My usual memo routine is to curl up on Sunday afternoon, post-yoga class and coffee, and blast through as much documentary related news as I can find from the past week. You'd think I would collect it all throughout each week in real-time, but I've found it much easier to collect it all in one ultra-focused go than to do it piecemeal on random encounter. But oddly, this week I've whipped it together on Saturday so I can jet off to Toronto for a half week's adventure (hoping to make a couple stops at both the Hot Docs Cinema and the TIFF Bell Lightbox). We'll see how it goes.
This week is a bit special, as I'm very proud to be able to offer memo readers a half-priced ticket deal on docs at this year's amazing women-focused 51Fest, which screens at both IFC Center and SVA Theatre in New York City from July 18-21st. Here's the deal:
Promo code to use is 51FEST-MONMEMO
• KATHY GRIFFIN: A HELL OF A STORY (Opening Night) - $10
• RAISE HELL: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS
• Women in the World Spotlight: Supermajority, with a sneak preview from the upcoming doc AND SHE COULD BE NEXT
• FOR SAMA
(all $9 each)
Code is valid for purchase of up to 2 tickets per transaction.
Much thanks to the fine folks at 51Fest for allowing us the privilege to pass on some savings on a handful of worthy docs - and don't forget to check out their wonderful full lineup at 51Fest.org. Now, with all of that out of the way, on to this week's doc news!
-Jordan M. Smith
The Space for Change Writing at IDA, Lauren Pabst looked at how real engagement with documentary films, not necessarily just watching documentary films, is making real social impact: “Journalism works to hold the powerful accountable, whether it is public officials or private corporations, provoking a public reckoning with wrongdoing and forcing change. Documentary films, especially in recent years, have also been held up as drivers of social change; presenting untold or long-forgotten stories in a cinematic format can generate new levels of awareness. But documentaries and journalism do not, by themselves, create change. They present evidence and the building blocks for the levers of accountability by exposing wrongdoing or telling stories misrepresented by the larger media anew. They can provide context where before there were only soundbites. Journalism and documentary can create the space for change. For social change to take place, that space must be claimed by engaged civic actors and organizations, whether they be public servants in a position to act or grassroots activists who work to force action where it did not seem previously possible. By bringing new information and new stories to light, journalism and documentary present a choice to the public: Will we act on these revelations? Will we use our civic power to take this information and run with it? And, importantly, are mediamakers willing to be in dialogue with the activism their work relies on?”
For the Sake of Cinema, Disney Needs to be Broken Up Utterly dismayed by the current state of studio film production, Guy Lodge makes a case for breaking up Disney in The Guardian: “This kind of Hollywood imperialism is not encouraging news if you fear that reduced competition begets reduced creativity, even as Disney’s substantial fanbase – umbilically bound by the childhood nostalgia in which the corporation trades – zealously cheers it on. What other acquisitions are on its wishlist? Are we seeing a return to the rigidly controlled Hollywood studio system of the 1940s and 1950s – only with one studio effectively as the system? If so, a movement not dissimilar to the demands to break up big tech currently rippling towards Silicon Valley might be in order.”
Alamo Drafthouse L.A. Partners with Vidiots to Revive Old School Video Store In The Los Angeles Times, Mark Olsen broke the news: "When the first Alamo Drafthouse location in Los Angeles opens later this month, it will include what has been described as ‘a video store/bar/arcade/board game hub/retail store’ adjacent to the cinema known as Video Vortex. Today, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema announced more details, including a yearlong programming partnership with Vidiots Foundation, L.A.’s long-running video store turned film non-profit. There will be Vidiots screenings and events at the cinema and Vidiots merchandise available at Video Vortex. The partnership between Alamo Drafthouse and Vidiots Foundation will kick off with a series called ‘Tales From the Video Store,’ with special guests recalling memories of their local video stores and the movies they found there. The video store at the L.A. Alamo Drafthouse will include over 40,000 titles from the Drafthouse archives and all movies will be available to rent for free. This is the fourth Video Vortex location, along with Brooklyn, N.Y., Raleigh, N.C., and San Francisco.”
