Though a bit out of season, there was a variety of award related news this week with the Peabodys doling out their annual honors, the TV Academy changing some of its Emmy rules, winning pitches being announced at Sunny Side of the Doc, and top honors being celebrated at this year's ZegrebDox. And as always, there's plenty more where that came from. Until next week...
– Jordan M. Smith
Peabody Awards Names 20 Winners Representing the Very Best in Storytelling
Announced via press release: “Today the Peabody Awards Board of Jurors unveiled all 30 programs representing the most compelling and empowering stories released in broadcasting and streaming media during 2020. Of the 30 winners, PBS led with five, followed by Netflix with four, HBO with three, and Amazon, Apple TV+, and Showtime each with two. Additional winning platforms include ABC, The Atlantic, CBS, Disney Channel, ITV, KING 5, KNXV-TV, MTV, Nashville Public Radio, National Geographic, Shudder, and The Washington Post...The Peabody 30 are the best of over 1,300 entries submitted from television, podcasts/radio and the web in entertainment, news, documentary, arts, children’s/youth, public service and multimedia programming. Chosen unanimously by a board of 19 jurors, the winning programs this year covered numerous pressing issues, including COVID-19, voting rights, police violence, immigrant rights, and economic justice. News programs earned 8 wins this year. PBS NewsHour won for its coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, while Hao Wu’s brilliant documentary 76 Days won for capturing the early struggles of the battle against COVID-19 in Wuhan, China.”
Observing the Observers: How I Judged Documentaries and Learned to Teach None Alexandra Juhasz reflects on their time judging for the Peabodys in POV Magazine: “Over the four years of judging for the Peabodys, I have witnessed a change in documentary form noticeable enough that I am moved to try to understand my observations as another contribution to this larger effort. First, the good news. This year’s 35 submitted films are significantly ‘better’ than those from previous contests. Production values are higher, arguments clearer, foci significantly more relevant and important culturally. It’s as if the sea level of quality rose: the worst entries are suddenly competent, and the vast majority are quite good. Hooray! One explanation for this is simply funding. Films are one site of culture where you can clearly see money spent: from lighting, to score, to editing, to locations. As documentaries take up and enjoy their rightful place and continue to gain audiences, their budgets and available funding sources and markets are growing as well. So: they get better, they look good. They are good. But another aspect of this improvement is equally noticeable: the 35 docs on our slate this year all looked good…but disturbingly, in almost exactly the same way. So much so, that I found myself compelled to make this list of stylistic qualities to see if any film didn’t do these things in service of their professional, polished story.”
Television Academy Solves the Documentary Double-Dipping Conundrum for Good Michael Schneider reports at Variety: “The TV Academy has also further clarified the eligibility for documentaries, which may further end the question of projects that have ‘double dipped’ in both Oscar and Emmy contention. Starting in 2022, documentary films placed on the AMPAS viewing platform will be ineligible for Emmy consideration. In other words, ‘Any film placed on the AMPAS viewing platform will be deemed a theatrical motion picture and thus ineligible for the Emmy competition.’ The move comes just days after Variety wrote about the documentary conundrum. Last year, the Television Academy appeared to have finally resolved this issue of double dipping by firmly ruling that ‘effective in 2021, programs that have been nominated for an Oscar will no longer be eligible for the Emmys competition.’ That meant this year’s Oscar winner My Octopus Teacher couldn’t enter — and neither could the other four other nominees. But docs that had campaigned for an Oscar yet didn’t make it to the list of five nominees were able to try again. That’s why back in the hunt at the Emmys for the exceptional merit in documentary filmmaking award are entries including Apple TV Plus’ Boys State, Netflix’s Dick Johnson Is Dead and Amazon’s All In: The Fight for Democracy. All those docs were among the 15 that made it on the 93rd Academy Awards documentary feature shortlist, which made them frontrunners for Oscar contention. That brought up a question of why they get a do-over, but Oscar nominees including Netflix’s Crip Camp, PBS/Independent Lens’ The Mole Agent and Amazon’s Time couldn’t.”
