The audience went wild when Jane Fonda’s name was announced as the winner of Best Actress at the Academy Awards in 1979, taking home the Oscar for her performance in the beloved film Coming Home. The movie – telling the story of a disabled veteran’s return from the Vietnam War – practically swept the ceremony, winning two more Oscars, including one for leading man Jon Voight.
Its director, Hal Ashby, was nominated for Best Director, and Fonda – making a historic speech incorporating sign language to acknowledge people with disabilities – thanked him profusely, applauding his ‘taste’ and ‘courage’ … as well as his ‘ability with the scissors.’
By then, however, the eccentric director was already accustomed to praise. He’d won an Oscar for film editing 11 years beforehand for Sidney Poitier-starring In The Heat of the Night, directed by Norman Jewison. When he transitioned to directing himself, he earned a reputation for creating thoughtful, character-driven features tackling difficult or unusual themes and social issues. Among his greatest works would be cult classic Harold and Maude, The Landlord, Being There and Bound for Glory.
He started out as an editor, a rebel who worked his way up the Sixties studio food chain by associating with fellow mavericks and winning an Oscar for cutting In the Heat of the Night. Then, starting with 1970's The Landlord, Hal Ashby became a director – and went on a seven-film run that was responsible for some of the most trenchant, touching and borderline transgressive movies to come out of Tinseltown in the Seventies. Armed with collaborator interviews and archival conversations with the man himself, documentarian Amy Scott paints a portrait of a New Hollywood iconoclast who still hasn't gotten the credit he deserves for leaving a major impact on American filmmaking.Continue reading
New York-based Saboteur Media has launched a production and finance operation with a broader sales remit and hired former Miramax International senior executive Mark Lindsay as president of distribution.
The moves comes as executive director Nick Quested expands the suite of services beyond those of documentary distributor and sales company initially launched under the auspices of Goldcrest Films.
Saboteur now operates as a stand-alone entity that produces, finances and sells narrative and documentary features, with particular emphasis on empowering the New York creative community and an opportunistic eye towards television.
The company has the ability to finance tax credits and invest equity in select projects, which will not rely on pre-sales in order to get greenlight. It serves as co-producer on all five titles headed for Cannes.
Lindsay, whose executive roles have included head of sales and distribution at Kimmel International, Arclight, and Cargo, will introduce three narratives and two documentaries to buyers next month.
Love Thy Keepers is a sci-fi project from Josh Janowicz set to begin production in May. The roster encompasses Quested’s Cleaning House, a New York-set contemporary noir based on Mark Grisar’s award-winning screenplay that begins shooting in July, and psychological horror Seizefrom Jimmy Loweree set for an August shoot.
Saboteur will offer two completed documentaries: hip-hop title Word Is Bond from Sacha Jenkins featuring Nas, J Cole, Run the Jewels, Rakim, The Lox, Rapsody, Tech N9ne; and The Iconoclastfrom King Adz, about art thief and fugitive Michel van Rijn.
While Saboteur operates separately from Goldcrest Films International, filmmakers will get access to the services of Goldcrest Post New York under managing director Ben Cheah.
The facility most recently worked on Hell On Earth: The Fall Of Syria And The Rise Of ISIS, the documentary that Quested and long-time collaborator Sebastian Junger co-directed and is set to receive its world premiere at Tribeca on Wednesday before airing later this year on National Geographic Channel.
Saboteur will continue to produce and distribute eight-10 high-end documentaries a year with US theatrical and international sales potential.
“With Mark joining Saboteur, we are in a position to be a one-stop-shop for filmmakers, bringing projects from development through delivery,” Quested, executive producer and part of the Emmy Award-winning team on war documentary Restrepo, said.
I am thrilled to join forces with Nick and his talented team at Saboteur,” Lindsay said. “We have known each other for many years and both believe New York is the best place for independent filmmakers to thrive and want to help in making that happen.”
Saboteur has handled the US release and international sales on 15 titles including Junger’s Korengal, on which Quested served as producer, Rubble Kings, and Being George Clooney.
Pierre Weisbein, the former Goldcrest and StudioCanal executive brought in to run sales for Saboteur in 2015, is now helping to co-produce select titles.Continue reading
Afghanistan-set documentary sheds light on the local army’s fight against the Taliban
For the majority of westerners, the War in Afghanistan came to a close in 2013 with the withdrawal of troops and the transfer of security duties from NATO to local forces. But for the majority of Afghans, the battle against the Taliban still very much wages on, as evidenced in the harrowing you-are-there combat documentary Tell Spring Not to Come This Year.
Tracking an Afghan National Army squad fighting insurgent forces in the southwestern province of Helmand, this co-directed feature by Saeed Taji Farouky and Michael McEvoy offers an extremely rare look at life on the firing line for the war-torn nation’s indigenous soldiers. Immersive and at times upsetting, yet vital to anyone interested in the aftermath of a conflict that began back in 2001 (if not back in 1978), this Berlin Panorama premiere should find additional fest play, as well as VOD and public TV slots, in nations belonging to the former U.S. coalition.
Imbedding themselves with the 3rd Brigade of the ANA’s Heavy Weapons Company, and focusing primarily on two characters – the rookie private, Sunnatullah, and his hardened commander, Jalaluddin – filmmakers Farouky (who shot the footage) and McEvoy (who recorded sound) cover all aspects of army life, from the monotonous labor to downtime in the barracks to battle scenes where the bullets fly and the casualties are frighteningly real.
While the movie starts off rather mildly and almost like an Afghan episode of Cops, with Jalaluddin’s men kicking down doors or interrogating farmers about their bountiful opium crops (“They belong to my cousin!” one of them answers), things take a turn for the worse when enemy forces begin encroaching on their territory.
It’s then that Spring – whose title refers to the season in which the Taliban wage war – heads to some rare and highly unsettling places, Farouky’s camera accompanying the troops as shots ring out in all directions and men fall to the ground, wounded or dead. A first skirmish near the 3rd Brigade’s home base ends without major casualties, but a second one in the town of Sangin turns into a desperate standoff where several soldiers are hit and help takes too long to arrive.
Commander Jalaluddin is absent from these scenes, having sent his squad off with the best advice he can muster up: “When you’re scared, then death is near.” But it’s clear from their dazed and weary faces that these men are constantly frightened for their lives, and not necessarily experienced enough to deal with enemies who have been fighting the same battle for decades, with much more seemingly at stake. For the young troopers of the ANA, war means a steady job (though not always a steady paycheck, as one soldier complains). For the unseen members of the Taliban, it’s a way of life.
While Spring concludes with a bang, it’s far from a pleasant one, and the end titles list the names of over two dozen soldiers killed in action during the production. The fact that Farouky and McEvoy survived to tell their tale is a relief, though not at all comforting given the surrounding bloodshed – which, considering the political climate in Afghanistan, does not look to end anytime soon. If anything, the filmmakers deserve credit for refusing to shy away from such realities, while bringing attention to a conflict that most of the world has forgotten. They have gone where few directors dare to venture.
Production companies: Tourist with a Typewriter, Ponda Films, NHK Cosmomedia Europe
Directors: Saeed Taji Farouky, Michael McEvoy
Producers: Saeed Taji Farouky, Michael McEvoy, Elizabeth C. Jones
Executive producers: Scott Brown, Robert Elliott, David Kennedy, Nick Quested
Director of photography: Saeed Taji Farouky
Editor: Gareth Keogh
Composer: Joe Lewis
Sales agent: Sabotoeur
No rating, 87 minutesContinue reading