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Ron Howard Talks Pavarotti’s Impact and Career at CAA Documentary Screening

Ron Howard’s documentary about the iconic opera singer screened Wednesday, allowing audience members to relive Pavarotti’s most powerful performances.

Ron Howard shared his feelings of stage fright with the late opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, he told the audience at Wednesday’s Creative Artist Agency’s screening of the documentary Pavarotti.

As Howard demonstrated in his film, Pavarotti experienced extreme nervousness before performing. Howard said he could relate to Pavarotti, finding screenings “nerve-racking” he told The Hollywood Reporter.

“I’m always anxious because I’m never 100 percent sure how an audience is going to receive the scenes,” Howard told THR. “I’ve learned over the years that you can have a real belief in what it is that you’ve done, and somehow it’s not communicating to people the way you thought.”

Film is not only “entertainment through ideas,” but also a medium of communication, Howard said. He often has to reconcile what interests him and his understanding of the project with how people receive the film.

Howard and Brian Grazer’s company, Imagine Entertainment, worked with Nigel Sinclair and Guy East’s White Horse Pictures to produce the film in collaboration with Polygram Entertainment and StudioCanal. Paul Crowder joined the creative team as editor along with Mark Monroe as a writer. Together they took the film through the trial-and-error process of documentary filmmaking.

“People that don’t make docs [fail to] realize how much you depend on doing things wrong so you can get it right,” Monroe said. “A lot of the writing is in the editing. The shaping of the story — you’re learning as you go in terms of what works and what doesn’t work.”

Even with Pavarotti’s large impact, many people still do not consume opera regularly, Monroe added. “We did a lot of exploration into helping audiences understand opera,” Howard told THR. “I really wanted to let audiences understand how physical it is. It’s almost athletic what [opera singers] achieve.”

Pavarotti chose an art form that required “so much discipline,” throwing himself completely into his craft, Howard said. To have any success as an artist, a person has to have good taste and the bar has to be very high, Howard added. At the same time, that individual might feel insecure about not living “up to the possibilities of a project.” Howard described it as the “yin and yang of living an ambitious creative life.”

The biggest takeaway from the film for Howard was that the ambitious person in “the pursuit of excellent relationships, excellent living, excellent work … may find it frustrating,” he told THR. “Because if you’re that type of person, you may never actually reach it in your mind. But for all the rest of us observers, we’re going to say, ‘Wow, what a life.'”

Pavarotti hits theaters June 7.

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Pavarotti hits theaters June 7.

Billboard: “Tribeca Film Festival 2019: ‘The Apollo’ Provides Pitch-Perfect Opening Night on Hallowed Ground”

The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival got off on the right, tapping foot thanks to its opening night screening of The Apollo, Roger Ross Williams’ documentary about Harlem’s iconic theater, in the legendary hall that inspired it.

To squeeze 85 years of performances — many of them debuts or career-launching sparks — from Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Lauryn Hill, Public Enemy, Chris Rock, Richard Pryor, Gregory Hines, Savion Glover and scores more into a documentary that doesn’t span the course of an entire day is a feat. To do so while seamlessly incorporating the cultural, communal and political forces that wove and continue to weave strong threads throughout the Apollo’s history and identity is herculean.

To squeeze 85 years of performances — many of them debuts or career-launching sparks — from Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Lauryn Hill, Public Enemy, Chris Rock, Richard Pryor, Gregory Hines, Savion Glover and scores more into a documentary that doesn’t span the course of an entire day is a feat. To do so while seamlessly incorporating the cultural, communal and political forces that wove and continue to weave strong threads throughout the Apollo’s history and identity is herculean.

Williams succeeds in both respects, as The Apollo is a testament to the Apollo’s significance as a touchstone for black entertainment and culture as rich as its source material. (It will eventually reach a wide audience when it airs on HBO.) This wasn’t lost on the crowd who filled the theater’s 1,683 seats on Wednesday night (April 24).

“For 85 years, some of the greatest talent in history has graced this stage,” said the director during his introduction. (He touched the Tree of Hope, the lovingly worn tree stump that all Apollo performs approach before they take the stage, before he reached the microphone.) “Tonight is about celebrating that history and what it means to black people. Our struggle is defined by our music and our art. The film is a celebration of how far we’ve come, and a reminder of how much further we need to go. In the word of my esteemed composer Robert Glasper, don’t turn back now, we’ve come too far not to make it.”

