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‘Honey Boy’ Makes A Sweet Premiere; Docus ‘The Kingmaker’ And ‘The All-Americans’ Debut – Specialty B.O. Preview

Deadline — Dino-Ray Ramos

As films like Parasite, Jojo Rabbit and Judy continue to flourish and find audiences, Shia LaBeouf’s semi-autobiographical film Honey Boy looks to sweeten the pot and bring its unique vision to not only the specialty box office space but also the award season race.

Directed by visionary filmmaker Alma Har’el, whose feature documentary work LaBeouf has produced, Honey Boy has been gaining traction right out of the gate when it made its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. The film won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Vision and Craft at the Park City fest and went on to get acquired by Amazon. The real test for the film will be its theatrical release and if it will be able to reach the masses beyond the arthouse crowd.

Also opening in theaters is the Lauren Greenfield Showtime documentary The Kingmaker which puts the spotlight on the highly scrutinized and over glamorized Imelda Marcos, the former First Lady of the Philippines. It also gives us insight into the disturbing legacy left behind by the Marcos regime. The film from Greenwich Entertainment debuted at Venice and went on to screen at Telluride and the Toronto International Film Festival before its November 8 theatrical debut.

Abramorama is looking to score with The All-Americans, a sports documentary that, at first, feels like Friday Night Lights but the Billy McMillin-directed docu sheds light on cultural identity, immigration and the American dream through the perspective of the Latino community in East Los Angeles.

Honey Boy
Amazon Studios

Honey Boy has been making its festival rounds to a great ovation and critical acclaim. Written and starring Shia LaBeouf, the film is based on his own life experience. Director Alma Har’el makes her feature narrative debut and helps tell his personal story that sheds light on his stormy childhood as a young actor and spills into his early adult years as he struggles to reconcile with his father through cinema and dreams.

For Har’el the heart of the story is the father and son relationship which bleeds into the way the undercurrents of alcoholism, failure, expectations and masculinity can create generational pain that keeps passed to generation to generation. She adds that there is a “meta aspect of Shia playing his own father” and that the film was an opportunity to bend the medium. It was not just a scripted biopic, but a way for Har’el to navigate the idea of performance and therapy. With Honey Boy, it allowed for her to expand her storytelling abilities.

“I’ve always used other ways of telling stories,” Har’el told Deadline. “I don’t believe telling a story just through dramatizing scripts is something that I have ever done.” She said that since her first film, it feels natural for her just to create stories that aren’t necessarily genre-specific, which is why collaborating with LaBeouf for Honey Boy was an ideal fit.

The film, which also stars Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe and FKA twigs, has many layers as it gives us a fictionalized version of LaBeouf’s childhood as he ascends to stardom and then crashes into early adulthood with rehab and recovery. Stepping into the role as his father, an ex-rodeo clown and felon, was certainly therapeutic for LaBeouf and can certainly offer insight for those who are struggling with daddy issues. Even though paternal relationships are the foundation of the film, Har’el points out that the film tells a story about facing adulthood — something many are still trying to come to terms with.

“Every film provides the opportunity for a person to go through the process of individuation — or basically growing up,” she said. “We assume that growing up as an adult has to do with the years of our age — but as you know, there are hardly any adults as we can tell from the state of the world. I think this film has helped me grow up in many ways. I’ve got to really explore things that are at the core of what keeps me from becoming an adult.”

Honey Boy is certainly not told through a traditional lens as it is ambitious in its storytelling and swings for the fences. Although it leans towards the arthouse crowd, the story is universal and Har’el hopes it reaches the masses. She has said that after screenings of the film, audience members have come up to her laughing and crying at the same time saying how much the film struck a chord with them.

“People who are watching this film aren’t only watching a film…they leave the theater experiencing something much bigger,” she said. “Those who need it will find it.”

As the film enters the award season race, Har’el feels that Amazon is the perfect home for Honey Boy as the film is run by people coming from the independent space including Ted Hope.

“What we’re seeing with this film is that it is possible to work with filmmakers and to do a marketing campaign to reach audiences in a way that fits the film and the vision of the filmmaker,” she said. “That’s what I have been seeing with Amazon — a willingness to work with me and find a way to shape everything about the film from the poster to how we speak about it in a way that feels authentic to the reason we made it.”

Honey Boy opens today in New York at Lincoln Square and the Angelika Film Center as well as in Los Angeles at the Arclight Hollywood and The Landmark.

The Kingmaker
Greenwich Entertainment

The Marcos regime left a significant impact on the Philippines that continues to reverberate in 2019, specifically with the country’s former First Lady Imelda Marcos. With her endless supply of shoes, she has remained an indomitable figure in the Philippines which makes her the perfect subject for Lauren Greenfield’s The Kingmaker.

