Beasts of No Nation joins London Film Festival as Netflix wows Venice
James R | On 03, Sep 2015
Netflix’s first feature, Beast of No Nation, has joined the line-up for the 2015 London Film Festival in the same week that it has wowed audiences at Venice.
The movie will screen in the LFF’s Official Competition on 8th and 9th October ahead of its release on Netflix UK later in the month. The drama, written and directed by True Detective’s Cary Fukunaga, stars newcomer Abraham Attah as Agu, a child soldier torn from his family to fight in the civil war of an African country. Idris Elba co-stars as Commandant, a warlord who takes in Agu and instructs him in the ways of war.
The film is based on the acclaimed novel by Nigerian author Uzodinma Iweala and is already tapped for awards success. Indeed, the festival screening in London joins a line of festival debuts, including a premiere at Venice yesterday and screenings at both Telluride and Toronto. This tour of acclaimed events is part of Netflix’s award season strategy: the movie will go on to be released theatrically on 29 US screens on Friday 16th October, which will make it eligible for consideration.
The movie, which is distributed by Bleecker Street, has already been boycotted by major chains such as AMC, because it is not exclusive to cinemas. While this means Beasts can only screen in arthouse venues, such as the Alamo Drafthouse chain, this will not put a dent in Netflix’s plans: the movie has already been met with raving reception in Italy, while cinema box office is far from a preoccupation, given that Netflix’s business model primarily centres on monthly subscription fees.
Beasts of No Nation treats your heart, mind & soul like the Hulk would a punchbag. Peeling myself off the back wall of the cinema #Venezia72
— Robbie Collin (@robbiereviews) September 2, 2015
Cary Fukunaga's Beasts Of No Nation is a brutal civil war nightmare with a shiver of Coppola's Apocalypse Now – review later #Venezia72
— Peter Bradshaw (@PeterBradshaw1) September 2, 2015
Should the tactic pay off and end in prizes, it will be a huge coup for the streaming giant. Beasts was acquired by Netflix for $12 million last year from producers Red Crown Productions and Participant Media for exclusive global distribution. Variety notes that the film went $1 million over budget, with the film-makers uncertain that they would ever make money back on the project; Focus had bought the rights to distribute the film initially, but passed on the film, opening up the way for Netflix. The company has already hired awards season consultant Cynthia Swartz from Strategy PR to help co-ordinate the For Your Consideration campaign.
Even if the VOD service does not bag golden statuettes, though, the release itself is a big step in its ambitions to disrupt the film world as it has done the TV industry: Beasts kicks off a large slate of original fiction films from Netflix, including Western The Ridiculous Six (the first of several Adam Sandler projects) and a sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in early 2016, as well as Brad Pitt military satire The War Machine. Netflix also produced its first feature film documentary this year: What Happened, Nina Simone? It may join a line of movies that have been bought for distribution by Netflix rather than produced from scratch – a la What Happened – but with previous acquisitions The Square and Virunga already earning Oscar nominations for Best Documentary, Beasts already looks to be the birth of a new kind of movie monster.