It’s quiet for specialty openings after the holidays, in the thick of awards season. But one film needed this weekend — Abramorama documentary A Storm Foretold by Danish director Christoffer Guldbrandsen about the MAGA movement and the Jan. 6 insurrection. The filmmaker captured footage over years of on-and-off access to Roger Stone.
It’s booked for over 20 rolling playdates in the next two weeks so far including the Quad Cinema in New York where Guldbrandsen will be holding Q&As all weekend.
Stone was former president Donald Trump’s closest political confidante and the film spans several years through Jan. 6, 2021. As Congress gathered that day to approve the election and declare Joe Biden the winner, less than a mile away, Donald Trump was urging a crowd to march towards the Capitol. Hours later, five people were killed and 141 wounded. With Stone as its central character, A Storm Foretold sees the storming of U.S. government as a logical, almost inevitable, finale to Trump’s presidency.
“Once we coordinated with the filmmaker, we picked Jan. 6. We picked it with intention,” said Karol Martesko-Fenster, Abramorama’s CEO and co-chair. “It’s dovetailing…with all the court case coming up, and everything else, and with the nature of this film. I am excited at the timing.”
Abramorama is offering the film to theaters for a night, a week, with no restrictions — whatever works, Martesko-Fenster said. He’s pleased at the early pickup. A goal is to position the doc for digital release around mid-March.
As Deadline reported, Guldbrandsen’s voyage landed him in the middle of the Select Congressional Committee investigation into the insurrection and at one point almost cost him his life – a heart attack likely related to project stress after Stone pulled out a year into filming, asking for $50k then turning over the rights to another film crew. That fell apart and Guldbrandsen’s project resumed.
“There is a social contract between citizens and politicians in democracies around the world – we accept that they lie. During the second half of the 20th Century, it became part of the deal between the people, the politicians and the media that connect them. We became almost comfortable with it. But in 2015 something was happening in America that felt very different. I was fascinated by the scale of the lying, and more specifically the manufacturing of entire narratives with the sole purpose of influencing political outcomes,” he said in his director’s statement.
“I travelled to the United States and secured the opportunity to interview Roger Stone, and everything changed. Negotiations, fundraisers, strategy sessions, trials, gag orders, lawyers, billionaires, secret meetings, public hearings, we went on a wild ride through the halls of power, voting and the application of political influence in America today. It wasn’t pretty, and it almost took my life at one point.”
“What I learned is that like all Democracies around the world, it is starting to feel like a very substantive transformation of Democracy is inevitable in America, and it’s frightening…The loudest liar wins.”
“It’s obviously not my fight. I’m not a part of it, but there’s no question of what is going on in the States in terms of national presidential politics — that affects every modern democracy in the world,” he told Deadline’s Matt Carey in a September interview.
Stone was convicted in 2019 for witness tampering, obstructing an official proceeding, and making false statements. He was sentenced to three years in prison but received a pardon from Trump a year in Dec, of 2020.
Other specialty openings: Greenwich Entertainment presents ski comedy Weak Layers by Katie Burrell, a Canadian comedian and winter sports influencer in her feature debut. Burrell co-wrote with Andrew Ladd and stars – with Chelsea Conwright and Jadyn Wong — in the tale of three rowdy female ski bums trying to win a world-famous short ski film competition to raise rent money after they’re evicted. They’ve got to beat out professional skiers and filmmakers.
The Lake Tahoe set celebration of mountain towns and take on the male-dominated ski culture is produced by Realization Film, the same Tahoe-based company that made the doc Buried: The 1982 Alpine Meadows Avalanche, which Greenwich released last year, currently on Netflix.
Opens on 65 major-market screens, including ski-friendly metros and mountain towns. Expands to Canada next week.
IFC Films presents French action thriller Mayhem! by Xavier Gens on 24 screens.A martial artist and ex-con (Nassim Lyes) starts a new life in Thailand to escape a local gang lord, but a kidnapped family member sucks him back into the underworld he’d left behind.
Paramount opens Steven Paul’s The Painter with Jon Voight and Charlie Webber on 31 screens ahead of a Jan. 9 digital release. An ex-CIA operative turned painter is thrown back into a dangerous world when a mysterious woman from his past resurfaces.
And Vertical is giving Jacob Elordi-starring thriller He Went That Way a limited release ahead of a Jan. 12 video date. The Saltburn star plays a 19-year-old serial killer picked up by a celebrity animal handler (Zachary Quinto) on a desolate stretch of Route 66 with priceless cargo in tow. The first and final feature from Australian director and DP Jeffrey Darling, who passed away in March 2022 premiered at the 2023 Tribeca Festival.
Expansions include American Fiction (Amazon MGM Studios, ahead of national footprint Jan. 12); All of Us Strangers (Searchlight Pictures), Anselm (Sideshow/Janus Films), Memory (Emick); Noryang: Deadly Sea (Well Go USA).