Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale will open in Australian cinemas on January 24, the Australia Day weekend, as distributor Transmission Films aims to cash in on the film’s two prizes and glowing reviews at the Venice International Film Festival.
“Obviously screens are at a premium over summer but our plan is to emulate the Sweet Country release pattern,” Transmission joint MD Andrew Mackie tells IF.
Produced by Kristina Ceyton of Causeway Films and Bruna Papandrea and Steve Hutensky of Made Up Stories, the revenge thriller won the special jury prize in Venice and Baykali Ganambarr received the Marcello Mastroianni award for best new young performer.
Critics lauded the film, which will premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival on October 13, as gripping and gut-wrenching yet also touching, leavened with laugh-out-loud moments.
In his screen debut Ganambarr plays an Aboriginal tracker named Billy who accompanies young Irish convict Clare (Aisling Franciosi) as she pursues British officer Hawkins (Sam Claflin), who wronged her family, in 1820s Tasmania.
Mackie and joint MD Richard Payten are super optimistic about their 2019 Australian releases including Rachel Griffiths’ Ride Like a Girl, Kriv Stenders’ Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan, Justin Kurzel’s True History of the Kelly Gang, Unjoo Moon’s Helen Reddy biopic I Am Woman and Dean Murphy’s Paul Hogan comedy The Very Excellent Mr Dundee!
“Our Australian film slate is perhaps the most exciting part of what we do,” says Mackie. The distributor is taking a more selective approach to acquisitions, due mostly to declining ancillary revenues, but is releasing 20 films this year. There are 18 titles on next year’s slate.
“As always, we’re all about quality cinema for mature audiences, providing a counterweight to the majority of the studios’ output. It’s an audience we understand and know how to market to – and one that still comes to the cinema regularly,” Mackie says.
The distributor plans to release Ride Like a Girl, which stars Teresa Palmer as Michelle Payne, the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup, in August.
‘Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan.’
Mackie has not seen any footage of Kurzel’s bushranger film, which stars Russell Crowe, George Mackay, Nicholas Hoult and Essie Davis, but says: “The images we’ve seen are truly glorious – and unexpected.”
After a record year for the company in 2017, thanks largely to Lion, Transmission has had solid successes this year with Book Club ($6.1 million), The Bookshop ($2.7 million), Sweet Country ($2 million) and Tea with the Dames ($1.9 million).
Garth Davis’ Mary Magdalene under-performed, as Mackie theorises the Biblical saga was too bold for the faith audience and perhaps too theological for the broader audience, while the lack of a concerted US release campaign didn’t help.
With hindsight, he believes Jeremy Sims’ Wayne, the feature documentary on former Grand Prix motorcycle road racer Wayne Gardner, may have worked better as an alternate content release.
Mackie saw several films which Transmission had pre-bought at the Toronto International Film Festival but did not buy anything at the festival, observing: “I saw a few films I liked but none we considered to be ‘must haves’, and the market is demanding ‘must see’ films.”
Opening on November 5, Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria, a horror/fantasy starring Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth and Chloë Grace Moretz, polarized the critics in Toronto, hailed by some as a tour de force and damned by others as grisly, boring and silly. To Mackie it is a work of art.
Suspiria, Gus Van Sant’s comedy drama Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot (September 27), Felix van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy (October 25) and Mike Leigh’s Peterloo (March 28) are among the titles flowing from its output deal with Amazon Studios.
Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate, a biopic about painter Vincent van Gogh, starring Willem Dafoe, Oscar Isaac, Rupert Friend and Mads Mikkelsen, will premiere on December 20.
Keira Knightley plays the woman behind the Claudine novels which dazzled the French society in the first half of the 20th Century in Wash Westmoreland’s Colette (March 14).
Judi Dench, Tom Hughes and Sophie Cookson star in Trevor Nunn’s Red Joan (April 19), an escapist period drama based on the true story of a retired woman whose past as an Mi5 spy is revealed.
One of the distributor’s favourite actors, Bill Nighy stars in two films, Carl Hunter’s drama Sometimes Always Never (May 16), and William Nicholson’s romantic drama Hope Gap.