This mission was apparent in Williams’ encyclopedic approach, as The Apollo is rife with reel treasures and testimony from pop, R&B and rock n’ roll’s most exclusive pantheon. Some of the pieces of footage, such as Hill’s debut on the Apollo stage one Amateur Night, is familiar; others, like a 12-year-old Wonder leading a full-band MoTown Revue with nothing more than his voice and a harmonica, are rarities. Frank Schiffman, the co-founder of the Apollo, kept copious, cheeky notes on the talent who came through the stage door on 126th street, and snapshots of these cards were shared (along with boisterous commentary from Dionne Warwick). From its first Amateur Night to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, which was adapted for the stage for the first time at the Apollo in 2018, The Apollo packs in several lifetimes of history without overwhelming the viewer with information or putting them to sleep in between concert clips.

If he were to simply rely on the stuffed vault of archival material, he’d have a fine documentary on his hands, but Williams took The Apollo from great to extraordinary by stressing how necessary it is to study the connection between current events and the creators living through them, and how thhis impacts the theater as much the art that keeps it open. Several artists share stories of touring through the Jim Crow South and performing throughout the Civil Rights Movement, and Robinson and Patti LaBelle recall sleeping in station wagons, being denied service in Southern restaurants and facing various hostilities on tour.

These experiences were the polar opposite of what they found at the Apollo. James Brown’s funeral was held there in 2006 after a lifetime spent performing at the theater (and recording some game-changing live albums, too), and Williams takes the time to connect the significance of 1968’s  “Say It Loud, I’m Black & I’m Proud” to the tumultuous period in which Brown released it. When footage of Billie Holiday singing “Strange Fruit” rolls, Williams anchors the somber protest anthem with a discussion about why Holiday’s label hesitated to release it and how she was able to perform it, free of censorship and corporate interests, on the Apollo’s stage.

The inclusion of Paul McCartney’s voice is a potent move, one that attempts to right a wrong frequently perpetrated in the writing of rock history. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley and other white, guitar-slinging musicians are often dubbed the forefathers of rock n’ roll in lieu of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the other black artists who actually laid the groundwork for American popular music at large. By putting McCartney in front of camera to share his adoration of black music — and specifically his insistence that the Beatles desperately wanted to make a pilgrimage to the Apollo when they first touched down stateside — Williams makes space for these artists while setting the record straight.

This all underscores the heart of The Apollo, which stresses that the theater isn’t a shrine for the stars of yesteryear, but a blank canvas for new work and new stories — even in the toughest times. Footage of Between the World and Me’s run opens and closes the documentary, with Angela Bassett, Common and more giving voice to Coates’ words throughout the production.

Written as a letter to his young son in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death, Between the World and Me confronts the violent racism of the real world through the trauma of Coates’ lived experience, and The Apollo shows discussions between the play’s cast members as they unpack his text and its themes. Williams’ lens then turns to Coates as he watches Bassett read from the wings. It’s a moment as moving and incendiary as when Franklin brought the room to their stamping feet, or when Brown whipped himself into a frenzy, or when Hill returned to the Apollo alongside the Fugees after her Amateur Night debut.

And that, in a single shot, is the whole point: The Apollo trusts black voices to tell their stories in their vivid, brilliant, revolutionary ways, and The Apollo put that relationship under a much-deserved spotlight.

Before Williams came out, Tribeca Film Festival founders Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal delivered their opening remarks. “In these disturbing times, when the administration is promoting divisiveness and racism, by being here tonight, we’re making a statement that we reject it,” De Niro said to thunderous applause. It was just another night at the Apollo, and those nights are worth celebrating well into the next 85 years.

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Deadline: “Tribeca Film Festival Celebrates Harlem Landmark With Opening Night HBO Doc ‘The Apollo’; Robert De Niro Gets An ‘Amen’ For Slamming Trump”

The Tribeca Film Festival in recent years has opened with documentaries about the soul and institutions that are pillars of New York City, whether with subjects like Saturday Night Live or local native and music mogul Clive Davis, and this year was no exception as the 18th Robert De Niro-Jane Rosenthal co-created event shined a spotlight on Harlem’s holy entertainment venue: The Apollo Theater on 125th street, subject of the premiering Roger Ross Williams’ HBO documentary The Apollo. 

