I spent the weekend celebrating both my birthday and finally, the arrival of summer, most of it outdoors in the sun among friends, away from screens and as much news as I could stand. Despite that fact, I did squeeze in viewing of the well made, but horrifying ROLL RED ROLL, POV's lead off to its 32nd season (now streaming for free at PBS!), and I admittedly caught up with all the doc news (and there is a bunch of it) just for you. The big leads this week consider the future of cinema itself, while others look at Dan Cogan and Liz Garbus's new production company, how climate change is being addressed in documentary film, radical changes to IDFA, a substantial dossier on Wang Bing, and a lengthy list of others that deserve your attention. So go forth and read on, but maybe do it outside in the sun?
-Jordan M. Smith
How Will the Movies (As We Know Them) Survive the Next 10 Years? Writing in The New York Times, Kyle Buchanan convened a virtual think tank of key Hollywood figures on whether or not movies as we know them will survive the next 10 years. There are plenty of thoughtful gems among the 24 major Hollywood figures who contributed, but here is one from Kumail Nanjiani that seemed to ring utterly true - when asked, “Will young people still care about movies? - I grew up watching GHOSTBUSTERS and GREMLINS and INDIANA JONES. If I had grown up watching YouTube, I don’t know if I would like movies.”
Too much of a good thing? Examining SVOD fatigue Realscreen’s Daniele Alcinii sets out to examine the expanding field of digital streaming services: “Research from Deloitte’s latest Digital Media Trends survey found that 69% of respondents now subscribe to one or more SVOD services, surpassing subscriptions to traditional pay-TV (remaining relatively flat at 65%) for the first time. It also pointed to Americans consuming more content weekly (38 hours) through a mixture of traditional television and streaming video. Choice, however, can be a double-edged sword. The report, now on its 13th edition, found that consumers sit at the point of exasperation, with nearly half (47%) of all respondents finding themselves frustrated with the number of subscriptions required to access the content they want in the mix of available services.”
Documentarians Dan Cogan and Liz Garbus Launch New Production Company Anne Thompson broke the news at IndieWire that the doc power duo Dan Cogan and Liz Garbus are launching a new production venture: “With documentaries on the rise and multiple backers and outlets for non-fiction films, two veteran filmmakers — married producer-financier Dan Cogan and producer-director Liz Garbus — have decided to launch their own production company, Story Syndicate. Clearly, it’s a propitious time: The public’s appetite for non-fiction stories has never been greater, as movies ranging from last year’s RBG and Oscar-winner FREE SOLO to 2019 hits APOLLO 11, AMAZING GRACE and THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM hit big at the box office.”
How Documentaries Seek to Bring Climate Change Stories to Life Alice Hopton looked at how nature doc filmmakers are addressing climate change in their films for CBC News: “For decades, Attenborough's documentaries have been revered for their never-before-filmed scenes of wild animals and spectacular shots of pristine wilderness — all shot with sophisticated camera technology. OUR PLANET still presents the glory of the natural world, but those scenes are now woven together with shocking footage of environmental disasters where entire ecosystems once existed: palm oil plantations, clear cuts, dead coral reefs. The filmmakers also did something they'd never done before: show animals dying from their inability to adapt to a changing climate.”
ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT
AFI Docs Film Festival Stays Topical With a Diverse Slate Nick Clement previewed the AFI Docs lineup for Variety: “The 17th annual AFI Docs Film Festival will launch this year’s eclectic program from June 19-23 in Washington, D.C., and Silver Spring, Md., showcasing 72 films from 17 countries, with a strong emphasis on female filmmakers. Of the current slate set to unspool, 48% of the directors and 68% of the producers are women, marking a considerable uptick from past festivals. This year, AFI Docs is organizing its entries into different categories (Galas, Special Screenings, Portrait, Truth and Justice, Spectrum, Anthem, Cinema’s Legacy, and Short Films), and will include six world premieres, one North American premiere, and two U.S. premieres.”
