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Though this past week was without any doc news cycle explosions, anytime we're presented with both a new season of Independent Lens releases and a heaping helping of worthy theatrical releases of some of the year's buzziest festival favorites and hotly anticipated new streaming options, should be a week worth celebrating. Plus, Camden revealed their 2019 slate, TIFF added more docs via Wavelengths, and Scott MacDonald's hefty follow-up to Avant-Doc is out thanks to Oxford University Press. Time to get reading.

-Jordan M. Smith

Documentary Production
Monday August 26th, 2019, 10:00 AM

Hear from experts on what gear you should be using, how you should be managing your production, and how to shoot your movie ethically and legally. Among the day’s participants are Rudy Valdez (THE SENTENCE), Beth Levison (Producer, MADE IN BOISE), Deia Schlosberg (THE STORY OF PLASTIC).

Discount code for Craft Ed. Seminars (for 20% general admission pricing) is:

Independent Lens Announces 2019 Fall Lineup of Historical Docs
Series executive producer Lois Vossen spoke with Steve Greene about the news for IndieWire: “Independent Lens is approaching its 18th season offering documentary films to a wide viewing audience. Its upcoming collection, set to begin airing this fall on PBS...This season’s slate begins with MADE IN BOISE, a film that not only addresses a growing trend of surrogate births in the Idaho city, but sets up many of the overall season’s greater themes of family, universal rights, and learning from history.”

The Obamas' 1st Film: Will AMERICAN FACTORY Be the Biggest Doc of 2019?
Cath Clarke previewed Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar's new film and how the Obamas got involved in The Guardian: "AMERICAN FACTORY is a high-minded documentary that treats all of its subjects with respect. You can see the appeal to the Obamas. What feedback did Barack and Michelle give the directors? Reichert answers carefully – my guess is that she has been briefed to boredom by publicists. ‘They told us they appreciated a film that gives a voice to working people. They’re both from humble beginnings. Her dad was a working-class guy. I think they related to the people in the film. The Obamas chose the name Higher Ground as it’s very indicative of what they’re interested in, where their interests lie. They want to listen carefully to all sides. They are great storytellers. They have both written really good books. And I think we look at this huge rivalry, this huge controversy between the US and China on a very human level. What you see is how globalisation is playing out in real life.’ The Obama connection, along with Netflix’s global reach, is giving the film-makers a platform they never dreamed of before. ‘Netflix has translated the film into something like 28, 29 different languages,’ Bognar says. ‘It’ll be all over the world.’’

Why the Relationship Between Director & Editor Is Essential
Variety’s Addie Morfoot explored the relationships between directors and editors in recent doc releases: “Unlike narrative projects, documentaries are created in the edit suite. There, hundreds of hours of verité footage, archival materials, talking heads and even animated sequences need to be sorted through, digested and culled together to form a comprehensive, succinct and, with any luck, interesting and entertaining nonfiction series or specials. To get there, docu directors rely on the unsung heroes of cinema — the editors. If making a documentary is like building a house, then the director is the architect, while the editor is the engineer. While some could argue that anyone is capable of picking up a camera and pressing the record button, not everyone can take a vast amount of footage and mold it into a compelling story.”
By Scott MacDonald

"The Sublimity of Document: Cinema as Diorama is a collection of in-depth, substantive interviews with moving-image artists working 'avant-doc, that is, making films that explore the territory between documentary and experimental cinema'...includes interviews with Ron Fricke, Gustav Deutsch, Laura Poitras, Fred Wiseman, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Bill Morrison, Brett Story, Abbas Kiarostami, Lois Patiño, Dominic Gagnon, Erin Espelie, Yance Ford, Janet Biggs, Carlos Adriano, Craig Johnson, Ben Russell, Betzy Bromberg, James Benning, Maxim Pozdorovkin, along with several veterans of Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Lab--each interview is introduced with MacDonald's overview of the interviewee's life and work."

