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Focus World Titles to Be Released on DVD in the U.S.

Posted October 31, 2011

Entertainment One U.S. announces agreement with Focus Features to release Focus World titles on DVD in the U.S.

The first two titles to be released under this agreement are Thomas Vinterberg’s Submarino and Alma Har’el’s Bombay Beach.

Entertainment One (eOne) has entered into a U.S. agreement with Focus Features to release select titles on DVD from their recently launched digital premiere label Focus World.  The first title under the agreement is the award-winning film Submarino from Thomas Vinterberg. Bombay Beach, which won the documentary prize at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, will debut digitally November 1st, and roll out on DVD in January. Launched earlier this year as a Focus Features digital distribution initiative, Focus World identifies and curates the most exciting voices in international and independent cinema. Part of Focus Features’ multi-platform strategy, Focus World presents titles of genuine vision and originality as premiere releases on EST, iVOD, and VOD, along with DVD and other formats. “We are thrilled to be working with Focus Features and to align our company with an innovative brand like Focus World, which is striving to present quality, daring and bold filmmaking to consumers,” commented Michael E. Rosenberg, President Film & Distribution, Entertainment One U.S. Set in modern-day Copenhagen, Submarino, Focus World’s premiere DVD release through Entertainment One, tells the unforgettable story of two brothers, long estranged and haunted by a dark secret buried in their past.  The winner of Scandinavia’s top film award, Submarino is directed by Thomas Vinterberg, whose earlier film The Celebration is also part of the Focus Features library and is now available on various platforms, including iTunes, for the first time ever.
Bombay Beach, the award-winning documentary from director Alma Har’el and producer Boaz Yakin, paints a vivid, stylistic portrait of a forgotten California town and its unique inhabitants, beautifully realized and set to the music of Beirut and Bob Dylan. It has played at festivals throughout the world, including Berlin and Tribeca, where it received the documentary prize.

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Fourth-year Winners of Africa First Program Announced

Posted October 06, 2011

$10,000 in financing goes to five new moviemakers for their short films.

For a fourth consecutive year, Focus Features’ Africa First program for short films, the worldwide film company’s initiative earmarked exclusively for emerging filmmakers of African nationality and residence, has awarded five filmmakers $10,000 apiece, Focus CEO James Schamus announced today.

The uniquely conceived initiative offers eligible and participating filmmakers the chance to be awarded the $10,000 in financing for pre-production, production, and/or post-production on their narrative short film made in continental Africa and tapping into the resources of the film industry there. Of equal importance, the program brings the filmmakers together with each other and with a renowned group of advisors, major figures in the African film world, for support and mentorship. The short films coming out of the program have been showcased at the Sundance, Toronto, and Berlin Film Festivals; the Film Society of Lincoln Center; and the Museum of the Moving Image, among other venues worldwide. Africa First, Volume I, a two-hour compilation of short films made by previous filmmakers in the program, is now available on DVD and across VOD and EST platforms. Details on the program are accessible year-round through www.focusfeatures.com/africafirst.

The winning filmmakers for 2011 are Ms. Oshosheni Hiveluah (from Namibia); Mr. Cedric Ido (from Burkina Faso); Mr. Mark Middlewick (from South Africa); Ms. Akosua Adoma Owusu (from Ghana); and Mr. Zelalem Woldemariam (from Ethiopia).

The short films that they will be directing are, respectively, 100 Bucks, an immersion into the Namibian capital of Windhoek through the progress of a piece of currency; Twaaga [Invincible], blending live action and animation in the tale of a young boy’s quest to be a superhero; Late Night Security, in which the night guard at a shopping center finds solace and friendship from an unlikely source; Kwaku Anase, adapting into live action and animation a traditional West African story about a student’s family secret; and Adamet [Listen], powered by the music of Ethiopian culture in its story of a talented drummer who encounters a deaf woman.

Mr. Schamus said, “I’m continually impressed by the range of great young artists we meet through Africa First – each filmmaker has a distinctive vision and voice, and I look forward to learning from them at our summit.”

Producer Kisha Cameron-Dingle, who serves as program director of Africa First, added, “We are particularly proud of the diversity and ambition in this year’s solid group, with new storytellers coming from several countries contributing to the program for the first time.”

Africa First is supervised by Mrs. Cameron-Dingle (…Sometimes in April), whose Completion Films company has a first-look and consulting deal with Focus, and who coordinates the program’s submissions and evaluations with Focus creative executive Christopher Kopp. In addition to on-site work in Africa, this year’s winning filmmakers of Africa First will visit New York City in November for a weekend of one-on-one workshop discussions with each other; members of the advisory board of experts in African cinema; such Focus executives as Mr. Schamus and president of production Jeb Brody, covering topics like international distribution and the economics of studio financing; and Mrs. Cameron-Dingle and Mr. Kopp.

