...and just like that, Sundance 2020 has wrapped. There is a massive amount of coverage from Park City to sift through, so I've culled some of the most thorough festival reports to get you up to speed with what to look forward to in the coming months. Meanwhile, Pure Nonfiction has announced its Winter 2020 lineup and dropped a new podcast episode, Firelight launched a new development fund for mid-career filmmakers of color, Syrian filmmaker Feras Fayyad has finally been granted a U.S. visa, Op-Docs shared its first in a series of new shorts straight out of Sundance and much more!
-Jordan M. Smith
ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT
2020 Sundance Film Festival Awards Revealed Announced via press release: “After 10 days and 128 feature films, the 2020 Sundance Film Festival’s Awards Ceremony took place tonight, with jurors presenting 28 prizes for feature filmmaking. Honorees, named in total below, represent new achievements in global independent storytelling. Bold, intimate, and humanizing stories prevailed across categories, with Grand Jury Prizes awarded to MINARI (U.S. Dramatic), BOYS STATE (U.S. Documentary), EPICENTRO (World Cinema Documentary) and YALDA A NIGHT FOR FORGIVENESS (World Cinema Dramatic)...Of the 28 prizes awarded tonight to 25 films – comprising the work of 29 filmmakers – 12 (48%) were directed by one or more women; 10 (40%) were directed by one or more people of color; and 2 (8%) were directed by a person who identifies as LGBTQ+.”
John Cooper’s Sundance Swan Song Eric Kohn spoke with the outgoing Sundance Director for IndieWire: “John Cooper wasn’t so sure about HONEYLAND. A year before the documentary about a Macedonian beekeeper would score two Oscar nominations, the future Sundance World Cinema Documentary selection didn’t resonate with the festival director as he entered his final year. ‘I just didn’t get that film when I watched it,’ said Cooper from his Sundance office during the 2020 edition of the festival, as he ended his 11-year run overseeing the event. ‘And I didn’t have to get it, because everyone else in the room loved it. It’s hard to find 125 films that you love, that you totally respect. I don’t pick all these films. I play the room.’ Cooper’s candid admissions about the flaws of the programming process speak to the unpredictable nature of running a festival, and how much of its impact begins with frantic behind-the-scenes debate. Each year’s program invites a fair share of drama — what will play well, sell big, or drop with a thud — and that uncertainty injects the experience with a dramatic narrative of its own.”
Sundance Institute Announces Tabitha Jackson as Incoming Festival Director Announced via press release: “Today, Sundance Institute announced Tabitha Jackson as the new Director of the Sundance Film Festival. Jackson was chosen from a worldwide search and follows outgoing Director, John Cooper, who served in the role for 11 years and will assume a newly-created Emeritus Director role. An award-winning filmmaker, she has served as Director of the Institute’s Documentary Film Program for the last six years. Jackson will oversee the Festival’s overall vision and strategy, while leading a senior team in close collaboration with Director of Programming, Kim Yutani. In his new role, Cooper will oversee special projects including preparations for the Institute’s 40th anniversary in 2021.” Jackson was presented with DOC NYC's Leading Light Award in 2018.
Risky Turns and Buried Treasure: The Best of Sundance 2020 Joshua Rothkopf covered the festival for The Guardian: “As glamorous as covering the Sundance film festival can be – this year’s opening night delivered Taylor Swift to wintry Park City, Utah – it’s an assignment that can make a critic feel like a dog. You’re constantly nosing around for new treasures: buzzy finds, hopefully wonderful. You’re eating scraps at parties or in alleys. You always have to pee. So it made perfect sense when, early in the week, we found THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS – the most apt movie that will ever emerge from a film festival, anywhere.”
