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With the relaxation of Thanksgiving and the madness of Black Friday behind us, it's time to recoup with a rundown of all the nonfiction moving and shaking that happened while you were busy. There were honors handed out from the British Independent Film Awards and IDFA, the release of another addition to Michael Apted's incomparable UP series, Sundance's unveiling of its latest nonfiction grantees, admin staffing changes at both Sheffield Doc/Fest and the Edinburgh International Film Festival and even a newly published anti-list manifesto from film critic Elena Gorfinkel - and that's just the beginning. So heat up those holiday leftovers and cuddle up for some doc news catchup.
-Jordan M. Smith

British Independent Film Awards 2019: The Winners in Full
Announced via press release: “FOR SAMA, Waad Al-kateab and Edward Watts’s powerful documentary about life in war-torn Syria, has been named both best British independent film and best documentary at this year’s British Independent Film Awards (BIFAs). It also won best director and best editing.”

Does Who You Are at 7 Determine Who You Are at 63?
In a lavishly extensive piece for The New York Times Magazine, Gideon Lewis-Kraus searched for deeper truths within Michael Apted’s incomparable UP series: “Apted paced the terrain of recollection; he never felt bound by archival chronology in the show — he had always loved Buñuel above all, and thought that the UP series’ desultory shuffle of the flashbacks mimicked the peregrinations of the unconscious — and now freely wandered the chambers of his memory. The excruciating time Tony admitted to adultery on camera. His anger with Charles, who dropped out after 21. John, he felt, had never really trusted him; he supposed he might have been making fun of him a bit with the business of running him out with the hounds, but he’d always really liked him. Apted felt a strong reaction this time to the accordioned archives that began each segment. ‘To condense all that time to a hysterical pace — it’s terrifying, in sort of a bogus way, but it does dramatize how quickly things go by.’ It gave him, he continued, ‘strange feelings about time and passage of time — it’s all so distorted.’ I asked him what he thought now of the maxim ‘Give me a child until he is 7, and I will give you the man.’ ‘It’s just a platitude,’ he said, with little ceremony. ‘There’s no great wisdom.’”

What Is a Documentary These Days?
Mulling over the definition of documentary for Hyperallergic, Dan Schindel asks why online video essays can’t be included within the bounds of documentary filmmaking: “We live in exciting times for reshaping what we see in the world around us into some form of artistic statement. The proliferation and advancement of creative tools continually reduces the barrier to entry for anyone wanting to create essentially any thing, and it can then be shared without any of the traditional media gatekeepers. This has resulted in a sea of content which can be intimidating to navigate. I want to find what’s great and/or noteworthy in this landscape and bring it to people’s attention. If you want to do the same, reach out to me via No concept is too out-there, no idea unworthy of consideration. This is the age of the documentary. Let’s explore it.”

ASC Announces Nominees in Documentary Category for 34th Annual Awards
Announced via press release: “The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) has revealed its documentary and television nominees for the 34th Annual ASC Outstanding Achievement Awards. Winners will be announced at the organization’s gala on January 25, 2020, at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland...The ASC Documentary Award was inaugurated this year to recognize exceptional cinematography in non-fiction filmmaking. The nominees are: Nicholas de Pencier— ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH, Fejmi Daut & Samir Ljuma— HONEYLAND, Evangelia Kranioti— OBSCURO BARROCO.”

Movies About China Campaign for Oscars as Mainland Audiences
Turn to Piracy to Watch Them

Eric Kohn reported on China’s sly actions for IndieWire: “On November 19, the PGA Awards revealed its Documentary Motion Picture nominations. In China, film magazine Movie View reported on the seven nominees but only mentioned six: AMERICAN FACTORY, ADVOCATE, APOLLO 11, THE CAVE, FOR SAMA and HONEYLAND. On Weibo, China’s state-controlled microblogging site that has 430 million active users, a few took notice of the post from Movie View, which has 14 million followers. ‘What’s the seventh one?’ read one comment. Another user responded: ‘The one that can’t be named.’ That would be ONE CHILD NATION, director Nanfu Wang’s devastating look at the destructive effect of the country’s one-child policy from 1979 to 2015 and its lingering impact on families today. Wang, whose younger brother was raised in defiance of the law, returned to the country to gather covert footage for her revealing project, which Amazon Studios acquired after its January premiere.”

