In his review of the 1984 film 2010, a largely forgotten sequel to Stanley Kubrick's landmark 1968 masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey, Roger Ebert referenced a quote from the poet E.E. Cummings: “I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.” For Ebert, 2001 was a work of poetry, whereas the sequel — which tried to clarify the mind-twisting ambiguities of the original film — was the equivalent of teaching 10,000 stars how not to dance.
The film's poster and promotional materials knowingly reference the iconic imagery from Kubrick's movie. For many of us, a child riding his Big Wheel through endless, colorfully carpeted hallways can instantly provoke Pavlovian-style feelings of terror. While critical reaction has been mixed, King — who famously disliked Kubrick's take on his book — seems pleased with the results, which aims to strike a happy medium between the relatively straightforward ghost story that King tells and the stranger, impressionistic and ogether obtuse mood of Kubrick's The Shining.
As for me, well, I'm frankly not all that interested, perhaps because there was already a sort-of sequel to The Shining that I found satisfying precisely because it preserved what is unknowable about Kubrick's film, even as it tried to “solve” it.
I refer to Rodney Ascher's delightfully bonkers 2013 documentaryRoom 237, which explores five different though equally radical interpretations of The Shining posited by the film's most obsessive viewers. One man insists that The Shining is actually about the holocaust. Another argues that it's really about the extermination of Native Americans. And then the movie gets really out there: One guy says The Shining is an expression of Kubrick's guilt for having helped the U.S. government fake the moon landing. A woman combs through the images and points out every appearance real and imagined of the Greek mythological creature, the Minotaur. My favorite might be the dude who makes a surprisingly strong case that The Shining can only be truly understood if you watch it backward and forward at the same time.
The uninitiated might expect Room 237 to unfold as a typical documentary, featuring talking heads plus B-roll of the subjects milling around their messy, eccentrically decorated apartments. But Ascher makes the crucial decision to make the testimony of his interviewees an extended, multi-headed voice-over set to images borrowed from Kubrick's films, along with various other pilfered visual ephemera from several decades of pop culture. We never actually see these conspiracy theorists. Instead, we peer directly into their heads. This creates an engrossing, immersive effect, in which the viewer is encouraged to sift through the assorted memories and mental baggage that shape how we all view and interpretthe movies we see.
Upon its release, some of the film's detractors ironically chose to read Room 237 superficially, focusing on whether any of these theories were credible. The New York Times interviewed Kubrick's personal assistant, Leon Vitali, who dismissed Room 237 as “pure gibberish.” No, the Times reported, the typewriter that Jack Torrance works on isn't German-made because it's an allusion to Nazism, it just happened to be Kubrick's own machine. Uh-uh, those paintings in the background aren't actually Minotaurs. And, please, Danny's handmade Apollo 11 sweater isn't a coded confession about a NASA-related hoax.
Well, no duh. The point of Room 237 isn't to suggest that any of these people are “correct.” It's about how no film isn't ever just one film, but rather an infinite series of films that vary ever-so-slightly based on who's watching it. We all take who we are and what we believe into the theater with us, and this “completes” what the movie ultimately becomes in our minds.
That's not just true for The Shining, though the movie does seem to elicit extraordinarily primal reactions. I watched it again this week for the umpteenth time, and what struck me upon this viewing was how funny it was. Particularly Jack Nicholson, whose failures as a father and as a writer are clearer to me now than they were before I was a father and a writer myself. This is the greatest movie ever made about being a writer who works from home. If could throw a tennis ball against the wall instead of making my deadlines, I would.
I've come to view The Shining as a nightmare that addresses some of my deepest, darkest fears: Will I ever fail my children? Can my wife rely on me? Is my writing any good? Do I have any talent? I see in Jack Torrance the absolute worst aspects of myself, and like him I dread the possibility that I won't be able to prevent turning into that person.
