Nonfiction and social change are at the center of this week's memo with pieces from Girish Shambu in Film Quarterly's Quorum, as well as Sahar Driver and Sonya Childress tackling the subject in Filmmaker Magazine. Elsewhere, Black Public Media and the Johnny Carson Center have teamed up to launch a new storytelling residency for creative technologists, IF/Then Shorts and the Redford Center have announced an open call for short nature docs, and both the Camden International Film Festival and Open City Documentary Festival have revealed their 2022 programs. Happy Monday, happy reading, and happy watching!
– Jordan M. Smith
Black Public Media & Johnny Carson Center Launch New Residency Lisa Osborne shared the news at Black Public Media: “Imagine a visiting artist residency where you're fully immersed in a top-notch program with unfettered access to state-of-the art equipment and learning resources, and where you don't have to worry about footing the bill for your travel or on-site lodgings while still maintaining your living conditions back home. This is just part of what makes the new BPM and Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts residency so unique. In this week's Dispatch, Lisa Osborne, BPM's director of emerging media, explains how the residency came about, who the creative technologists that were selected for the inaugural cohort are, and just what makes this XR storytelling residency so A M A Z I N G!”
IF/Then Shorts & The Redford Center Announce Open Call for Short Nature Docs Announced via press release: “The Redford Center and IF/Then Shorts, an initiative of Field of Vision, launch today the IF/Then x The Redford Center Nature Connection Pitch, an open call for short documentary films focusing on humanity’s connection with nature. Selected projects will have the opportunity to participate in a pitch forum and professional development workshop series at Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in February 2023. Chosen from a national pool of applicants by industry luminaries and topic area experts, five filmmaking teams will receive a combined $25,000 in production grants, along with career-building training, to share their stories of nature connection and reconnection with the world. Building on last year’s robust Nature Access Pitch partnership between IF/Then Shorts and The Redford Center, which saw three projects awarded funding totalling $35,000 at last year’s DOC NYC, this opportunity focuses on supporting filmmakers’ career development and building skills to incorporate impact-driven storytelling into their artistic practice.”
Ecosystems: From Sable Island to Documentary Platforms Girish Shambu writes in Film Quarterly’s Quorum: “The first two decades of the twenty-first century have witnessed explosive growth in the genre of the environmental documentary. Some of these films—such as An Inconvenient Truth (2006), Food, Inc. (2008), Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006), and The Octopus Teacher (2020)—have achieved broad, mainstream popularity, but hundreds more dot the vast terrain of streaming. Yet it must be said that most of these works, focused on raising awareness of key environmental issues, rarely hold enormous interest as cinema. One of the best films at the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto in May–Geographies of Solitude, by Montreal-based director Jacquelyn Mills—raised a fascinating cinematic question: What does it mean to make a film not just about nature, but with nature? In other words, what might it look and sound like when nature is embedded deep in the very form of a film?…Environmental documentaries, especially those that play film festivals, often harbor an activist impulse. But Geographies has sprung from a different set of aims. Rather than an ‘issue doc,’ Mills wanted to make a film that captured, in a deep way, ‘an experiential relationship with the natural world.’ This entanglement of the human and non-human permeated her filmmaking process, literally marking both image and sound.”
The Evolution of Impact: The Future of Social Change and Nonfiction Storytelling Sahar Driver and Sonya Childress write in Filmmaker Magazine: “The conversation about documentary impact has undergone a number of shifts since impact producing began to emerge as a practice within the documentary field around 20 years ago. Today it is almost expected that a social issue documentary film will be accompanied by an impact campaign to help ensure its story will reach audiences and motivate them towards social change, deeper engagement with a story’s themes and further learning. But earlier, things were different—the argument had to be made that some documentary filmmakers should focus on impact and to develop best practices for engaging audiences around a film and its themes. Once this notion was accepted, the conversation moved on to the most effective ways to measure impact. Later, the focus shifted to how to professionalize impact work and sustain the work of impact producers. Now, as impact producers and strategists who have worked in this space through most of these shifts, we suspect the field is moving through its next evolution: a consideration of the ways filmmakers of color have defined impact, the structural barriers filmmakers of color face in the industry and its implications for impact. The documentary impact enterprise has always focused on the power of particular films to build understanding and shift audience perspectives as the foundational starting point for action, whether that involves changing peoples’ behaviors, the choices they make, the steps they take to change institutions or policies, or inspiring them to build community.”
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DOC NYC continues to grow, and we now feature three publications at the festival in which to highlight your advertisement - our Festival Catalog, the Visionaries Programand/or; Industry Guide. The Festival Catalog is filled with reference guides, program details, and movie descriptions - a critical reference tool during the eight-day festival and a staple for advertisers interested in connecting with a diverse, affluent, and educated community. The Visionaries Program is a limited keepsake, distributed to 400 leaders of the doc community at the Visionaries Tribute luncheon. Our Industry Guide is an insider's resource for filmmakers and industry representatives attending DOC NYC PRO.