The 2019 IDFA Award Winners
Announced via press release: “Today, IDFA announced the winners of the competition programs during the IDFA 2019 Awards Ceremony at Eye Film Museum...The International Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) continues until Sunday, December 1st. Directors Heidi Hassan and Patricia Pérez Fernández are the winners of the IDFA Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary (€ 20.000) with IN A WHISPER (Spain, France, Switzerland, Cuba). The film centers on two emigrated Cuban filmmakers whose passion for film, friendship, and freedom reunites them after years apart.” FOR SAMA has won the VPRO IDFA Audience Award (€ 5.000), the grand public prize of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.

Sundance Institute Names Latest Nonfiction Grantees
Announced via press release: “47 Projects from 27 Countries Receive Over $1.5 Million in Grants: Sundance Institute today named the global cohort of independent nonfiction film projects that comprise its latest Documentary Fund Grantees, including specialized grants administered by The Kendeda Fund and the Stories of Change Fund. Unrestricted granting support, totaling $1.5 million, will be extended to independent nonfiction films across various stages of development, production, post-production and audience engagement.”

Sheffield Doc/Fest Now a Registered Charity and Recruiting for a New Chair
Announced via press release: “Together with Sheffield Media & Exhibition Centre (SMEC) we are delighted to announce that following a successful application to the Charity Commission, Sheffield Doc/Fest is now an independent registered charity...With charitable status secure and Cíntia Gil having taken up the reins as new Festival Director, Alex Graham, Doc/Fest’s Chair since 2008, has decided to step aside. Having come to the end of his term last year, Alex has been fundamental in guiding the festival towards charity status and remained in order to ensure a smooth transition. Graham, a television producer and journalist, who was the founding CEO of Wall to Wall production company and remains Chair of the Scott Trust (Guardian), has governed the festival over a period of significant growth.”

Mark Adams Steps Down as Artistic Director of Edinburgh
Announced via press release: “After serving as Artistic Director of Edinburgh International Film Festival for five festivals, Mark Adams is stepping down from his role on 30th November. During Adams’ tenure at EIFF overall admissions increased to 70,000 in 2019. Innovations introduced included the People’s Premiere, as well as providing gala experiences, extending the reach of the festival and delivering immersive cinema experiences for new festival audiences. Mark Adams said: ‘It’s been a real pleasure to work with the team in Edinburgh and help deliver the growth and development of EIFF over the last five festivals and to be instrumental in reestablishing its international profile. I have decided it is time to move on and look to new and exciting opportunities.’

State of the Festival: Viennale 2019, the Future Is Present
David Perrin’s report on the Viennale 2019 for Notebook includes a variety of nonfiction highlights: “The finely scaled body of a green serpent coiled against a white background adorned the posters across the capital city of this year’s Vienna International Film Festival. More than mere ornamentation, it is an image meant to symbolize the renewal process of the festival shedding off old skin, while maintaining a continuity to its past under the still relatively new artistic direction of Eva Sangiorgi, who took charge of the festival early last year. It suggests the Viennale wanting to definitively emerge out of the shadow of Hans Hurch, who ran the festival for twenty-one years until his unexpected death in June 2017. No doubt, the reputation of the Viennale as a sensitively and concisely curated bastion of a particular cinema, one that is at once political, formally explorative, and fiercely resistant to the self-satisfied middlebrow, is much the doing of Hurch’s work and temperament as artistic director.  Its identity also firmly resides inits dedication to continuously nurturing filmmakers who operate at the far margins of the film industry And by no means does it appear—judging by the previous two editions—that the festival under Sangiorgi will distance itself from such practice or undergo some sort of radical severance from its spirit of giving peripheral figures in cinema the center stage. On the contrary, this year’s Viennale had the feel of being dominated by peripheries, with many of the films that I saw showing people and geographies that remain largely unseen not just in mainstream movies but on a daily basis.”


