This week's doc news highlights include Another Screen presenting a free online series celebrating six Brazilian docs about women and work, a new issue of the online documentary journal World Records, Hot Docs 2022 is currently in full swing and a whole lot more. Not a bad week to be a nonfiction fan with internet access!
– Jordan M. Smith
Watch Six Brazilian Documentaries About Women & Work, Free on Another Screen Announced via press release: “Highlighting the essential contributions of women filmmakers to the documentary form in Brazil, these short form feminist works — originally presented on television, at regional feminist film clubs, or on the international festival circuit — address key labor struggles in spaces as diverse as the brothels of São Paulo’s Boca do Lixo to the textile markets of Santa Cruz do Capibaribe in Brazil’s Northeastern region…All six films in ‘Mulheres: Uma outra história’ have complicated preservation histories. Creche-Lar, by Maria Luiza d’Aboim, was considered ‘lost’ for over 30 years and only discovered and subsequently digitized at the Cinemateca Brasileira within the last decade. Trabalhadoras Metalurgicas by Olga Futemma and Renato Tapajós was shot on 16mm and the only available digital copy of the film was telecined to video in the nineties and later digitized (this despite the fact Futemma was the director of the Cinemateca, Latin America’s largest film archive, for almost a decade).”
World Records Vol. 6: The Exceptions In the introductory article of the latest issue of World Records, Jason Fox writes: “At its most meaningful, the term experimental—maligned and celebrated in equal measure—qualifies a pursuit of cinema that stitches together the contradictory conditions in which we make work into a stream of life. What is or can be socially transformative about cinema, as contributors Genevieve Yue, Juliano Gomes, and Stefan Tarnowski remind us, always requires a link between onscreen and offscreen practices. How these relationships become transformative is the experiment, because they can seldom be determined in advance. ‘A film is always an entry point into a set of sociopolitical conditions,’ Yue writes, not an escape from them. The same is true of festivals. Abundance and scarcity and desire and frustration shape those conditions, and unevenly so, for many of us independents. We can ask questions about what conditions are valuable for independent filmmakers, just as we can ask what is valuable, and why, for independent cinema institutions. But those questions depend on others: What’s valuable for independents in general, and what possible work can organize it? This issue attempts to think about these questions together.”
ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT
Hot Docs Festival Offers Diverse Programming for First Live Audience in Two Years Addie Morfoot reports at Variety: "For the first time in two years the Hot Docs Canadian Intl. Documentary Festival is hosting in-person premieres and screenings, after COVID-19 forced the 2020 and 2021 editions of the annual event to unfold virtually. To celebrate, Hot Docs’ programming director Shane Smith selected 226 films from 2563 submissions to screen in-person and online beginning April 28 in Toronto. The lineup includes 63 world and 47 international premieres across 15 programs. From Lyme Disease (The Quiet Epidemic) to Hong Kong’s history of protest (Blue Island) to the lucrative world of international pigeon racing (Million Dollar Pigeons), the 29th edition of Hot Docs offers up an assortment of titles from 63 countries that tackle a myriad of issues.”
Le Jury de L’Œil d’or – Le Prix du Documentaire à Cannes 2022 Announced via press release: “Documentaries have proven, in a difficult environment for cinema theaters, to be able to involve a large audience - 620,000 admissions for La Panthère des neiges by Marie Amiguet and Vincent Munier and 170,000 admissions for Bigger Than Us by Flore Vasseur, both selected at Cannes Festival last year. Since 2015, L'Œil d'or - Le Prix du documentaire highlights at the Cannes Film Festival this film genre by which the 7th art was born. It is awarded to a documentary screened in one of the Festival de Cannes categories: Sélection officielle (Competition, Un Certain Regard, Hors compétition & Séances de Minuit, Séances Spéciales, Short Films, Cannes Classics), Directors’ Fortnight and Semaine de la Critique. From now on, the film that wins the 'Golden Eye Documentary Prize' is eligible to submit for Oscar consideration. The L’Œil d’or - Documentary Award (€5,000 prize) was created in 2015 by LaScam (French-speaking authors’ society) thanks to Julie Bertuccelli in collaboration with the Festival de Cannes and Thierry Frémaux.”
Sheffield DocFest Unveils Projects in 2022 MeetMarket Pitching Forum Andrew Tracy reports at Realscreen: “The Sheffield DocFest has revealed the 35 documentary projects that will be participating in its annual MeetMarket pitching forum, which will be taking place on June 27 and 28, the last two days of the 2022 festival. Returning to an in-person format for the first time since 2019, the MeetMarket will allow the makers of the selected projects — all of which are in various stages of development or production — to participate in one-on-one pitch sessions with international and UK decision-makers and experts, approximately 300 of whom are expected to attend this year’s festival. All UK broadcasters and funds have confirmed their attendance, and representatives are also expected from such major international outlets as Netflix, Arte (France), DR (Denmark), VPRO (Netherlands), SVT (Sweden), ESPN and Al Jazeera, among others.”
