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Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page


In Higher Ground, Sony Pictures Classics on February 14, 2011 at 11:25 am


Bebe Lerner (323) 822-4800

Press Contact:
Sheri Goldberg (646) 723-3800


NEW YORK, NY (February 14, 2011) – Sony Pictures Classics announced today that they have acquired the rights in North America, Australia and New Zealand to Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut, HIGHER GROUND. Academy Award® nominee Vera Farmiga also stars in the film, alongside Academy Award® nominee John Hawkes, Donna Murphy, and Joshua Leonard. Carolyn S. Briggs and Tim Metcalfe penned the script based on Briggs’ memoir “This Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost.” HIGHER GROUND was in US dramatic competition at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

HIGHER GROUND is a Strategic Motion Ventures presentation of a BCDF Pictures Production in association with Authentic Management Projects, The Group Entertainment, and Ruminant Films. The film is produced by Claude Dal Farra, Renn Hawkey, Carly Hugo, Jon Rubinstein and Matt Parker under Dal Farra’s BCDF Pictures banner. BCDF’s Lauren Munsch and Brice Dal Farra, and Jonathan Burkhart executive produced. CAA brokered the deal with Sony Pictures Classics.

Spanning the 60s through the 80s, HIGHER GROUND expertly depicts the landscape of a tight-knit spiritual community. Inspired by the resonant memoir written by Carolyn Briggs (who also co-wrote the screenplay), This Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost, the film is a study of one woman’s internal struggle with the primary love relationships in her life. As a contemplative child, Corrine (Farmiga) longs for stability and a sense of belonging. Her parents’ marriage disintegrates when Corrine is fifteen, so she searches for security in Ethan (Leonard), a talented musician. After a shotgun wedding and a terrifying brush with death, the couple dedicates their lives to God and joins a small hippie church. Corrine and Ethan find strength and joy in this community, though some of the tenets leave Corrine unsettled. The results provoke her to begin asking questions and inspire her to finally claim her own voice.

HIGHER GROUND is one of these rare independent films — perfectly crafted, honest and inspiring. Vera Farmiga not only delivers a great performance but her debut as a filmmaker is one of the most auspicious in years. We feel this film will catch fire with audiences the way it has with us,” states Sony Pictures Classics.

In a joint statement, BCDF Pictures said, “We couldn’t be happier that Vera’s film will be distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. We are pleased to be in business with Michael Barker, Tom Bernard, and Dylan Leiner. Their skill, knowledge, and passion for independent film will be a great asset in bringing a very special movie, HIGHER GROUND to large audiences across the country.”

Michael Barker and Tom Bernard serve as co-presidents of Sony Pictures Classics—an autonomous division of Sony Pictures Entertainment they founded with Marcie Bloom in January 1992, which distributes, produces, and acquires independent films from around the world. Barker and Bernard have released prestigious films that have won 25 Academy Awards® (22 of those at Sony Pictures Classics) and have garnered over 100 Academy Award® nominations (92 at Sony Pictures Classics) including Best Picture nominations for AN EDUCATION, CAPOTE, HOWARDS END, AND CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON.

About Sony Pictures Entertainment
Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America (SCA), a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE’s global operations encompass motion picture production and distribution; television production and distribution; digital content creation and distribution; worldwide channel investments; home entertainment acquisition and distribution; operation of studio facilities; development of new entertainment products, services, and technologies; and distribution of filmed entertainment in more than 100 countries. Sony Pictures Entertainment can be found at


Magnolia Pictures Acquires North American Rights to Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood’s MAGIC TRIP

In Alex Gibney, History Films, Magic Trip, Magnolia Pictures on February 14, 2011 at 11:17 am

Monday, February 14, 2011
Matt Cowal
212-924-6701 x 212

Magnolia Pictures Acquires North American Rights to Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood’s MAGIC TRIP

Berlin – February 14, 2011 – The Wagner/Cuban Company’s Magnolia Pictures announced today they have acquired North American rights to Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood’s MAGIC TRIP, a freewheeling portrait of Ken Kesey and the Merry Prankster’s fabled road trip across America in the legendary Magic Bus. Co-directed and co-written by Oscar winner Gibney and his frequent collaborator Ellwood, the film was produced under HISTORY’s feature documentary banner, HISTORY Films, and the network will follow the film’s theatrical and home video release by Magnolia with a television broadcast premiere. Gibney produced along with Will Clarke, founder of Optimum Releasing, and Alexandra Johnes, another frequent Gibney collaborator.

In 1964, Ken Kesey, the famed author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” set off on a legendary, LSD-fuelled cross-country road trip to the New York World’s Fair. He was joined by “The Merry Band of Pranksters,” a renegade group of counterculture truth-seekers, including Neal Cassady, the American icon immortalized in Kerouac’s “On the Road,” and the driver and painter of the psychedelic Magic Bus. Kesey and the Pranksters intended to make a documentary about their trip, shooting footage on 16MM, but the film was never finished and the footage has remained virtually unseen. With MAGIC TRIP, Gibney and Ellwood were given unprecedented access to this raw footage by the Kesey family. They worked with the Film Foundation, HISTORY and the UCLA Film Archives to restore over 100 hours of film and audiotape, and have shaped an invaluable document of this extraordinary piece of American history.

Magnolia will release the film this summer as part of its Ultra VOD program, premiering the film on VOD platforms a month prior to its theatrical release—a model that proved very successful last year for another Magnolia/Gibney collaboration, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer. MAGIC TRIP will mark the sixth collaboration between Gibney and Magnolia, who distributed three of the prolific filmmaker’s projects in 2010 alone: Client 9, Casino Jack and the United States of Money, and the Freakonomics omnibus, featuring a segment by Gibney.

“Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood have done a masterful job piecing together this incredibly amazing footage,” said Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles. “It is truly like a taking a trip in a time machine back to the cultural beginning of the sixties.”

“I’m delighted to tune in and turn on with Magnolia and MAGIC TRIP,” said director Gibney. “Magnolia has the mind-expanded consciousness to be able to make the most out of this film. We’re on the bus. Further!”

The deal was negotiated by Magnolia SVP Tom Quinn with Cinetic’s John Sloss.

About Magnolia Pictures
Magnolia Pictures ( is the theatrical and home entertainment distribution arm of the Wagner/Cuban Companies, a vertically-integrated group of media properties co-owned by Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban that also includes the Landmark Theatres chain, and the high definition cable network HDNet. Magnolia’s eclectic slate includes such critically acclaimed films as the Oscar nominated documentary Food, Inc., Oscar winner Man on Wire, James Gray’s Two Lovers, Bong Joon-Ho’s Mother, Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love, Oscar-winner Alex Gibney’s documentaries Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Gonzo and Casino Jack, Tanya Hamilton’s Night Catches Us, and Andrew Jarecki’s All Good Things. Upcoming releases include Andrew Rossi’s New York Times Documentary Page One, Mark Pellington’s I Melt With You, Fred Cavayé’s Point Blank, Max Winkler’s Ceremony and many more.

About HISTORY Films

HISTORY Films brings cinematic stories by outstanding independent filmmakers to the widest possible audience. Through HISTORY Films, the network will pursue dramatic non-fiction films about extraordinary people and those singular moments in our past, present and future that stand out forever, demonstrating that History is Made Every Day. The HISTORY Films roster currently includes: Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010) (produced by Creative Differences for HISTORY Films in association with MORE 4); Countdown to Zero (2010) (produced by Creative Differences for HISTORY Films in association with MORE 4); and Magic Trip (2011) (produced by HISTORY Films in association with Jigsaw, Phoenix Wiley and Optimum Releasing Imaginary Forces).