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Festival Predictions

2015 Sundance Film Festival Predictions: Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker’s Unlocking the Cage

A documentary film that will do more for the animal ethics, protection and liberation debate than Project Nim, The Cove and every other doc that has preceded it, it’s almost unfathomable that gods of the docu field in Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker even needed a Kickstarter supported campaign especially after more than four decades of working ahead of the curve. Unlocking the Cage added some additional coin via the 2013 Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund and now the only question that remains is: how much longer do the pair remain with their protagonist (the passionate and compassionate lawyer Steve Wise) and the story before they break away from it? Round number twelve might be happening as we speak.

Gist: Follows attorney Steve Wise’s fight to give animals personhood rights and break down the legal wall separating them from humans.

Production Co./Producers: Rosadel Varela. Executive Producer: Frazer Pennebaker,

Prediction: U.S. Documentary Competition or Non-Comp Documentary Premieres

U.S. Distributor: Rights Available. TBD (domestic). TBD (international)

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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