“Every time I set foot in this hall of art and entertainment, I can feel its incredible history. I hear the echoes of the artists who performed here, the audiences who came here to be entertained, to applaud, sometimes to jeer, and often to be moved. In these disturbing times when the administration is promoting divisiveness and racism, by being here tonight, we’re making a statement that we reject it,” said De Niro to great cheers.

“No you don’t! Not in this house! Not on this stage!,” De Niro shouted at the Donald Trump presidential administration.

“Amen!” responded attendees in the house.

Typically, Tribeca kicks off the festival at the Upper West Side Beacon Theatre which seats 2,894. With The Apollo, natch, premiering at The Apollo, attendance was smaller this year given the venue’s three-tiered 1,506 seating capacity.

The doc, a six year journey in the making, covers plenty of ground, largely beginning with the theater’s swing era (The Apollo was built in 1913-14) of Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie, moving to Ella Fitzgerald forgetting her lines in a song and finding her scatting voice, to a 13-year old Lauryn Hill getting rejected by the crowd (only to return years as an adult and knock their socks off), to James Brown being a beacon during the black-power revolution with his anthem “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud” and to President Barack Obama becoming the first U.S. President to step onto the legendary stage of African American art and culture which has triumphed over racism and oppression through history.

One of the more current-day story lines running throughout the doc is the stage rehearsal and 2018 spoken word performance of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me,” the author’s letter to his teenage son about the feelings, symbolism, and realities associated with being black in the United States and the racist violence woven into American culture. In the face of adversity, The Apollo was a safe haven for the voice, no matter how big or small, of African American culture.

Largely run by Frank Schiffman during the swing and Motown eras, he amassed a huge index card file on acts that played there, how much each grossed, and a brief and blunt critique of their performances. That said, while the Cotton Club and Savoy had white-only audiences, The Apollo was a venue that African Americans could call their own. Quite often more established black acts during the Motown era would forgo playing the establishment in favor of white only venues, but that changed when The Apollo reached out to Eartha Kitt, who made a point to absolutely play there.

It was through Schiffman’s talent booker Ralph Cooper that The Apollo first launched its legendary Amateur Nights, giving a voice to fresh and burgeoning comedy and musical acts. New talent would come in from around the country, sometimes broke, for a shot to audition. The crowd at The Apollo was scary for any performer, as Richard Pryor explains in the film, being known to boo acts off stage. However, The Apollo wasn’t a venue for button-down dramatic theater, but for passion and soul. Booing was a right of passage and for any act gracing the stage, it only served to make them better.

Keeping The Apollo alive financially was always a risky proposition (even with Gladys Knight & The Pips performing several shows from 11am to 11pm during their 1960s beginnings) and the business model couldn’t sustain itself through various owners. In 1991 the state of New York bought the Apollo and created the non-profit Apollo Theater Foundation to run it.

Last night, Williams, who won an Oscar for the 2010 short subject doc Music by Prudence, said, “For 85 years, the greatest talent in history graced this stage. Tonight is about celebrating that history and what it means to black people. Our struggles are defined by our music and our art. This film is a celebration of how far we’ve come, but how farther we need to go. In the words of my esteemed composer Robert Glasper, ‘Don’t turn back now, we’ve come too far not to make it.’”

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Variety: “Tribeca Film Review: ‘The Apollo’”

The legendary Harlem show palace gets the documentary it deserves, a bracing and moving look at how a parade of extraordinary popular artists redefined black America — and America, period — from one stage.

Director: Roger Ross WilliamsWith: Pharrell Williams, Leslie Uggams, Jamie Foxx, Patti LaBelle, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Smokey Robinson, Paul McCarney, Charles Rangel.

Official Site: https://www.tribecafilm.com/filmguide/apollo-2019

You should never take for granted a documentary that fills in the basics with flair and feeling. Especially when the basics consist of great big gobs of some of the most revolutionary and exhilarating popular art ever created in this country. Roger Ross Williams’ documentary “The Apollo,” which kicked off the Tribeca Film Festival on a note of soulful celebration (at a premiere held, of course, at the Apollo Theater), fills in the 85-year history of the 1,506-seat show palace on 125th St. in Harlem that changed black culture and changed American culture (no, it was more than that — the Apollo changed black life and changed American life). The movie brings off that feat in a bracing and moving way: by flowing back and forth between past and present, performance and political activism, so that by the end we know in our bones how false it would be separate them.

