Two lesser known niche Texas-based distributors found their films on the Oscar foreign language film short list Wednesday morning, leaving films from better known companies like Music Box, IFC, Strand and Fox behind.
Both “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seedaq Bale” (Taiwan) and “Bullhead” (Belgium) need to overcome stiff competition to become among the five nominees next Tuesday, but their inclusion so far brings greater attention to both companies.
“Warriors” is being released by Well Go USA, a Dallas-based mainly home entertainment company that handles a wide range of Asian films. Though most films go directly to DVD, they have in the past released some theatrically, including "Shaolin and Yip Man 2." They have sometimes contracted with Variance Films (New York) for day-to-day distribution. With “Warriors,” Doris Pfardrescher, President of Well Go have set April 27 as their opening date in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Hawaii (a normal pattern for Chinese films).
The version of “Warriors” being released in the U.S. is different from the one that qualified for the Oscars. The Taiwan original version was over four hours long, with an intermission. Per Academy rules, that is the one submitted to the Academy, and the one that will be screened exclusively if it is nominated. That despite its length it still made the short-list means it had to overcome even greater odds to make it this far. (Well Go is considering showing the complete film as a one-day event during each of the initial theatrical runs, and then later it would be more readily available on DVD).
“Bullhead” could be the breakout release for Drafthouse Films, based in Austin and an outgrowth of Tim League's burgeoning Drafthouse Cinemas, whose Austin Fantastic Fest had been the North American premiere. (It then played at Palm Springs, winning the best actor prize). Formed in late 2010, up to now their best known film was the British jihadist comedy “Four Lions,” which grossed under a half million dollars domestically.
Picked up by Drafthouse after it won top honors at their recent festival, “Bullhead” fits into the profile of what they look to acquire. “We want to share films we love with the widest possible audience,” says Evan Husney, Director of Drafthouse. As more of a cutting-edge thriller with genre overtones not normally associated with the Foreign Language category, it might seem an unlikely candidate. But however it got there, Drafthouse plans to capitalize if it is nominated.
‘We have held back on our final decisions until we heard about what happened with the Oscars,” according to Husney. Although it will open at the latest by late April in New York, Los Angeles and their own theaters in and around Austin, Husney says it is not out of the question that they might attempt to get it open before the awards if it is nominated on Tuesday.
With both these lesser-known films having US distribution in place, only “Omar Killed Me” (Morocco) and “SuperClasico” (Denmark) of the potential nominees remain available to potential buyers.