till a man called otto

Source: Universal / Sony

‘Till’, ‘A Man Called Otto’

A new cinema year gets underway this weekend with Chinonye Chukwu’s historical race drama Till, and Tom Hanks comedy A Man Called Otto opening across the UK and Ireland.

Released by Universal in 424 cinemas, Till tells the true story of Mamie Till-Mobley, the mother of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old American boy who was murdered in a racially-motivated attack in 1955. In the film, Mamie vows to expose the racism behind the attack while working to have those involved brought to justice.

Till  launched at New York Film Festival in October last year, before a US-focused festival tour that included Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, Heartland and Hamptons film festivals. It made its UK bow at the BFI London Film Festival. The film has received recognition from multiple US critics groups, especially for Danielle Deadwyler’s performance as Mamie Till-Mobley, which won the outstanding lead performance award at the Gotham Independent Film Awards. 

It is a third feature for Nigerian-American director Chukwu, after 2012 family drama alaskaLand; and her breakthrough film, 2019 drama Clemency, which also dealt with issues of race and law through the story of a prison warden and death row inmate.

Clemency made Chukwu the first Black woman to win the prestigious US Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival, that has previously been won by filmmakers including Damien Chazelle, Ryan Coogler, Lee Daniels, Kenneth Lonergan, Todd Haynes and the Coen Brothers.

It was released by Modern Films and Bohemia Media in the UK and Ireland in July 2020, through a revenue-sharing model between premium VoD, independent cinemas, racial justice organisations and people of colour film organisations, with a £16,812 gross at a time when audiences were just beginning to return to cinemas during the pandemic. The film received a Bafta nomination for leading actress for Alfre Woodard.

For comparison, other US historical race dramas released in the UK and Ireland include 1993’s Malcolm X (opened: £396,251; closed: £1.4m); 2015’s Selma (£814,849; £3.3m); 2017’s Hidden Figures (£1.4m; £6.3m).

Sony is opening Marc Forster’s comedy A Man Called Otto, starring Tom Hanks as a grumpy man who has given up on life; but meets his match when a quick-witted woman moves in nearby with her young family.

It is adapted from Hannes Holm’s 2015 Swedish film A Man Called Ove (£35,844; £212,831), itself an adaptation of Fredrik Backman’s novel. Hanks and his partner Rita Wilson are producers on the US version alongside Gary Goetzman and Fredrik Wikstrom, with the screenplay by Life Of Pi and Mary Poppins Returns writer David Magee.

A Man Called Otto is a 13th feature for Swiss director Forster, who broke through with 2001 drama Monster’s Ball (£486,017; £2.4m), for which Halle Berry won the Oscar for best actress. His subsequent credits include Finding Neverland (£776,124; £3.6m); the 22nd James Bond film Quantum Of Solace (£15.4m; £51.2m); and zombie thriller World War Z (£4.5m; £14.6m), which remains the highest-grossing film of star Brad Pitt’s career.

A major star for over 30 years, Hanks’ on-screen appearances are reducing in frequency as he increases his focus on producing; but he still retains his box office potential, as demonstrated by his key supporting role in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis  (£4m; £27.6m).

Alcarràs  debuts 


Source: Mubi


Mubi is starting Carla Simon’s Berlinale 2022 Golden Bear winner Alcarràs in 31 cinemas this weekend. Written by Simon and Arnau Vilaro, the film depicts a family of peach farmers in a small Catalonian village, whose life changes when the owner of their large estate dies and his heir decides to sell their land.

Following its strong reception in Berlin, Alcarràs has gone on to play festivals including Istanbul, Sydney, Transilvania, New York, the BFI London Film Festival and Tallinn Black Nights. It was Spain’s entry to the international feature Oscar, but did not make the 15-strong shortlist; and has been nominated 11 times at Spain’s Goya awards, and 14 times at Catalonia’s Gaudi awards.

Alcarràs is a second feature for Simon, after 2017 Berlinale title Summer 1993, which won the debut film prize then grossed £50,139 in the UK and Ireland through New Wave Films.

Vertigo Releasing has two new films in cinemas this weekend: Carlota Pereda’s thriller Piggy, which debuted at the online Sundance last year; and Richard Hughes’ crime drama The Enforcer starring Antonio Banderas.

BFI Distribution is conducting an 18-site re-release of Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 classic Rashomon, as part of a season dedicated to the Japanese filmmaker.

In event cinema, Piece Of Magic is playing Andre Rieu In Dublin 2023 in 640 sites on Saturday, January 7; the enduring popularity of the Dutch violinist may see the title break into the top five across the weekend.

Disney’s Avatar: The Way Of Water has cleared out many holdovers over the Christmas period, and will look for a fourth weekend atop the charts; with main competition from Sony’s Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical and Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody.