Reviving Arthouse Scene Gets A Sci-Fi Twist With Winston Duke-Led ‘Nine Days’ – Specialty Preview

Science fiction drama Nine Days from Sony Pictures Classics opens in four theaters in a specialty market buoyed by recent releases like Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain and Pig. New York’s arthouse scene, outpaced by LA of late, is perking up, distributors say (Ailey numbers were super there) and moviegoers are rewarding unique films and strong stories.

(The slow reviving specialty scene is keeping its head down as day-and-date tensions in wide release blockbuster-land explode.)

Nine Days hits NYC (Angelika, AMC Lincoln Square) and LA (The Landmark, AMC Sunset 5) today before rolling out nationwide August 6 in 250-275 theaters, said Jason Michael Berman, a producer, and president of Mandalay Pictures — of course depending on how it does. He’s upbeat after 800 people turned out for a New York screening this week with EP Spike Jonze introducing the film, written and directed by Edson Oda, starring Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Tony Hale, Bill Skarsgård, David Rysdahl and Arianna Ortiz.

It debuted at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and earned two Film Independent Spirit Award nominations — for Best First Feature and Best Supporting Male (for Wong).

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“I think we have something that is unique and different. Great actors. We are familiar with audience we are driving at. And I think people are going back to the movies,” said Berman. That audience includes sci-fi fans, arthouse buffs, college students and, unexpectedly, he said, faith-based audiences as it addresses existential questions about faith and life.

The film portrays Will (Duke) who spends his days in a remote Midwestern-looking outpost watching a wall of TV screens of people living their daily lives. One dies, leaving a vacancy for a new life on earth, and candidates — unborn souls — arrive at Will’s to be tested as replacements. Will faces his own existential challenge with one, Emma (Beetz), who forces him to reckon with his tumultuous past and forge a new path for his own life.

It’s a co-production of Juniper Productions, Mandalay Pictures, Nowhere, Macro Media and The Space Program, in association with Mansa Productions, Oak Street Pictures, 30West, Baked Studios and Datari Turner Productions.

Nine Days trailer:

IFC Films opens Enemies of the State in 13 theaters and on demand. It’s the latest of three whistleblower documentaries by director Sonia Kennebeck after United States Vs. Reality Winner and National Bird.

The Toronto, Doc NYC and Tribeca Film Festival selection investigates the strange case of alleged hacker and whistleblower Matt DeHart and his former Cold War spy parents who believe they are at the center of a government conspiracy and will do anything to save their son from prison. It blurs the line between reality and paranoia, attempting to solve a mystery that has puzzled activists and journalists for over a decade.

MTV Documentary Films presents Sabaya, a docu-thriller that follows an intrepid team of volunteers as they rescue women and girls being held by ISIS. Directed, shot and edited by Kurdish filmmaker Hogir Hirori, who took major risks to make the film, Sabaya premiered at Sundance, where Hirori won the Directing Award for World Cinema Documentary. It opens in New York (Film Forum) and Los Angeles (Laemmle Royal and Laemmle Pasadena Playhouse), with an expansion to theaters nationwide and virtually beginning August 6.

From Strand Releasing, The Evening Hour opens in NY (IFC Center) this weekend and in LA on August 6 (Laemmle Theaters), expanding thereafter.

The atmospheric crime drama that premiered at Sundance 2020 directed by Braden King stars Philip Ettinger, Stacy Martin, Cosmo Jarvis, Lili Taylor and Michael Trotter. From screenwriter Elizabeth Palmore’s adaptation of Carter Sickels’ novel, it explores the complex tangle of hardship and hope wrought by opioid addiction in Appalachia through a young man (Ettinger) forced to make impossible decisions in a landscape torn apart by forces larger than himself.

Elsewhere in specialty:

Kino Lorber’s social satire Never Gonna Snow Again. It premiered in competition at the Venice Film Festival, was an official selection for Telluride as well as Poland’s official submission for the Oscars. From writer/director Malgorzata Szumowska, it starring Alec Utgoff in a meditation on class, immigration and global warming.

Psychological Thriller A Dark Foe from Vertical Entertainment, directed by Maria Gabriela Cardenas, written by Oscar Cardenas and Maria Gabriela Cardenas, starring Oscar Cardenas, Selma Blair, Graham Greene, Kenxie Baldon and Bill Bellamy. A guilt-ridden FBI agent faces off with the serial killer who abducted his sister.

From Gravitas Ventures, Joshua Leonard’s dysfunctional parenting film Fully Realized Humans starring and written by Leonard and Jess Weixler. With Beth Grant, Tom Bower, Janzica Bravo and Jennifer LaFleur.

Gravitas is also releasing the newly acquired Finding Kendrick Johnson, the latest documentary by Jason Pollock (Stranger Fruit) about the death of a Georgia student in 2013. It promises new evidence in the case of the teen who was found rolled up in a gym mat at his Georgia high school. His death was ruled an accident but separate autopsies concluded otherwise.

Decal’s comedy Ride the Eagle directed by Trent O’Donnell opens in 15 theaters, on demand and digital. Written by Jake Johnson and O’Donnell with Jake Johnson, Susan Sarandon, J.K. Simmons, D’Arcy Carden.  When Leif’s (Johnson) estranged mother Honey (Sarandon) dies she leaves him a ‘conditional inheritance’ with a dubious to-do list before he can move into her picturesque Yosemite cabin.

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