LOS ANGELES (March. 18, 2004)—National Geographic Feature Films is establishing a new specialty label: National Geographic World Films — “movies without borders” — to showcase great movies from around the world. The announcement was made today by Tim Kelly, president of National Geographic Television & Film (NGT&F) and Adam Leipzig, president of National Geographic Feature Films (NGFF). The new specialty label of National Geographic Feature Films reflects National Geographic’s mission to bring films made by, and about, world cultures to a broader audience.
“Increasingly sophisticated feature films are being produced by and about diverse cultures around the world,” said Kelly. “These are authentic, artistic and entertaining stories that National Geographic is committed to supporting. These movies deserve our attention.”
For its inaugural film, National Geographic World Films joins THINKFilm in presenting THE STORY OF THE WEEPING CAMEL, it was announced by Jeff Sackman, THINKFilm CEO; Mark Urman, THINKFilm theatrical division head; and National Geographic’s Kelly and Leipzig.
THE STORY OF THE WEEPING CAMEL, which enchanted audiences at the Toronto Film Festival and recently won the Jury Prize at the 21st annual Miami Film Festival, is directed by Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni. The movie, which explores an exotic culture where tradition, myth and family unity (both human and animal) are essential elements of daily life, follows the adventures of a family of Mongolian herders who face a crisis when a camel rejects her newborn, and only the miracle of an ancient ritual can bring mother and calf together.
The film employs a non-professional cast, who actually live the life and events of the story, and combines unstaged sequences with carefully prepared recreations of authentic experience, blending the best of fiction and documentary techniques. It will screen at the New Directors/New Film Series, presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art, on March 26 and 27 and will be released in the United States on June 4.
“When National Geographic came to us to co-present THE STORY OF THE WEEPING CAMEL, we were delighted. And when we talked to them about how their collaboration would benefit this film, we knew we had found the right partner to work with us on this unusual dramatic adventure,” said Sackman.
“While we all know and love National Geographic, we discovered so much more than we expected. Its extensive resources and the synergies between multi-media divisions will provide a vast unexplored outreach for us and allow us to tap into new audiences for this unique film fable,” added Urman.
Leipzig said, “When we saw THE STORY OF THE WEEPING CAMEL we were captivated by it. We decided that this was exactly the kind of personal filmmaking we wanted as the inaugural presentation of National Geographic World Films, and we wanted to join THINKFilm in bringing this unusual tale to the nation’s screens.”
In the star-driven slate of films on National Geographic Feature Films’ docket, EMPEROR ZEHNDER, the true story of Bruno P. Zehnder who dedicated his life to photographing Emperor penguins in the Antarctic, starring Richard Gere, begins production fall 2004. Other NGFF projects in development are ON THE WING, adapted by Erik Jendresen from Alan Tennant’s soon-to-be-published book and starring Robert Redford; ENDURANCE about Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic exploration, to be directed by Wolfgang Petersen; and UNDAUNTED COURAGE, based on Stephen Ambrose’s acclaimed book on the Lewis and Clark expedition. NGFF’s first film, “K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER, was released July 2002.
Among THINKFilm’s most recent acquisitions are Sundance Grand Prize-Winner PRIMER; FESTIVAL EXPRESS, which documents the 1970 “happening” that was Canada’s answer to Woodstock; and Stephen Fry’s star-studded comedy, BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS, which had its U.S. premiere in Sundance.
Following in the tradition of its Oscar-nominated, box-office-hit documentary SPELLBOUND, is Jonathan Demme’s highly acclaimed film about Haiti, THE ARGONOMIST, which opens April 23. THINKFilm’s next release, on March 12, WILBUR WANTS TO KILL HIMSELF is the English language debut of Lone Scherfig, the award-winning director of ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS. WILBUR hits theaters on March 12.
Building on its global reputation for remarkable visuals and compelling stories, National Geographic augments its award-winning documentary productions (122 Emmy Awards and more than 800 other industry awards) with feature films, large-format films, and long-form television drama programming. Worldwide, National Geographic’s television programming can be seen on the National Geographic Channel, MSNBC and PBS, home video and DVD, and through international broadcast syndication. The National Geographic Channel is received by more than 200 million households in 25 languages and 146 countries, including the United States. For more information about National Geographic Television & Film, log on to www.nationalgeographic.com; AOL Keyword: NatGeo.
THINKFilm is a privately held company with offices in Toronto and New York City. It was founded by President/CEO Jeff Sackman in September 2001.