A Call to Journalists: Let’s Save America In an impassioned call to metaphorical arms in the Columbia Journalism Review, Bob Garfield writes: “‘Don’t be part of the story.’ Fuck that. Whether to put down your notebook or camera to come to the aid of a news subject in extremis has long been posed as a journalistic conundrum. Well, conund all you like; me, I’m not vexed. If a life is at stake, and I’m needed to intervene, the story must wait. I do not bring this up for no reason. Here we are, all of us, in the midst of just such a life-or-death drama. The imperiled subject, slipping away before our eyes, is American democracy...democracy is drowning right in front of us. Are we to stand by and merely observe? No. Grab a life preserver. Now. And swim.”
Lithuanian Film Centre Announced 2019 Production and Development Grants
“The Lithuanian Film Centre has distributed €1,271,245 at its second session of financing for 2019. In all, 36 film projects received funding for production and development. The government has allocated €874,525 for the production of 20 films, including one feature film, four documentaries, seven shorts and six minority co-productions.” Vassilis Economou reported on the awards for Cineuropa: “The selection includes the latest documentary project by Sergei Loznitsa, STATE FUNERAL, which depicts the horrifying events that followed Joseph Stalin’s death and is based on found footage; the animated documentary AURORA’S SUNRISE by Armenian filmmaker Inna Sahakyan, which tells the story of Aurora Mardiganian, one of the biggest celebrities of the silent-film era and a survivor of the 1915-1918 Armenian Genocide; and CHRONOS, a hyper-realistic virtual-reality installation experience by Swiss director Rafael Bolliger. Furthermore, four feature-length documentaries will be supported with a total grant of over €180,000. The selection includes HUNTING by journalist Aistė Stonytė (producer: Ultra Nominum), SUTKOGRAPHY by writer-journalist-director Vytautas V Landsbergis, MODERN APARTMENT, staged by Just A Moment, and WAITING FOR THE MIRACLE, produced by Aloyzo Jančoro videoantologija.”
ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT
10 Things to See at the 19th New Horizons International Film Festival Matthew Thrift previewed the offerings at this year’s edition of New Horizons for BFI, noting a few docs on the way, including Olivier Assayas’ rarely seen HHH: A PORTRAIT OF HOU HSIAO-HSIEN: “One of the largest film festivals in eastern Europe, New Horizons returns to the city of Wrocław, Poland this month for its 19th edition. With over 600 screenings across its 11 days, audiences will have the chance to see highlights from the Cannes, Berlin and Locarno film festivals, as well as numerous local premieres. With inexpensive flights readily available from the UK and mainland Europe, it’s a great opportunity to catch recent festival premieres long before their UK debuts, without the endless queues you’d find at the likes of Cannes. With an extensive series of retrospectives playing alongside the various strands, it’d be impossible to take in the programme in its entirety. In fact, you could spend a week feeding a five-films-a-day diet solely with older films from the retrospective strands.“
Bologna’s Il Cinema Ritrovato Reporting from the Italian festival for Film Comment, Giovanni Vimercati notes a pair of docs on display: “Aside from offering an overview of the festival’s roots and political essence, the beautiful documentary OUAGO, CAPITALE DU CINÉMA (2000) by Mohamed Challouf highlights its second renaissance under the revolutionary auspices of Thomas Sankara, president of Burkina Faso, the host country, from 1983 to 1987. Shot in 1999 on the occasion of FESPACO’s 30th anniversary, Challouf’s documentary weighs in on the significant changes that followed Sanakara’s assassination and the subsequent death of his pan-African, anti-imperialist utopia, which led directors like Haile Gerima to boycott the festival.”
There's quite an eclectic mix of nonfiction releases this week, with Richard Ladkani's eco-crime doc SEA OF SHADOWS leading the theatrical charge along with Sarah Kerruish and Matt Maude's Silicon Valley startup history GENERAL MAGIC and Aaron Lieber's surfing profile BETHANY HAMILTON: UNSTOPPABLE. On the small screen, Morgan Neville's episodic profile of Rick Rubin in SHANGRI-LA hit Showtime, while Erin Lee Carr's crime miniseries on Michelle Carter in I LOVE YOU, NOW DIE dropped on HBO.