Countless astonishing spectacles of black expression were experienced, for the first time, on the Apollo stage. But in “The Apollo,” an event that stands out is the weekly gladiatorial talent show known as Amateur Night, an Apollo institution ever since the theater began its life in 1934. The glory of Amateur Night was at once aesthetic and existential. Anyone who wanted to could get up on stage, which meant that even the most marginalized members of a marginalized community could have a voice. The Apollo gave them access. You could say that the dream that drives every music-competition reality show was born, decades before, at the Apollo. And though the Apollo didn’t have judges, it had something every bit as judgey (and dramatic): the audience. They were the toughest crowds on earth, and loved nothing more than to exercise their power by booing someone off the stage.

But that didn’t mean Amateur Night was anything but a joyous free-for-all. To make the grade, you had to shine; the audience was celebrating its own high standards. And the effect of all that energy was to burnish (or, in some cases, just burn) the talent in front of it. Ella Fitzgerald first appeared on Amateur Night in 1934, when she was 17; she forgot the lyrics to the song she was singing, so she started scatting — and the rest is history. But then we see an Apollo clip of Lauryn Hill from the late 1980s, when she was just 13. She’s pitchy as hell, and the crowd rejects her. (In this case, history would have to wait a few years for a reset.)

On Amateur Night, the excitement was in knowing that you could see just about anything (including an act that might change the world). And that’s the excitement of watching “The Apollo.” The movie, through its addictive and exhaustively researched film and video clips, salutes a shocking range of genius, from Duke Ellington leading an orchestra so tight that each note seems to glisten to Billie Holiday singing “Strange Fruit” with a bitterness so acidic it stings, from Little Stevie Wonder doing the apocalyptic version of “Fingertips (Pt. 2)” that became famous to Aretha Franklin performing a ’70s rendition of “Respect” that makes the studio version sound shy, from Honi Coles and Cholly Atkins tap dancing with such exquisite synchronization that their simplest steps are hypnotic to Richard Pryor entering the mind of a white cop who “accidentally” kills a black citizen in a way that makes the laughter freeze in your throat.

Swing and bebop, funk and soul; crooners and torch singers; Motown and the avant-garde; blackface in the ’30 and drag in the ’60s; stand-up comedy and spoken-word poetry: the Apollo was a protean stage of the imagination, a place that stretched the limits, then reset and stretched them again. What was enacted on that stage, every night, was possibility.

Along the way, there are great stories, like Smokey Robinson talking about how first-timers got the cramped eighth-floor dressing rooms and had to work their way down, or Leslie Uggams recalling how after doing her first show there, and getting ready to leave the theater, she was told that she had four more shows to do that day. Performers typically did 29 shows a week. And if can’t quite be said that all of them were underpaid, we do get a glimpse of the typed index cards that Frank Schiffman, the hard-nosed promoter who bought the place in 1934, kept on each and every act. He sounds like a utilitarian (but weirdly tasteful) Hollywood mogul as he grinds out notes that are tough, fair, and rooted in a financial paradigm. Yet at a time when the Cotton Club and the Savoy were whites-only venues, he was opening doors.

The Apollo, the movie argues, was a kind of “university” for its performers, who tried out aesthetic styles and moves that became world-famous. Paul McCartney talks about how the Beatles, who had baptized themselves in the sound of groups like the Isley Brothers (“Twist and Shout”), were eager to visit the Apollo during their first American tour, but were steered away from it because it was “too dangerous.” That was a paranoid white view of the violence of the inner city, and there’s a touching story about how a chain of people formed around the Apollo to protect it during the Harlem riot of 1964. (Not a pane of glass was broken.) Then again, it’s not as if the Apollo had to hide from the black-power revolution. It was practically launched there — almost literally, with James Brown’s epochal performance of “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud.”

What did the Apollo in, ironically, was the mass success of the artists it helped launch. They’d gotten too big to play there, a situation exacerbated by the fact that there weren’t enough seats. Part of the magic of the Apollo is its majestic intimacy; I saw Prince perform there from the balcony, and felt like I was practically on top of him. But by the mid-’70s, its days as a headline spot were over, and it closed its doors, as if succumbing to the general urban decay around it, as money got sucked out of Harlem and into the suburbs. The movie tells the happy-ending story of how the Apollo was renovated and saved, first by the former Manhattan borough president Percy B. Sutton (who, though he tried, couldn’t make it a successful business), and ultimately by the State of New York, which set up the Apollo Theater Foundation to sustain it.

