Indie Stream: Alex Gibney Stands by 'We Steal Secrets,' While 'Truth About Emanuel' Has Secrets of Its Own
The dark mystery of the Jessica Biel drama gets revealed online, while Alex Gibney sees VOD results from his pushback against Julian Assange.
Coming to VOD on Tuesday, a full six weeks ahead of its January theatrical debut, is The Truth About Emanuel (formerly Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes). Writing from last year’s Sundance, The Hollywood Reporter’s Justin Lowe called the film, “an accomplished coming-of-age feature that adeptly combines both dramatic and fantasy elements.” This is director Francesca Gregorini’s second coming of age story, the first being Tanner Hall, which she co-helmed with Tatiana von Furstenberg and starred Rooney Mara, who was originally set to star in Fishes, but instead stayed on as a producer.
The film tells the story of Emanuel (Kaya Scodelario), whose mother died while giving birth to her, and her unusual relationship with Linda (Jessica Biel), the new, hip mom who moved in next door. The film has a deep, dark secret which Lowe indicates might be why the distributor is allowing the film to gain some streaming buzz before hitting theaters: “The film will certainly charm on the festival circuit, although theatrical breakthrough will require unconventional marketing to preserve the disconcerting mystery central to the narrative.”
This is British actress Scordelario’s first substantial American role (she had a smaller role as Sam Rockwell’s daughter in Moon), though at age 21 she has already built quite a resume starring in the teen series Skins, amongst a wide variety of other U.K. based projects. While playing at Sundance, Scordelario’s performance in Fishes was consistently labeled a breakout and she made many of the One to Watch lists coming out of Park City. Meanwhile, director Gregorini already has her next project lined up with the adaptation of Your Voice in My Head, which has Emma Watson attached to star.
Opening in theaters this past Friday and also hitting online on Tuesday is Michel Gondry’s documentary Is the Tall Man Happy?. This doc centers on a series of interviews Gondry had with noted linguist and liberal activist Noam Chomsky, interviews which Gondry then animated himself. Like all of Gondry’s films, at first glance this project may seem like a bit of a head scratcher, but it will all become clearer and more intriguing once you read THR’s Matt Patches’ wonderful interview with Gondry. For those worried the MIT professor’s theories might zoom over their heads, it’s worth noting that Gondry in the role of the interviewer is far from an expert and part of the charm of the film is Chomsky playing the patient teacher. Meanwhile Gondry’s animation helps bring to life some of the great thinker’s more abstract ideas.
Indie Stream is only dedicated to movies that are day and date releases or those that premiere online, but this week we are making an exception due to some unusual circumstances. Normally, the films of Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Darkside and The Armstrong Lie) make a significant splash in theaters before hitting VOD. That wasn’t the case with Wikileaks: We Steal Secrets, which did significantly worse business in theaters than Gibney’s previous films. As reported in THR earlier this week, Gibney believes that is because Wikileak’s Julian Assange successfully created a negative impression of the film causing Gibney to feel the need to push back.
The documentarian tells Indie Stream why he was caught off guard:
“I was particularly surprised he got away with calling the film anti-Wikileaks, which to most observers is not the case at all. He inspires a certain amount of blind faith, so he tried to brand the film and twist into something it wasn't. I was a bit surprised, not so much by Assange, but by the piling on by people I thought should have known better.”
Call it a random sampling, but Indie Stream took the temperature of three prominent liberal foreign policy bloggers, many of whom are predisposed to like Gibney’s films based on Client 9 and Taxi to the Darkside, to ask what they knew of Gibney’s Wikileaks film. None of those sampled had seen the film, but they said they’d heard it was “a negative portrayal” and “a hit job”.
What’s frustrating to Gibney is that because there are some negative things about Assange in his film, the entire project has been painted as an attack on Wikileaks as a whole. This is why he took time out from filming and promoting Armstrong this week to hit back. Gibney tells Indie Stream that he views the doc’s VOD as a re-release and “big time” chance for the film to find the audience he thinks it should have found in theaters. And what have the results of Gibney’s pushback been?
“Recently it soared back up to the top of all independent film, fiction and non-fiction, and got into the top 10 of all films,” the filmmaker happily reports.