Pluralities Journal & Conference Opens Call for Papers & Presentations
This year’s Pluralisties: Medias, Migrations, Movements two day conference put together by the Docfilm Institute will be held on the San Francisco State University Campus from November 4-5th, 2019. Registration is free and open to the public. “Abstracts for papers, presentations, and projects for the Emergent Media Arcade are welcome. Papers and presentations may be singular or submitted as a constituted panel. We are interested in explorations that traverse one or more of this years' themes of Medias, Migrations, and Movements. We especially welcome works and scholarship that are interweaving form and practice with other avenues of documentation, including activism, installation, speculation, and interdisciplinary modes, approaches, and collaborations.”
The Good Fight: The Films of Julia Reichert I missed it last week, but Robert Kotyk’s extensive overview of Julia Reichert’s career for Cinema Scope is well worth a read: “In the first scene of Julia Reichert’s first film, GROWING UP FEMALE (co-directed with Jim Klein, 1971), a woman takes the hand of a young girl, walks her down the front steps of a house, and guides her along an Ohio sidewalk, the girl moving along as though in a trance, taking in the world in all its strangeness. On the soundtrack, Reichert’s voice narrates, ‘Society teaches us that when we reach the age of 21, we are free to live our lives as we choose. But by the time a woman comes of age, what choices does she really have?’ The image of two women holding hands—a small gesture of solidarity—contrasted with this calm yet direct appraisal of the oppressive forces beyond their control neatly encapsulates the plainspoken yet sharply political sensibility that has defined Reichert’s nearly 50-year career, which is currently being celebrated in a retrospective co-presented by MoMA and the Wexner Center. (Some of the films were recently shown at Hot Docs in Toronto, where Reichert received the festival’s Outstanding Achievement Award.)”
They Became the First All-Women Crew to Conquer the Ocean Race.
Then the MAIDEN Came Home. Rachel Handler’s deep dive into the story behind the doc hit MAIDEN at Vulture is perhaps the best researched piece of the week: “I was first introduced to MAIDEN when the trailer premiered before my third viewing of BOOKSMART, another movie about charming young women bravely charting seas unknown. I burst into tears 40 seconds into MAIDEN’s trailer and essentially didn’t stop crying until weeks later, when I finally had a chance to see the film. Alex Holmes’s documentary, a combination of archival footage and interviews, follows the incredible true story of Tracy Edwards, a young British woman with a dark past who decides that the only thing she wants to do is captain the first all-female team to sail around the world.”
15 Music Documentaries & Concert Films Streaming Right Now Piecing together a solid list with some off the beaten path picks, Michael Kaminsky listed 15 music docs worth your attention for Hot New Hip Hop: “While the music documentary and/or concert film has been a staple of the film genre for over 50 years, it’s only recently that the trend has been more freely produced, and as a result, rewarded. In the past seven years, four music documentaries have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Of those, three won: SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN, 20 FEET FROM STARDOM, & AMY. Following the recent successes of concert films, rock docs, and multi-part music docuseries on Netflix, HBO, Showtime, and others – expect to see more popping up on your go-to streaming platform and premium cable networks in the future. And need not forget the silver screen, as the summertime tends to see the release of countless documentaries filling up indie and art house theaters. For those looking to catch up on what they’ve missed over the past few years, below you’ll find recommendations for 15 music documentaries and concert films streaming right now. Happy binging!”
DOC NYC ALUMNI
Dave LaMattina & Chad Walker's THE GREAT MOTHER 2018 DOC NYC Portraits
Will premiere on Monday, July 22nd via Starz.
Tom Donahue's THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING 2018 DOC NYC Behind The Scenes
Will have a one night only theatrical release on Monday, July 22nd via Fathom Events.
Alexandria Bombach's ON HER SHOULDERS 2018 DOC NYC Short List
Will premiere on on Monday, July 22nd on PBS via POV.
FEATURED STREAMING DOC SHORT
WHERE ARE ALL THE BOB ROSS PAINTINGS?
WE FOUND THEM.
Directed by Larry Buchanan, Aaron Byrd,
Alicia DeSantis and Emily Rhyne
Bob Ross painted more than 1,000 landscapes for his television show — so why are they so hard to find? We solve one of the internet’s favorite little mysteries.
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.
"WHAT SHE SAID: THE ART OF PAULINE KAEL is a compelling feature-length documentary about the life and work of a pioneering, gutsy, controversial film critic. She was iconic, and like Pauline, this is a movie that is big, bold and entertaining. We need funding for our final post-production steps -- and the effect will be immediate. Within days, the movie will be finished and headed for its theatrical premiere in January 2020."
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.