Not that I'm afraid that I will one day chase my wife and kids around with an ax. But The Shining does play on the anxieties that any parent has from time to time about whether they are actually good at taking care of and protecting their children. And it also, quite hilariously, skewers the old literary cliche about retreating to nature in order to write your masterpiece. Jack is, unequivocally, a hack, and his failure to produce anything of value when the chips are down felt all too familiar.
Now, that's my version of The Shining, which I suspect is different from anyone who isn't a father or writer. It makes sense that the man in Room 237 who believes The Shining is about the holocaust happens to be a history professor, just as it's not a coincidence that the dude who thinks Kubrick fakes the moon landing has an interest in other conspiracy theories about all sorts of things. They might think that they are explaining The Shining, but the thesis of Room 237 is that The Shining actually explains them.
This is what makes Room 237 such a worthy sequel to Kubrick's classic film. It doesn't bother to continue the film's story. Instead, it shows how our story with this movie and others carries on, forever, in our subconscious.
Four new wide releases this weekend brings the total to 11 over a three-week period. And, this will be another weekend in which grosses fall short of the same period last year, when “The Grinch” debuted to $62 million.
“Doctor Sleep,” an adaptation of Stephen King’s sequel to “The Shining,” will lead the weekend somewhere in the range of $25 million-$30 million. With a reported $45 million budget, and likely foreign interest, that’s a decent showing. However, three other releases — “Midway,” “Last Christmas,” and “Playing With Fire” — are unlikely to pass $20 million each.
Since Labor Day, we’ve seen two major hits with “Joker” and “It: Chapter Two,” both of which grossed over $200 million, and one film over $100 million with “Hustlers.” However, 2018 saw five films in the same period open to $50 million or more. This year, unless “Doctor Sleep” really stuns, there’s only one: “Joker.” That puts pressure on three sequels that open in the next few weeks with “Frozen 2,” “Jumanji: The Next Level,” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” along with standalone hopefuls to pick up the slack.
Stephen King is a franchise in his own right, but his currency in film was in decline until the two “It” titles revitalized his work. That gave new life to long-gestating plans to adapt his sequel to “The Shining.” This is a continuation of the story that’s aimed at viewers who aren’t wedded to Stanley Kubrick’s vision. It’s a more a mainstream horror film and Danny is now a psychic, and troubled, adult living in Florida.
Warners smartly reworked King into the studio sweet spot of mid-budget horror films like “The Conjuring;” risking comparisons with Kubrick was a fool’s mission. The end result is getting adequate reviews and benefits from heavy trailer showcasing with “It: Chapter Two” and “Joker.”
It opened last week in several European countries; results were decent but unspectacular. That said, it should be ahead of the new pack and upend “Terminator: Dark Fate” from #1 after one week.
Both “Midway” and “Last Christmas” are vying for next best, both somewhere in the vicinity of $15 million. For Roland Emmerich’s $100 million World War II naval battle film, which Lionsgate financed with Chinese investors, that would be terrible.Aimed at the Veteran’s Day holiday weekend, this will fall far short of “Dunkirk” and 2001’s “Pearl Harbor.” Reviews are trending to mildly negative.
Paul Feig’s “Last Christmas” is a London-set holiday rom-com. Reviews are middling at best, but word of mouth could keep it strong through Thanksgiving. That, plus international appeal, should make this at least a modest success.
“Playing With Fire,” another $30 million-budgeted family comedy, sees a group of firefighters led by John Cena forced to oversee a trio of children + cute dog needing short-term care. It’s a formula akin to recent Mark Wahlberg comedy hits, and initial reviews are awful. Still, this will be for the public to decide, which could propel it to a passable life after a predicted under-$10 million debut.
As we head into a nonstop series of awards contenders through Christmas, this weekend brings the limited releases of Netflix’s “Marriage Story” and Amazon’s Shia LeBeouf-starrer “Honey Boy.” Both received stellar reviews, but — like “The Irishman” — most theaters are denying patrons the chance to see the soon-to-be-streaming “Marriage Story” on screen.
