Laura Poitras’ Venice Golden Lion-winner All The Beauty And The Bloodshed opens in three theaters today, testing a crowded specialty market at the IFC Center, Lincoln Center & BAM in NYC. It adds LA and San Francisco (AMC Sunset 5 & AMC Kabuki) Dec. 2.
Presented by Neon, this is the story of internationally renowned photographer and activist Nan Goldin told through her slideshows, intimate interviews and ground-breaking photography, intertwined with the artist’s fight to hold the billionaire Sackler family and their company Purdue Pharma, makers of notoriously addictive pain medication Oxycontin, accountable for the nation’s devastating opioid crisis. It was only the second time a doc has won top honors at Venice. The film played Telluride, Toronto and the New York Film Festival (Centerpiece Film).
Goldin and a group of artists and activists founded anti-big pharma group PAIN ((Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) in 2017with a first target the “toxic philanthropy” of the Sacklers. Goldin, a recovered addict herself, led a fight to shame institutions that accepted the family’s money, leading protests from the foyer of the Guggenheim to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Smithsonian.
Poitras’ first full-length doc, My Country, My Country, about Iraqis living under U.S. occupation, nabbed an Oscar nomination. Citizenfour, about government whistleblower Edward Snowden, won took the Best Documentary Oscar in 2015.
Also opening today, Leonor Will Never Die, which won the Special Jury Prize for Innovative Spirit in Sundance this year after premiering in the festival’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition. Presented by Music Box Films, written and directed by Martika Ramirez Escobar. Stars Sheila Francisco as Leonor Reyes, once a major player in the Filipino action film industry, now struggling to pay the bills. When she reads an advertisement looking for screenplays, Leonor begins tinkering with an unfinished script and playing out her wildest dreams.
It opens at the Metrograph in NYC, expanding on Dec. 2.
“We are like everybody else, wishing that the specialty market as a whole was stronger, but seeing isolated areas of success and just trying to look at where there’s a space on the calendar for unconventional and offbeat films,” said Music Box theatrical distribution chief Kyle Westphal.
The Metrograph draws “a range of younger cinephiles,” he said, and the hope is that Leonor — which also played TIFF as part of Midnight Madness, a handful of Asian American Festivals and Fantastic Fest — will attract a range of fans across genres. Westphal called it “a spiritual, inventive and densely constructed film. A picture of someone perched between life and death [having] resonance with art films, and slow cinema, but [also] an action film.”
There’s quite a lot arthouse fare circulating as festival fare and Oscar hopefuls pile up in theaters. With the holiday this week, Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans from Universal Pictures expanded (to 638 locations) and Bones And All went wide (to 2,722 locations) on Wednesday.
Westphal is not alone in calling the adult/specialty/arthouse market improving but still unbalanced. Some blame theater upkeep, i.e. the theatrical experience, but there are multiple factors at play, with others noting the complexity of marketing specialty films to a fragmented audience, key theater closures, and more arthouses blocking off screens for wide studio releases.