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You probably already saw the news, but it is worth resharing the news that our own longtime Artistic Director Thom Powers is shifting into the new role of Director of Special Projects here at DOC NYC, and the organization is now in search of a New Artistic Director to fill the vacant role. Outside of DOC NYC happenings, Sundance has publicly addressed the controversy surrounding Jihad Rehab, Berlinale announced its award winners and a new book on the work of Nathaniel Dorsky is on the way. And as usual, that's not all...
– Jordan M. Smith


DOC NYC Announces Search For New Artistic Director
DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, announced that it will open a search for a new Artistic Director, reshaping the role with an expanded scope to serve the organization’s growing year-round activities as it enters its 13th year. The festival’s founding Artistic Director Thom Powers, who works concurrently at other festivals and in podcasting, will shift into a new position as Director of Special Projects. “The scope and reach of DOC NYC have dramatically expanded since our first festival in 2010, and it’s time to bring in a new Artistic Director who can devote undivided, year-round attention to the organization,” said Powers. “I’m excited to work alongside that person to carry on the festival’s growth.” DOC NYC’s core leadership team of Executive Director Raphaela Neihausen, Director of Industry and Education Malikkah Rollins, and Director of Filmmaker Development Caitlin Boyle remain in place. Following a successful 2021 festival that offered a program of more than 300 films and events, including an 8-day in-person PRO conference, to more than 31,000 festivalgoers in theaters and online, the organization has announced several upcoming online events. Among them are the Winter 2022 season of PRO panels and workshops in February and March and the second annual Spring Showcase in May and June. The 13th edition of the festival will be held in New York November 9-17, 2022.

Sundance Addresses Jihad Rehab Controversy
Christian Zilko reports at IndieWire: “After weeks of turmoil that culminated in the resignations of two staff members, the Sundance Film Festival has spoken publicly about the controversy caused by the film Jihad Rehab. Meg Smaker’s documentary about former Guantanamo Bay prisoners being held in a Saudi Arabian rehab facility has attracted controversy from the moment it was selected for Sundance. Criticisms of the film ranged from accusations that it did little to help offensive stereotypes about Muslim men to more serious charges that the documentary placed its subjects in danger. IndieWire’s Eric Kohn summarized the film community’s grievances with the movie, writing 'among the many problems with director Meg Smaker’s look at a Saudi Arabian institution designed to help former Guantanamo Bay prisoners reintegrate into society: There’s the title, which reinforces the most negative connotations of the term ‘jihad’; the positioning of the subjects as ominous Muslim stereotypes; and an ethically dubious approach to labeling men as ‘terrorists’ who haven’t been accused of actual crimes.'"

Oscars 2022: The Best Documentary Shorts Nominees, Ranked
Jude Dry writes at IndieWire: “With a dedicated awards operation and a seemingly infinite budget, Netflix has moved from Oscars dark horse to one to beat in just a few short years. After scoring its first Best Picture contender with Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma in 2019, the streamer now has the clear frontrunner in Jane Campion’s nomination leader The Power of The Dog. With more modest budgets and an international bent, the short form categories have historically presented a wider spread of indies to studio-produced fare. That is, until Netflix got into the fray. Netflix produced three of the five documentary shorts nominees this year — AudibleLead Me Home, and Three Songs for Benazir — its most in any short film category. All five contenders run the gamut in both style and substance. There’s a feel-good story about a pioneering woman basketball player, and a personal experimental film following the director’s probing of a childhood bullying incident. There’s also a sweeping portrait of the homelessness crisis in three major U.S. cities, a rare drama about a deaf high school football team and its star player, and a simple but mighty look at life inside an Afghani refugee camp. Here’s a ranking of all five contenders.”

Netflix U.K.’s Inaugural Documentary Talent Fund Graduates Launch Ten Short Films
K.J. Yossman reports at Variety: "Graduates of Netflix’s first ever Documentary Talent Fund have launched their short films. Ten U.K.-based filmmakers were chosen to receive £40,000 ($54,000) as well as mentorship and access to production workshops covering legal, creative, HR, production and finance in order to create a short film with the brief of 'Britain’s Not Boring And Here’s a Story.' The ten films received their premieres in London on Tuesday evening and will be livestreamed on Netflix’s 21.9 million strong TikTok page at 7pm GMT on Feb. 18. They will also be available to view on Netflix’s YouTube channel, Still Watching, from Feb. 20 at 2pm GMT. ‘It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with these talented filmmakers and to watch each teams’ nucleus of an idea blossom into these fully formed documentaries that we’re launching today,’ said Jonny Taylor, director of original documentaries at Netflix. ‘These films have been made in a year when extra challenges and pressures were added due to Covid and we are immensely proud of the tenacity, grit and creativity demonstrated to get these films made and presented to this final standard of excellence. These films are a testament to everyone’s hard work and an exciting glimpse into the future talent of UK documentarians.’”

Berlinale 2022 Award Winners Announced
Vladan Petkovic reports at Cineuropa: “Rithy Panh pocketed the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution on account of his conception and realization of Everything Will Be OK, and Michael Koch’s A Piece of Sky received a Special Mention. In the Encounters section, Austria's Ruth Beckermann won the Best Film Award for her documentary Mutzenbacher, while the Special Jury Award was handed to Mitra Farahani for See You Friday Robinson. Swiss filmmaker Cyril Schäublin received the Best Director nod for Unrest. Myanmar Diaries, the collective work of ten anonymous filmmakers from the country under military dictatorship, scooped the Berlinale Documentary Award, while the GWFF Best First Feature Award went to Austria's Kurdwin Ayub for Sonne.”