LeBeouf recreated his early life in “Honey Boy,” which Amazon is releasing with conventional windows. It has a two-city platform release in top theaters, boosted by in-person Q&As at some shows. It was acquired for around $5 million, far less than other Amazon Sundance buys. That’s a cheap investment for a film they own worldwide on all platforms.
On the Netflix Hollywood compound recently, a capacity crowd gathered in an amphitheater for an event with the crackling energy—and almost the look—of a UFC title bout.
The contenders in the ring at Real to Reel: A Netflix Documentary Showcase Presented by Deadline were all heavyweights, not in MMA but nonfiction filmmaking—Oscar nominees, Emmy winners and Sundance honorees all with important new work streaming on the Netflix platform.
“Documentary filmmaking is about capturing truth,” declared Karim Amer in round 1 of Real to Reel. He and Jehane Noujaim directed The Great Hack, a film untangling the complex Cambridge Analytica/Facebook data scandal that exploded after the 2016 presidential election.
Deadline's Awardsline editor Joe Utichi refereed the discussion, asking Amer and Noujaim about the truth they capture—that information shared by people through social media is “being bought and sold like stocks.”
“In many ways I think people will look back at this time like this was the grand theft, where we gave up so much of our autonomy without fully realizing by [skipping over] the terms and conditions” of social media apps, Amer observed.
The Great Hack has triggered “a really strong reaction,” Noujaim commented. “Everybody who has a cell phone and uses social media...cares about this. From women that have seen it and have decided to delete apps because they've read the terms and conditions and realized they don't want their kid near it to the reaction that we got in Trinidad and Tobago because they realized that their election was manipulated, to here.”
“I think that no matter what happens with the data, we have to mobilize people,” responded Rachel Lears, director of Knock Down the House, which documents the 2018 insurgent primary campaigns of four Democratic women candidates, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“I think that our democracy is stronger the more people believe that their voice matters,” Lears continued. “That's very much what we were trying to do with Knock Down the House is make everyone feel at multiple levels—emotionally, intellectually—that their voice matters and not just their vote but that you can work and organize and come together with your neighbors and friends, colleagues and really build a movement that can challenge established power structures.”
The theme of round 1 of Real to Reel was “The World of 2019.” No film speaks to contemporary times more directly than American Factory, from directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert. Issues related to globalization, U.S.-China relations and, indirectly, immigration come up in the documentary about a billionaire Chinese auto glass entrepreneur who built a factory in Dayton, Ohio in the shell of an old GM plant.
Bognar addressed how he and Reichert gained the trust of so many characters—Chinese and American factory workers, managers and even the billionaire chairman himself, Cao Dewang.
“It is an ongoing relationship,” Bognar noted. “Someone can say, 'Yeah, you can hang out with me for awhile,' but if you are not a good person in the room...and say that stupid thing that was in your head you can easily derail a relationship and then the film can go off the track... Access is one thing; trust is a whole other level, and trust is an everyday kind of question.”
Filmmaker Nadia Hallgren developed trust by empathizing with subjects of her short documentary After Maria, about people from Puerto Rico who sought refuge in New York after Hurricane Maria wiped out their island home.
“They're still struggling in the ways that many people do when they don't have active employment,” Hallgren revealed. “There are deep trauma issues from the storm and the way that they were treated while they were in Puerto Rico, having no access to food, having no access to water and then coming to the United States and losing their dignity in a lot of ways, the way that the government handled them. So those experiences don't just go away.”
A year ago the Camp Fire incinerated Paradise, California, killing dozens of residents and displacing tens of thousands of others. Filmmaker Drea Cooper, who had spent time in the community as a boy, returned with cameras to document the devastation for his Netflix short documentary Fire in Paradise.
“What we found was a lot of these people hadn't really told their story yet,” Cooper shared. “This was just an amazing testament to the documentary process where it becomes this therapeutic process and can be very positive and revelatory. It's a chance for a lot of people for the first time to just verbalize what they'd gone through. And just in doing that you could see this weight kind of lift off people.”