Camden Announces Film Slate and Points North Forum program for its 18th Edition Announced via press release: “The Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) has announced the slate of feature and short films for its 18th edition, which will take place in person from September 15-18 at venues in Camden and Rockland, Maine, and online from September 15-25 for audiences across North America. Longtime sponsor SHOWTIME® returns as a Headlining Sponsor, and is joined this year by YETI, MSNBC Films, CNN Films, and the RandomGood Foundation. The CIFF Box Office is open and passes are on sale now! Online registration for pass holders begins on September 1. General tickets for screenings will open on September 8. A program of the Points North Institute, CIFF remains widely recognized as a major platform championing the next generation of nonfiction storytellers and one of the hottest documentary and industry festivals on the festival and awards calendars. This year's edition is the most international and formally adventurous to date and includes 34 features and 37 short films from over 41 countries. Over 60% of the entire program is directed or co-directed by BIPOC filmmakers and this is the 6th consecutive program the festival has reached gender parity within the program and across all competitions.”
Announcing full programme of 2022 Open City Documentary Festival Announced via press release: “Open City Documentary Festival is excited to announce the full programme for its twelfth edition, taking place from 7th to 13th September. Our first fully in person festival since 2019 will welcome audiences to venues Bertha DocHouse, Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image, Close-Up Cinema, Curzon Soho, Genesis Cinema, Institute of Contemporary Arts, LUX, Tate Modern and our Festival Hub. We will celebrate the art of non-fiction through 93 new and retrospective non-fiction films. The new film programme includes 5 World Premieres and 27 European Premieres, and films from 25 different countries.”
Fall Conference Registration Now Open!
Registration is now open for the November 10-17 DOC NYC PRO fall conference too, with 8 days covering all aspects of documentary filmmaking: from funding to producing, distribution and more. Check out the topics here. Save more than 20% on Day Passes with the Early Bird discount, available through September 1—and save even more with a 4-day or 8-day pack.
DOC NYC PRO is co-presented by Apple Original Films.
Barbara Kopple on How Docs Have Changed Since She Won Her First Oscar Addie Morfoot reports in Variety: "In Barbara Kopple’s 40-plus year career as one of America’s greatest documentary directors, she has won Academy Awards for the seminal 1976 documentary Harlan County, U.S.A. a portrait of a Kentucky coal mining town in crisis, and for American Dream, a 1990 examination of a meatpackers’ strike at a Hormel plant in Austin, Minn. A pioneer of cinema vérité that got her start with the Maysles brothers (directors of Gimme Shelter and Grey Gardens), she was most recently nominated for a News & Documentary Emmy award for Desert One, a doc about the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. Kopple will be a keynote speaker at Variety and Rolling Stone’s Truth Seekers Summit on Thursday. She spoke to Variety about her decades-long career in nonfiction filmmaking.”
Once More, With Feeling: Nathan Fielder’s Artificial Hells Moze Halperin writes in Artforum: “In episode three of Nathan Fielder’s The Rehearsal, an affable woman in glasses, sitting in a Raising Cane’s booth overlooking a vast and lonely soundstage, dips a chicken finger into a tub of sauce, lifts it millimeters from her mouth, smiles at an unseen someone across from her as she jovially bites the air three times, then places the intact poultry prop down. The distance between the zealous extra’s smacking lips and the chicken is negligible, and yet, metaphorically, it encapsulates the entire series’ edging relationship to the meticulous art of connection. The Rehearsal’s stated attempts at building bridges—whether between prop chicken finger and real mouth or a fake father and fake son—mask Fielder’s ultimate goal: to sustain a body of work that exists almost entirely in the abysses between us. The Rehearsal, in which Vancouverite sex symbol and Holocaust awareness softshell jacket entrepreneur Fielder ‘helps’ people rehearse for uncertain situations—be it a confession or a confrontation or parenthood—withholds fulfillment by slipping constantly into new layers of unreality, achieving a durationally unnerving experience and forging a poetic New Insincerity.”
Arsenal: All Or Nothing and the Football Documentary Boom Zoheir Beig writes for Little White Lies: “Although it is Italia 90 that is widely credited for sparking a renaissance in English football culture, it was England’s campaign to qualify for the successive World Cup in the USA four years later that arguably delivered the grand antecedent of the football documentaries we have today. The Impossible Job, Ken McGill’s contribution to Channel 4’s pioneering documentary strand Cutting Edge remains astonishing in its intimacy to the subject, following as it does Graham Taylor’s ultimately doomed campaign to lead England to the 1994 World Cup. The film featured an incredible use of pitch side audio (Taylor’s remonstration with an official over a penalty not given, 'The referee’s got me the sack!' is pathos of the highest order), whilst its depiction of the confluence of media and fan pressure within football is ever prescient. The early-90s handheld aesthetic of The Impossible Job could not be further from the slick drone-assisted package of an All Or Nothing, and one suspects neither could its freedom of expression, with multimillion pound clubs content to allow cameras within their four walls, albeit with a large degree of creative control over how they are depicted. It’s certainly something that was not the case with Mat Hodgson’s The Four Year Plan, a story of how a group of investors aimed to rescue Queen’s Park Rangers from the brink of liquidation and back into the riches of the Premier League that has the serendipitous dramatic quality that, as also evidenced by the likes of Ondi Timoner’s Dig! and the Edward Snowden epic Citizenfour, would have any documentary maker shaking their hands with glee.”
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