire at Sea in the chart – suggesting that MUBI subscribers were catching up with a film that hasn’t been so widely viewed.
(Comscore recorded UK box office of £4,130 for Sacro GRA, compared to £57,728 for Fire at Sea.)
The coming session
Curzon this week offers customers a foreign language film at the more accessible end of the scale with French comedy My Donkey, My Lover and I, from writer-director Caroline Vignal. Call My Agent! actress Laure Calamy stars as Antoinette, a schoolteacher who gatecrashes her secret lover’s family holiday, trekking in the Cévennes National Park. In France, where the film is known as Antoinette dans les Cévennes, the film proved a box office hit when released last September, despite Covid restrictions on cinemagoing, achieving 748,000 admissions and €4.83m box office. It was 2020’s seventh-biggest hit of the post-Covid period in France (ie after cinemas reopened in the summer), and ranked 24th for the full year.
My Donkey, My Lover and I achieved eight nominations at this year’s César Awards, including best film, best original screenplay and best actress (for Calamy). The ceremony takes place on March 12. Curzon releases the film exclusively via its own Curzon Home Cinema platform.
Also in the foreign language space is Into the Darkness, a World War II drama set during the Nazi occupation of Denmark, distributed by Vertigo. Editor/filmmaker Anders Refn (editing credits include Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist and Sally Potter’s Ginger & Rosa) directs and co-writes this film about members of a Danish industrial family who find themselves on opposing sides – resisting and cooperating with the occupying forces. Into the Darkness picked up three nominations at this year’s Danish Film Awards, including best actress for Bodil Jørgensen (notable roles include in Lars Von Trier’s The Idiots).
Into the Darkness releases both video on demand and electronic sell through (to buy and own) via the following platforms: iTunes/Apple TV, Amazon, Sky, Virgin, Google/YouTube, Microsoft and UKJF On Demand (UK Jewish Film On Demand).
This week Modern Films offers Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché, Celeste Bell and Paul Sng’s documentary about the titular singer of punk band X-Ray Spex, who scored three top 30 hits in 1978, and who are perhaps best remembered for their single “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!”. The film is narrated by Ruth Negga, and co-director Bell is the daughter of Poly Styrene, who died ten years ago. Following its virtual world premiere on Saturday (February 27) at Glasgow Film Festival, Modern releases this Friday at 31 virtual cinemas, plus via Modern’s own platform, BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema, Barbican Cinema On Demand, IFI At Home and various organisational partners.
Special events include this Wednesday (March 3) with BFI, Thursday (March 4) with Everyman, Saatchi Gallery magazine and Vivienne Westwood's Worlds End, and Friday (March 5) with Curzon. Modern is also programming events with Doc N Roll and the 100 Club, Reclaim The Frame, Roundhouse Young Creatives, Museum of London, Numbi Arts and others to be announced.
The latest release from Bulldog is British indie drama Justine, from director Jamie Patterson, whose LGBTQ+ tale Tucked hit UK cinemas in May 2019. Brighton-set lesbian love story Justine was selected for BFI Flare last year, but did not participate in the public-facing portion of the online event. From this Friday, Justine will be available for four weeks exclusively via Curzon Home Cinema, after which it will expand to select additional platforms. A live Q&A is planned for VOD platform Lesflicks to coincide with the second release window.
MUBI has a major new release this week with Gianfranco Rosi’s Notturno – a documentary filmed across the borders of Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria and Lebanon, depicting life in the war-torn region. Notturno premiered at the Venice Film Festival last September, going on to berths at Toronto, New York and BFI London film festivals. Rosi’s film was submitted by Italy as the country’s official entry to the international film Oscar category, but did not make the shortlist of 15. Notturno did, however, make the shortlist of 15 in the documentary category for the Oscars.
Notturno was the only documentary nominated for best international film at the British Independent Film Awards (alongside Babyteeth, Les Misérables, Never Rarely Sometimes Always and eventual winner Nomadland). Rosi won the Berlinale Golden Bear in 2016 with Fire at Sea, and was nominated for the documentary Oscar in 2017 for the same film.
Next Monday (March 8) sees the Altitude release of Fukushima 50, which is tied to the tenth anniversary of the Japanese nuclear disaster. Ken Watanabe stars as the head of the power plant who must act to prevent total destruction, and rally his workers to action while the higher-echelon bureaucrats fail to grasp the enormity of the situation. Altitude releases via VOD on the following platforms: Altitude.film, Apple TV, Rakuten, Amazon, Sky Store, Curzon Home Cinema, Google Play.
Upcoming independent releases on VOD, digital and streaming
- March 3: Moxie (Netflix)
- March 5: Eye Of The Storm (Cosmic Cat), Into The Darkness (Vertigo), Justine (Bulldog), My Donkey, My Lover and I (Curzon), Notturno (MUBI), Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché (Modern)
- March 7: The Glorias (Sky Cinema)
- March 8: Fukushima 50 (Altitude), A Month of Single Frames (MUBI), Wander Darkly (Universal)
- March 9: Vever (for Barbara) (MUBI)
- March 11: Los Conductos (MUBI)
- March 12: The Columnist (Vertigo), Come True (Munro), Life in a Yeart (Amazon Prime Video), Martyr (Peccadillo), Mouthpiece (Bulldog), Verdict (Sovereign)