Journalist Eddie Dunford (Andrew Garfield) surveys the damage after West Yorkshire police torch a Gypsy camp on land that construction magnate John Dawson (Sean Bean) wants for development in "Red Riding Trilogy"'s first film, set in 1974.
Even with advance planning, it's a pain to schedule the screenings of three linked, full-length feature films so that audiences can choose whether to see all five hours' worth of viewing on the same day or one installment at a time. Last week Cinemapolis, Ithaca's downtown indie multiplex on East Green St., rose to the challenge of opening the British "Red Riding Trilogy" two weeks earlier than its long-scheduled April 16th start-date. While no one has said so, U.S distributor IFC Films may have pushed up theatre bookings here in reaction to last week's release of the DVD set in England, which became available to us almost immediately at amazon.com. "Red Riding Trilogy" is one of the latest in the ever-more respectable genre of "long form television" (think "Prime Suspect," "Rome," and my personal favorite, "Deadwood"). "Red Riding" premiered on U.K.'s Channel 4 in March 2009 and then was introduced to US audiences first via five film festivals including last October's New York Film Festival. But the trilogy only opened theatrically state-side in February, beginning in Manhattan with a week at IFC and additional on-demand availability in a few regions before making its slow trek to the kinds of theatre that can offer both the right audience and enough screens to let you -- as Cinemapolis said -- "map out your strategy" for seeing the set.
Even if all the kinks aren't worked out for distributing this sort of hybrid work, "Red Riding" has a sterling pedigree. Set in and around the West Yorkshire city of Leeds in northern England, "Red Riding" is based on David Peace's 1999 quartet of cult "Northern noir" novels. There is a shared cast, three interlocking scripts written by Tony Grisoni, and three directors -- Julian Jarrold, James Marsh, and Anand Tucker -- who got to hand-pick their own DPs, editors and crews, and who say they never felt particularly constrained by limited resources. England's Channel 4 commissioned the adaptation of the "Red Riding" novels by Grisoni, whose scripts were then produced by Michael Winterbottom's partner in Revolution Films, Andrew Eaton. All the directors and many in the cast say that the scripts so excited them that they lobbied hard to be part of the project.