Magnolia Takes North America for Steve James’ ‘A Compassionate Spy’


Magnolia Pictures has acquired North American rights from Participant to “A Compassionate Spy,” the new documentary from Steve James (“Hoop Dreams,” “Life Itself”). The film, which world premiered at the Venice Film Festival ahead of its North American launch at Telluride, is a real-life spy story about Manhattan Project physicist Ted Hall, who provided nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union, told through the perspective of his wife Joan, who protected his secret for decades. Magnolia will release the film in theaters later this year.

“A Compassionate Spy” is presented by Participant and is a Mitten Media and Kartemquin Films production produced by Mark Mitten p.g.a., Dave Lindorff, and Steve James. Executive producers are Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyermann, Tim Horsburgh and Gordon Quinn.

The deal was negotiated by Magnolia executive VP Dori Begley and senior VP of acquisitions John Von Thaden; Participant’s Liesl Copland, executive VP content strategy and sales, Adam Macy, senior counsel, business and legal affairs and Rob Williams, senior VP, content strategy and sales, with Jason Ishikawa at Cinetic on behalf of the filmmakers.


Berlin-based distributor Salzgeber has boarded worldwide sales rights to humorous drama “Bones and Names,” the feature directorial debut of actor-director Fabian Stumm. The film will have its world premiere at this year’s Berlinale in the Perspektive Deutsches Kino strand. 

The film follows couple, the actor Boris and writer Jonathan. As Boris digs deeper into rehearsals for a new film with an aspiring female director, mixing real and fictional characters in the process, Jonathan tries to redefine his voice as a writer. 


Amcomri Entertainment’s 101 Films International has picked up worldwide distribution rights for live-action movie “Mia and the Dragon Princess,” an action fantasy that it will launch at the European Film Market. Directed and written by Richard Foster, with co-writer Michael Pedley, the film stars Paul McGann (“The Three Musketeers,” “Withnail & I”), Brian McCardie, Noa Nikita Bleeker, Dita Tantang, Steven Meo and MyAnna Buring in a tale of  a plucky barmaid who has her life thrown into chaos when a mysterious woman turns up at her workplace on the run from a group of violent thugs. She turns out to be a legendary female pirate warrior who had been transported from ancient China to modern London. Production is by Dead Pixel Productions.


The Mumbai Film Festival, run by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image popularly known as MAMI, will finally return as a physical event from Oct. 27-Nov. 5. After a hiatus due to the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, the festival was due to return in-person in March 2022, but it was called off “due to a multitude of challenges brought upon by the continuing pandemic,” per a statement from the festival.

The festival’s title sponsor continues to be billionaire Mukesh Ambani‘s Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited. Former Variety journalist Anupama Chopra is the festival director, with Maitreyee Dasgupta, previously creative head at Lionsgate India as co-director and Deepti Dcunha serving as artistic director. “Joram” producer Anupama Bose is the artistic director for the festival’s year-round program and Anu Rangachar is the head of the international program.


The Osaka Asian Film Festival has completed the lineup for its 2023 edition with the addition of “Over My Dead Body” as the opening night gala title. The ensemble comedy is directed by Hong Kong’s Ho Cheuk Tin and follows incidents in a fancy residential building where the discovery of a nude dead body threatens to cause scandal and plunging property values. World sales are handled by One Cool Pictures.


The British Film Institute’s National Lottery ‘good cause’ funding is to provide up to £6 million ($7.24 million) over three years to Doc Society, the BFI’s U.K.-wide delegate partner, to distribute documentary to features and shorts and to support talent development. Recruitment will also start imminently for a new head of fund who will lead the fund and work closely with Sandra Whipham and Shanida Scotland, directors of Doc Society. 


Cinema chain Vue International group has appointed Tom Singer as non-executive director and chair of the audit committee.  Singer is currently a non-executive director at Halfords Group PLC, Mediclinic International PLC as well as a fintech business. 


Indie production outfit Dare Pictures (“Crypto Queen”) has appointed social entrepreneur Michelle Morgan – founder of Pjoys: PJ’s with Purpose, author of “Own Your Awkward” and a leading voice on mental health – as the company’s new chair. Morgan joins in an advisory and supporting capacity, working alongside founder Derren Lawford and the creative team on its business strategy.

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