Watching the Oscars live last night became truly bizarre when it came time to hand out the statues for Best Documentary Feature, but I'm not here to share gossip fodder. After the dust settled, Questlove and Summer of Soul came out on top, and Ben Proudfoot won Best Documentary Short for The Queen of Basketball—and it’s a thrill that both films are DOC NYC 2021 alumni. In other news, the Pure Nonfiction Documentary Screening Series will soon return to IFC Center for its first new season since the start of the pandemic; the Khabar Lahariya staff share negative reaction to their representation in Writing With Fire; IDA hires new staffers and a lawyer with a history of union busting; and unfortunately, Marina Goldovskaya and Jack Willis, both longtime documentary filmmakers, have died. Read on and be well.
– Jordan M. Smith
Summer of Soul, Queen of Basketball Win Doc Oscars Pat Mullen reports at POV Magazine: "Never in the history of the Academy Awards has the announcement for Best Documentary Feature inspired such a viral moment. In the slap heard around the world, audiences witnessed a full-on assault when Chris Rock took the stage to present the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature...The award, when finally presented, went to Summer of Soul as expected. Ahmir 'Questlove' Thompson accepted the Academy Award for his feature debut along with producers Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent, and David Dinerstein. The director gave an emotional speech about the relevance of seeing the summer of 1969 through the lens of the tumultuous events of 2020 during which the film was made. Summer of Soul resurrected footage of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival and invited people who attended the concert to revisit a touchstone event that was ignored in the shadow of Woodstock. Oscar’s other documentary prize also went to the tipped frontrunner as Ben Proudfoot won for The Queen of Basketball. The Nova Scotia native was among the first winners to receive his Oscar during the one-hour ceremony in which eight categories were presented prior to showtime."
Pure Nonfiction Documentary Screening Series Returns to IFC Center Announced via press release: “The popular Pure Nonfiction documentary screening series makes a long-awaited return to IFC Center with a 9-film spring season running April 5 - May 24, 2022. Offering audiences sneak previews of highly anticipated nonfiction features and series prior to their releases, the program includes post-screening conversations with creators and subjects. The series kicks off with La Madrina: The [Savage] Life of Lorine Padilla (Apr 5), winner of the DOC NYC Audience Award, profiling a beloved South Bronx matriarch and former 'First Lady' of the Savage Skulls gang, followed by a Q&A with Padilla and director Raquel Cepeda and executive producer Henry Chalfant (Style Wars). Pure Nonfiction takes place Tuesday nights at 7:30pm (plus a bonus screening on Wednesday, May 18) and is curated by Thom Powers, DOC NYC’s long-serving Artistic Director and host of the Pure Nonfiction podcast. Powers created the series (originally titled Stranger Than Fiction) in 2005, and it has been a vibrant, continuous hub for New York’s documentary community until it went on hiatus in mid-season in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic.”
On Turning Twenty & The Oscar Story – Khabar Lahariya Has a Few Things to Say The Khabar Lahariya staff wrote on the Khabar Lahariya website: “Khabar Lahariya, the country’s only rural, women-led media collective, once the proud publisher of a chain of local language newspapers and now a proud digital-only rural news channel with 554k YouTube subscribers and an average of 10 million views every month, and a team of Dalit-led, but also Muslim, also OBC, also upper-caste women, all showing what a truly diverse media organization can look like – enters its 20th year this year. It seems significant that this is also the year in which we have been featured in a documentary that has been nominated for an Academy Award. We had a chance to watch the entire film as an organisation recently, and we would like to make our views clear. The film is a moving and powerful document, but its presentation of Khabar Lahariya as an organisation with a particular and consuming focus of reporting on one party and the mobilisation around this, is inaccurate. We recognise the prerogative of independent filmmakers to present the story that they choose to, but we would like to say that this eclipses the kind of work and the kind of local journalism we have done for twenty years, the reason we are different from other mainstream media of our times. It is a story which captures a part of ours, and part stories have a way of distorting the whole sometimes. In our 20 years of practising independent journalism, it has been a foundational value to be deliberate about how and who we include in the frame or story, about corroboration, about multiple perspectives. These values are not reflected in the version of ourselves we see in the film.”