The Apollo remains a mythical historical attraction and a still-active theater that draws over a million visitors annually. The movie is framed with the rehearsal, and 2018 performance, of “Between the World and Me,” a stage version of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ incendiary, free-form manifesto written as a letter to his teenage son about the experience of being black in America. It’s the only piece of non-musical, non-dance drama in the movie, yet its presence serves to coax out something essential: that every moment of stage performance the Apollo Theater ever saw was political — not because it carried some underlying social or political message, but because it represented, through the incandescence of its artistry, the assertion of blackness in the world. Malcolm X said that equality for African-Americans should be achieved by any means necessary. The Apollo demonstrated — and “The Apollo” deftly captures — how one of the means to achieve it was beauty.

Tribeca Film Review: ‘The Apollo’

Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (Gala), April 24, 2019. Running time: 98 MIN.

PRODUCTION: An HBO release of a White Horse Pictures, The Lagralane Group production. Producers: Lisa Cortes, Nigel Sinclair, Jeanne Elfant Festa, Cassidy Hartmann, Roger Ross Williams.

CREW: Director: Roger Ross Williams. Screenplay: Cassidy Hartmann, Jean Tsien. Camera (color, widescreen): Michael Dwyer. Editor: Jean Tsien, John S. Fisher. Music: Robert Glasper.

WITH: Pharrell Williams, Leslie Uggams, Jamie Foxx, Patti LaBelle, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Smokey Robinson, Paul McCarney, Charles Rangel.

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Hollywood Reporter: “‘The Apollo’: Film Review | Tribeca 2019”

The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival opens with Roger Ross Williams’ moving ode to the historic Harlem theater.

Even non-Manhattanites have heard, likely due to its famed amateur night, of the Harlem institution known as the Apollo Theater. This decades-long gathering place for an African-American community that often was, and still very much is, under siege gets a splendid tribute in Roger Ross Williams’ 2019 Tribeca Film Festival opener, and HBO-bound feature, The Apollo.

Fittingly, the movie world-premiered in the very venue it was honoring, and Tribeca co-founder Robert De Niro used the opportunity to take a few swipes at the racist dog-whistling of a certain commander-in-chief. “Not in this house!” he thundered, while conspicuously keeping the bad-behaved twit in question unmentioned. The audience, wildly applauding, knew exactly who he meant.

As Williams’ film goes on to show, displays of both approbation and reproach are common at The Apollo. A performer quickly knows if they’ve got the masses (1,506 patrons at full capacity) on their side, and among the archival treasures here is a video of 13-year-old Lauryn Hill not quite blowing the crowd away. There’s an element of danger to taking that stage, something not necessarily relieved by rubbing the “Tree of Hope” stump, the remains of a “good luck” elm chopped down in 1934 (the year the theater first opened its doors to black spectators) that sits just by the wings.

But there are innumerable triumphs as well, which many interviewees recall with a dazed gleam in their eye. Leslie Uggams, who first graced the Apollo stage as a 9-year-old, reminisces about opening for Louis Armstrong. Jamie Foxx talks about comics like Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor, who told harsh truths (about poverty and police brutality, among other oppressions) in ways that would have Apollo attendees doubled over with laughter.

There’s some amazing footage of an older Billie Holiday breathing fiery life into “Strange Fruit,” which she performed at the theater in its early days against the counsel of the powers-that-be, as well as an early Motown gathering that features a coterie of grand-talents-in-the-making such as Diana Ross and the Supremes and a 12-year-old Stevie Wonder. And no Apollo retrospective would be complete without fervent consecrations of the Godfather and the Queen of Soul, James Brown and Aretha Franklin, each of whom raised their audiences’ spirits in revolutionary ways.

The film isn’t just enshrining the Apollo’s history, however. Williams is as concerned with the theater’s future, with what its place is in a world that is perhaps better than it was, but remains in so many ways (and to African-Americans in particular) emphatically terrible. The Apollo eavesdrops on a few soul-searching board meetings chaired by CEO Janelle Procope and her team (the closest the doc gets to Frederick Wiseman-esque vérité). It also observes rehearsals for and the premiere performance of a star-studded stage adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s epistolary polemic Between the World and Me. Angela Bassett and Common absolutely kill their contributions.

In these scenes, Williams seems to be pondering if the Apollo — which survived a bankruptcy-incited closure in the ’70s, and is now a federal and city landmark run by a State of New York non-profit — can remain an indefinitely vital house of congregation and inspiration. Well, who can speak to eternity? But the fact that the theater has stood steadfast among so much change (good, ill and indifferent) suggests it will at the least endure. And The Apollo goes a long way to ensuring that the memories created in this one-of-a-kind space will be neither fleeting nor forgotten.

