NEON strikes again.
The indie label has picked up its second film out of this year’s Sundance, nabbing rights to Jamila Wignot’s “Ailey,” a documentary about dancing icon Alvin Ailey. The film debuted on Saturday and offers rare archival footage of performances by the Ailey Company, along with never-before-heard audio interviews recorded in the last year’s of Ailey’s life. Ailey was a pioneering African-American dancer, director and choreographer, whose work drew on myriad inspirations, weaving together jazz, ballet and modern dance to create a style that was all its own. He died from AIDS in 1989, at the age of 58.
NEON previously bought “Flee,” an animated movie about a man making sense of his past and his extraordinary journey as a child refugee from Afghanistan, for $1 million at the festival.
NEON has seen its profile rise following the triumph of “Parasite,” the South Korean thriller which swept last year’s Academy Awards.
This year’s Sundance is unfolding virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the market has been relatively robust, with “CODA,” an acclaimed drama about a teenage girl who is the only hearing member of her family, netting a record-breaking $25 million from Apple. Films like “Jockey” have landed distribution and other festival premieres like “Summer of Soul” and “Passing” are attracting interest from buyers.
The deal for “Ailey” was negotiated by Ayo Kepher-Maat and Jeff Deutchman for NEON and Jason Ishikawa and Shane Riley of Cinetic on behalf of the filmmakers.
Wignot’s directing work includes the series “The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross,” which won the Peabody Award, the Emmy Award, and the NAACP Image Award, as well as “Town Hall,” a documentary about Tea Party activists.