Memorial day may not seem an obvious choice for a deluge of new documentary releases, fellowship announcements and film funding opportunities, yet, here we are. Keeping it brief for the holiday memo, here's the highlights: Cannes award winners, Le Cinéma Club's upcoming return, Pure Nonfiction's Andrew Berends Tribute event tomorrow night and so many new fellowship announcements I can't squeeze them all into this short intro. So, read on and however you choose to spend your Memorial Day, I hope it's spent well.
-Jordan M. Smith
FOR SAMA Wins L'Œil d'or Documentary Prize at Cannes Rhonda Richford reported for The Hollywood Reporter, “Syrian conflict documentary FOR SAMA has taken the Golden Eye prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Directed by duo Waad al-Khateab and Edward Watts, the film tells al-Kateab's story of being a young mother through the beginning of the war in 2012 through the fall of Aleppo in December 2016. A special prize went to Patricio Guzman's THE CORDILLERA OF DREAMS, about the landscape and mysteries of his homeland Chile. The winners are automatically eligible for Oscar submission in the Best Documentary category. Both were part of the main Official Selection. This year's jury was headed by French filmmaker Yolande Zauberman, along with actress Romane Bohringer, actor Eric Caravaca, BRIGHT LEAVES director Ross McElwee and Havana Film Festival head Ivan Giroud. It was the first year the prize was on the official schedule, and was presented by film festival head Thierry Fremaux and president Pierre Lescure.”
AFI DOCS Names Freida Lee Mock 2019 Guggenheim Honoree
In a press release last week, AFI DOCS revealed that acclaimed filmmaker Freida Lee Mock is this year’s AFI DOCS 2019 Charles Guggenheim Symposium honoree: “Freida Lee Mock’s work offers not only a look at remarkable people with amazing stories, but also a way to truly connect with them and their lives,” said Michael Lumpkin, Director of AFI Festivals. “We are honored to celebrate her and look back on her prolific career, as well as shine a proper light on her continued impact on documentary filmmaking with a special preview of her latest film.”
Sundance Institute Supports New Documentary Projects
“25 nonfiction films from 12 countries are the latest Sundance Institute Documentary Fund and Stories of Change Grantees, announced today. This support includes unrestricted grants to films in the development, production, post-production and audience engagement stages, and is made possible by founding support from Open Society Foundations...The supported projects come from Canada, Chile, China, Estonia, Hungary, Iran, Israel, Kenya, Mexico, Poland, South Africa and the United States. 21 projects, or 84%, have a woman director or producer.”
Filmmaker Andrew Berends appeared multiple times on the IFC Center stage for the screening series Stranger Than Fiction (now called Pure Nonfiction). His films as a director include THE BLOOD OF MY BROTHER documenting life in Iraq under U.S. occupation; DELTA BOYS about militants in Nigeria’s oil conflict (which landed him briefly in Nigerian jail); and MADINA’S DREAM about refugees in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains. He also served as a camera person on other projects including the Oscar-winning FREE SOLO. In March 2019, he took his own life at the age 46, after bouts of depression and being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The news brought an outpouring of testimonials from his admirers. This tribute brings together his friends and colleagues to share clips from his films and stories from his life. Donations from this event will be used to launch a Fellowship in Andrew’s name, to support independent filmmakers.
DIEGO MARADONA, making its world premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, is the latest from director Asif Kapadia. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviewed Asif about that film along with his previous documentaries SENNA (about Formula One race car driver Ayrton Senna) and the Oscar-winning AMY (about singer Amy Winehouse). Their conversation took place in March at the CPH:DOX festival in Copenhagen.
Mr. Apple Pie, Ron Howard
In her extensive profile, Maureen Dowd of The New York Times investigates ‘Why this avatar of Americana decided to direct a documentary about the Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti.’: “Ron Howard grew up in Hollywood working with the giants of the entertainment industry, and it gave him a fine appreciation for giants. That is why, even though he’s more of a sports fan than an opera aficionado, he decided to make a documentary about opera’s Sultan of Swat: Luciano Pavarotti, the King of High Cs, a man of gargantuan talent and appetite, swathed in women and Hermès scarves, who died in 2007 and is perhaps inadequately immortalized on iTunes and YouTube.”
The Fraudulent Health Startup that Got an Acclaimed Documentarian to Make Its Ads
At Hyperallergic, Jordan Ogihara asks, ‘How can we reconcile Errol Morris’s stated mission of pursuing the truth with him helping to promote Theranos?’: “Since THE INVENTOR was made without Holmes’s cooperation, Gibney substitutes insider materials with footage from a variety of sources, some of which was shot by fellow documentarian Errol Morris. As part of a multi-million-dollar deal Theranos struck with ad agency TWBA\Chiat\Day, Morris directed several commercials for the company. TWBA\Chiat\Day was previously behind some of Apple’s most well-known ads, including the Morris-helmed ‘Switch’ campaign. Gibney asked for Morris’s input, but he declined to comment, reportedly telling Gibney that he ‘couldn’t make him talk,’ even saying, ‘For God, there is no off the record, and he can be a very unforgiving person.’ This reticence runs contrary to Morris’s stridently expressed beliefs about the pitfalls of paradigmatic thinking and relativism. With the benefit of hindsight, reviewing Morris’s Theranos commercials sheds light on the contradictions in the ideology that serves as the bedrock for his work.”
