H. Nazan Işık – New York

After having watched a movie, many of us remember the plot of the movie, and the actors/actresses in it, and maybe the director’s name. How many of us ever pay attention to the distributor of the film?

Let’s take Bliss (Mutluluk) 2007, a Turkish movie, played by Özgü Namal, Murat Han and Talat Bulut.  A story about the taboo subject of honor killings.  Based on Zülfü Livaneli’s internationally acclaimed novel and directed by Abdullah Oğuz.

First Run Features

Did you know that it was distributed by First Run Features?

The Review can be read at:


Today I want to talk about First Run Features, (FRF), a New York-based independent distribution company.  FRF was founded in 1979 to promote the distribution of independent movies, and this year celebrated it’s 30th anniversary.  It is known by releasing domestic and foreign controversial fiction films and documentaries that deal with political and social issues.

Today FRF has almost 400 total selections, about 60% are documentaries and 35% are foreign fictions.  FRF is one of the largest theatrical and home video distributors in the United States, and releases 12 to 15 films a year in theatres nationwide and 50 to 60 videos and DVDs annually.

FRF is a well appreciated company.  This year in August The Film Society of Lincoln Center showcased a series called “Keeping the Independent Flame: 30 Years of First Run Features” to celebrate FRF’s 30th anniversary and said “, “For thirty years First Run Features has been at the forefront of companies that take the risk of distributing previously unreleased films. It takes remarkable courage to distribute cutting-edge and sometimes controversial works that they believe should and must be seen.  We salute First Run Features, and we are proud to say that many of the films in their catalogue premiered in Film Society programs.” On it’s 22nd anniversary in 2001, The Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Film and Video had paid tribute to FRF by a major retrospective.

Let’s look at some of the movies released by FRF: Hiner Saleem’s movie Kilometre Zero (2005) ( is part of The Global Lens Collection) is about the conflict between Kurds and Iraqis during the 1980 Iraq-Iran war, played by Nazmi Kırık, Belcim Bilgin, Eyam Ekram.  Kilometre Zero was selected for competition at the Festival Cannes 2005.

La Vie Promise; directed by Olivier Dahan is about a prostitute mother (Isabella Huppert) and her estranged teenage daughter (played by Maud Forget).  One day daughter kills her mom’s pimp.  Mother takes her daughter, leave the town to look for somebody who was important for her.

Merci Pour Le Chocolat and The Bridesmaid are two films by Claude Chabrol, who is a member of the French New Wave.   Both movies are full of suspense, thriller and a twist, like in Hitchcock films.  In Merci Pour Le Chocolat, Isabelle Huppert plays Mika, a Swiss chocolat company executive who is the wife of the famous concert pianist Andre Polonski (Jacques Dutronc).   They have a son with no musical talent from Andre’s previous wife who had died in a car accident.  One day a young pianist comes to meet Andre.  Mika likes to prepare a special chocolat drink every night.  And young pianist is curious about it.  What is it? And why does Mika like to serve it every night?

The Embalmer by Matteo Garrone is another thriller about a friendship between two people who newly met.  The movie was a part of the 2003 New Directors / New Films series.

War Photographer: by Christian Frei is a 2001 “Academy Award” nominee documentary and follows the famous war photographer James Nachtwey for two years to the places he covers, including Kosovo, the West Bank, Indonesia.  Nachtwey says “…Photographer is a medium … the first link between the outside world and the reality” and he wants to be the voice of the people who suffer. The film opens with the great photojournalist Robert Capa’s words "If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough." James Nachtwey has been close enough for over 20 years.  Hans-Hermann Klare, Foreign Editor STERN Magazine says “Normally two sorts of journalists are hit; The ones on their first assignment, and the ones who have been at it too long and think they are bulletproof, and … James thinks he is bulletproof”

The technique used in making of the film gives viewers a chance to see almost exactly what the photojournalist Nachtwey sees, by attaching special video micro cameras to Nachtwey's still camera.  It is said to be the first time in the history of movies about photographers.

Yves Saint Laurent :( is part of The Empire DVD Collection) is a documentary  by David Teboul focuses on one of the most original designers of the 20th century, Yves Saint Laurent.

Another well known documentary is Michael Upted’s  “Up” series.  It started with “Seven Up & 7 Plus Seven when the participants were 7 years old and talked about what they wanted to be etc…Every seven years they have been documented in the process of living.  In the latest film “49 Up” participants, now all middle aged, talk about where they are in their life,  This film was part of the 44th New York Film Festival.

Some other movies such as, Praying with Lior by Ilana Trachtman, A Wing and a Smile by Deirdre Timmons, Ballerina by Bertrand Normand, Moving Midway by Godfrey Cheshire( in the New Directors/New Films (2008) preview), Whisky (is part of The Global Lens Collection) by Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll ( in the Latinbeats (2007) series) and L’Iceberg by Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon & Bruno Romy were previously reviewed  at this site.

This is just a thin slice of their selections. The complete film and DVD list can be seen at:


FRF, from Human Rights issues, war, religion, gay/lesbian/bisexual related films, dance to biography, has a broad spread subject film selections.  With films, from dead pan, black comedy, romance to suspense, made by famous directors such as, Michael Apted, Sven Nykvist, Jane Campion, Michael Winterbottom, Maria Luisa Bemberg, Matteo Garrone, Barbara Kopple, Hiner Saleem, Daniel Bergman, Claude Chabrol, Claire Denis, Benoit Jacquot, Radley Metzger, Deborah Shaffer, Olivier Dahan, Claude Miller to Satyajit Ray FRF has a voice for every interest.

H. Nazan Işık