In Conversation with Orwa Nyrabia, Artistic Director of IDFA Cineuropa's Vladan Petkovic sat down with Orwa Nyrabia to chat about the huge changes to IDFA that were announced last week, including new programmers, additional awards and a new format for the IDFA Forum: “How does the IDFA team, which now includes new women programmers from different parts of the world, tackle the lack of films from underrepresented regions at festivals? - We have to be an international team to make an international festival, and we are also getting very close to reaching a 50-50 gender balance in the team. The core of IDFA's policy is now to be what we're calling truly international, to show films and new-media projects, and connect filmmakers and professionals from a wider world than just the segment of it that is usually represented at documentary festivals, and this has to be an organic process.”
Six New British Docs Trying to Make Sense of Our Time Rhys Handley, writing at Sight & Sound, explored how homegrown films playing at Sheffield Doc/Fest this year showcased some novel approaches to nonfiction: “It’s hard not to feel like life in Britain makes less sense than it used to. The rapid advancement that has carried us from the mid-20th century to now has blurred our sense of self and redefined how we connect with each other. In the UK, as our dependence on technology and social media proliferates, our political and economic institutions have increasingly warped out of shape. Cinema is sought out, in part, to make sense of the nonsense. The question is how to do that when audiences have supposedly “had enough of experts”, tired of facts and figures that seem to obfuscate what should be simple, instinctive discourse. Social, political and personal ideas might need to be offered differently to be entertained willingly. This approach has made itself evident in British feature filmmaking of late.”
European co-production at heart of France’s Sunny Side of the Doc Melanie Goodfellow previewed this year's Sunny Side of the Doc event for Screen Daily: “Sunny Side of the Doc, one of Europe’s oldest documentary and factual content-focused industry meetings, is set to celebrate its 30th edition in La Rochelle on the French Atlantic coast on June 24-27. CEO Yves Jeanneau, who originally launched the event in the southern port city of Marseille alongside his late collaborator Olivier Masson in 1989, says there will be little dwelling on the past. The only looking back will be in the European debut of Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation, which follows its world premiere at Tribeca. The screening of Barak Goodman and Jamila Ephron’s PBS-backed work, timed to mark the 50th anniversary of the legendary music festival this year, will kick-off a special party event celebrating Sunny Side’s 30th birthday.”
Jemma Desai on this year’s Flaherty Seminar
While not an article per se, curator and writer Jemma Desai composed a brilliant thread on Twitter with her thoughts on attending this year’s Flaherty Seminar, curated by filmmaker and Experimenta creator Shai Heredia: “The films made me think and feel, but the space itself made me think about the ideas around community that we often talk about. It was interesting to see the same dynamics we feel oppressed by in the outside world creep into the idea(l) of cinematic utopia. The same people took up space, the same people seemed weary and some (in many cases understandably) declined to do the labour of moving certain conversations further, to activate. It made me think about alliances more generally. This seminar felt visibly diverse. It wasn't BlackStar Film Fest (but you know, what is?) but it wasn't anywhere near as white as most of the festivals and film events I attend. There were many South Asian women.”
Just two days prior to summer's official arrival, THE EDGE OF DEMOCRACY, Petra Costa's personal account of the Brazilian political meltdown, arrived on Netflix, while Timothy Greenfield-Sanders's portrait of the beloved American novelist in TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM, Brian Ivie's account of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting in EMANUEL, a 2018 DOC NYC alumni, and Oliver Murray's profile of the Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman in THE QUIET ONE each arrived in theaters in limited release.
Wang Bing: Filming a Land in Flux (A Dossier) Compiled by Gerard-Jan Claes and Stoffel Debuysere, the online film journal Sabzian has published a very substantial dossier on the work of Chinese documentarian Wang Bing: “This collection of texts and interviews appeared originally as the publication Wang Bing. Filming a Land in Flux, compiled, edited and published by Sabzian, Courtisane and CINEMATEK. For the online publication, an interview with Wang Bing was added, conducted by Emmanuel Burdeau in 2018 on his latest film, DEAD SOULS. This Dossier aims to trace Wang Bing’s trajectory by way of a series of writings and interviews that were published between 2009 and 2018. From Luc Sante’s account of the ‘panoramic spectacle of progress collapsing’ in WEST OF THE TRACKS to Wang Bing’s written treatment for PAST IN THE PRESENT – now titled DEAD SOULS (2018), his third film dealing with the history of the Anti-Rightist Movement and its consequences – they accompany the ongoing ventures of a filmmaker who has taken on the invaluable task of weaving a map of this other China, to film the trials and tribulations of a land in flux.”
