It’s one of the year’s major works of filmmaking, it features a monumental lead performance, and it’s being released in the thick of awards season.
But when it comes to campaigning for awards, “Carlos” might be the trickiest movie of the year.
Certainly, the film, French director Olivier Assayas’ three-part, five-and-a-half-hour examination of the life of the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal, is worthy of honors. Epic in its scope, dense and rich and multifaceted in its execution, it is an immersive and rewarding experience, with Edgar Ramirez delivering a riveting performance as Carlos.
The problem: The film was initially made for French television, and broadcast in the United States on the Sundance Channel.
That disqualifies it from the Oscars, even though it’s also getting a theatrical release from IFC Films, and even though it won near-unanimous raves when it screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
To complicate matters, Assayas has also put together a shorter, two-and-a-half hour theatrical version, which is being released in more markets than the full version.
(In Los Angeles, the longer, three-part version is screening at the Egyptian Theater on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with Assayas and Ramirez in person; the shorter version for the rest of the week.)
“It has not been without its challenges in terms of how we market it,” admitted IFC president Jonathan Sehring to theWrap. “We’ve tried a little bit of everything.”
When it comes to positioning the film for awards, said Sehring, IFC is deferring to the Sundance Channel. “Because it was first and foremost done as a TV series, they are leading the awards campaign,” he said. “They’re pursing the Golden Globes in the TV categories, and I know they’re going to be pursuing the Emmys as well.”
But IFC has not given up on the idea of film awards: “We’re going after all the 10-best lists at the end of the year,” he said. “The L.A. Film Critics, the New York Film Critics …. ”
In other words, the companies are treating “Carlos” as a TV show … and as a film.
“It’s not a movie,” said Sehring. “And it is a movie. Basically, we look at it as an epic piece of cinema that was made for television.”
The film, he added, has become an object of controversy in France, where the country’s film producers protested its inclusion at Cannes, and “don’t want a television series to be viewed as representing French cinema.”
And Studio Canal, the French company that largely financed the film, is adamant that the shorter theatrical version is the one they want distributed internationally.
“I can’t recall anything like this before,” said Sehring. “[The 14-part German television series] ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’ never had a film version, and [the nine-hour documentary] ‘Shoah,’ which we’re re-releasing this December, didn’t have a shorter version. The only thing I can think of like this was ‘Das Boot,’” the Oscar-nominated 1981 German film which was initially released as a feature, then expanded into a European miniseries.
“We’re at a time when the exhibition and distribution of specialty movies is in a rapidly evolving state,” said Sehring. “It’s challenging, but something like this is a lot of fun to work on.”