ThinkFilm gets Kaye's 'Fire' docu


NEW YORK -- ThinkFilm has picked up worldwide rights to the provocative, graphic abortion documentary "Lake of Fire," the first feature from director Tony Kaye since 1998's "American History X."

The 2 1/2-hour feature takes a stark look at all sides of the abortion debate, including footage of procedures, the killings of doctors who have performed them and interviews with such people as Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry and lawyer Alan Dershowitz. Made for more than $6 million over about 16 years, "Fire" will be released theatrically in October, with a possible three- to four-hour TV version to follow.

Kaye wrote, produced, directed and lensed the self-financed black-and-white film.

"What is so provocative about 'Lake of Fire' is not that it refuses to take a point of view on abortion but the way it shows how we are victimized by a sense that what we believe is more important than what others believe," said Mark Urman, head of U.S. theatrical at ThinkFilm. "It's an illness that plagues our society, and the result of people acting on a sense that they are right and others are wrong can be seen in the Middle East, in Africa and many other places."

Urman plans to roll out "Fire" at more than a half-dozen film festivals before its release. "I'd like it to be followed by panels and argued in university settings, with government officials and with various clergy," he said. "Too many documentaries are rightly accused of preaching to the choir. This film is guaranteed to give you pause whether you're pro-choice or right-to-life."

Kaye said he will present the film at advance screenings. "I want to take it to the Bible Belt, to Pensacola (Fla.), where all the (doctor) killings took place, to high schools, to universities," he said. "I felt we needed a film that explored abortion in an unbiased, mathematical, scientific kind of way."

The director is no stranger to debate. He wrangled with New Line Cinema and star Edward Norton over the neo-Nazi drama "American History X," paying large sums for ambiguous trade ads, attempting to change his directorial credit to Humpty Dumpty and ultimately losing his battle for final cut. (Kaye is now working on an expanded DVD director's cut of the film along with a documentary.)

In the ThinkFilm contract, Kaye is guaranteed final cut, but seeds of uncertainty over the theatrical version remain. Urman said "Fire" is a "work in progress" and that ThinkFilm is going to look at the film with the director before its release "in the event Mr. Kaye chooses to adjust it." Urman added, "The film's epic length is part of the point. We loved the (2 1/2-hour) movie we saw in Toronto."

But Kaye denied that the theatrical version, which debuted in September at the Toronto International Film Festival, is a work in progress. "This is it. I'm not going to cut it," he said. "It's doing so well now, that wouldn't make sense." Urman doesn't anticipate any "X"-style showdown in which Kaye might change his mind and cut , lengthen or tinker with the theatrical version, culling from what might be thousands of hours of unseen footage. "That was 10 years ago," Urman said. "This is a film Tony financed himself, and he's not doing work for hire like he was then."

Kaye likely will get the freedom to tinker with it after the film is sold to a TV outlet, for which he might develop the longer version. "I'd also love to do a reality TV series about abortion," he said. "There are so many personal stories that didn't make the cut."

The film will begin its platform release with an exclusive run at New York's art house cinema Film Forum, the same solo launching pad used for ThinkFilm's Oscar-nominated docu "Spellbound" and Oscar-winning docu "Born Into Brothels."

"Fire" was executive produced by Kaye and his wife, Yan Lin Kaye. The film's co-executive producers are Steve Golin, David Kanter and Lenny Bekerman of Anonymous Content.

The deal was negotiated by Urman and ThinkFilm senior vp acquisitions and business affairs Randy Manis and vp business and legal affairs Richard Rapkowski with Kaye, Anonymous' Paul Green, Kanter and Bekerman and attorney Salil Gandhi of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz.

After making the deal, ThinkFilm sold French rights to "Fire" to distributor Wild Side at the Berlin International Film Festival.