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Riley Stearns - The Art of Self Defense

Festival Predictions

2019 Sundance Film Festival Predictions: #8. Riley Stearns – The Art of Self Defense

2019 Sundance Film Festival Predictions: #8. Riley Stearns – The Art of Self Defense

A sophomore film we thought might be ready for the 2018 campaign will walk and chop into 2019 instead with a distributor already in place and a hyped up preem in the cards. Riley StearnsThe Art of Self Defense landed at Bleecker Street and while no release date has been stamped, we’re thinking this might be a return to Sundance for the filmmaker — he had his 2013 short The Cub preem there prior to launching into feature mode with 2015’s SXSW preemed feature debut Faults. Production took place in September of 2017 and sees 2009’s Solitary Man’s Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots tango joined by Alessandro Nivola. Steve Terada, Phillip Andre Botello, Jason Burkey, and Damsel filmmaker David Zellner are among the supporting cast.

Rooftop Films 2019

Gist: Written by Riley Stearns, this centers on Casey (Jesse Eisenberg), who is attacked at random on the street and enlists in a local dojo led by a charismatic and mysterious Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), in an effort to learn how to defend himself. What he uncovers is a sinister world of fraternity, violence and hyper-masculinity and a woman (Imogen Poots) fighting for her place in it. Casey undertakes a journey, both frightening and darkly funny, that will place him squarely in the sights of his enigmatic new mentor.

Production Co./Producers: Andrew Kortschak, Walter Kortschak (Mediterranea), Cody Ryder (Cop Car), Stephanie Whonsetler.

Prediction: Bleecker Street could be looking to premiere their purchase at the fest – Midnight section or Premieres section are possible.

U.S. Distributor: Bleecker Street.

Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member 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 served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).

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