IDA Hires Two Senior Staffers & Consultant Matthew Carey reports at Deadline: "The IDA has announced the hiring of two senior staff members and a consultant, in what the embattled organization calls ‘a major step forward.’ Arts administrator and film festival programmer Keisha Knight has been appointed director of IDA Funds and Enterprise Program, a critical role that involves interfacing with grant-making entities that fund IDA initiatives. ‘In this capacity [Knight] will oversee a portfolio of IDA’s granting programs,’ the IDA said in a release, ‘including IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund, Logan elevate and Equity grants, and the Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund, XRM Media Incubator, and Netflix Global Emerging Filmmaker Award.’ Abby Sun, a filmmaker, researcher, and artist at the MIT Open Documentary Lab, has been hired as the IDA’s director of artist programs. One of her major responsibilities will be to develop thematic content for the IDA’s Getting Real 2022 conference, which is scheduled for September.”
IDA Says Union Is Welcome After Staff Exodus — but First, a Lawyer Chris Lindahl reported in IndieWire: “Before he became the executive director of the International Documentary Association, Rick Pérez was a nonfiction director and producer perhaps best known for his 2014 Sundance entry Cesar’s Last Fast, which profiled labor leader Cesar Chavez’s 1988 hunger strike. Now, Pérez finds himself at the center of another union story — but this time, he’s on management’s side. After losing almost all of his senior staff in protest of ‘workplace conduct’ and the IDA’s ‘betrayal of public commitments,’ the 11 remaining full-time staffers formed a union, Documentary Workers United, under Communications Workers of America, with the express mission to have a say in how the IDA rebuilds…On March 16, the board co-chair Chris Pérez informed the workers that the IDA would voluntarily recognize the union ‘in the interest of moving forward and healing together.’ However, the IDA initially made a curious choice of counsel to iron out the details: Seyfarth Shaw. In labor circles, the firm is notorious for its union-busting — and proudly lists its work fighting Chavez and his United Farm Workers in the 1970s as part of its longstanding commitment of ‘influencing the course of labor law to serve our clients’ needs.’”
An Introduction to the IDA Board Grace Lee, Chris Pérez, Amir Shahkhalili and Marcia Smith wrote in IDA's blog: "Dear IDA Community, We are taking this opportunity to introduce ourselves to you as the new Executive Committee of the IDA Board of Directors. In the spirit of greater transparency, we want to use this space to keep in regular contact about IDA and its future. IDA is grappling with an existential crisis. Over the last year, we have experienced internal conflicts and multiple transitions at the staff, executive and board level, including sadly, a number of resignations. These internal changes came fast and furious, with little opportunity to digest before the next disruption. We’ve also seen how our communication shortcomings have led to factual inaccuracies and contributed to distress and confusion within our documentary community. As volunteer board members responsible for the long-term health of the IDA, this pain is palpable. We want to do our part moving forward to be transparent, to be accountable for our mistakes and work alongside you to help our community heal. We hope these posts will contribute to a new beginning.”
Documentary Filmmaker Marina Goldovskaya, Dead at Age 80 The Moscow Times reports: “The documentary filmmaker Marina Goldovskaya died in Latvia on March 20 at the age of 80. Goldovskaya made nearly one hundred documentaries, many of which were intimate portraits of her subjects. She is perhaps best known for her work during the late Soviet and early post-Soviet period that opened doors into the inner lives of people living in a time of great change. She won many awards for Arkhangelsky Peasant about the first private farmer in the Soviet Union in 1989 and for The Bitter Taste of Freedom about murdered journalist Anna Politskovskaya, made in 2011. Goldovskaya was born in to one of the Soviet Union’s most famous film families. Her father was Yevsei Goldovsky, an inventor and academic who was one of the founders of the All-Russian State Institute for Cinematography (VGIK). Goldovskaya graduated from the institute in 1963 as a camera operator, one of three women at the film school. One of her first jobs was working as the assistant camera operator for Andrei Tarkovsky.”
