Exclusive: Walker extends “Lion’s Mouth,” pens HBO sale

U.S. pay-TV network HBO has acquired an extended version of Lucy Walker's acclaimed Huntington's disease documentary The Lion's Mouth Opens (pictured), realscreen has learned.
October 20, 2014

U.S. pay-TV network HBO has acquired an extended version of Lucy Walker’s acclaimed Huntington’s disease documentary The Lion’s Mouth Opens.

The hard-hitting film, which focuses on actor Marianna Palka (pictured), had its world premiere at Sundance in January, where it won rave reviews from critics despite its running time of just 15 minutes.

Walker (The Crash Reel, Waste Land) has now made an extended version of the doc, running to 28 minutes, and has penned a deal with HBO Documentary Films for U.S. TV rights.

An HBO spokesperson told realscreen the network would likely premiere the short in 2015, adding: “It’s an amazing film.”

As awards season gets underway, The Lion’s Mouth Opens is a likely frontrunner for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short, given its unusually high profile for a short film (in addition to realscreen, it has earned national U.S. coverage via ABC News and the Los Angeles Times) and Walker’s status as a two-time Oscar nominee (for 2010′s Waste Land and 2011′s The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom).

The film has already been nominated for the Cinema Eye Honors’ Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Short Filmmaking Award. And following Sundance, it has played more than 20 international festivals throughout 2014, including Full Frame, True/False, Sheffield Doc/Fest, AFI Docs, Traverse City, and the Los Angeles, Seattle, Hamptons, Sydney and Vancouver film festivals.

The news comes after HBO last month acquired U.S. TV rights for Alex Gibney’s doc Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown and Nick Broomfield’s TIFF hit The Grim Sleeper. The network also announced last week that it will launch a stand-alone streaming service in 2015.

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