After the passing of Agnès Varda on Thursday, collecting all the material for this week's memo was hard. It seemed that the internet might explode from everyone's emotional outpouring of love for the quirky godmother of the French New Wave. When I began curating films for my own film series in Buffalo a few years ago, the first retrospective we programmed was a series of five of her films: the fictional classics Cléo From 5 to 7 and Vagabond, as well as her deeply personal essay films Mur Murs, The Gleaners and I and The Beaches of Agnès. I spent a few months within her deeply empathetic version of the world - watching, reading, ruminating, rewatching. I'm not one to get very emotionally involved with the passing of famous folks, but this weekend I felt like I had lost a real friend. I'm just grateful that I had a brief moment to thank her in person a few years ago at TIFF following a screening of One Sings, the Other Doesn't. Thanks again, Ms. Varda. You'll be missed.
- Jordan M. Smith
I'm happy to share that in 2010, filmmaker and STF alum David Van Taylor interviewed Agnes Varda at her Paris studio, as part of Lumiere Productions' TO TELL THE TRUTH: A HISTORY OF DOCUMENTARY FILM. To honor her passing, David has pulled a few of the most memorable moments that are being released for the first time. For more information or to see TO TELL THE TRUTH, visit Icarus Films.
DOC NYC's Make Your Documentary Workshop
Do you have an idea for a documentary but don’t know how to move forward? In this four-hour workshop, Thom Powers brings his 20 years of experience – as a filmmaker, festival programmer and teacher – to guide attendees through all the steps for a successful project.
Agnès Varda Dead at 90
The outpouring of love and respect for Agnès Varda has been nothing short of overwhelming. There is honestly just too much to include everything here, so I'll just share a key selection of remembrances and obituaries:
CPH:DOX 2019 Award Winners
With the conclusion of this year's CPH:DOX, the festival shared its award winners. "The winners of the 16th edition of the international documentary film festival CPH:DOX have been announced at an Award Ceremony taking place at Kunsthal Charlottenborg Friday evening. The main award DOX:AWARD went to RIDGE by Swedish John Skoog while SEARCHING EVA by German Pia Hellenthal received the jury’s Special Mention." Meanwhile in a report from the festival in ScreenDaily, Tom Grater debated the doc industry's lingering question, "Will traditional documentary business models survive in the face of increased disruption from online platforms?"
New Directors/New Films Industry Academy & Recommendations
Now midway through the 48th edition of The Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA’s annual festival, New York Times critics Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott listed 11 films to make sure to see, including Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska's HONEYLAND and Luke Lorentzen's MIDNIGHT FAMILY, while at Criterion Cast, Joshua Brunstingincluded Andrea Bussmann's experimental FAUSTO among his own recommendations. Lastly at Film Comment, Naomi Keenan O'Shea warmly wrote of HONEYLAND, "What emerges is a documentary that possesses such a powerful narrative arc, and such richly and complexly realized characters, that it feels closer to a work of fiction." The Film Society and Locarno International Film Festival’s fourth annual U.S. edition of their Industry Academy, which ran through the festival’s first weekend, wrapped yesterday.
Previewing Leuven, Belgium's 15th Annual Docville
Writing at What (not) To Doc, Basil Tsiokos previewed the offerings from this year's edition of Docville in Leuven, Belgium: "Belgian Selection offerings include: Kita Bauchet’s PUBLIC BATHS (BAINS PUBLICS), on the long-standing public baths of Brussels; Guy-Marc Hinant’s CHARLEROI: THE COUNTRY OF 60 MOUNTAINS, a portrait of the titular postindustrial city; Alexandra Kandy Longuet’s VACANCY, which looks at American roadside motels; Matthias De Groof and Mona Mpembele’s PALIMPSEST, on the decolonization of Central Africa’s Royal Museum; and Ellen Vermeulen’s INCLUSIVE, which explores the challenges facing special needs students in mainstream schools."