Jack Willis, TV Producer and Empathetic Filmmaker, Dies at 87 Sam Roberts reports in The New York Times: “Jack Willis, a journalist and television executive who won several Emmys and a Polk Award for his innovative films and news and documentary programming during the embryonic years of cable and public broadcasting, died on Feb. 9 in Zurich. He was 87. He underwent assisted suicide at a clinic there, his wife, Mary Pleshette Willis, said. He lived in Manhattan. When he was in his late 30s, Mr. Willis broke his neck in a body surfing accident that temporarily left him a quadriplegic before he miraculously recovered, his wife said, inspiring a television movie. But after a half century, the injuries were taking their toll. Six years ago, he broke his hip and began using a wheelchair, she said. From 1971 to 1973, Mr. Willis was director of programming and production for WNET, the public television station in New York, where he introduced innovative local news coverage as executive producer of The 51st State, a program that took its name from the zany 1969 mayoral campaign of the author Norman Mailer, who proposed that New York City secede from New York State. The program, which won an Emmy Award, focused on communities rather than the more traditional fare of the nightly local news.”
Doc Alliance Awards 2022 Selection Unveiled Nick Cunningham reports at Business Doc Europe: “Doc Alliance, the creative union of seven major European documentary film festivals, has unveiled the shortlist of 14 nominees for the 2022 Doc Alliance Awards, to be handed out during the Doc Day lunch in Cannes on May 24. The total prize pot is €8,000 in cash, designed to support the winners’ future creative endeavours and projects. Every year, the programmers and artistic directors of all seven festivals nominate one short film and one feature-length film. A jury of leading European journalists and film professionals then select the winning films in both categories from the list of nominated films. The Doc Alliance festivals are: CPH:DOX (Denmark), Doclisboa (Portugal), DOK Leipzig (Germany), FIDMarseille (France), Ji.hlava IDFF (Czech Republic), Millennium Docs Against Gravity (Poland) and Visions du Réel (Switzerland).”
DOC NYC PRO
Explore the DOC NYC PRO Spring 2022 Lineup
Our DOC NYC PRO winter season wraps up next Wednesday, March 23rd with a workshop on Creating the Perfect Pitch Deck, and then we’re rolling right into spring with a new lineup of DOC NYC PRO events designed to educate and empower the doc community! The online Spring 2022 season of DOC NYC PRO features experts from Ford Foundation, Wheelhouse Creative, ITVS and Cinetic Media and award winning independent filmmakers, covering a wide range of topics from crafting a fundraising sizzle reel to DIY distribution. We're pleased to welcome filmmakers and lovers of documentaries from all over the world with panels and workshops designed with a global audience in mind.
For the best deal on our spring season of DOC NYC PRO events, purchase a season pass and save 15% off the price of individual tickets.
All registrants may participate in the live session, and will also receive access to the recorded event, a written transcript, and a copy of any slide presentations after the livestream. Tickets are non-refundable. If you have questions about registration, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. For questions about accommodations and accessibility, including requests for live ASL interpretation, please email email@example.com.
ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT
25th Annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Announces Official Selections Announced via press release: “Full Frame announces the official festival selections for the virtual 25th Annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, which takes place April 7–10, 2022. The NEW DOCS lineup and Invited Program include 37 titles from 18 countries, comprising 22 feature films and 15 short films, with two world premieres, one North American premiere, and three U.S. premieres. Thirty films will screen as part of NEW DOCS and are eligible for juried cash awards. Award winners will be announced during the festival on April 9. The Invited Program includes seven feature films screening out of competition…This year’s festival takes place entirely online and includes Filmmaker Q&As, presented by Showtime, in addition to film screenings. Passes are on sale now at store.fullframefest.org. Single tickets to individual films will be available for purchase on Tuesday, March 29, at 11 a.m. (ET). While the four-day festival will take place exclusively online, organizers plan to present in-person programming in downtown Durham later this summer. Three outdoor screenings are currently scheduled to take place at Durham Central Park on August 1, August 15, and August 29. Further details, including film titles, will be announced in the coming months.”
Documentary Festival CPH:DOX to Launch With Special Focus on Ukraine Lise Pedersen reports at Variety: "Organizers at the Copenhagen Intl. Documentary Film Festival (CPH:DOX), which is going ahead in-person for the first time in three years, are taking a stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine with a dedicated program of seven specially curated films. Spirits may be high in the Danish capital at the prospect of finally having a live event after two editions that were pushed online due to the COVID-19 pandemic but, as the fest’s artistic director Niklas Engstrøm stressed, ‘All our thoughts go to Ukraine and the many refugees who are currently being forced to leave their homeland.’ As the event’s programmer, Mads Mikkelsen, explained to Variety, organizers had already put together a selection of films from or about Ukraine when they closed the program in late January. ‘But, of course, everything changed on February 24 when Russia invaded Ukraine. Up to the last minute, we added more films because we felt we could do something to help understand the situation and the recent history of Ukraine since 2014,’ said Mikkelsen.”