At Sundance, a Glorious Diversity of Voices Breaks Through Manohla Dargis outlined her favorites from Park City this year in The New York Times: “A runaway bride, wildly rambunctious women and two quietly resolute girls — the Sundance Film Festival is one movie celebration where the so-called second sex consistently comes out on top. Now in its 36th year, the festival has long made room for female filmmakers even when there weren’t all that many. In 1985, its inaugural year, it presented 85 movies, 10 from female directors, about half non-Americans like Lina Wertmüller, one of the few such filmmakers on anyone’s radar back then. Of this year’s 128 features, nearly half are from women. (The festival ends Sunday.) These numbers are impressive; the movies even more so. At some events, female filmmakers sometimes seem to have been invited simply to check a box, a practice that, however well-intentioned, inevitably suggests that women are second-class talent. This year’s Sundance, by contrast, underscores that when women receive real opportunities — serious money and institutional support — the pool of work expands, bringing new stories, styles and worldviews. For the 2020 edition, you didn’t need to dig to find female talent, make excuses for substandard work or politely yawn through another worthy endeavor. It was right on the screen, blissful and unbound.”
Sheffield Doc/Fest’s MeetMarket & Alternate Realities Talent Market 2020 Announced via press release: “The submission deadline for both the MeetMarket and Alternative Realities Talent Market - February 14, 2020 - is in less than a month away. The MeetMarket is one of the world’s largest documentary and factual markets and pitching forums. Selected projects will have the opportunity to meet with top Decision Makers among 300+ international funders, broadcasters, distributors and exhibitors. The Alternate Realities Talent Market exists to foster collaborations between creatives and organisations focused on using digital technologies to push storytelling in exciting new directions. The market is for discussing new projects that are interactive, immersive, virtual reality, augmented reality, AI, mixed reality, immersive sound technology, games, 360-video, live performance, motion comic, room-scale experience and/or installation.”
Hot Docs, Al Jazeera English Launch Short Pitch Competition Daniele Alcinii filed the report at Realscreen: “International documentary festival Hot Docs has partnered with Al Jazeera English’s flagship documentary television program Witness to launch a new short pitch competition for the 2020 Toronto-set festival. The inaugural Hot Docs Al Jazeera Short Pitch at Hot Docs 2020 prize will award up to US$50,000 to at least one winner and will premiere on the Witness strand across Al Jazeera branded platforms, including linear and digital. Up to six filmmaking teams will pitch their short film concepts to a panel of judges during the festival on May 4, at the beginning of the festival’s industry week, with the winner announced during the Hot Docs awards presentation on May 8. Canadian citizens, permanent residents and those with refugee status are all eligible to apply. Applications for the Hot Docs Al Jazeera Short Pitch open Feb. 10.”
Features (NYC premiere requirement)
Contemporary documentaries from around the world – 41 minutes in length or longer – that demonstrate a bold commitment to subject matter, excellence in cinematic craft and innovation in storytelling.
Features will be considered for inclusion in either the competitive Viewfinders or Metropolis sections or in several thematic non-competitive sections.
Shorts (NYC premiere preferred, but not required)
DOC NYC showcases the best new short form content - 40 minutes or shorter - in both thematic shorts programs and in screenings before features.
Early Bird Deadline (features): February 21, 2019
LUCID DREAMING: CONVERSATIONS WITH 29 FILMMAKERS
By Pamela Cohn
"LUCID DREAMING is an unprecedented global collection of discussions with documentary and experimental filmmakers, giving film and video its rightful place alongside the written word as an essential medium for conveying the most urgent concerns in contemporary arts and politics. In these long-form conversations, film curator and arts journalist Cohn draws out the thinking of some of the most intriguing creators behind the rapidly developing movement of moving-image nonfiction. The collection features individuals from a variety of backgrounds who encounter the world, as Cohn says, 'through a creative lens based in documentary practice.' Their inspirations encompass queer politics, racism, identity politics, and activism."
Pure Nonfiction: Winter 2020 Lineup Announced Announced via press release: “Pure Nonfiction at IFC Center takes place on Tuesday nights at 7:30pm, showcasing documentary sneak previews and classics. Each screening has a Q&A with the filmmakers or other special guests. Hosts Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen are the co-founders of the DOC NYC festival and WNYC’s Documentary of the Week. Their IFC Center screening series was started in 2005 as Stranger Than Fiction. Renamed in 2019 as Pure Nonfiction (the title of Powers’ podcast), the series continues to be “a vital outpost for award-winning documentaries. Tickets for Pure Nonfiction screenings are $18 for the general public and $15 for IFC Center Members. A Season Pass, good for all Winter 2020 films (Feb 11 – Mar 31) is available for $110 for general admission, and $90 for IFC Center Members, here.”