Full Frame Reveals 2019 Speakeasy Conversations
As Full Frame gears up to kick off later this week, the festival revealed its ninth annual A&E Speakeasy panel discussions, which begin on Friday and will include RaMell Ross, Stanley Nelson, Julia Reichert, Steven Bognar, along with two panels exploring race.
If you ask me, a new doc by Billy Corben is always cause for celebration. I had a blast with SCREWBALL at its premiere back at TIFF. His latest reached theaters in limited release this week, while Ross Kauffman's Sundance premiered TIGERLAND played on Animal Planet and Theo Love's THE LEGEND OF COCAINE ISLAND debuted on Netflix over the weekend.
Director Billy Corben and producer Alfred Spellman on Pure Nonfiction
Women, War & Peace: The #MeToo Edition
In a detailed report at IDA on PBS's second iteration of the series Women, War & Peace (which is currently streamable at the link), Addie Morfoot writes, "While both the 2011 and the 2019 series share the same emphasis—women as wartime agents of change and peace—Women, War & Peace II will reach a dramatically different audience, one well versed in gender inequality, thanks in large part to the #MeToo Movement. Yet, in spite of #MeToo, the idea that war is inherently male has not wavered much in the last eight years. Women’s instrumental role in conflict is still not part of our collective historical or cultural understanding, which is why the executive producers of the original series, Fork Films founders Abigail Disney and Gini Reticker, thought it was time to bring the second edition of Women, War & Peace to PBS."
Canadian Screen Award Winners for Non-Fiction Pat Mullen reported on the Canadian Screen Awards for POV Magazine: "Niobe Thompson’s exquisitely-shot EQUUS: THE STORY OF THE HORSE brought home the most trophies with three wins including the Rob Stewart Award for Best Science or Nature Documentary Program or Series. The Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary Program, went to QUIET KILLING, which examines the ongoing cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women, while YOU ARE HERE and JUMBO: THE LIFE OF AN ELEPHANT SUPERSTAR each won two awards."
The Ingeniously Nerdy Filmmaking Secrets of Documentary Now!
Writing for Vulture, Matt Zoller Seitz spoke with Rhys Thomas and Alex Buono about the show's attempt to replicate the aesthetics of the documentaries each episode is based on. "Documentary Now!, which concluded its third season on IFC this week, is a parody so absurdly specific that it turns into a fetish object. Created by Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, and Rhys Thomas, the series takes Christopher Guest–style mockumentary to the next level, spoofing particular eras and styles in nonfiction filmmaking in a way that captures hyperspecific details of camerawork, lighting, sound, and editing."
IDA's Doc Star of the Month: Alexandria Goddard of ROLL RED ROLL
In an extensive interview with IDA's Lauren Wissot, the protagonist from Nancy Schwartzman's ROLL RED ROLL reflects on her experience of appearing in the film: "There was nothing off-limits to Nancy and crew. I provided them with full access to all of the Steubenville content that I had saved. I think that the way the film unfolded—the timeline of events and how it presented some of the social media harassment—was perfect."
Apple Unveils Apple TV+ Streaming Service & Doc Partnership with Oprah
Along with its newly announced Apple Credit Card and Apple TV+ streaming service, Frederick Blichert at Realscreen reported, "The only unscripted content announcement came from Oprah Winfrey, who received two standing ovations. Winfrey has two documentary projects coming to Apple TV+. TOXIC LABOR (working title) will explore sexual harassment, abuse and assault in the workplace, while an untitled second project will look at mental health with the aim of reducing stigma and shame."
DOC NYC ALUMNI NEWS
Denali Tiller's TRE MAISON DASAN 2018 DOC NYC Modern Family
Premieres tonight on Independent Lens at 10 pm.
Sydney Pollack & Alan Elliott's AMAZING GRACE
Returns to theaters this coming Friday via Neon.
FEATURED STREAMING DOC SHORT
SANS TOI, AGNÈS
Directed by Catherine Grant
In warmest memory of Agnès Varda, one of the very greatest filmmakers ever.
Made very quickly, emotionally and sincerely on the morning when the deeply sad news broke of her death.
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