River Phoenix’s last film ‘Dark Blood’ screened at Berlin film festival

By Daniel S Levine,

The audiences at the Berlin Film Festival were treated to a rare occasion: a screening of Dark Blood, the film River Phoenix was working on at the time of his death.

The film was directed by Dutch director George Sluizer, who finally put it together in 2011 after it was shelved in 1993. It was shown publicly for the first time at the Dutch Film Festival in fall 2012 and was being shown again out of competition in Berlin. Last month, Miami International Film Festival secured the first screening of the film in North America, which will take place next month.

The Associated Press reports that Sluizer said negotiations are underway for the film to get a general release, but he’s not confident that it will hit theaters.

“They are very tough,” he told the media. “They are billionaires, money market people apparently, who by mistake have in their stock of hospitals and hotels a film. They don't care about movies and they don't care about culture, they care about money.”

Sluizer still had work to do, since Phoenix died just days before it was completed. He got a voice actor to finish Phoenix’s scenes, notes The Guardian.

“I'm missing about 25 percent of it, and we lack a number of scenes, but having shown it to a few people after I salvaged it, who raved about the performances, I felt safe enough to continue,” the director said. He also warned audiences that it is a “chair with three legs.”

Brazil actor Jonathan Pryce co-stars in the film as half of a couple Phoenix takes prisoner in Arizona. In Berlin, Pryce had nothing but warm memories about working with Phoenix. Pryce described him as “An old head on young shoulders.”

Cinematographer Edward Lachman also spoke about a scene where Phoenix walked towards the camera “like a ghost.” Unfortunately that footage is lost. “That footage would have been an incredible end to the film,” Lachman commented.

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