Firelight Launches Development Fund for Mid-Career Filmmakers of Color Daniele Alcinii had an exclusive for Realscreen: “Harlem-based prodco Firelight Media, founded by Peabody- and Emmy award- winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson, is launching an international development fund for diverse filmmakers. The William Greaves Fund, launching later this year, will offer financial and mentorship support to non-fiction filmmakers of color at the mid-points in their careers. The fund aims to ensure that talented storytellers remain in the field and continue to create important stories focused on underrepresented people and topics. The William Greaves Fund will comprise of seven to 10 grants of up to US$25,000 annually, which will be used to finance research and the development of film treatments, decks, sizzle reels, and other materials necessary for fundraising. In addition to financial support, Firelight will provide mentorship throughout the development and production process.”
THE CAVE Director Feras Fayyad Finally Arrives in U.S. After Visa Troubles Michael Schneider of Variety reports: “THE CAVE director Feras Fayyad has finally made it into the United States, weeks after he was denied entry into the country. According to National Geographic Documentary Films, which is behind the Oscar-nominated THE CAVE, ‘we can report that Feras arrived safely this evening in Los Angeles.’ Fayyad’s arrival comes after he missed a Television Critics Assn. press tour panel on Jan. 17 promoting THE CAVE. At the time, Nat Geo told reporters that Fayyad had been detained by immigration police in Copenhagen, and eventually released to producer Sigrid Dyekjar. Fayyad had earlier been denied a visa into the United States, and was not able to attend the International Documentary Association’s Documentary Awards in Los Angeles to accept his prize for best writing for THE CAVE. Since then, his aunt’s house was bombed in Syria, and he had traveled back and forth between Turkey, to be close to his family, and Denmark, where the Syrian filmmaker lives in exile.”
So you have an idea for a project – you just need the money to put your plan into action. How do you even start? In this deep dive into crowdfunding, you’ll hear from highly popular crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and Seed & Spark, among others, about how their platforms work, how successful projects are funded, and the dos and don’ts of crowdfunding. We’ll discuss different options for crowdfunding platforms, along with case studies and examples from each, and you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions from key players at the organization. In addition, we’ll speak with marketing and budgeting pros to help you build your project once you’ve received your funding. By the end of the day you’ll know which platform is right for you, and best practices on how to raise anything from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. Go get that money!
Sustaining Your Career as a Filmmaker Thursday, February 20, 2020
Making a living as an independent filmmaker—or any kind of artist—has never been easy, but CraftEd has assembled a group of pros to help you chart out a course for a sustainable career. From learning how to juggle a flexible day job that lets you develop new skills and also get paid; to finding groups that offer professional, funding and creative support; to learning how to market yourself to employers and audiences, this all-day event gives you tools to smooth your path, whether you’re working in film or in another creative art. The day includes a coffee & bagel breakfast, as well as a post-seminar happy hour for networking with presenters and attendees.
Use discount code “CES_MONDAYMEMO” at checkout for 20% off.
THE EDGE OF DEMOCRACY Tracks Brazil's Slide to Fascism Lauren Wissot spoke with the newly Oscar nominated filmmaker Petra Costa’s Oscar at Documentary: “I see it as a trilogy in terms of how I'm kind of zooming out more and more in each one. UNDERTOW EYES is the most intimate, just about the relationship of my grandparents, but not looking at all the political or the social implications of their position in society, only at their relationship to love and death. And then with ELENA I look at another family nucleus, which is my mother, my sister and me. It’s the story of three generations of women, and their relationship to themselves, and to their pains, and to their bodies, and to society. Not in an overtly political way, but really within the context of how the personal is political. And with THE EDGE OF DEMOCRACY I zoom out to not just encompass this entire family nucleus of both my grandparents, my mother and myself, but also in relationship to the entire nation, past and present.”