Director: Roger Ross Williams
Producers: Lisa Cortes, Nigel Sinclair, Jeanne Elfant Festa, Cassidy Hartmann, Roger Ross Williams
Screenwriters: Cassidy Hartmann, Jean Tsien
Cinematographer: Michael Dwyer
Editors: Jean Tsien, John S. Fisher
Venue: Tribeca Film Festival (Gala)

98 minutes

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20 Tribeca Film Festival Movies We’re Most Excited About

The 18th edition of the Tribeca Film Festival is set to take over downtown Manhattan on April 24 through May 5, and the 100-plus movies that will be showcased at the annual affair tackle a variety of genres and topics.

From much-anticipated documentaries to highly advertised feature films dealing with themes that have resonated within society both politically and culturally throughout the year, the 2019 lineup looks as stellar as ever.

Although there is still much ground to cover, the changing landscape of the industry makes itself apparent more than ever today: 40% of the feature films showcased are directed by women, 29% by people of color and 13% by LGBTQIA. 

Here are the 20 productions we’re most excited to catch:

1. The Apollo

Oscar winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams is behind this documentary that takes a deeper look at the history of the iconic venue in New York City, which will host the world-premiere of the screening and kick off the year’s festival. The film also explores the first stage production of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me.

2. The Quiet One

The film focuses on artist and original bassist for the Rolling Stones Bill Wyman, dubbed a “man of few words.” Expect to take a peek behind his personal archives, filled with photographs, memorabilia and unseen footage, in addition to interviews with family and friends.

3. A Day in the Life of America

Actor Jared Leto puts on his director hat for this documentary that features footage from all 50 American states over the Fourth of July, creating an all-encompassing view of the country.

4. Georgetown

Christoph Waltz’s directorial debut centers around Ulrich Mott, an “eccentric social climber” that “throws lavish parties with his much-older wife.” The film stars the director himself alongside Vanessa Redgrave, who plays Waltz’s wife, and Annette Bening, his wife’s daughter.

5. Dreamland

Margot Robbie plays Allison Wells, a fugitive bank robber with a bounty on her head. Finn Cole sees her capture and the money he’d receive from that bounty as the only way to save his family’s farm, which is on the brink of foreclosure.

6. American Woman

This fictional drama is inspired by the much-chronicled 1974 kidnapping of heiress Patricia Hearst, who was 19 years old when taken from her apartment in Berkeley, California and beaten by an urban guerilla group called the Symbionese Liberation Army. Mad Men producer Semi Chellas’ directorial debut is a fictionalized retelling of Hearst’s time in hiding.

7. Only

Freida Pinto and Leslie Odom Jr. star in this post-apocalyptic love story about a mysterious plague that only affects females.

8. Framing John DeLorean

Framing John DeLorean focuses on the infamous auto executive whose company crashed in the ’80s following corruption- and drug-related charges. Alec Baldwin stars as the titular character.

9. Come to Daddy

Elijah Wood is the star of this thriller: after a suicide attempt and heavy drug usage, he ventures out to his estranged father’s waterfront home in the hopes of  reconnecting with him. But, upon his arrival, he notices strange things happening. 

10. Standing Up, Falling Down

Ben Schwartz and Billy Crystal play two parts of an unlikely friendship between a stand-up comedian and a dermatologist in Long Island in this comedy directed by Matt Ratner.

11. Ask Doctor Ruth

Dr. Ruth Westheimer, now 90, is the subject of this documentary by Ryan White exploring her career as a celebrity sex therapist and, even more interestingly, her life as a Holocaust survivor. 

12. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

Following Netflix’s successful documentary about serial killer Ted Bundy, this new film chronicles Bundy’s crimes from the perspective of his longtime girlfriend Liz (Lily Collins). Zac Efron stars as Bundy himself.

13. I Want My MTV

Explore the launch and early days of the culture-defining, music-centric network MTV in this documentary by Tyler Meason and Patrick Waldrop. Executives, musicians and veejays who were part of the 1981 launch and beyond appear on-camera for interviews.

14. The Kill Team

An unlikely duo, Alexander Skarsgård and Nat Wolff, play American soldiers in Afghanistan in this true crime thriller directed by Dan Krauss.