Identity was the theme of round 2 of Real to Reel. African-American identity and the struggle to share in American opportunity come into focus in The Black Godfather, about Clarence Avant, a behind-the-scenes power broker who quietly advanced the careers of black entertainment, sports and political figures. While making the film, producer Nicole Avant—Clarence's daughter—discovered how her father helped NFL great Jim Brown transition from the gridiron to movie stardom.
“I did not know the Jim Brown story,” Avant commented. “My dad [had told me] he knew him and helped him with something and then I see the footage. 'Helped him with something? You created a whole career for this person! And helped change civil rights in this country based on him trying to get into Hollywood and get into these films.' I just didn't realize the layers of humanity, the layers of the human soul that we were going to catch...It's about civil rights, social justice, dreaming against all odds, dreaming through adversity, dreaming for other people, serving other people.”
The identity at stake in The Edge of Democracy is an entire country's. Petra Costa's film questions whether her native Brazil is heading back towards dictatorship.
“One of the main things I learned making The Edge of Democracy was how Brazil as a nation decided to forget its past, the time of the military dictatorship and the crimes committed during the military dictatorship,” Costa observed. “As many other nations—Portugal, Spain—they thought that that was the best way to deal with the pain because otherwise it would re-traumatize, it would create anger. The United States did that with slavery to a certain extent and when you do that your past comes back to haunt you.”
The challenge of putting subjects at ease was a constant refrain for filmmakers at the Real to Reel event, whether Brazil's ex-president Dilma Rousseff in The Edge of Democracy or the families in Life Overtakes Me, the short doc by Kristine Samuelson and John Haptas.
“We ate a lot of cookies, we had a lot of cups of coffee. I did magic tricks for the siblings in the families,” Haptas explained. “But it just took a lot of time of being there before some of these parents could tell their very difficult stories.”
The difficult stories in Life Overtakes Me involve refugee children in Sweden. Hundreds of them have mysteriously fallen into a coma-like state, all kids from families traumatized by war in the Middle East.
One such child Samuelson and Haptas filmed eventually awoke, but remembered nothing.
“Basically she said, 'Was I sleeping?' But she just picked up her life as if she'd gone to bed the night before even though she was a year older,” Samuelson stated. “That is not always true for children who undergo this. Sometimes they have some memories. Some of the things they talk about is feeling like they were in a glass cage underwater or if they moved they would die.”
All of the films in the Netflix Real to Reel showcase are contenders this awards season and many have already claimed prizes, including Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese. That feature, about a rollicking Dylan tour of 1975, won the Stanley Kubrick Award for Bold & Innovative Filmmaking at the Traverse City Film Festival and it's up for three awards at this weekend's Critics' Choice Documentary Awards.
“Dylan's been such a touchstone for [Scorsese], just the music and the poetry and also the trickster kind of nature of Dylan,” producer Margaret Bodde noted, adding that Dylan—true to form—wasn't the most eager of interviewees. “We have a subject who really was not interested in being there...He didn't want the hundred days [of shooting]. He wanted the least amount of time. 'Get me out of here. I don't remember anything.'”
Dylan wears a mask of white greasepaint at times in Rolling Thunder Revue, in keeping with his desire to remain opaque. The subjects of the Netflix short Ghosts of Sugar Landconcealed their identities behind masks for different reasons—to speak about a fellow Muslim-American friend who left the U.S. to fight for ISIS.
“They wouldn't agree to do it without the masks,” stated Farihah Zaman, the film's producer. “It became really like their avatars. Like, 'Okay, I'll do it but only if I can be Ironman.' We were a little bit surprised to see how much it conveyed emotionally.”
A terrible secret is unmasked in Ed Perkins' film Tell Me Who I Am, the extraordinary story of twins Marcus and Alex Lewis. After Alex sustained a traumatic brain injury in an accident, he remembered only his twin Marcus and nothing else. His brother helped Alex reconstruct his memory, but intentionally omitted their devastating childhood of physical and sexual abuse. Over the course of the film, the brothers eventually confronted what really happened.
