With the first round of Democratic debates, continued reporting on the horrifying situation taking place at our southern borders and increasing talks of a potential war with Iran sprawled throughout the headlines this week, the freedom of press remains of utmost importance for the future of our country. Keeping that in mind for our lead off this week, Jameel Jaffer contemplated the current state of the freedom of press and its relationship to the Espionage Act for The New Yorker. Meanwhile, exhibitors responded to last week's headline questioning the future of movies, the DGA struck down awards eligibility for streaming films, and festival director John Cooper announced his departure from Sundance. Venture forth!
-Jordan M. Smith
The Espionage Act and a Growing Threat to Press Freedom Jameel Jaffer contemplates the current state of freedom of the press in The New Yorker: “Safeguarding the public’s right to know requires protecting not just journalists and publishers but sources as well. In recent years, some press-freedom advocates have urged the courts to afford government insiders charged under the Espionage Act an opportunity to argue that the public’s interest in learning the information they disclosed outweighed the government’s interest in protecting it. In an era in which the President has trouble differentiating journalists from ‘enemies of the people,’ it may be up to the courts, and the people themselves, to insist on differentiating whistle-blowers from spies.”
Here’s How Movie Theaters Survive the Next 10 Years: Exhibitors Speak Out IndieWire’s Eric Kohn responded to last week’s piece in The New York Times regarding the future of cinema by asking exhibitors how they are planning for the future: “Even as multiplexes face an existential threat, a 2018 Art House Convergence survey of some 22,500 moviegoers found that 65% of them considered their local art house theater valuable to their overall quality of life. That’s what the article failed to note: Of the 24 voices in the story, there were only four distributors that release non-studio films and all of them — Sony Pictures Classics, Fox Searchlight, Netflix, and Amazon — are attached to much larger businesses. Absent was any representation of the exhibition community, people who make a living booking independent theaters around the country, or smaller distributors who program a range of films from around the world. We decided to give them some space to respond.”
The Top DGA Award Won’t Consider Day-and-Date Releases Anne Thompson writes at IndieWire: “The Directors Guild of America has taken a dramatic stand to support theatrical releases via its awards-eligibility requirements. On June 22, the Directors Guild of America’s National Board unanimously approved a change to eligibility requirements for its top feature film award. According to a release, the decision was made ‘in recognition of the unique cultural importance of the theatrical experience to audiences and filmmakers alike.’ No more will day and date releases be eligible for the top DGA award, which will now honor ‘Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Theatrical Feature Film.’”
Will Awards Voters Accept ROLLING THUNDER REVUE as a Documentary? Steve Pond contemplates how Scorsese’s partly-fictionalized film might fit into awards season for The Wrap: “Netflix has decided to submit Martin Scorsese’s ROLLING THUNDER REVUE: A BOB DYLAN STORY for documentary awards including the Oscars, a spokesperson for the streaming service told TheWrap on Monday. And that decision, which came after Netflix and Scorsese spent some time figuring out how best to position the film, will likely pose at least a small conundrum for the Academy’s Documentary Branch and for other awards bodies devoted to nonfiction film. ROLLING THUNDER REVUE, after all, uses the documentary form to tell the story of Dylan’s 1975 concert tour in a way that is partly factual and partly fictional. “It seems like a stretch for the doc branch, despite enormous respect for Scorsese,” suggested one person close to the branch. But a branch official disagreed. ‘I would imagine we’d accept the submission and leave it up to the voting members to decide,’ the person said, cognizant of the Academy’s recent history with genre-bending films.”
ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT
Sundance Film Festival Director John Cooper to Step Aside
“Sundance Institute announced today that John Cooper, Director of the Sundance Film Festival, will move into a newly-created Emeritus Director role following the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. 2020 will mark his 30th Sundance Film Festival, and his 11th year as Festival Director. The new role will focus on special projects and overseeing the 40th anniversary of the Sundance Institute to be celebrated in 2021. The search for a new Director for the Sundance Film Festival will be led by the Institute’s CEO, Keri Putnam.”