15. Luce

In Luce, Octavia Spencer plays an “overbearing teacher” whose perspective on Luce, one of his students, is shattered after an “unsettling essay” that he pens. Tim Roth and Naomi Watts play Luce’s adoptive parents.

16. Other Music

Now permanently closed, Other Music was a record store in New York’s West Village that, for 20 years, also functioned as a cultural and neighborhood staple. This documentary chronicles its history by featuring bands the likes of the Strokes, Vampire Weekend and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

17. Yesterday

Already heavily marketed and picked up for distribution by Universal Pictures,  Yesterday imagines a world with no Beatles. Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle directs Himesh Patel as a struggling singer-songwriter in England who appropriates Beatles’ songs when nobody else knows about their existence. The result? Life-shattering fame, of course.

18. Safe Spaces

Adjunct professor Josh (Justin Long) is dealing with a budding romance, a class of college students and his grandmother’s illness in this comedy also starring Fran Drescher and Richard Schiff.

19. After Parkland

Spend 90 minutes witnessing the immediate aftermath of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that shook the country to its core. The documentary features footage with both students and their parents.

20. Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston

Learn about the rise and fall of Halston, dubbed America’s “first celebrity designer” and a staple of the city’s nightlife scene. Billy Joel, Anjelica Huston, Diane von Furstenberg and Liza Minnelli are just some of the many people featured in interviews.

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Nigel Sinclair, Celine Rattray, Thomas Benski among speakers at Winston Baker NYC forum

Nigel Sinclair, Celine Rattray and Thomas Benski are among speakers scheduled to attend the 11th annual Winston Baker TV & Film Finance Forum in New York on April 24 in association with the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.

The event will cover financial and creative perspectives in entertainment and address growth and innovation strategies for film and television investors, operators and content creators in an evolving marketplace.

Strategy executives from Viacom, Vine Alternative Investments, Alcon Media Group and Guggenheim Securities will speak on the state of the market, M&A strategies, and what buyers want.

Sinclair is the co-founder and co-head with Guy East of White Horse Pictures and his producer and executive producer credits include RushEnd Of WatchThe Way Back, Tribeca Film Festival opening night premiere The Apollo, and a host of music documentaries on performers ranging from The Beatles to the late tenor Luciano Pavarotti.

Rattray partners with Trudie Styler at New York-based Maven Pictures and has produced SkinThe Kindergarten TeacherThe Kids Are All RightNovitiate and the upcoming Sylvia Plath adaptation The Bell Jar. She served as executive producer on American Honey.

Pulse Films CEO and co-founder Benksi produced among others American Honey and the upcoming drama Mughal Mowgli and documentary XY Chelsea. His executive producer credits include The Witchand Skate Kitchen.

This year’s speaker roster includes Lilly Burns of Jax Media, Jennifer Cron of Eko, Brian Hunt of Believe Entertainment Group, Rafael Marmor of Delirio Films, and Dia Simms of Combs Enterprises.

Oscar-winning screenwriter Alexander Dinelaris (Birdman, shared with Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, and Armando Bo) will address storytelling strategies from conception through production, while John Sloss and distribution expert Lia Buman will share insider tips on finding success in the film business.

The event will take place at the Dream Downtown Hotel in New York City. For further information click here.

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White Horse Pictures Promotes Head Of Production Nicholas Ferrall To President

LA-based production firm White Horse Pictures (The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years) has named current head of production Nicholas Ferrall to the newly created role of company president with immediate effect.

Ferrall will oversee the firm’s slate of film and TV projects through development, production and distribution and will produce specific projects with White Horse Executive Chairmen Nigel Sinclair and Guy East and fellow partners Jeanne Elfant Festa and Cassidy Hartmann.

Ferrall is currently producing feature horror film Queen Mary to be directed by Gary Shore. Pic is also being produced with Brett Tomberlin with Rocket Science repping world sales. He is serving as executive producer on the company’s upcoming slate of docs including The Apollo helmed by Roger Ross Williams; an authorized documentary about The Bee Gees, directed by Frank Marshall; and Ron Howard’s Pavarotti, based on the life of the acclaimed tenor.

White Horse Pictures’ Sinclair and East said, “As White Horse goes into the next phase of its growth, we are so fortunate to have Nicholas Ferrall available to lead the company as president and supported by our extraordinary partners Jeanne Elfant Festa and Cassidy Hartmann. Guy and I are excited to keep working with this stellar team to create more great programming.”

