It's always a disappointment - for director, stars and potential audience - when a movie comes to any one of the festivals and fails to deliver, because it makes the film all the likelier to succumb to a fate at the hands of a tainted reputation ("Blindness" is a movie that debuted at Cannes in 2008 that never recovered from poor reviews), or to eternal obscurity as the filmmakers retreat to add and chop details which threaten its original integrity ("2046" is a case where drastic alterations post-Cannes aided its later reception). So it's even more tragic when a film, like "Assassination of a High School President" an arrival at Sundance in '08, comes to attract loads of high praise but then falls under stresses outside of its powers that can impede or altogether prevent its distribution. The Brett Simon-helmed comedy/noir which is equal parts murder mystery, a la Rian Johnson's "Brick" from 2005, and John Hughes-style high school comedy was furnished to Sundance last year by the Yari Film Group. It quickly attracted buzz for its irreverent and smart plot and "colorful, sexy characters," but because of recent events of Yari being forced into bankruptcy, the film is now threatened with being passed over for theatrical distribution and sent direct to DVD release, thereby relegating it to some dark, dusty corner of the local video rental store to be seen only by adventurous passers-by.
Even though the company is still able to operate and produce pictures, it was their releasing unit that filed Chapter 11, so this remains among several other pictures waiting to see an actual audience actually see it (say that five times fast). If "Brick," a hardboiled neo-noir with spit-fire dialogue and a relatively unknown cast, can make it and find its fanbase, then I see no reason why this film can't. "Brick" boasted Joseph Gordon-Levitt as its headliner who has emerged as an immensely talented young actor, but he's not quite as popular as, say, Mischa Barton ("The OC"), so I'm sure with the proper marketing of the involved talent and material, not to mention the great reviews it's already been getting throughout the blogosphere, I think this could become a rather successful niche film. I must also mention that Bruce Willis is in it as well, so there's an entirely other reason to commit the dollars. Being a tremendous fan of "Brick" myself, and a lover of noir in all its incantations, I relish any opportunity to see what kinds of twists can be applied to the genre, which suffers from general assumptions about its look, pacing and tone. (Jules Dassin's "Night and the City" was one of the films I watched in my earliest film classes which made me stop wanting to produce movies, and just write about their enchanting effect.)
Sony possesses the home video distribution rights and feels it best to just send it direct to DVD, but other studios are still waiting around and testing the waters to see if anything bites. In this economy, you can't really blame them. The film has an official Facebook page, so if it becomes known that there is a comparable audience for the film, it could be enough for a company (or Sony itself) to take the step up and write up the checks for the theatrical rights, press and adverts, and for distribution. As "Slumdog Millionaire" has shown, it's not always a longshot for an independent film to maneuver around its financial stakes to become a popular success.
Will you be making a 'hit' on this "High School President"?
Hats off to Slashfilm for scooping this (via Twitter, no less) and getting the ball rolling on this campaign. Cinematical has also thus far pitched in, as has Ain't It Cool News. (Slashfilm also has nice links to various reviews with snippets.)
IMAGE from: Slashfilm
IMAGE from: Cinematical