Sundance Announces the 2022 Sundance Ignite x Adobe Short Film Challenge
Announced via press release: “The Sundance Institute and Adobe are teaming up to find the next Sundance Ignite x Adobe Fellows—emerging filmmakers ages 18 to 25 who are looking to take their careers to the next level. They are encouraged to submit their short film now to be considered for a year-long Sundance Ignite x Adobe Fellowship where they’ll receive mentorships, unique resources, and the chance to attend the 2023 Sundance Film Festival with the fellowship cohort. The challenge runs February 14–March 14, 2022.”

Nathaniel Dorsky: Shimmering Golden Music
Maximilien Luc Proctor spoke with the filmmaker for MUBI’s Notebook: “Over the course of ten programs across five days in Barcelona this January, curators Francisco Algarín Navarro and Carlos Saldaña presented a career-spanning series devoted to American experimental filmmakers Nathaniel Dorsky and Jerome Hiler. The series was curated to coincide with the release of a brand-new book, Illuminated Hours. Nathaniel Dorsky and Jerome Hiler, focused on the pair’s early years; meeting and struggling to understand the elusive medium of film. As is the case for all Lumière publications, it is a beautiful object, complete with full-color stills and archival documents. The bulk of the book consists of extensive interviews with Dorsky and Hiler conducted by Navarro and Saldaña, and features texts by curator Mark McElhatten among many others, and incorporates excerpts from prior interviews, including one I conducted with Hiler for Ultra Dogme last year. Illuminated Hours is currently only available in Spanish, with an English language version slated for later this year. As Dorsky and Hiler exclusively screen their work directly from 16mm prints (rentable from Light Cone in Europe or Canyon Cinema in the U.S.), there were only two individual exceptions to this rule. Library (1970) was screened as a digital file, from a 2021 restoration by the Harvard Film Archive.”

The Black Box of Documentary Filmmaking
Patrick Forbes writes at The Talkhouse: “I’ve been thinking a lot recently about interviewees, as in the past year three of the people I talked to for my movie The Phantom have become sick or died. We are so fortunate to have known them. So lucky to have been able to make the film at all, catching a generation of Texans just in time to expose a massive miscarriage of justice. The relationship between a documentarian and their interviewees is the black box of documentary filmmaking. Nobody wants to come clean on what really goes on between director and subject, because boy, can it go wrong! There was the rough cut screening during which an English duke stuck his face three inches from mine and screamed, ‘You are treating me worse than a murderer!’ My crime was to have filmed the moment his sports car stalled during a race. (He owned the race track.) After much huffing, many snarky comments about how ‘common’ I was, and a few sotto voce threats about lawyers’ letters, His Grace eventually stood down.”

Via Chicago: Daniel Hymanson on His Documentary Debut So Late So Soon
Erik Luers reports at Filmmaker Magazine: “Simultaneously a gentle portrait of two aging artists and an appreciative look at a bickering but loving couple, Daniel Hymanson’s debut feature, So Late So Soon, benefits from a level of access most documentarians would crave. Having known Chicago-based artists and educators Jackie and Don Seiden since he was a young boy, Hymanson sets himself and his camera inside the Seidens’s multi-storied, eye-catching home. Known locally as the Candyland House, the Barbie House and the Rainbow Cone Home, this Rogers Park residence has been occupied by the Seidens for close to 50 years, its interiors and exteriors closely resembling the creativity of its owners.”

HBO’s Carl Icahn Doc Director On Negotiating Terms With Financier
Katie Kilkenny writes at The Hollywood Reporter: "When a mutual acquaintance introduced Bruce David Klein to legendary activist investor-slash-corporate raider Carl Icahn, the documentary filmmaker leaped at the opportunity. Klein, the helmer of docs on the late rocker Meat Loaf and the MIT blackjack team that took casinos for millions, says he is drawn to subjects that are ‘over-the-top successful’ but whose talents are also ‘mysterious.’ He pitched Icahn on a documentary about his life and work, which led to ‘a million and one questions’ and months of negotiations. Eventually, Icahn agreed to participate in the project, and HBO’s Icahn: The Restless Billionaire was born. Premiering Tuesday on the network and also available on HBO Max, the film explores Icahn’s life and career while highlighting landmark deals involving companies like Apple, Trans World Airlines, Texaco, Herbalife and Netflix.”

Kanye West Always Wanted You to Watch
Jon Caramanica reports at The New York Times: “No one could quite understand why the young producer was being followed by a cameraman. Almost everywhere Kanye West went beginning in the early 2000s — before Through the Wire, before The College Dropout, before anything, really — he was trailed by Clarence Simmons, known as Coodie, a comedian and public-access TV host from Chicago who had decided to document West’s attempts to become a successful musician. In Jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy, the three-part Netflix documentary that draws heavily on that footage, the camera serves two functions: It captures West at a vulnerable moment in his nascent career, when the future was anything but guaranteed. And it is also a kind of marker of success on its own. The camera’s presence forces the people West encounters to treat him just a tad more seriously, or at least to wonder if they should. In almost every encounter captured, there is a slight hiccup at the beginning, in which the other person wonders, what exactly are we doing here?”
Crowdfunding has become an integral means of raising capital for documentary filmmakers around the globe. Each week we feature a promising new project that needs your help to cross that critical crowdfunding finish line.

This week's project:

Yuma, Sonic River
Directed by
Simón Mejía

Goal: $20,000
The articles linked to in Monday Memo do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DOC NYC.
They are provided as a round up of current discussions in the documentary field.
As always, if you have any tips or recommendations for next week's Memo, please contact me via email here or on Twitter at @Rectangular_Eye.
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