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival Stakes Its Claim on the Regional Circuit Coley Gray reports for Documentary Magazine: "Missoula, Montana is a lively university town, beautifully situated at the confluence of several mountain valleys. But let’s be honest, visiting windswept Big Sky country (as the state likes to call itself) in the dead of winter isn’t on too many top-ten travel lists. Except perhaps documentary film aficionados, who are drawn like frozen-toed snowshoers to the toasty cinematic campfire of the town’s annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival and DocShop Filmmaker’s Forum. Held every February, Big Sky is a standout example of a regional film festival, showcasing adventurous programming grounded in warm local hospitality. This year’s 10-day program screened in-person at three venues in Missoula and offered extensive options for virtual viewing.”
The 18th Edition of ZagrebDox Announces its Selection Vassilis Economou reports at Cineuropa: “The ZagrebDox International Documentary Film Festival has unveiled the full line-up for its 18th edition, which will run from 3-10 April in its usual location of the Kaptol Cinema in Zagreb. The major documentary event will this year host 86 documentaries across 11 film sections. A total of 35 movies will be participating in the two official competitions – International and Regional – in an effort to win the festival’s Big Stamp Award, while up-and-coming directors under 35 years of age will also be eligible for the Small Stamp Award. This year’s festival programme was presented by festival director and main programmer Nenad Puhovski and producer Hrvoje Pukšec.”
For Greek Documentary Filmmakers, Opportunities Emerge After Years of Crisis Christopher Vourlias reports for Variety: "For an event that functions as the premier showcase for the Greek documentary industry, the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival again offered a prime platform for local docmakers at its 24th edition, with 77 feature-length and short Greek documentaries screening across the festival’s various competition and non-competitive sections. Marco Gastine, a co-founder of the Hellas Doc Association, a trade group representing the interests of Greek documentary filmmakers, has witnessed the industry’s steady evolution since the association was founded in 2013. ‘There was nothing specific about documentaries [in Greece’s film policy at the time],’ Gastine told Variety in Thessaloniki. ‘It was underrepresented in the public programs at the Greek Film Center and [public broadcaster] ERT.’ The pubcaster was in fact shuttered from 2013 to 2015, as part of cost-cutting measures by an austerity-minded government, plunging the documentary industry into crisis. Much has changed in the years since, partly thanks to the association’s efforts to shape film policy at public institutions like the GFC and the National Center of Audiovisual Media and Communication (EKOME), the government body tasked with administering Greece’s incentive scheme.”
He Was a Playground Bully in 1965. His Film About It Is Up for an Oscar. Stuart Miller reports in The New York Times: “A long time ago at the southern end of Brooklyn, a lone fifth-grade boy was set upon by his P.S. 194 classmates, who punched and kicked, yelled and spit at him. Jay Rosenblatt was part of the mob. More than half a century later, Mr. Rosenblatt revisited the incident, and the schoolyard itself, for his short documentary, When We Were Bullies, which is nominated for an Academy Award and which makes its TV debut March 30 on HBO. Mr. Rosenblatt tracked down 20 former classmates to ask them how they look back at their behavior on that day more than 50 years ago and how they felt after their teacher, Mrs. Bromberg, caught them and punished them, calling the group ‘animals.’ Intriguingly, he chose not to interview the victim, since the film’s themes revolve around the complicity and collaboration that comes with a mob mentality and the lasting impact of such childhood events.”
The Other F-Word: Documentary Filmmaker Patrick Forbes on Fear Patrick Forbes reports at The Talkhouse: "The moment the Russian cop (or KGB guy? He hadn’t said…) hit my producer, I began to think things were not going to end well. Moscow in 2002 was not a place for the faint-hearted. There were three neat bullet holes in the elevator at my hotel and more prostitutes than staff in the lobby. We had been filming the mayor of Moscow in his meeting room, as part of Russian Godfathers, a documentary on the battle for control of Russia between some of the world’s richest men, the oligarchs, and the newly elected President, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. Now, we all know how that battle ended. But back then, it was a closely fought thing. And we had suddenly become pawns in the game."
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