Despite the glamour and her life of excess, the Showtime documentary digs into the legacy of Imelda and her late husband Ferdinand and her attempt to sweep the history of her family’s corruption under the rug and act like none of it happened. Now at 90 years old, she looks push her son Bongnong into the seat of vice president of the Philippines.

Vinnie Malhotra, EVP Nonfiction Programming at Showtime Networks, tells Deadline that during Greenfield’s filming of The Kingmaker, it became clear that Imelda Marcos was returning to power on a larger scale. If that happens the Philippines’ tainted history under the Marcos regime may repeat itself — which isn’t the most ideal scenario.

“Lauren made it clear throughout the film that the Marcoses had been propped up by a US government that worked hard to install anti-leftist regimes throughout the world, reflected in contemporary life with the disturbing closeness of our current president with the brutal strongman Duterte,” said Malhotra. “Lauren prominently included the stories of people in the Philippines who had been affected by the Marcos regime, both in the past and the present.

Amongst the stories featured is that of Andy Bautista who was the Philippines’ Chair of the Commission on Elections and Chair of the Presidential Commission on Good Government from 2010 to 2015, a commission set-up by President Cory Aquino in 1986 to recover the ill-gotten wealth accumulated during the Marcos regime in the Philippines. Bautista now lives in exile because he dared to speak up.

In addition, the film includes May Rodriguez and Etta Rosales, two other brave Filipino voices who spoke up about the atrocities of martial law. Malhotra said that Greenfield worked with a Filipino crew for three years as history unfolded and an urgent story emerged.

The film continues Greenfield’s eye-opening study of social class, wealth and culture that she explored in films such as Queen of Versailles and Generation Wealth. Having been the only documentary to play at the film festival trifecta of Venice, TIFF and Telluride, the feature is catching eyes. The Showtime docu was picked up by Greenwich, the same distributor that released Free Solo — which won the Oscar last year for Best Documentary Feature. If its festival momentum and critical acclaim matches its box office performance, The Kingmaker might very well be an award season contender.

The Kingmaker opens today in New York at The Quad and Los Angeles at Laemmle’s Royal Theater.

 

The All-Americans
Abramorama

Cultural identity, immigration and what it means to be an American has been at the center of conversation since the presidential election of 2016. In Billy McMillin’s documentary The All-Americans, he tells the story of the largest Latino immigrant population in East Los Angeles using the most American sports: football.

Written and directed by McMillin and executive produced by actress and singer Becky G, The All-Americans follows The East L.A. Classic, a yearly game between two of the biggest high school football rivals that draws 25,000 people from the community. The film puts the spotlight on four students who are looking to revel in glory on the football field while navigating obstacles and trying to find their place in America.

McMillin was struck by the community and its overwhelming support of this football game that has been happening since 1925, yet no one outside of East L.A. and Boyle Heights have heard of it. This was enough to tell the story and once he met the people that became the characters in the film, he immediately knew he had something special, urgent and profound.

“This country has struggled to define what ‘American identity’ even means throughout its existence, but never in my life more than now,” McMillin tells Deadline. “With that as a backdrop, this film is uniquely suited to tell stories of people caught up in the debate over immigration but to showcase them in a way that can get people that may disagree on most hot button issues to empathize with them and understand how much value we all add to this country.”

With the yearning for representation in Hollywood, McMillin recognizes that he had a responsibility to bring the most authenticity to their stories without tokenizing the film’s subjects. “I’m a white guy making this film, but yet I’m never in the film,” he said. “As much as possible, I wanted the film to be a fly-on-the-wall version of their lives leading up to this momentous game and everything that went into that.”

He continues, “When you spend years with these kids, they forget that you are there and open up in profound and vulnerable ways. The greatest validation that I have had so far, has been Latinx press and organizations being so positive and excited about it. Everyone I speak with reiterates how urgent the issues raised in the film are, and how incredibly important it is to hear from people from this perspective specifically. When an audience of people who have lived these lives tells you how much they can relate to the characters in the film, cheer and cry with them, that is the most validating thing. Ultimately, I hope it is a call to action about how we need to treat each other, and I hope people will share the film widely to that end.

McMillin wanted to tell a “real, unvarnished story about these kids and this community.” The film throws traditional “hero vs. villain team” sports cliches out the window and keeps the film grounded in that there isn’t always a save-the-day Hollywood ending.

“This is a film about the real lives, challenges, victories and defeats of people within East LA and how they get up every day and strive for better,” said McMillin.

The All-Americans opens today in New York and Los Angeles. The film expands to Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego and Chicago on November 15.

 

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