It's a quiet week of releases due to the holiday, but Michael Apted's 63 UP is playing at Film Forum, as Jake Lefferman and Emily Taguchi's AFTER PARKLAND is screening at the Village East Cinema. Meanwhile on PBS, Lynn Novick's four-part doc series COLLEGE BEHIND BARS is now streaming.

63 UP
COLLEGE BEHIND BARS (streaming free via PBS)

Against Lists: A Manifesto
Speaking out against the year end and decade end traditions of list creation, Elena Gorfinkel has put together a fierce anti-list manifesto for Another Gaze:
“Lists of films will not save you.
Lists of films will not save films.
List of films will not reorganize how films gain and lose value.
Lists will not preserve all those thousands and thousands of films decomposing in alleys, basements, storage lockers: films lost, unseen, and unpreserved.
Lists of films will not write new film histories.”

DOC NYC Programmer Opal H. Bennett to Join as POV Shorts Producer
Announced via press release: “American Documentary (AmDoc), the parent organization of the PBS documentary series POV, announced the addition of Opal H. Bennett as producer for POV Shorts, the public television series dedicated to short-form nonfiction films. Bennett comes with extensive programming experience, and was most recently shorts programmer for the Montclair and Nantucket Film Festivals. She is also a programmer for Aspen ShortsFest, Athena Film Festival and DOC NYC, and consults for the March on Washington Film Festival...In addition to Bennett’s hiring, POV has promoted several staff members on its programming and production teams: Sophie Harari to associate producer for POV, Nicky Cook to media coordinator and Robert Chang to coordinating producer for America ReFramed.”

How BIKRAM Director Eva Orner Made Her ‘Trumpian’ Subject Likable
Jude Dry spoke with Eva Orner for IndieWire: “In her new Netflix documentary about hot yoga progenitor Bikram Choudhury, director Eva Orner faced a unique dilemma: How to do right by the victims who fell under the spell of the alleged yoga rapist. BIKRAM: YOGI, GURU, PREDATOR is a timely and well-crafted film about the cult-like figure, who has been accused of multiple rapes and sexual assaults but has never faced criminal charges. By speaking out, years before #MeToo, Choudhury’s victims lost jobs, friends, and community, all for little to no personal gain other than protecting potential future victims. In order to honor these brave women, Orner had to first show Choudhury’s charismatic side.”

2020 Marsha P. Johnson Endowed Impact Campaign Fellowship
Announced via press release: "Public Square Films, a Peabody Award-winning and Oscar-nominated New York City-based production company, is excited to announce a paid fellowship for an exceptional candidate seeking to gain experience in impact and engagement for a major feature documentary. Public Square Films tells stories that ensure that LGBTQ+ history — and the people who make it — are remembered and celebrated for their brave and invaluable contributions to social justice and political change. The Marsha P. Johnson Fellowship is established to provide hands-on experience to an early-career QTGNC (Queer, Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming) filmmaker or impact producer of color...Please send your resume and cover letter to by January 1, 2020. Early applications are encouraged: we will begin interviewing as soon as we have received appropriate application materials."


Luke Lorentzen's MIDNIGHT FAMILY
2019 DOC NYC Winner's Circle
Will have a theatrical release on December 6th via 1091.

2018 DOC NYC Portraits
Will receive a DVD release on December 10th via Grasshopper Film.

2018 DOC NYC Metropolis
Will receive a DVD release on December 17th via Juno Films.

2018 DOC NYC Behind the Scenes
Will have a theatrical release on December 25th.

2019 DOC NYC Winner's Circle
Will have its primetime premiere on December 30th via POV.
Five short documentaries about the immigrant experience in America appearing in The Times’s Op-Docs series testify to both the depth of our shared humanity and the height of the walls separating us.

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
Ilse Fernandez

Funding Goal: $32,500
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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