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By Elias Savada | March 4, 2004

Avatar Films announces the upcoming release of three provocative and timely documentaries that will be released in the spring and summer. All of the titles under the Avatar banner were shot in and will be released in digital video.
Saints and Sinners, a documentary by Abigail Honor and Yan Vizinberg, follows the challenging journey of a devoutly Catholic gay couple determined to marry in a Catholic church. Caring more about formalizing their seven-year union within the Catholic tradition than legal recognition by the state, Edward DeBonis and Vincent Maniscalco pursue their dream, despite the expected rejection from their church’s hierarchy. Even as previously supportive family members express their reservations about receiving communion from a gay Catholic priest, Edward and Vincent audaciously seek to become the first gay couple to have their wedding announcement published in the New York Times. Named the Best Unseen Film of 2003 by Film Threat, “Saints and Sinners” is a highly timely vision of love and commitment, which demonstrates that the struggle for equal rights is not just about legal benefits, but the aspiration to find acceptance and affirmation, rather than rejection, from one’s chosen religion.
A different take on religion is the focus of Maurizio Benazzo & Nick Day’s extraordinary documentary Kumbh Mela: Short Cut to Nirvana. Offering a rare journey through India’s sacred and surreal Kumbh Mela celebration, the film follows several Westerners and a young Indian Swami, each on their own spiritual quest. Held every 12 years, this 2,000 year-old religious festival is the largest gathering of humanity in the world, attracting among its 70 million participants guru’s, sadhus, monks and spiritual leaders from across India and around the world. Featuring a historic meeting between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the most important Hindi leaders, the festival’s climax includes 25 million people bathing in the holy waters of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, in their pursuit of nirvana. A cacophony of color, motion, song and faith, the film is a joyous celebration of spiritual India.
The third Avatar release offers a very different type of worship and devotion. Featuring incredible live performances, “MC5: A True Testimonial” profiles one of the most electrifying and controversial acts to ever storm a Rock ‘n’ Roll stage. Hailing from Detroit, the MC5’s performances in the late 1960s are legend and their debut album, “Kick Out the Jams,” set a high-energy sonic standard rarely matched in the forty years since its release. The MC5’s uncompromising stance and radical affiliations placed them at the forefront of a generation bent on political and cultural change, but their efforts were rewarded with critical indifference, exploitive record labels, FBI surveillance and harassment, and the censorship of their music. Chronicling the band’s rise to stardom and subsequent fall, filmmaker David C. Thomas combines rare film and television footage, still photographs and interviews with surviving band members to bring the story of the legendary MC5 to life.
“We are pleased to give these three films the theatrical release they deserve. Digital video has become the format of choice of today’s leading documentary filmmakers, says Avatar Co-President Jason Leaf. “Avatar is actively seeking and presenting the very best of this exciting new brand of filmmaking, allowing us to advance our mission of bringing small yet worthy films to American audiences.”

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