The Winning Pitches of Sunny Side of the Doc 2021 Fabien Lemercier reports at Cineuropa: “Positive results for the 32nd Sunny Side of the Doc, the international documentary and narrative experiences market, which has recorded online from 21 to 24 June the participation of 1,500 professionals from 58 countries (including 380 decision-makers) and 891 companies. Worth pointing out among the winners of these six thematic pitching sessions, which brought together 42 projects hailing from 18 countries and seeking financing, is the victory in the Global Issues category of The Click Trap, to be directed by Peter Porta and produced by Spanish company Polar Star Films...Among the topics debated at Sunny Side of the Doc, Maria Silvia Gatta (European Commission representative), in line with the new call for projects from Creative Europe, presented the 2021-2027 programme, which is organised around three axes (content, business and audiences) and urging documentary professionals to become more digital, more eco-friendly, more collaborative and more inclusive: ‘the objective is to create, in terms of commercial and industrial potential, a common audiovisual ecosystem without losing sight of the need to maintain cultural diversity’. Meanwhile, the SCAM, the SPI and the USPA shared the perspective of authors and producers regarding the risks that the world of creative documentary is facing.”
The Problem of ‘Casting Calls’ for Sources Ko Bragg writes in Columbia Journalism Review: “In the summer of 2020, Tara Raghuveer found herself dealing with a barrage of inquiries from national media outlets. Raghuveer is the director of a grassroots housing-justice organization, and reporters were seeking to cover a roaring eviction crisis taking place all over the nation, including Kansas City, Missouri, where Raghuveer is based. Most of the requests, Raghuveer found, were routine, asking for connections to someone going through eviction. But others were most like casting calls, seeking a specific profile of suffering. ‘Can you connect me to a Black single mom on food stamps who’s experiencing eviction? How about a Black woman who has kids who can’t pay her rent? One such woman who has had covid or gotten it after they’ve been evicted?’ Raghuveer doesn’t mind connecting journalists to her base of tenant organizers. She recognizes that numbers alone cannot convey human stories. And the people being requested do exist. Research has long shown that Black women disproportionately face eviction, especially those with children, and the same has been true during the pandemic. In a study released ahead of the peer review process, public health experts found that evictions have led to more than ten thousand deaths from the coronavirus. But increasingly, she says, some journalists cross the line.”
Movements of Central and Eastern European Projects via European Doc Markets Announced via press release: “On Wednesday, June 23rd the Institute of Documentary Film (IDF) and DAE – Documentary Association of Europe presented the outcome of the survey Movements of Central and Eastern European Projects via European Documentary Markets. The survey, conducted between January and March 2021, was presented as part of the Meet the Central & Eastern European Delegation at this year’s international documentary marketplace Sunny Side of the Doc, running online until June 24th. The aim of the survey was to map the circulation of Central and Eastern European projects through European film markets and the access of CEE projects to international partners. How are they represented outside of their countries of origins? Do they have access to the film markets in Western Europe, or is their access limited only to the CEE region? What is the percentage of CEE projects at the international markets and which are the key places for these projects?”
The 2021 DOC NYC x VC Storytelling Incubator, a new initiative from DOC NYC and the Video Consortium, provides 15 emerging documentary filmmakers from underrepresented perspectives with hands-on creative consultation and professional guidance from established industry voices through a unique year-round mentorship program.
15 first-time documentary feature makers or video journalists from traditionally underrepresented perspectives will be paired with 15 documentary veterans who represent the diversity of the field. Mentors will provide feedback on the mentee’s work-in-progress nonfiction film, offering year-round advice and insight on story, creative process, and funding and distribution potential over the course of six meetings, including one intensive meeting to take place during DOC NYC’s annual November festival as well as a series of mentee group meetings. In addition to mentorship support, mentees will also receive free access to DOC NYC’s year-round online program of educational events; discounted access to its 8-day professional conference, DOC NYC PRO, and waived submission fees to its Only In New York industry networking program for works-in-progress.
