The world of documentaries generally moves at a pretty quick pace, but this week was something else. With several notable festivals wrapping up and handing out awards, other festivals revealing lineups and forum projects, major broadcast schedules being announced, two new streaming services on the way, two big screen and two small screen releases on their way to audiences, and the long anticipated, but no less heartbreaking death of the firebrand filmmaking pioneer Barbara Hammer, it was tough to keep up. Hopefully, this memo helps you keep it all straight.
- Jordan M. Smith
DOC NYC Regular Deadline: March 22, 2019
Attention nonfiction filmmakers! The DOC NYC Regular Submissions Deadline is this Friday, March 22nd. The 10th-anniversary edition of DOC NYC will take place November 7-14, 2019. Submission details can be found here. 2019 entrants will receive their selection decisions by our notification date, September 21.
American Documentary Reveals POV Season 32
Nancy Schwartzman’s ROLL RED ROLL is slated to launch the 32nd season of POV on Monday, June 17 at 10 p.m. American Documentary announced the full POV season lineup on Tuesday. "From city streets to the halls of Congress, women are reasserting their voice and power in 2019. As history unfolds, women are also documenting it. Celebrating these powerful stories in the 32nd season of American television’s longest running documentary showcase on PBS and bucking the industry’s stubborn gender gap, nine out of POV’s 16 feature films this season are helmed by women directors, while four of the five POV Shorts premiering in its second season are directed by women."
OVID.tv, A New Online Distribution Collaborative, Is Set to Launch
It was announced back in January that OVID.tv, a new video-on-demand subscription service created by six founding content partners - Bullfrog Films, Distrib Films US, First Run Features, Grasshopper Film, Icarus Films, and KimStim - was on its way. Finally, Cynthia Close of IDA shared the news that OVID.tv is set to launch on March 22. "At launch, OVID.tv will offer a selection of about 400 titles, 98 percent of which will be documentaries...the monthly subscription price for OVID was still being discussed, but it will likely be about $6.99, with a yearly option of $69.99. This is subject to change."
The New Cinema Made from the Old: Archival Documentaries on the Rise
Writing at Nonfics, Christopher Campbell explored how the recent shift in public perception of what an 'archival doc' can be has transformed how the public now interacts with the documentary form. "The more that filmmakers are able to keep their documentaries archival based, the more they can offer a consistent visual and aural experience. Newly shot interviews and other freshly filmed scenes disrupt the flow of the archives just as stationary interview shots can interrupt an otherwise observationally geared “verite” documentary. Just as if a dramatic film can go a long period without dialogue and show itself to represent truly cinematic storytelling, documentaries that can avoid or limit onscreen explanation and commentary does the same. The best filmmakers either way, in my opinion, let visuals speak for themselves."
2019 Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship Awarded to Victoria Chalk
Awarded annually, the Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship for 2019 was awarded to Victoria Chalk. "She’s a talented emerging editor who demonstrated an aptitude for balancing investigative filmmaking with nuanced character-based storytelling in her latest feature documentary, CALL HER GANDA (Tribeca Film Festival premiere and winner of the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival Grand Jury Award)."
PBS Launching Streaming Service on Amazon Prime Etan Vlessing of The Hollywood Reporter broke the news, "As streaming wars escalate, PBS is launching a new U.S. subscription video-on-demand platform, PBS Living, this Thursday on Amazon's Prime Video Channels. The new streamer, costing $2.99 per month after a seven-day free trial, will offer classic PBS series like The French Chef, This Old House and Antiques Roadshow, along with more recent series like No Passport Required and Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street. The new channel will offer subscribers hundreds of episodes of PBS series across the food and cooking, home, culture and travel genres, with new content to be added each month."
2019 SXSW Film Festival Awards & Festival Roundup
On Tuesday, "The SXSW Conference and Festivals announced the 2019 Jury and Special Award winners of the 26th SXSW Film Festival Awards." Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts' FOR SAMA won both the Documentary Feature Competition and Audience Award, Jenifer McShane's ERNIE & JOE was honored with Special Jury Recognition for Empathy in Craft, Elizabeth Carroll was given Special Jury Recognition for Excellence in Storytelling for NOTHING FANCY: DIANA KENNEDY, and David Modigliani's RUNNING WITH BETO won the Documentary Spotlight Audience Award. Awards for the Headliners and 24 Beats programs will be announced today. Additionally, covering the festival for Flavorwire, Jason Bailey outlined the best and worst docs from this year's SXSW.
21st Thessaloniki Documentary Festival Awards
The International Jury of the 21st Thessaloniki Documentary Festival in Greece named ADVOCATE by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche the Best Documentary in the International Competition, with a Special Jury Prize going to MIDNIGHT TRAVELER by Hassan Fazili. The full awards list can be found here.