Prior to joining White Horse in 2014, Ferrall worked at Sinclair’s Spitfire Pictures as vice president of documentary features. Before that he was at Strike Entertainment.

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THE 2019 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL SET TO OPEN WITH WORLD PREMIERE OF HBO’S NEW DOCUMENTARY THE APOLLO

Academy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams’ new film celebrates the historic New York City cultural landmark where musical legends were made.

 

The Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T, will open its 18th edition with the world premiere of director Roger Ross Williams and HBO’s new documentary film The Apollo. Helmed by the Oscar and Emmy-winning Williams (Music by Prudence; Life, Animated), The Apollo chronicles the unique history and contemporary legacy of the New York City landmark, the Apollo Theater. The film will debut at the iconic theater itself on Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 and later this year on HBO. The feature-length documentary weaves together archival footage, music, comedy, and dance performances, and behind-the-scenes moments with the team that makes the theater run.

The Apollo features interviews with artists like Patti LaBelle, Pharrell Williams, Smokey Robinson, and Jamie Foxx. The film is produced by Lisa Cortés (Precious), White Horses Pictures’ Nigel Sinclair (George Harrison: Living in the Material World, Undefeated), Jeanne Elfant Festa (Foo Fighters: Back and Forth, Pavarotti), Cassidy Hartmann (The Beatles: Eight Days A Week, Pavarotti), and Williams. The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival runs April 24th through May 5th.

The documentary covers the rich history of the storied performance space over its 85 years and follows a new production of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me as it comes to the theater’s grand stage. The creation of this vibrant multi-media stage show frames the way in which The Apollo explores the current struggle of black lives in America, the role that art plays in that struggle, and the broad range of African-American achievement that the Apollo Theater represents.

The Apollo Theater is internationally renowned for having influenced American and pop culture more than any other entertainment venue. The space has created opportunities for new talent to be seen and has served as a launchpad for a myriad of artists, including Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin (picture below backstage at the Apollo), Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, Luther Vandross, Dave Chappelle, Lauryn Hill, Jimi Hendrix, and more.

“We’re excited to finally be going uptown to play the Apollo,” said Jane Rosenthal, co-founder and CEO of the Tribeca Film Festival. “The Apollo gives audiences an inside look at the major role this institution has played for the past 85 years. It’s seen the emergence of everything from jazz to R&B to soul and gospel — all quintessential American music genres — and this is the time to remind people of our nation’s rich history. ”

The Apollo is about so much more than just music, it’s about how we used music and art to lift ourselves out of oppression,” commented Williams. “The story of the Apollo is the story of the evolution of black American identity and how it grew to become the defining cultural movement of our time. I was fortunate to make my first film with HBO and I am thrilled to be coming back home with The Apollo. Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, at the Apollo Theater in Harlem is a dream come true.”

“The Apollo Theater is a symbol of the creative spirit of New York and beyond, and I’m very happy that we’re kicking off our 18th Festival celebrating it with this documentary from Roger Ross Williams,” said Tribeca co-founder Robert De Niro.

An outstanding creative team has been assembled for The Apollo, including editors Jean Tsien, ACE (Miss Sharon Jones!, Shut Up & Sing) and John S. Fisher, as well as Grammy-Award-winning musician Robert Glasper (Miles Ahead, 13th) who is composing the score. Hartmann and Tsien also serve as co-writers on the documentary.

The Apollo will have additional screenings during the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Passes and packages to attend the festival go on sale on February 19th, 2019 and can be accessed here.

The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival will announce its feature film slate on March 5th.

 

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‘Pavarotti’ Documentary From Ron Howard Debuts Teaser During 61st Grammy Awards

A first look at Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard’s new documentary on Luciano Pavarotti, considered one of the most beloved opera singers of all time, has been released tonight in conjunction with the 61st Grammy Awards.

Titled Pavarotti, the film is produced by a team that includes Academy, Emmy and Grammy Award-winners Nigel Sinclair, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Michael Rosenberg and Jeanne Elfant Festa, along with David Blackman, Nicholas Ferrall and Dickon Stainer serving as executive producers. CBS Films will release it in theaters on June 7th.

Created from a combination of Luciano Pavarotti’s genre-redefining performances and granted access to never-before-seen footage, the film will give audiences an intimate portrait of the opera singer.

Pavarotti was written by Mark Monroe (The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years) and edited by Paul Crowder (Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who, The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years).

 

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