EXCLUSIVE: Lightyear Entertainment has acquired two documentaries that made their world premieres at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival: Thomas Robsahm’s A-ha: The Movie and Eddie Martin’s We Were Once Kids. The former will open in theaters across the U.S. and Canada on April 8, with the latter set for release in May.
A-ha: The Movie celebrates the 40th anniversary of the synth-pop band’s irresistible single “Take on Me,” which is still one of the most played songs of the last millennium. The musicians from small-town Norway became global sensations and heartthrobs overnight when they released the song and its groundbreaking pencil-sketch animation video, seeing their newfound fame overshadow their original dream to make music. In the years since, each has taken separate roads to get back to what they loved most.
A-ha has released 15 albums to date, which have sold more than 55 million copies. The band has also earned eight MTV Awards, along with Grammy and American Music Award nominations. Band members Magne Furuholmen, Morten Harket and Pål Waaktaar-Savoy were appointed Knights of the 1st Class of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav in 2012, for their contributions to Norwegian music, and hold the Guinness World Record for the largest paying audience at a pop concert, having drawn a crowd of 198,000 to their show at Rio de Janeiro’s Estádio do Maracanã stadium in 1991.
The doc produced by Robsahm, Yngvie Saether, Tore Buvarp and Esther van Messel features candid, sometimes strained interviews with the band along with previously unreleased behind-the-scenes footage, spotlighting their ability to overcome personal differences while continuing to tour and make music together, remaining popular throughout the world. A-ha will be performing at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in April, in support of the film’s release—making their first return to the venue in 35 years. They’re also set to perform three already-sold-out concerts at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles.
We Were Once Kids is billed as a strikingly personal documentary delving into the lives of the kids who were featured in Larry Clark’s 1995 cult classic film, Kids.
In the early 1990s, before New York City’s mass gentrification, a group of disparate youths ventured outside their broken homes into the city’s brutal streets. United by skateboarding, they cultivated a family and built a unique lifestyle that ultimately inspired Clark’s feature, distributed by Miramax Films. The crew became overnight commodities, thrust into the mainstream spotlight. Left adrift under the bright lights, some discovered transcendent lives and careers — while others, abandoned and unequipped to handle fame, suffered fatal consequences.
Martin wrote the film formerly titled The Kids with Hamilton Chango Harris, also producing alongside Shannon Swan. It won Tribeca’s award for Best Editing upon its festival premiere, subsequently going on to win Best Documentary Feature at the Sideway Film Festival in Birmingham, AL, and a Special Jury Prize at Calgary Underground.
“The subject matter of both these documentaries are legend. I’m sure there isn’t a person alive who doesn’t immediately know the song Take on Me but the band’s meteoric success and creative clashes are equally fascinating,” said Lightyear Entertainment CEO Arnie Holland. “Released 24 years before the creation of Spotify, Take On Me has nevertheless recently passed a billion streams just on that platform.
“The Kids, meanwhile, the survivors of which are now adults, helped revolutionize the gritty, in-your-face guerrilla-style filmmaking that is now so taken for granted, but their rise to both fame and infamy offer harrowing life experiences and reflection,” Holland added. “They are excellent, thought-provoking films, both of which have substantial, already-in-place fan bases at the ready. We are going to have some fun with these two.”
The distribution company founded in 1987 was behind the theatrical release of Martin Butler and Bentley Dean’s Tanna, which earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in 2017. The company also previously released The Etruscan Smile, which starred Succession‘s Brian Cox, along with such titles as Maze, Hirga and Goldstone.
Lightyear Entertainment negotiated the A-ha acquisition directly with First Hand Films, negotiating the deal to acquire We Were Once Kids with Dogwoof Sales.