New nonfiction films from Oscar winners Jonathan Demme and Kevin Macdonald - both of which are scheduled to have official premieres at next week's Toronto International Film Festival - quietly snuck into Los Angeles theaters in the past couple weeks for their Academy qualifying runs. Their films join at least five other Toronto Fest titles that have already played for at least one week in Los Angeles, with some playing at more than one theater.
It's not uncommon for films to go through the Oscar qualifying process even before they've had their official World Premieres at film festivals. Last year, two films from Toronto, Lucy Walker's BLINDSIGHT and Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck's SHUT UP AND SING! both qualified before their premiere and both made the Oscar shortlist (although neither was nominated).
As we reported last month, a number of films have been playing as "Academy Qualifiers" at various films in the Laemmle Theatres chain in order to fulfill the Academy's rule that you must have a one-week qualifying run in New York and Los Angeles prior to the end of August. Macdonald's MY ENEMY'S ENEMY screened at the Regent Showcase from August 17-23 and Demme's Jimmy Carter doc MAN FROM PLAINS played downtown at the Grande 4-Plex. The latter gets its official LA premiere in late October.
Sony Pictures Classics recently acquired Demme's film, while the Weinsteins picked up Macdonald's film on Klaus Barbie at last year's AFM Market.
In addition to Demme and Macdonald, several other Toronto titles have already unspooled in Los Angeles. Last week, talk show host turned docmaker Phil Donahue & his BODY OF WAR co-director Ellen Spiro screened at Pasadena's Academy Cinemas and, although we couldn't confirm it, it seems likely that it screened in at least one other location.
Warner Independent's DARFUR NOW, which features Don Cheadle and was directed by Ted Braun, screened last week at the Grande downtown. That makes three Darfur titles in the Academy mix this year, along with HBO's SAND AND SORROW and Annie Sundberg & Ricki Stern's THE DEVIL CAME ON HORSEBACK, viewed by many as one of this year's frontrunners.
Apparently, Barbet Schroeder TERROR'S ADVOCATE played in Los Angeles last May, not long after it debuted at Cannes. It also seems to have completed it's national rollout - again quietly and potentially to avoid any conflict with a European television broadcast - even though it is scheduled for theaters in the US this fall.
The winner at AFI Silverdocs, PLEASE VOTE FOR ME, screened in Los Angeles in July and also appears to be in the process of completing its national rollout (if it hasn't done so already). And A PROMISE TO THE DEAD: THE EXILE JOURNEY OF ARIEL DORFMAN fulfilled its qualifying run through the IDA's DocuWeek.
While each of these films has fulfilled the Academy's rule for qualifying, they must now have a national rollout, which must be completed by mid-November. This is a new rule this year (prior to this, films only needed to have a rollout if they made the Oscar shortlist) and it's led to some surprising and unintended consequences, which we will examine in depth this week.
In addition to these Toronto titles, we discovered that last year's AFI Fest winner BUDDHA'S LOST CHILDREN screened at the Laemmle Fairfax. We'll be on the lookout for other qualifying films and post a list of as many titles as we can verify in the coming weeks.
UPDATES: The Weinstein Company, which is releasing PETE SEEGER: THE POWER OF SONG, grabbed a qualifying run on August 24 at the Regent Showcase.