Doc News: “Being Elmo” Hits Theaters October 21 (Plus Two Cute New Teasers)

Back in May, Submarine Entertainment announced it would release Constance Marks’ cute and heartwarming Kevin Clash profile, “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey,” this fall for an Oscar-qualifying run before quickly hitting DVD and then PBS. Now the distributor has unveiled its theatrical strategy, and it appears to be a more substantial run than previously hinted at. There’s a possibility the doc’s ongoing acclaim and festival success (including recent wins in Traverse City and Nantucket) got Submarine thinking bigger, so following an October 21 bow at NYC’s IFC Center, they will take it around the U.S. through November and December. For already booked dates/cinemas head over to /Film.

After seeing the film at Sundance, I wrote the following in my Cinematical recap:

Many Sundance attendees fell for Special Jury winner ‘Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey,’ but it’s probably too short and simple to be a substantial theatrical title. And while kids seemed to enjoy it out in Park City, I don’t know that a documentary about the guy who operates their favorite Muppet is as appealing as simply watching ‘Sesame Street’ or an Elmo home video.

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Watch Martin Scorsese’s “A Letter to Elia”

Last week was a good one for fans of Martin Scorsese documentaries. First, his new Fran Lebowitz showcase, “Public Speaking,” hit home video on Tuesday (see my review here). Then, a day later, his other recent doc, “A Letter to Elia,” became available for free on PBS.org. This second film, an ode to filmmaker Elia Kazan, had aired as an episode of PBS’ “American Masters” program. It’s also a supplement to the DVD box set The Elia Kazan Collection, which features 15 films curated by Scorsese himself. Before all this, it screened at the 2010 New York Film Festival, where I reviewed it. Here’s an excerpt:

it’s a film as appropriate, if not more so, for a Scorsese retrospective since it’s as much about himself as it is his idol…and it’s worth addressing the fact that nobody but Scorsese, who has previously made personal “journeys” through Italian and American cinemas, could make such a subjective tribute like this and have anyone caring. This is fine, it’s mostly for those people who will pay $150 for a set of 15 Kazan films personally selected by Scorsese, but the doc isn’t just for die-hard Kazan fans. You have to be a die-hard Scorsese fan, too.

The film is only an hour, and I’m sure there are plenty of readers who are seriously into both Kazan and Scorsese, so go ahead and watch the whole film at the “American Masters” site (apparently PBS video embeds are not supported by WordPress, so my apologies on not being able to watch here).

[via Gordon and the Whale]

Doc News: Judy Garland; Tupac Shakur; Colin Hanks

– Oscar winner Rob Epstein  (“The Times of Harvey Milk,” “Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt”) is re-teaming with longtime collaborator Jeffrey Friedman following their sort of venture into narrative filmmaking (“Howl”) for a project involving the late Judy Garlandaccording to 24 Frames. Also on board is filmmaker Steven “Flip” Lippman, who makes short musical documentary  films. This feature documentary, titled “Stay All Night,” will piece together a “re-creation” of Garland’s famous 1961 comeback concert at Carnegie Hall, which was not filmed. However, Super 8mm backstage material has been uncovered, and this will be combined with music excerpts and interviews with people who were there. The idea is not to present a certain record but an experience as close to being there as possible. It doesn’t sound like they will actually be reenacting the concert, which is what the use of the word “re-create” seems to imply. It’s in beginning stages, though, so it will be some time before we see what the trio achieves. Meanwhile, Epstein and Friedman (who are likely just producing “Stay All Night”), are currently still trying to get their Linda Lovelace biopic, “Lovelace,” off the ground.

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