TIFF 2021 Returns by Celebrating Alanises Obomsawin and Morissette Pat Mullen reported for POV Magazine: “The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is rolling out the red carpets again this year! TIFF unveiled its plans for the 2021 edition of the festival, which expands upon last year’s hybrid edition by opening more of the favourite premium venues that add glitz and glamour to the event. TIFF’s comeback marks a return to normal of sorts for the city of Toronto, which hasn’t had its movie theatres open since fall 2020. TIFF 2021 will feature a mix of in-person and virtual events with an anticipated slate of 100 films—roughly half the number of selections from previous years, but an expansion from 2020’s slate...The festival announced a dozen additional titles for this year’s festival. On the doc front is HBO’s Jagged, a portrait of Canadian music icon Alanis Morissette directed by Alison Klayman (The Brink). Musical legend Dionne Warwick also receives a doc portrait in TIFF selection Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over, directed by Dave Wooley and David Heilbroner. TIFF celebrates another Alanis at the 2021 festival by screening the films of Alanis Obomsawin. This overdue retrospective will feature highlights from the career of the 87-year-old Abenaki filmmaker whose credits as a director span more than 50 films.”
Announcing the 2021 Sundance Institute Accessible Futures Intensive Fellows Announced via press release: “The Sundance Institute is thrilled to resume the Accessible Futures Initiative in 2021 as a virtual intensive. Created in 2019, the intensive is part of the Sundance Institute’s ongoing commitment to deepening outreach to and support of artists with disabilities, including amplifying accessibility at the Sundance Film Festival with guidance and support of our partners at Easterseals Southern California and implementing all-staff accessibility inclusion trainings provided by RespectAbility. The 2021 Intensive will take the shape of a cross-genre project consultation and career strategy workshop for artists of color, with disabilities, in the development or early production of fiction and nonfiction projects. We are so excited to bring together this powerful group of artists, creative advisors, and organizational collaborators! While we still have much work ahead to advance disability justice, the Outreach & Inclusion program is committed to bringing an intersectional lens to the work that we do and humbled by the long legacy of disabled artists.”
ZegrebDox Big Stamp to Downstream to Kinshasa and My Uncle Tudor Announced via press release: “The winning film titles were announced on Saturday, June 19, starting at 7.30 pm at the awards ceremony of this year’s edition of the ZagrebDox International Documentary Film Festival. From June 13, the audience had the opportunity to watch around eighty documentaries at the Zagreb Student Centre and at the Tuškanac Open Air Cinema, and numerous filmmakers visited the festival and presented their achievements live to the audience. The international competition section was judged by a jury consisting of director Rajko Grlić, chair of this year’s jury, editor Vesna Biljan Pušić and Russian director Ilya Povolotsky, last year’s ZagrebDox winner. The official festival award, the Big Stamp, went to the film Downstream to Kinshasa by Dieudo Hamadi for, in the jury’s words, 'a strongly told and emotionally charged story about innocent victims of war on a futile search for a piece of justice.' Special mentions in this category went to Alejandro Telémaco Tarraf’s Piedra Sola and Mikhail Gorobchuk’s Shadows of Your Childhood.”
32nd FID Marseille Programme Announced Nick Cunningham reports at Business Doc Europe: “The 32nd FID Marseille opens 19 July with Mano a Mano by Priscilla Telmon and Mathieu Moon Saura, described as neither a duel nor a duo, but an eloquent hand-to-hand encounter with words, as provided by iconic French footballer and actor Eric Cantona. The festival will screen 110 films from 39 countries out of 2648 submissions. The International Competition comprises 15 films from 15 countries, while 11 films will compete in French Competition. In Flash competition 18 ultra-short films are selected, representing 15 countries. In First Films Competition audiences can view 7 films from 6 countries. CNAP competition presents 8 films. In short, there will be 50 films in competition (including 43 world premieres and 4 international premieres), from 21 countries, by 29 male directors and 24 female directors. And out of competition: 60 films, including 34 world, international and French premieres.”