“That's one of the paradoxes of the story we were lucky enough to tell,” Perkins noted, “which is so often the importance of talking about our past and learning from it is key and yet the human experience also suggests that sometimes it's easier to believe a lie than to admit the truth.”
In recent years Netflix documentaries have claimed multiple Oscars and Oscar nominations, including Icarus, The White Helmets and The Square the latter film directed by The Great Hack's Amer and Noujaim. Nonfiction filmmaking is in the streamer's blood, said Lisa Nishimura, vice president of independent film and documentary features, as she introduced the Real to Reel showcase.
“From the very inception of Netflix...documentaries have always been core and essential to the Netflix experience,” she affirmed. “Our commitment to the craft and to the unique filmmakers who bring these incredible stories alive only continues to grow.”
British sailor Tracy Edwards has faced some major obstacles in her time, like ocean swells of stunning size.
“You've got these big following waves,” she says of the southern ocean, “these massive waves which sort of blot out the sky at some point and it feels like it's chasing you.”
Edwards faced obstacles of a different sort in 1989 when she formed the first all-female crew to compete in the dangerous Whitbread Round the World yachting race. Doubters predicted the team would fail to complete a single leg. One sailing journalist, Bob Fisher, dismissed them as a “tin full of tarts.”
“I realized very quickly that people didn't think women could do it,” she tells Deadline. “That's when I thought I'm doing this for everyone. I'm doing this for every woman everywhere.”
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The dramatic story of how Edwards got into the race and defied expectations on the open seas is told in the documentary Maiden, directed by Alex Holmes. The film has earned more than $3 million since its theatrical release in June and won multiple prizes including audience awards at film festivals from the Hamptons to Dublin, Ireland. This weekend it competes in three categories at the Critics' Choice Documentary Awards, including Best Documentary.
Holmes drew from sunken treasure for his film, a wealth of archival material that had disappeared from view.
“The fact that this stuff existed was absolutely the most wonderful news,” Holmes recalls. “When I heard Tracy tell her story I had imagined it as a narrative feature, as a dramatic representation because I just thought how else can you tell this story? And then Tracy said, 'Well, we did have two cameras on board the whole way round.' And that's what started the search for this footage and it was a real piece of detective work, tracking down any lead of where stuff might come from.”
Maiden dials back to Edwards' youth in the U.K. After she was expelled from school at age 15 she decided to travel the world, and learned to sail while working on charter yachts in Greece. Edwards got her first—unsatisfying—taste of Whitbread competition aboard the Atlantic Privateer in the 1985-86 race.
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“The only way you could get on a [Whitbread] boat at that time as a woman was to be a cook and out of that entire fleet of 230 people only four of us were girls,” she remembers. “So I got to the end of the race and I thought, 'This is crazy. Why aren't more women doing this?'”
That's when she set about making history.
“I thought, 'If I put a team of guys together it'll still be awful,'” Edwards reveals. “I decided, 'If I put a team of girls together and then we prove we can do it, I can navigate, I'll find a skipper—I was never going to skipper the boat—and then instead of living in a world I don't want to live in, I'll just change the world that I'm living in and make it suit me.'”
Edwards found a suitable boat, albeit in need of repair, and dubbed it Maiden.
“I was so full of doubt and fear,” Edwards says of embarking on the 33,000-mile competition. “All I was thinking was, 'Am I the right person to do this?'”
The crew set sail from Southhampton in September 1989, surprising 'experts' by completing the first leg. But a bigger challenge loomed, on a treacherous stretch of the race through frigid waters from Uruguay to Australia. With Edwards as both skipper and navigator Maiden pulled off the unthinkable, winning that brutal leg. When the team reached harbor in Freemantle, western Australia, thousands of fans cheered them into port.
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“I can't describe how satisfying it was,” Edwards admits. But plenty of observers called it a fluke. “Everyone sort of said, 'Oh, they've won that leg. Oh, that's luck.' Then we had to win the next leg to sort of cement it.”