State of the Festival: New Directors/New Films 2022 Leonardo Goi writes at MUBI’s Notebook: “A different kind of disappearance anchors Diễm Hà Lệ’s Children of the Mist. Winner of the Best Director Award at the Amsterdam International Documentary Festival (IDFA) last year, the film is a moving and very often unsettling portrait of a girl and the ancestral world she hails from. Shot in Vietnam’s mountainous, mist-shrouded north, it follows Di, a garrulous twelve-year-old living with her family in a remote village. Like most people in her vicinity, Di belongs to the Hmong, an ethnic minority whose matrimonial customs include a practice known as hai pu—literally 'pull wife'—or bride kidnapping. Though formally illegal in Vietnam, the process is widespread among the Hmong, and encourages boys to kidnap underage girls without their consent, whereupon the girl’s family can either demand her release or accept the marriage, in exchange for cash and goods. At twelve, Di is, shockingly, old enough to be a potential prey, which accounts for the melancholia Children of the Mist is drenched in. Lệ spent over three years living and shooting with Di and her family, and the result is a staggeringly intimate ethnography, that rare documentary that understands the difference between shooting at and shooting with its subjects. It’s also the story of a friendship; to be watching Children of the Mist is, in a sense, to witness the bond between Di and Lệ grow stronger, and as the inevitable tragedy strikes, to be made painfully aware of the boundaries and ethical concerns the director must navigate while documenting a custom this devastating.”
Kazuo Hara’s Dedicated Lives Markus Nornes writes at Criterion’s Current: “The notoriety of The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987) always precedes it, yet the film never fails to evoke shock and wonder at its stunning improbability. The subject of this documentary is one of cinema’s greatest bullies. Both relentless and charismatic, Kenzo Okazaki was a veteran of the terrifying battles on Papua New Guinea at the end of World War II, and was clearly damaged by the experience. At the time of shooting, the radicality of the war’s violence was being erased from history by Japan’s right wing, and Okazaki was on a mission to push his audiences’ noses into the messiness. He tyrannically usurps the filmmakers, positioning them as mere witnesses to his project: visiting his old army buddies one by one to literally beat the truth out of them. Having witnessed or participated in crimes perpetrated against Japanese soldiers by their own officers, these men have a secret, and its revelation and memorialization on film is Okazaki’s mission. This is one of those films that people always remember where, when, and how they watched. It made the career of its director, Kazuo Hara. To this day, anyone introducing him inevitably invokes Emperor’s Naked Army, even though his entire filmography makes for compelling viewing. With five of his films, made over a span of more than four decades, now streaming on the Criterion Channel, it’s worth examining the arc of his career and his pivotal place within Japanese cinema’s vibrant documentary tradition.”
Pleasures of the Text: On Ruth Beckermann’s Mutzenbacher Erika Balsom writes in Artforum: “The conceit of Mutzenbacher is simple: It is a carefully crafted presentation of the results of the casting call. The auditions for a film are the film. Throughout, Beckermann is vividly present but out of sight. From behind the camera, she instructs a wide array of men seated on a pink-and-gold brocade couch—one participant describes it as a 'former erotic sofa'—to read passages from the novel or to act them out, playing both male and female roles. Some have come out of interest in the text, others out of interest in her. She probes them about their attitudes toward the book and its relation to their own sexual experiences; she assembles them into a chorus to chant quotations like 'Banging, screwing, reaming, shagging, poking, pounding'; she refuses to let them off the hook. Mutzenbacher, in other words, is not only a documentary about the way a historic work of pornography resonates in the present. It is also a film about directing and performing, one that inverts how this interaction is habitually gendered so as to make sex public in an unconventional way. With the help of a novel written by a man about a woman, a woman makes a film about contemporary Viennese masculinity.”
The Wobblies Restored: Labor Union Doc Will Inspire a New Generation Susannah Gruder reports for IndieWire: “Teeming with rousing folk songs from the picket line and spirited one-liners from union men and women, Stewart Bird and Deborah Shaffer’s 1979 documentary The Wobblies collages together personal impressions from former miners, lumberjacks, stevedores, wheat farmers, silk weavers, and migratory workers — all members of the IWW (International Workers of the World) at the turn of the century — to create a multilayered look at one of the nation’s most radical, and most often overlooked labor organizations. Ripe for rediscovery on the eve of a new 4K restoration that will be screened across the country in honor of May Day, the film endures as an astounding and essential portrait of American subversion as seen through the eyes of those who lived it.”
The Sheryl Crow You Never Knew Caryn Ganz writes in The New York Times: “Crow, who has spent three decades gamely relaying her story to others, has never known for sure how it’s been told. That will change on May 6, when Sheryl, a documentary directed by Amy Scott, arrives on Showtime. It’s the latest in a wave of music films — some made by artists, themselves; others by more objective outsiders — that serve as correctives, uncovering the chauvinism and other challenges that plagued musicians during eras when women couldn’t speak openly about harassment and mental health. Crow didn’t have creative control over the project, though her manager is one of its producers, and she seized her opportunity to forcefully answer questions that have long tailed her regarding authorship and ambition, and explain just how hard she has had to fight in a music industry where she didn’t fit into a neat box.”
‘It’s Like Being a Therapist’: The Highs and Lows of an Independent Bookstore Veronica Esposito writes in The Guardian: "Taking his cues from documentarians like Frederick Wiseman and the Maysles brothers, Zax is far more concerned with ambience and texture than plotting or making a point. Hello, Bookstore moves slowly, encompassing multitudes as innumerable small moments collect around its subject. ‘I’ve always loved fly on the wall documentaries,’ Zax told me. ‘I’ve never really responded to the talking head style of movies. I don’t want to hammer in things, I want there to be a sense of discovery while you’re watching it. With the rhythm of [Hello, Bookstore], I took my cue from the store. I thought that, if we can get the atmosphere right, the contours of the story will figure out where they need to go. I wanted it to be cozy and relaxing, like you’re in a bookstore.’ Hello, Bookstore does indeed succeed in capturing the quiet, calming feel of being in a great independent bookstore.”
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