Directions in Documentary Sound at the Harvard Art Museums
Reporting on Documentary Education Resources’ 50th Anniversary event, Michaela Koller wrote at length about its fascinating Documentary Sound panel (which is viewable in full at the link: “Moderated by Lisa Barbash, curator of visual anthropology at the Harvard Peabody Museum, the discussion panel that followed was comprised of well known documentary sound artists and filmmakers Stuart Cody, Sarah Elder, and Ernst Karel. Stuart Cody, who started developing audio and battery systems for working in the field in the 1960’s, offered insights into 50 years of changing field recording technologies, as well as his own experiences working with Cambridge filmmakers such as John Marshall and Robert Gardner. Sarah Elder reflected on her experiences largely in the 1980’s as co-director, sound recordist, and editor on the Alaskan Eskimo series, in which she embraced the new possibilities of sync sound to give voice to her indigenous subjects. Sound artist Ernst Karel offered insights into the history of poetic and non-synchronous sound approaches which have shaped his own experimental soundwork and emphasized soundscapes rather than the human voice on films such as SWEETGRASS, LEVIATHAN, and MANAKAMANA.”
ROLL RED ROLL by Nancy Schwartzman Now Streaming via POV
POV’s 32nd season kicked off last week with Nancy Schwartzman’s debut doc feature ROLL RED ROLL, which is now available to stream for free: “At a pre-season party in small-town Steubenville, Ohio, the now-infamous sexual assault of a teenage girl by members of the beloved high school football team took place. Roll Red Roll is a true-crime thriller that goes behind the headlines to uncover the deep seated and social media-fueled ‘boys-will be-boys’ culture at the root of high school sexual assault in America.”
Want to Fund Your Documentary Film? Here Are Some Tips Sharing her advice at No Film School, Paula Bernstein explores the answers that surface when asking, 'What happens when 75 documentary filmmakers gather in the woods of Oregon to talk about funding?': “Funding and fearlessness was the central theme of the 6th annual Oregon Doc Camp, held at Silver Falls State Park in Sublimity, Oregon from May 30-June 2. As more than one attendee joked, you’ve got to be fearless to raise money for a documentary film.”
‘I Fell Into Making Documentaries Accidentally’ Katie Goh profiled award winning DIEGO MARADONA director Asif Kapadia for Huck: “Asif Kapadia knows you’ve only seen two of his films. The British director started out making fiction features, including the critically acclaimed THE WARRIOR (2001), before moving to biographical documentaries. But he’d forgive you for thinking his career started with 2010’s SENNA. Depicting the life and death of the Formula One driver Ayrton Senna, the film was critically acclaimed. Its success (it won two BAFTAs; one for Editing, the other for Best Documentary) catapulted Kapadia into the limelight, paving the way for 2015’s Oscar-winning AMY, a documentary about Amy Winehouse. ‘It’s kind of an accidental thing,’ he says, with a chuckle. ‘I wouldn’t call myself a documentarian. I come from a background of fictional films – I made quite a few before I did SENNA – but it’s cool, I know no one’s seen those films.’”
FEATURED STREAMING DOC SHORT
THE RIGHT TO SEXUALITY
Directed by Violet Jinqi Wang
Paul and Hava met at a performing-arts social event for people with intellectual disabilities. With the assistance of their parents, they went on a few successful dates. The connection was immediate. After some time, they decided to make their strong, loving bond official. The couple made each other so happy that their parents saw no good reason to deny the proposal.
FUND THIS PROJECT
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