Camden International Film Festival Announces 2019 Film Slate
CIFF revealed via press release: “The Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) has announced the slate of feature and short films for its 15th edition, which will take place September 12-15, 2019 throughout Camden, Rockport and Rockland, Maine…This year the festival will present 38 features, 51 short films, and 17 virtual reality and immersive experiences from over 35 countries. More than half of the feature films are presented as major premieres, including the US Premiere of Alex Gibney’s CITIZEN K.”

TIFF ’19: Docs Unveiled as Part of Wavelengths & Contemporary World Cinema
Jillian Morgan reported on the most recent TIFF announcements for Realscreen: “A number of documentary titles have been added to the Toronto International Film Festival’s 2019 slate...Comprising 37 titles, the Wavelengths program includes four programs of experimental short films, two curated pairings and 10 features. The section’s 12 feature-length documentary films include: Hassen Ferhani’s 143 Sahara Street, about an off-the-grid cafe in the Sahara Desert; Sergei Loznitsa’s State Funeral, about Joseph Stalin’s 1953 funeral; Burak Çevik’s A Topography of Memory, about the 2015 Turkish general elections; and Vever (For Barbara), director Deborah Stratman’s intergenerational tribute to feminist icons of experimental film, among others.”

DOC NYC's Only In New York Submissions Extended Deadline Approaching
Only in New York, which was introduced in 2016, is a program of DOC NYC PRO, the festival's industry programming component, and aims to connect filmmakers with works-in-progress (features or series) with industry representatives. NOTE: Only in New York is NOT for films that are nearly finished but finalizing post-production. Works selected to participate in Only in New York do NOT screen publicly. Filmmakers selected for Only in New York participate in four days of intimate roundtable meetings with industry figures from the fields of distribution, financing, festival programming, and more. Only In New York Submissions Extended Deadline: August 30, 2019.

There's no time in recent memory with such a stacked couple weeks of documentary releases. Last week was full of quality festival favorites and this week we've got another wave of the same. Roberto Minervini's stunning portrait of black America, WHAT YOU GONNA DO WHEN THE WORLD'S ON FIRE?, opened at Film at Lincoln Center, Ben Berman's surprising magician portrait THE AMAZING JOHNATHAN DOCUMENTARY is now available on Hulu and also is playing at the Village East, and Viktor Kossakovsky's attempt to capture the power and beauty of water in AQUARELA is in limited release at a handful of spots. Meanwhile, Mads Brügger's investigative COLD CASE HAMMARSKJÖLD is playing the IFC Center, the Jesse Moss directed series THE FAMILY, about a politically involved Christian group is now on Netflix, and Emily Harrold's DOC NYC alum WHILE I BREATHE, I HOPE is showing in limited release.

Interview: Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang
Wang and Zhang talked to Devika Girish for Film Comment "about the challenges of evading government scrutiny while filming in China, contending with gendered violence, and weaponizing individual and collective memories against propaganda.”
IDA Enterprise Doc Fund Development Grant App Deadline Approaching

The IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund provides development funds to documentary projects taking on in-depth explorations of original, contemporary stories and integrating journalistic practice into the filmmaking process. Inclusion and diversity, both in terms of the filmmaking team and subject matter, are a priority of the fund.” Submission Deadline: September 2, 2019.


2018 DOC NYC Special Events
Will be released on DVD/Blu-ray on August 20th via Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Chico Pereira's DONKEYOTE
2017 DOC NYC Wild Life
Will be released on VOD on August 20th.

Michelle Esrick’s CRACKED UP
2018 DOC NYC Behind the Scenes
Will be released theatrically on September 13th via Abramorama.
Directed by Isabel Castro

Isabel Castro’s DARLIN tells the story of a Honduran family seeking asylum in the United States — and the personal costs of a system that pulls children away from their parents.

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:


Directed By
Bill Lichtenstein

Funding Goal: $104,100

“The film's compelling story features activists who intersect via the radio station and music, anti-war activism, and the civil rights, women’s and LGBTQ liberation movements, as they struggle to end a war and transform the roles and rights of women, gays and lesbians and African-Americans."
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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