In 2008, the Africa First Program selected these filmmakers and their respective films; Mr. Edouard Bamporiki (from Rwanda) for Long Coat, Ms. Jenna Bass (from South Africa) for The Tunnel, Mr. Jan-Hendrik Beetge (from South Africa) for The Abyss Boys, Ms. Dyana Gaye (from Senegal) for N’Dar (a.k.a. St. Louis Blues), and Ms. Wanuri Kahiu (from Kenya) for Pumzi [Breath]. The winning filmmakers for 2009 were Mr. Stephen Abbott (from South Africa) for Dirty Laundry, Mr. Matt Bishanga (from Uganda) for A Good Catholic Girl, Mr. Daouda Coulibaly (from Mali) for Tinye So, Mr. Matthew Jankes (from South Africa) for Umkhungo, and Ms. Rungano Nyoni (from Zambia) for The Adventures of Mwansa the Great. The 2010 filmmakers chosen were Ms. Chika Anadu (from Nigeria) for The Marriage Factor; Mr. Lev David (from South Africa) for Boy and Bear; Ms. Jacqueline Kalimunda (from Rwanda) for Sky Burning Down; Ms. Ebele Okoye (from Nigeria) for The Legacy of Rubies; and Mr. Julius Onah (from Nigeria) for Nepa Don Quench.

The submissions period ran from May 16th through August 22nd. The five filmmakers retain the copyrights and the distribution rights to their completed shorts, with the exception of North American rights; Focus retains those, as well as the right of first negotiation to productions derived from the shorts, such as a feature-length expansion.

Completion is developing feature, documentary, and television projects. Its president, Mrs. Cameron-Dingle, previously worked as director of development at Walden Media, and as an executive at New Line Cinema, where she oversaw the development and production of Spike Lee’s Bamboozled.

The Africa First advisory board members are Ms. Mahen Bonetti, founder/executive director of the African Film Festival, Inc.; journalist/documentary filmmaker Ms. Jihan El-Tahiri; Ms. June Givanni, who programmed the Toronto International Film Festival’s Planet Africa series; Ms. Sharifa Johka, producer/founder of the African Voices Cinema Series; Mr. Pedro Pimenta, producer/director of the Dockenama Film Festival; and Mr. Keith Shiri, founder/director of the Africa at the Pictures film festival in the U.K.

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Production Commences on Anna Karenina

Posted October 03, 2011

Working Title Films has commenced production on Joe Wright’s epic love story Anna Karenina, adapted from Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel by Academy Award winner Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love). The film will shoot in the U.K. and Russia. Focus Features will distribute the movie domestically, and Universal Pictures International (UPI) will distribute the movie internationally.

Anna Karenina marks Mr. Wright’s fourth film with Working Title, following the award-winning box office successes Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, and The Soloist. The film is produced by Working Title co-chairs Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner and reunites them with Paul Webster, all three of whom produced Mr. Wright’s first two films Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, released domestically by Focus and internationally by UPI. Also for Focus, Mr. Wright recently directed the hit adventure thriller Hanna.

Keira Knightley, Academy Award-nominated for Pride & Prejudice, will star as Anna Karenina in her third collaboration with Mr. Wright. Ms. Knightley stars opposite two-time Academy Award nominee Jude Law, as Anna’s husband Aleksei Karenin; and Aaron Johnson (Nowhere Boy), as Count Vronsky. Rounding out the cast are Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire), Matthew Macfadyen (Pride & Prejudice), Domhnall Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), Alicia Vikander (The Seventh Son), two-time Academy Award nominee Emily Watson, Olivia Williams (Hanna), and Ruth Wilson (Luther).

Also reteaming with Mr. Wright on Anna Karenina are Academy Award-winning composer Dario Marianelli, twice-Academy Award-nominated costume designer Jacqueline Durran, three-time Academy Award-nominated production designer Sarah Greenwood, and Academy Award-nominated director of photography Seamus McGarvey.  Melanie Ann Oliver (Focus’ Jane Eyre) is the editor. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui is the choreographer on the movie.

The story unfolds in its original late-19th-century Russia high-society setting and powerfully explores the capacity for love that surges through the human heart, from the passion between adulterers to the bond between a mother and her children. As Anna (Ms. Knightley) questions her happiness, change comes to her family, friends, and community.

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