Indie Companies: Magnolia, Honoring the Visionary Eamonn Bowles

Magnolia is undoubtedly one of the most significant companies in the risky, shrinking indie world, boasting an almost unparalleled record of achievements in handling both ficion and non fiction fare.

From Wednesday, August 24 through Wednesday, August 31, BAMcinématek (of the Brooklyn Academy)  presents 10 Years of Magnolia Pictures, honoring the visionary independent distribution company.

This 10th-anniversary, 13-film salute provides a snapshot of the provocative and intelligent independent and international cinema that the pioneering company—formed in 2001 by Bill Banowsky and Eamonn Bowles—has brought to screens in the past decade. Filmmakers will appear in person at BAM for Q&As of select screenings.

“We’re incredibly pleased to have BAM showcase some of the signature films from our first decade. It’s been a remarkable 10 years with enormous changes in the film landscape, and we look forward to the next 10,” says Magnolia Pictures President Eamonn Bowles. BAMcinématek Program Director Florence Almozini says, “It’s our privilege to salute Magnolia Pictures as preeminent evangelists of intelligent independent and international cinema. They’ve had an amazing 10 years, and we’re excited to see where they go in the next decade and beyond. Kudos!”

The series begins on August 24 with Jacques Audiard’s Read My Lips (Sur mes lèvres), which was released in the same year as Magnolia’s formation in 2001.This Hitchcockian thriller established Audiard as an international hitmaker—he went on to direct The Beat That My Heart Skipped and A Prophet—while also identifying Magnolia as an international tastemaker. Other works, like Steven Soderbergh’s experimental drama The Girlfriend Experience (2009—Aug 25), starring former adult-film star Sasha Grey, and Prachya Pinkaew’s Ong-Bak (2003—Aug 31), the Thai martial arts franchise kickoff, demonstrate the diverse range of Magnolia’s catalogue and distinguish it from industry peers.

Magnolia can be identified as much for releasing captivating documentaries as for championing pictures that transcend the limitations of genre. Man on Wire (2008—Aug 28), James Marsh’s unique take on death-defying tightrope walker Philippe Petit, went on to win the Academy Award for Best Documentary. Bong Joon-ho’s Korean monster movie, The Host (2006), and Thomas Alfredson’s Swedish vampire coming-of-age love story, Let the Right One In (2009)—both screening Aug 27—far exceeded expectations and became international sensations. The Host became the highest-grossing South Korean film of all time, and Let the Right One In has already been treated to a Hollywood remake. (Let the Right One In is distributed by Magnet Releasing, Magnolia’s highly successful genre arm established in 2006.) Nicolas Winding Refn, winner of the Best Director prize at Cannes for this year’s Drive and subject of a 2009 BAMcinématek retrospective, upended the biopic formula in Bronson (2009—Aug 29), his stylized character study of one of Britain’s most notorious prisoners, which had its New York premiere at the inaugural BAMcinemaFest. With the help of lead actress and co-producer Tilda Swinton, director Luca Guadagnino made the operatic melodrama I Am Love (Io sono l’amore) (2010—Aug 26), a genre rarely tread in today’s cinema—let alone realized with such elegance.

This celebration of Magnolia Pictures is punctuated by filmmaker Q&As following select screenings. On Thursday, August 25 at 6:50pm, Tanya Hamilton discusses her moving, character-driven drama Night Catches Us (2010), set in a former hotbed of Black Power in 1970s Philadelphia and starring Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) and Kerry Washington (Ray). Following the 7pm screening of his moving film Two Lovers (2008) on August 26, filmmaker James Gray talks about his creative process and working with the talented and unpredictable Joaquin Phoenix. Academy Award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) appears in person at BAM following Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (2010) on August 28 at 6:50pm. Director Tony Stone will be on hand to answer questions about Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America (2007—Aug 29), his visionary and visceral take on the 11th-century settlers of the New World. The series concludes on August 31 with an appearance by director Craig Zobel to present the festival hit Great World of Sound (2007), his comedy about scam artists and the music industry.