Toronto Film Fest 2006: Docus on Its Mind

Toronto, Sep 13, 2006–Political documentaries are getting most of the attention–and deals– at this year's edition. In the second deal for a political picture in two days, Abu Ghraib's “The Prisoner, or: How I Tried to Kill Tony Blair,” pacted with Netflix's Red Envelope label in a deal that will see the movie get theatrical distribution through an as-yet undetermined partner.

The feature centers on Yunis Khatayer Abbas, an Iraqi journalist detained by the military for nine months beginning in Sep. 2003. The movie will be released in spring 2007 to coincide with the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war; docu also will get homevid and possible TV distribution.

The movie's tunning time is about 60 minutes, but the story several weeks ago of Spc. Benjamin Thompson, a soldier who was stationed at the prison, will expand the frame. The filmmakers intend to place new footage into the movie before its theatrical release. At Friday's screening in Toronto, Thompson made a surprise appearance in which he criticized the American treatment of detainees in Iraq.

The unusual deal offers the option of a lower price point–and an opt-out on theatrical, if the material is not added. But Red Envelope's Bahman Naraghi said he expected filmmakers to come through with a fuller version that could be released in theaters. Despite Red Envelope not having settled on a theatrical partner (company has in the past worked with IFC, among others), co-helmer Michael Tucker (“Gunner Palace”) dismissed concerns about the play the picture would get.

Netflix's recent theatrical efforts include current Maggie Gyllenhaal Sundance hit “Sherrybaby” and the MPAA documentary, “This Film Is Not Yet Rated.”