The 6th Edition of Beyond Borders Announces its Line-up Vassilis Economou reports at Cineuropa: “For the sixth consecutive year, the Beyond Borders International Documentary Festival will take place on the idyllic island of Kastellorizo on the edge of the Aegean Sea, from 22 to 29 August. Once a year, Beyond Borders offers European, Mediterranean and overseas audiences a collection of compelling films dealing with historical, cross-cultural events, trends and personalities that have shaped our countries, peoples and civilisations, focusing on history and society. The festival is organised by the Hellenic History Foundation (IDISME), in partnership with the Region of South Aegean and internationally supported by the Paris-based association Ecrans des Mondes. A total of 28 documentaries – 16 feature/medium length films and 12 short length films – will be competing this year.”
Uncovering a New Wave of Innovative Greek Documentaries Marina Ashioti covered the festival for Little White Lies: “With the pandemic having refashioned our everyday reality into something ever so fragile, a sense of something lost looms over us. This overarching sense of loss features prominently in the dynamic and versatile collection of 151 short and feature length documentaries that comprise the line-up of the 23rd Thessaloniki Documentary Festival. Applying the question of what has been lost to the process of cinematic creation, the line-up contains individual innovations but, like all good festivals, comes with a satisfying sense of cohesion. After a migration to online screenings for 2020, this year the festival adopts a hybrid format of screenings in open-air cinemas and terraces, as well as an online component that runs between June 24 and July 4, while also presenting a new podcast section to explore the affinities between the genres. Of the massive line-up, we’ve decided to focus on five Greek documentaries, each with diverse subject matters and that dwell in raw methods of storytelling and craft to explore new forms of care, humanity and community.”
Sheffield’s Gil Out to Make a Point… Nick Cunningham spoke with Sheffield Doc/Fest director Cíntia Gil for Business Doc Europe: “What is the point of documentary? What is the point of doc festivals? And given the plethora of rescheduled events competing for both industry and public attention, what is the point of Sheffield? To answer these questions Doc Fest director Cíntia Gil goes back to first principles with Business Doc Europe. With 78 features and 88 shorts in its film programme, 55 of which are world premieres, Sheffield Doc Fest seems to be in the rudest of health (which, for those not familiar with the phrase, is a good thing). What’s more, 35 artists and creative collectives are represented in the festival’s eclectic Arts Programme. On the professional side, 55 projects from 31 countries are selected for Meetmarket, all of which will be pitched to, and mulled over by, top execs from many of the world’s leading broadcasters, festivals, funders, distributors, agents and production houses. Running in parallel, the Arts Talent Market will offer up 22 non-fiction projects from over 20 different production/co-production countries for consideration by the likes of the Tate, MoMA, ARTE, HTC Vive, SXSW, IFFR, MUTEK, and Venice Film Festival. It comes as no surprise therefore that Doc Fest director Cíntia Gil is proud of her 2021 programme, and very much looking forward to welcoming the great British public back to her hybrid Sheffield doc extravaganza.”
11 Noteworthy Documentaries Celebrating LGBTQ+ Women Emily Maskell shared at Variety: “Documentary film bears a specific responsibility in preserving lives and legacies with its ability to visually immortalize historical movements, personal reflections, and community spaces beyond the constraints of memory. By providing communities with the opportunity to share stories of their predecessors, identities, and movements, the relationship between LGBTQ+ women and self-documentation becomes one of unyielding necessity. Whether it be challenging the chronology of queer history or piecing together a profile of an underappreciated individual, documentary film is a vehicle of visibility. From 1920s lesbians appreciating art in Paris to a retired Illinois couple coming out after six decades together, here is a collection of 11 emblematic LGBTQ+ women-focused documentaries to add to your watchlist this Pride Month.”