Which the Maiden crew promptly did, forcing doubters to eat crow.
“I think my favorite moment was opening Yachts and Yachting magazine and reading Bob Fisher's article,” Edwards shares. “[He wrote], 'I'm now putting salt and pepper on my hat as we speak, dear reader. They're not just a tin full of tarts. They're a tin full of smart, fast tarts.' At the time we thought, 'Yay! We've arrived!' We didn't think, 'Would he stop using that word?'”
“It wasn't just the male journalists that were chauvinistic,” Holmes notes of the press coverage. “It was so prevalent in the culture as a whole that even the women interviewers would adopt that perspective on this group of women. The raw sexism...just presented in a routine way as it was perfectly acceptable to behave in that way was a real shock to me.”
The director says, as a father of two girls, he appreciates what Edwards and her crew achieved.
“That's why it struck me as not just a beautiful story to tell and an inspiring to tell,” he notes, “but a really important story to tell now.”
For her valor, in 1990 Edwards was named an MBE—Member of the British Empire. She continues to sail today, navigating a world that's not free of retrograde attitudes.
“There are still men in existence in sailing that think it's bad luck to have a woman on a boat,” she tells Deadline. “So there's a long way to go, a long way to go.”
UPDATED with list of new fellows, 7 AM: Firelight Media has announced newest group of 12 Fellows selected for the 2019-21 Firelight Documentary Lab. Several of them attend at the Documentary Lab's 10th Anniversary Gala tonight in Harlem.
Here is the list of new fellows and their projects; read details of the program below:
Colleen Thurston Drowned Land, Oklahoma is a land of scenic lakes, ideal for recreation and weekend getaways. But these lakes are man-made, a result of the federal government flooding private property and the forced displacement of the people who called the lands beneath home.
Dru Holley Buffalo Soldiers of the Pacific Northwest is the story of African-American soldiers who served between the Civil War and the 20th century and their impact in the Pacific Northwest.
Emily Cohen Ibañez In Fruits of Labor, a Mexican-American teenager dreams of graduating high school when increased ICE raids in her community threaten to separate her family and force her to become the breadwinner.
Jasmín Mara Lopez Silent Beauty is an autobiographical exploration of the filmmaker's family history with child sexual abuse and a culture of silence.
Jessica Kingdon Her Untitled PRC Project is a portrait of China’s industrial supply chain through its accelerated economy in an increasingly consumer driven yet repressive society.
Jon Sesrie Goff After Sherman is a story about inheritance and the tension that defines our collective American history. The film explores coastal South Carolina as a site of pride and racial trauma through Gullah cultural retention and land preservation.
Leandro Fabrizi Bartolo looks at a rural town, tucked in the mountains of Lares, Puerto Rico, where 10 families decide to move into an abandoned school building and transform it into their new living quarters.
Leola Calzolai-Stewart Changing State: Black Diplomats, Civil Rights, and the Cold War depicts the fight for inclusion in American diplomacy as told through the lives of three African-American ambassadors: Edward R. Dudley, Terence Todman, and Carl Rowan.
Nesa Azimi Driver immerses us in a community of women truck drivers. Threatened by routine sexual violence and bound by a system where multi-billion dollar megacarriers and oppressive regulatory regimes conspire to leave the individual driver powerless and disposable - Desiree and her fellow drivers band together to survive.
Patrick G. Lee Mini & Vivi follows a charismatic long-distance friendship between two trans women as a way to explore the possibilities for queer solidarity across the Korean diaspora — and the nation-state violence and cultural misperceptions that necessitate it.
Sasha-Gay Lewis Schools' Challenge Quiz follows a group of Jamaican high school students, their families and communities as they prepare and compete in a battle of will and intellect on a televised quiz show.