Oscar Documentary Branch Proves Surprisingly Consistent Addie Morfoot inquires about the Academy's doc branch unpredictability at Variety: “It’s been said time and again that the Academy’s documentary branch is a consistently unpredictable bunch. But are they? Given their Oscar nomination track record, it certainly doesn’t seem like it. The group has made their likes and dislikes perfectly clear in recent years. They enjoy recognizing international productions as well as newcomers. In the past two decades alone, 12 directors have taken home the Academy Award for their very first documentary theatrical feature.”
New Episode of Pure Nonfiction - #113: Inside AMERICAN FACTORY Announced via press release: “Barack and Michelle Obama picked the film AMERICAN FACTORY to be the first film backed by their company Higher Ground. Now the film is Oscar nominated for Best Documentary Feature and available on Netflix. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviews filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert about their long history filming inside the factory in their hometown of Dayton, Ohio. They previously made THE LAST TRUCK: CLOSING OF A GM PLANT that chronicled the demise of its original incarnation. That film was Oscar nominated for Best Documentary Short in 2009. Several years later, the city gained new hope when the Chinese company Fuyao reopened the plant to manufacture industrial strength glass for vehicles. Bognar and Reichert gained access to all levels of the factory from the Chinese management to the American workers. They benefited from working with Chinese field producers Lulu Men, Siyan Liu, Danni Wang, and co-producers Mijie Li and Yiqian Zhang. The interview lingers over the challenges of maintaining such intimate access, especially after the tensions rise over a battle to unionize at the factory.”
Interview: Garrett Bradley Amy Taubin spoke with the Sundance Directing Award winning filmmaker for Film Comment: “It’s rare for a consensus to form around a single film at Sundance before the awards are given or the deals announced. But ask anyone during the festival’s concluding days what their favorite film is, and they answer Garrett Bradley’s TIME. Bradley was not exactly an unknown when Time was selected for the U.S. Documentary competition this year. Her first feature, BELOW DREAMS, had played in the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival; her short films ALONE (2017) and AMERICA (2019) had won awards at Sundance. BAM programmer Ashley Clark made AMERICA the centerpiece of a 2019 black filmmaking series. But TIME takes Bradley’s work to a much higher level. It’s a first-person documentary, but the first-person storyteller is not Bradley, it is rather Fox Rich, a Louisiana mother of six who for 21 years worked ceaselessly to have her husband Robert released from prison where he was serving a 60-year sentence without parole. When Fox and Robert were in their early twenties, out of desperation they tried to rob a bank. Fox received a 13-year sentence and was released in three and a half years. Robert refused a plea deal that his lawyer thought was bad and received a 60-year sentence without possibility of parole.”
After last week's empty release schedule, this week is populated with some hot commodities. Lana Wilson's Sundance debut TAYLOR SWIFT: MISS AMERICANA hit Netflix, just as James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte's HBO miniseries MCMILLIONS and Phyllis Ellis's TOXIC BEAUTY arrived for streaming. Theatrically, the Oscar Doc Shorts Nominees program is playing at IFC Center, as well as nationwide, and Michael Pack's bio doc CREATED EQUAL: CLARENCE THOMAS IN HIS OWN WORDS is showing at the Village East and elsewhere.
Judith A. Helfand's COOKED: SURVIVAL BY ZIP CODE 2018 DOC NYC Viewfinders
Will have its primetime premiere on Independent Lens on February 3rd.
Shamira Raphaëla & Clarice Gargard's DADDY AND THE WARLORD 2019 DOC NYC Modern Family
Will have its primetime premiere on AfroPoP on February 3rd.
FEATURED STREAMING DOC SHORT
BETYE SAAR: TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS
Directed by Christine Turner
"At 93, there’s no stopping when it comes to the legendary artist Betye Saar. A self-proclaimed 'recycler,' Ms. Saar has been creating assemblage art for decades. The objects in her work reflect her very personal visions of nature, spirituality and ideas addressing equality and a new kind of African-American representation. By taking a derogatory caricature like Aunt Jemima and outfitting her with weapons, Ms. Saar transforms her into an image of power and certitude."
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.