Shari Frilot in Conversation with Jenni Olson This conversation in celebration of Olson’s special Teddy Award win was shared via Vimeo: “Film curator, archivist, filmmaker, writer and LGBT film historian was awarded the Special Teddy Award 2021 at the 71st Berlinale for her decades of bridge-building work with which she has made queer film history visible and tangible. Jenni Olson´s enthusiasm for the medium of film manifests itself in innumerable ways. She always finds the right instrument with which to put her curiosity and fascination into practice. She fights for the preservation and distribution of cinematic legacies and orphaned film copies, promotes emerging talents and has created her own cinematic oeuvre. She draws on a queer film network she herself has strengthened and expanded over the decades with her collaborations and influence. Jenni Olson embodies, lives and creates queer film culture.”
Neutrality is Not an Option: Raoul Peck’s Exterminate All the Brutes Robert Koehler reflected on the nonfiction miniseries for Cinema Scope: "Exterminate All the Brutes definitively demonstrates that if you tell history as a story developed one layer at a time and, simultaneously, as a kaleidoscope uniting past and present, your conclusive thoughts can comprise an ironclad logic. It would be easy to imagine a distortion of Peck’s essay, highlighting only the point that the Holocaust wasn’t an extraordinary event, to label the project as somehow anti-Semitic. This would be a bad-faith gambit by forces opposed to the entire project of, for example, restitution to Indigenous peoples and reparations for Blacks in the US—both of which Peck calls for in the most direct fashion I’ve ever heard on television or in cinema. These, of course, are the same purveyors of bad faith who placed a bust of Andrew Jackson, the original American 'Indian killer,' in the Oval Office. Seldom has a film so steeped in righteous anger been delivered by a cool logic and on such a mass basis to an audience that, after the summer of George Floyd, has been so primed to absorb it.”
Determined Women Dig Deep in Four New Documentaries Michael Ordoña reports in The Los Angeles Times: “Against the Current is a gem. It’s gorgeous in many ways. It traces the incredible, nearly four-month attempt by Veiga Grétarsdóttir to circumnavigate her native Iceland by kayak alone, and counterclockwise (against the current), which would make her the first woman to achieve those things. At the same time, it’s a journey through her memory of growing up a man, marrying and having a family, and transitioning to being a woman. The images of Iceland’s beauty are breathtaking. The document of Grétarsdóttir’s feat is exhausting (in a good way). You come out feeling you’ve learned about the rigors of kayaking and the courage any such journey demands. “Mostly, you learn about this person and her deep, decades-long struggle to become whom she was afraid to admit she was. There’s the coldness of bigotry and the heartbreak of alienation and confusion — and the warmth of love and support. Nothing feels taken for granted. Director and cinematographer Óskar Páll Sveinsson has complete command of the story, never tangling its threads.”
Judd Apatow Moderates a Conversation with Steve James Ryan Lattanzio shared the conversation via IndieWire: “A top contender for the Primetime Emmy for Best Documentary or Nonfiction Series this year is City So Real, Hoop Dreams and Abacus: Small Enough to Jail filmmaker Steve James’ exploration of the 2019 mayoral race in Chicago. Below and exclusive to IndieWire, check out a conversation with Steve James as moderated by filmmaker Judd Apatow, who’s currently putting the finishing touches on his upcoming Netflix comedy film The Bubble. In the five-part documentary series City So Real, Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Steve James delivers a complex portrait of Chicago, America’s third-largest metropolis and his longtime hometown. The series begins in the middle of summer 2018, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel, caught up in accusations of a cover-up related to the police shooting of a Black teenager, Laquan McDonald, stuns the city by announcing he won’t be seeking reelection.”
DOC NYC ALUMNI
Beth B's Lydia Lunch: The War is Never Over 2019 DOC NYC Metropolis
Will be released in theaters and virtual cinemas on June 30th.
Cecilia Aldarondo's Landfall
2020 DOC NYC Viewfinders
Will be broadcast on PBS via POV on July 12th.
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