Shilpa Kunnappillil The Road to Sabarimala is an exploration of the shifting perspectives of Indian women as their traditions come into conflict with their rights. The film follows three women who risk their lives to enter the sacred Hindu temple of Sabarimala, amidst an exceedingly dangerous political climate.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, May 6: Firelight Media has begun taking submissions for 10th annual Documentary Lab. Launched in 2009 by Firelight co-founder Stanley Nelson, it’s an 18-month fellowship supporting filmmakers of color with mentorship from prominent non-fiction leaders, film funding resources, professional development workshops and networking opportunities.
Hopefuls have until June 17 to apply.
“A lot has changed since we first started the Documentary Lab 10 years ago,” Firelight VP and Documentary Lab director Loira Limbal said. “Documentaries have become popular, the number of distribution platforms have doubled, and almost everyone agrees that we are experiencing the golden age of documentaries. Yet, there are still structural barriers for filmmakers of color to enter into the field. Ten years later we remain steadfast in our belief in the importance of people of color being able to tell their own stories.”
The Documentary Lab nurtures an inclusive network of talented, unique filmmakers of color to receive ongoing support from conception to completion. Firelight Media also offers the Next Step Media Fund, a grant supporting fellows in the final phase of production with up to $25,000 towards necessary travel, shooting, editing and more.
Two of the Documentary Lab’s alum had films make their world premieres at Sundance in January: Jeffrey Palmer's Words from a Bear and Jackie Olive's Always in Season, which won the Special Jury Award for Moral Urgency. Stanley Nelson also debuted Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool there, his 10th feature to premiere at the fest — a record for a documentarian. Doc Lab fellow Yu Gu premiered her documentary feature A Woman's Work: The NFL's Cheerleader Problem at Tribeca last month.
The Documentary Lab Open Call is an exciting time for us at Firelight,” Limbal said, “because it puts us in direct contact with hundreds of emerging filmmakers of color from all over the U.S. telling nuanced and complex stories informed by their own lived experiences.”
Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is now a classic, culturally significant enough to warrant an entire documentary about all the batty theories people have about it. But it hasn’t always been beloved. The Razzies, in their first year, awarded it two nominations: Shelley Duvall for Worst Actress and Kubrick for Worst Director. Fellow nominees included Brian De Palma and William Friedkin, incidentally. Another critic: the author of the book from which it was adapted, Stephen King, who was famously displeased with the rather liberal liberties the legendary filmmaker took with his source.
So congrats are in order to Mike Flanagan, director of this weekend’s newbie Doctor Sleep. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, the best-selling author of all time praised the director of the adaptation of his sequel to his 1977 classic, published in 2013. Not only did King like it, he felt it atoned for a film that Flanagan clearly highly reveres.
Granted, Flanagan was already a trusted King adapter; the director of last year’s show The Haunting of Hill House turned the author’s novel Gerald’s Game into a Netflix movie two years back. Still, King was nervous, but those anxieties quickly abated. “I read the script very, very carefully,” King told EW, “and I said to myself, ‘Everything that I ever disliked about the Kubrick version of The Shining is redeemed for me here.”
Doctor Sleep catches back up with Danny Torrance, played as an adult by Ewan McGregor, who is also struggling with alcoholism, as did his father Jack. Where Kubrick kept some of the novel’s supernatural elements vague, Flanagan restored them to front and center, even as he recreates certain iconic elements from the movie King so disapproves.
And yet King was cool with it all, both the script and the finished film. Flanagan, also speaking to EW, talked about taking a copy of the film to King’s residence in Bangor, Maine. “I spent the whole movie trying not to throw up, and staring at my own foot, and kind of overanalyzing every single noise he made next to me,” Flanagan said. “The film ended, and the credits came up, and he leaned over and he put his hand on my shoulder, and he said, ‘You did a beautiful job.’ And then I just died.” You can read our own interview with Flanagan right here.
Jack Torrance didn’t get a happy ending, in neither the book nor the movie nor the book’s TV movie, with Steven Weber subbing for Jack Nicholson, but at least Flanagan can say he succeeded where Stanley Kubrick did not. Then again, perhaps Kubrick never cared that much about pleasing Stephen King.