Thursday, March 23, 2017

Sundance Now enters the streaming game

by Allan Tong

Sundance is entering the streaming game with a new service called Sundance Now. For US$6.99 a month, subscribers access a catalogue of indie features, award-winning docs and some series.

Sundance Now's curator George Schmalz (pictured above, left, formerly of Kino Lorber and Kickstarer) and general manager, Jan Diedrichsen (right) flew up from New York last night to launch the service with a Q&A and brief video presentation at the AGO in Toronto.

Features include Heathers, Rhythm Thief, Dementia 13, Kubrick's obscure early film, Fear and Desire, and Takeshi Kitano's Violent Cop. The documentary selection is particularly notable with titles such as Knuckleball, War Don Don, Burma VJ, Detropia, Wordplay, Bronx Obama and Page One. So far, there are only seven series including two Sundance originals, The Bureau and Take 5: Justice in America which center on espionage and the prison system. Viewers can select titles pre-curated by filmmakers such as Jonathan Demme and Bruce McDonald under the Curators Collection select their own playlists (The Central Park Five and Anvil, respectively).

The cost is US$6.99 a month or US$59.99 a year. Note that Canadians pay based on the US price, so account for the currency exchange.

Will Sundance Now make a dent in the Netflix juggernaut? Hard to say. Canada showed the door to Shomi last year, but Shomi didn't offer any original content which was their fatal flaw. At least Sundance Now has a few original series and offers more obscure but acclaimed indie films than mainstreams VOD channels. It may come down to Sundance and its partners investing in original programming to thrive.

Whatever the case, the current catalogue relects Sundance's indie and social activist bent, qualities the Sundance brand has championed from day one.

(Disclosure: I'm a Sundance Documentary Fellow, and the Sundance Documentary Film has financed one of my films.)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A step forward for Canadian diversity at 2017 CSAs

Tatiana Maslany (above) walked away with two big statues at Sunday's Canadian Screen Awards gala in Toronto. That's three if you count the award that Orphan Black (below) snagged for its farewell season. Pretty good for a show that nobody in Canada picked up until BBC America did. Oh, Canada...

Other big winners were Montreal director Xavier Dolan's It's Only the End of the World, the Jesse Owens biopic Race and Letterkenny for best TV comedy series.

The red carpet was more racially diverse than usual with the cast of Mohawk Girls (above), Kim's Convenience, Tattoo Cardinal (receiving the Earle Grey award) and American stand-up superstar, Dave Chappelle (below) posing before the paparazzi .

Chappelle presented a lifetime achievement award to the Just For Laughs Festival, "a national treasure" and compared kinder, gentler Canada to a "little gay brother I didn't know we had."

Christopher Plummer (above in the press room) accepted his lifetime achievement award with grace and wit, insisting, "By no means is this the end. The curtain has not yet fallen. It's simply stuck." It was a high point of the show.