Chanel Backs Relaunch of Art House Streamer Le Cinéma Club Scott Roxborough broke the news for The Hollywood Reporter that, “Le Cinéma Club, a global free streaming platform that focuses on art house films, is relaunching its service next month with a redesigned site and exclusive new content with the backing of fashion giant Chanel. The rebooted Cinéma Club will kick off June 14 with KEEP IT FOR YOURSELF, a 40-minute film from French director Claire Denis (HIGH-LIFE, 35 SHOTS OF RUM), starring Vincent Gallo and Sara Driver. The early work — made in 1991 — was recently rediscovered. Chanel is backing the relaunch, which will see Cinéma Club stream a film per week for free to its subscribers. The focus will be on restored or rediscovered projects, particularly short films.”
It's a busy week for doc releases. There's four new theatrical releases in Jill Magid's Field of Vision backed THE PROPOSAL, Barak Goodman's new take on WOODSTOCK, Frédéric Tcheng's third major fashion profile HALSTON, and Chuck Smith's DOC NYC Metropolis Grand Jury Prize winner BARBARA RUBIN & THE EXPLODING NY UNDERGROUND. Meanwhile on Tuesday, David Modigliani's SXSW hit RUNNING WITH BETO premieres on HBO.
Andrew Berends Film Fellowship
“We are now accepting donations for the Andrew Berends Film Fellowship through IFP here. The mission of this fellowship is to seek out and support emerging filmmakers from all walks of life that embody Andy’s spirit and determination, with a focus on sharing unheard stories. It was born out of the desire of Andy’s family, friends, and colleagues to keep his memory alive and active in the world of documentary where he himself thrived. We hope you will consider helping keep Andy’s memory and spirit alive by supporting the fellowship. More details including when and how to apply for the fellowship will be available on andrewberends.net in the coming months.”
Logan Nonfiction Program Accepting Applications for Fall 2019 Fellowship
“The Logan Nonfiction Program is currently accepting applications from documentary filmmakers currently at work on a longform project for its Fall 2019 class of fellows. The program seeks to assemble a diverse and inclusive community of fellows working in all media on socially relevant political, health, environmental, human rights and justice topics. Fellows receive lodging, meals, professional guidance and community for 5-10 weeks on the Carey Institute for Global Good’s historic campus in upstate New York. The mission of the Logan Nonfiction Program is to support democracy by advancing independent journalistic inquiry and investigation.”
IFP Announces Documentary Projects for Annual IFP Labs
“The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) announced today the 10 feature films selected for the Documentary Lab, part of the IFP Filmmaker Labs, IFP’s year-long fellowship for first-time filmmakers currently in post-production on their debut feature. The Labs will support the creative teams as they prepare to finish and release their films into the world. The program runs May 20-24 at the Made in NY Media Center by IFP located in Dumbo, Brooklyn.”
Meet The NeXt Doc Fellows
“NeXt Doc is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for some of the most talented young documentary filmmakers in the country at the beginning stages of their careers. The year-long Fellowship kicks off with a week-long gathering in June that is intended to be an intensive skills and community building experience. This is followed by a year of mentorship and development for the entire cohort designed to elevate their capacity to succeed creatively and professionally and closes with a re-convening of the Fellows the following spring. The 2019 NeXt Doc opening gathering will take place in the Green Mountains of Vermont, a quiet beautiful setting that provides time for self-reflection, bolsters creativity, and encourages NeXt Doc fellows to be fully present.”
The Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund and Economic Inequality
“On May 1, IDA launched the open call for the Pare Lorentz Doc Fund. Each year the fund will focus on a specific issue that was a hallmark of Lorentz’s films. In 2019, the focus is “economic inequality.” Many of you will ask what qualifies as an economic inequality issue. It could mean many different things, including but not limited to its effects on healthcare, housing, education, labor, immigration and technology...A program of the International Documentary Association since 2011, the fund is made possible by The New York Community Trust. In 2019, it will disburse $97,000 in the form of production and post-production grants up to $25,000 per project.”
Where to Begin with British Transport Films David Parkinson dives into the BFI’s British Transport Film collection, “How difficult can it be to produce a crash course, as it were, on British Transport Films? The clue’s in the name, right? Trains and boats and planes. With a few trucks, trams and buses thrown in for good measure. It should be pretty straightforward. But the unit founded 70 years ago this month did much more than churn out steam-shrouded nostalgia for trainiacs. What’s more, BTF proved remarkably prolific, making around 700 films between 1950 and 1986. The 12 volumes in the BFI’s British Transport Film collection contain 170 films alone, while there are 21 titles on the Blu-ray Best of compilation marking BTF’s 70th anniversary.”
DOC NYC ALUMNI NEWS
Maxim Pozdorovkin's THE TRUTH ABOUT KILLER ROBOTS 2018 DOC NYC Science Non-Fiction
Released via VOD today.
Lisa F. Jackson & Sarah Teale's PATRIMONIO 2018 DOC NYC Fight The Power
Will be released on DVD/VOD tomorrow.
Ky Dickens' THE CITY THAT SOLD AMERICA 2018 DOC NYC American Perspectives
Will be released on DVD/VOD tomorrow.
Andrew Slater's ECHO IN THE CANYON 2018 DOC NYC Sonic Cinema
Will be released in theaters this Friday.
Richard Miron's FOR THE BIRDS 2018 DOC NYC Wild Life
Will be released in theaters this Friday.
FEATURED STREAMING DOC SHORT
AN ENCOUNTER WITH LUX PRIMA -
THE ART OF COLLABORATION
Directed by Luisa Conlon & Max Knight
Karen O & Danger Mouse’s “Lux Prima” is one of the year’s best albums so far — but it’s more than an album. AN ENCOUNTER WITH LUX PRIMA - THE ART OF COLLABORATION chronicles the 18-month development of their multisensory art installation “An Encounter With Lux Prima”.
FUND THIS PROJECT
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.