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Thelonious Monk Documentary ‘Rewind and Play’ Sells to Grasshopper Film for North America (EXCLUSIVE)

Grasshopper Film has acquired the North American distribution rights to “Rewind & Play,” Alain Gomis’ feature documentary on the late jazz pianist Thelonious Monk.

The film is set to screen at the 60th annual New York Film Festival later this month, and will open in theaters early next year. The doc uses an interview with Monk in France from 1969, which many would now consider to be deeply problematic, as its centrepiece.

In December 1969, Monk arrived in Paris for a concert at the tail end of a European tour. While there, he was invited to appear on a television interview program, where he was to answer questions in an intimate, one-on-one studio stage.

Using newly discovered footage from the recording of the interview, French-Senegalese filmmaker Gomis reveals a troubling dynamic between Monk and his white interviewer, Henri Renaud — who was an avowed admirer of Monk — and how the musician stands his ground despite being antagonized by Renaud’s trivializing approach.

Gomis’s film is billed as “a subtle yet searing exposé” of casual racism, which presents another dimension to the musical genius at work.

“Alain Gomis’ magnificent ‘Rewind & Play’ will delight fans of Monk or jazz or any lover of music or the arts,” said Ryan Krivoshey, founder of Grasshopper Film.

“Focusing on a single television interview from the late 1960s, and incorporating never before released material, Gomis’ film manages to provide a loving appreciation of a legendary artist, while shrewdly deconstructing the larger social system in which he had to live and work.”

The deal was negotiated by Krivoshey of Grasshopper Film with Arnaud Dommerc of Andolfi.

“Rewind & Play” was directed by Gomis. It was produced by Anouk Khelifa (Sphere Films) and Arnaud Dommerc (Andolfi). The sound and re-recording mix is by Matthieu Deniau and editing is by Gomis.

Gomis made his directorial debut in 2002 with “L’Afrance,” about the struggles of migrants in France. The film won a Silver Leopard award at the Locarno Film Festival. His film “Andalucia” screened at the Venice Film Festival in 2012, while his 2017 film “Aujourd’hui” (“Tey”) was shown in competition at the Berlinale, and won a Golden Stalion at Fespaco. He returned to the Berlinale in 2017 with “Félicité.” The film won him the competition’s Grand Jury Prize, a second Gold Stallion at Fespaco, and represented Senegal at the Oscars where it was shortlisted for best international feature film.

Grasshopper Film, which specializes in independent and arthouse cinema, is set to release Albert Serra’s Cannes title “Pacifiction,” Verena Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor’s “De Humani Corporis Fabrica,” Joana Pimenta and Adirley Queirós’ “Dry Ground Burning” and a new 4K restoration of Pedro Costa’s “O Sangue” (“Blood”). All four films are screening at the 60th New York Film Festival, which runs from Sept. 30 to Oct. 16.

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