Sundance: Amazon Buys ISIS Documentary ‘City of Ghosts’
Amazon continues to rack up major acquisitions out of the Sundance Film Festival. The streaming giant is in final negotiations to land worldwide rights to “City of Ghosts,” a critically acclaimed documentary for north of $2 million, Variety has learned.
As part of the deal, A&E, which produced the film, will have the ability to show the film on its television network.
The film chronicles the rise of ISIS, while documenting the courage of “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently,” a group of citizen journalists who risk their lives to bring footage of terrorist atrocities in Syria to the wider world. It is seen as being a possible Oscar contender in the documentary category.
“City of Ghosts” is the follow-up to Matthew Heineman’s “Cartel Land,” a daring look at the Mexican drug wars that earned him an Academy Award nomination.
The film has been well received by critics. In a largely positive notice, Variety’s Peter Debruge wrote, “What ‘City of Ghosts’ does best is to humanize those who’ve suffered most from the conflict in Syria, educating us through both outrage and compassion.”
Cinetic is negotiating the deal.
Amazon has had a busy festival. The company also bought “The Big Sick,” a comedy from “Silicon Valley’s” Kumail Nanjiani, for $12 million, and also purchased “Landline” with Jenny Slate.
Sundance: Amazon Closes Deal for ISIS Doc 'City of Ghosts' for More Than $2 Million
A&E, which produced the critically acclaimed film, will retain the TV rights after the film's theatrical run. Amazon has plunked down more than $2 million for worldwide rights to Matthew Heineman’s ISIS documentary City of Ghosts. Amazon bought the critically acclaimed film from A&E IndieFilms.
City of Ghosts made its world premiere on Jan. 21 in the U.S. Documentary competition at the Sundance Film Festival, where it drew rave reviews. THR's Todd McCarthy wrote that the film "effectively serves the dual purpose of exhibiting the rape of [the Syrian city of Raqqa] in a way not seen before and conveying the feeling of helplessness experienced by those who have managed to flee to the West."
Amazon — which bought a number of high-profile films at the festival, including the top seller, The Big Sick — is planning a robust theatrical release with a to-be-determined partner, as well as an awards-season campaign. Heineman has won two Emmys and was nominated for an Oscar for his last film, Cartel Land.
City of Ghosts follows the journey of a handful of anonymous Syrian activists who banded together after their homeland was taken over by ISIS in 2014. The film offers unique access to the brave group of citizen journalists as they face the realities of life undercover, on the run and in exile, risking their lives to document the atrocities committed in their homeland.
The sale marks the second time A&E IndieFilms has struck a deal with Amazon, following last year's Author: The JT Leroy Story.
A&E will retain television rights to the films after the theatrical run.
The film is presented by A&E IndieFilms, produced by Our Time Projects and executive produced by Alex Gibney and A+E Studios’ Molly Thompson, Robert Sharenow and Elaine Frontain Bryant, alongside Maiken Baird, David Fialkow and Stacey Offman.
The deal was negotiated by Cinetic Media on behalf of the filmmakers.