Announcing AFI DOCS 2019 Award Winners
“The American Film Institute has announced the AFI DOCS 2019 Award Winners, concluding the five-day festival supported by Presenting Sponsor AT&T in Washington, DC, and Silver Spring, MD. The festival’s Audience Award for Best Feature went to CHASING THE MOON, directed by Robert Stone. The Audience Award for Best Short went to ST. LOUIS SUPERMAN, directed by Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan.”
Karlovy Vary 2019: Documentary Overview At What (not) To Doc, Basil Tsiokos previewed the Karlovy Vary 2019 doc offerings: “Documentaries make up about a third of the new offerings of this A List event in the Czech Republic. The fest’s Documentary Films Competition includes eight world premieres out of 10 titles: Martin Mareček’s OVER THE HILLS, which follows a Czech father as he brings his son to Russia to visit his estranged wife and daughter; Ksenia Okhapkina’s IMMORTAL, an essay about life and control in a Russian industrial city; Yuriy Shylov’s PROJECTIONIST, a portrait of the projectionist at Kyiv’s oldest cinema; Laila Pakalniņa’s SPOON, a dialogue-free exploration of the plastic spoon; Yrsa Roca Fannberg’s THE LAST AUTUMN, a fable like look at an elderly couple in remote Iceland; Marc Schmidt’s IN THE ARMS OF MORPHEUS, an exploration of people with sleep disorders; Nazareno Manuel Nicoletti’s UP TO DOWN, about three marginalized people in Naples; and Liu Feifang’s THE FADING VILLAGE, an observational portrait of a Chinese mountain village.”
Frank Simon's newly restored drag classic THE QUEEN is sending pride month off in style with a theatrical stint at the IFC Center via Kino Lorber, while Alex Holmes' sea-bound MAIDEN is making waves in limited theatrical release thanks to Sony Picture Classics.
“Let the footage speak for itself”: Todd Douglas Miller on APOLLO 11 Sight & Sound's Jake Cunningham interviewed director Todd Douglas Miller and archivist Stephen Slater about their voyage through the archives: “Miller says ‘one thing that was very influential were all these large format films from the late 50s/early 60s, pretty avant-garde stuff that companies like Francis Thompson’s in New York were producing. A lot of times they would shoot Cinerama, three cameras, three projection systems’. Miller’s passion for large format is perfectly matched here with the subject, as it’s the scale of some of the imagery that staggers most when watching APOLLO 11. One of the first images is a man walking alongside the vast vehicle that tows the Saturn rocket in to its dock, and he looks so cartoonishly small it’s like science fiction. ‘Forget about the rockets,’ Miller says, ‘the things just to move the rockets around were enormous. It does feel like something out of STAR WARS, and they did it all in less than a decade. It’s unbelievable’.”
IDA Announces Logan Elevate Grants
“The International Documentary Association (IDA) has awarded directors Nina Alvarez and Violet Feng the 2019 Logan Elevate Grants. The Elevate Grants are an initiative of IDA’s Enterprise Documentary Fund supported by a grant from the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation. The $25,000 grants are awarded to emerging women filmmakers of color whose feature-length projects integrate journalistic practice into the filmmaking process.”
DOC NYC ALUMNI
Rob Fructman & Steven Lawrence's THE CAT RESCUERS 2018 DOC NYC Wild Life
Opens theatrically at IFC Center on July 5th.
FEATURED STREAMING DOC SHORT
Directed by Debra Tolchinsky
Penny Beerntsen tells the story of an appalling assault she endured one day in 1985, when she went running on the beach. Tolchinsky hauntingly evokes Beernsten’s memories of the attack — and explores how those mental images, formed in a moment of trauma, became part of a miscarriage of justice.
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.
MAMA GLORIA is an intimate portrait of aging about a trailblazing 73-year-old black transgender woman who transitioned before Stonewall, started a charm school for transgender youth in her 60s and is now looking for someone to spend the rest of her life with.
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.