Art of the Real 2019 Lineup Announced
"The Film Society of Lincoln Center announces the sixth edition of Art of the Real, an essential showcase for the most vital and innovative voices in nonfiction and hybrid filmmaking, April 18-28. The 2019 lineup features a vibrant slate of new works by internationally acclaimed filmmakers and impressive, award-winning debuts from around the world, with two world premieres, 10 North American premieres, and six U.S. premieres." Exciting news for those unable to attend the festivities, "A selection of titles from the 2019 program will be featured on MUBI following their presentation at the festival. Details on the films and schedule will be announced at a later date."
22nd Annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Lineup Revealed
Durham, North Carolina's Full Frame Documentary Film Festival shared there lineup with IndieWire on Monday of last week. "Full Frame is proud to announce the lineup for the 22nd annual festival, to be held April 4 – 7 in Durham. The 2019 lineup presents 83 documentary films. Of these, 67 are new works from 28 countries, selected from nearly 1,700 submissions to screen in the New Docs and Invited Programs. Acclaimed filmmaker, photographer, and writer RaMell Ross will curate the 2019 Thematic Program, Some Other Lives of Time. The festival will honor distinguished filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert with its 2019 Tribute."
Visions du Réel 50th Edition Program Announced
Visions du Réel, the long running international documentary film festival based in Nyon, Switzerland, revealed its 2019 program last Monday. "Visions du Réel is celebrating its 50th year under the banner of freedom and openness, which have characterized the Festival since its beginnings. It is under this banner, focused both on memory and on the future, that the Festival unveils its program. For its 50th edition, the International Film Festival Nyon has selected 169 films, from 58 countries, including 101 that will be presented as world or international premieres." The full program and schedule can be found here.
Projects Selected for 2019 Hot Docs Forums
Twenty projects were selected for the Hot Docs Forum, including Jeremy Xido's THE BONES, Valerie Kontakos's THE QUEEN OF THE DEUCE, and Lin Alluna's TWICE COLONIZED. "The Hot Docs Forum will take place on Tuesday, April 30 and Wednesday, May 1. This year’s projects represent 18 different countries and were selected from over 325 submissions. All projects are eligible for the first look Pitch Prize, which awards top projects a total of $100K, the $10K Corus-Hot Docs Forum Pitch Prize, and the Cuban Hat Award."
A year after Miles Lagoze's peak inside the Afghan war zone in COMBAT OBSCURA had its world premiere at the True/False Film Festival, the film is finally reaching theaters in limited release thanks to Oscilloscope Labs. Meanwhile, the lifetime Orson Welles obsessive Mark Cousins saw the limited US release of his Cannes premiered THE EYES OF ORSON WELLES via Janus Films. In the wake of the debacle that was FYRE, Chris Smith has emerged relatively unscathed and back at the helm of another Netflix series with the 8-part THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MADELEINE MCCANN, as Jesse James Miller's 4-part series on the history of PUNK premieres in primetime on Epix.
On Observation: A Conversation with Kazuhiro Soda
Pairing with MUBI's retrospective Kazuhiro Soda: Radical Observation, which runs March 4 – April 17, Kazu Watanabe spoke with the man himself for MUBI's Notebook: "I studied filmmaking at SVA (School of Visual Arts in New York City), fiction filmmaking, for four years. I was only interested in fiction filmmaking then. I didn’t even take one documentary class. But then when I graduated, I was looking for a job and I accidentally joined a company that produced documentaries for NHK. So without knowing anything about documentaries, I had to make them professionally [laughs]. It was a small company, like 20 people."
Eric Hynes Questions Cinematic Hybridity After Encountering OUR TIME
After encountering the latest fictional effort from Mexican auteur Carlos Reygadas, Eric Hynes began to debate the trend in nonfiction filmmaking of blending fiction and nonfiction. In his new piece for Film Comment he begins, "These aren’t ideal times for treading the soft soil of cinematic hybridity. It’s become harder to justify flights of factual indeterminacy. Questions that might have been stimulating as rhetoric or theory—what is truth? does the camera only lie? are people only ever performing?—feel queasier in a political environment where such indeterminacy has been perverted and weaponized. The questions remain—in fact they’ve taken on greater weight—but it’s not something to fuck with, not something to kick around as idle provocation. This puts documentaries in a tricky place, particularly documentaries that aim to wrestle with rather than affirm their own authority. In immensely insecure times, revealing the fictive edges of the nonfiction canvas can seem like an aggressive pile-on, regardless of honest intent."
First Look Media Funding Cut
Charles R. Davis of Columbia Journalism Review reported on Friday that First Look Media, the parent company of investigative news outlet The Intercept and documentary production unit Field of Vision, "could no longer afford its research team, and was eliminating those jobs as part of a 4 percent cut in its workforce. 'I am sickened,' Intercept co-founder Laura Poitras wrote in a March 13 email reported by The Daily Beast. The 'beating heart of the newsroom,' she said, had been torn out." What this funding cut might mean for Field of Vision is as of yet unclear.
Tracing the Roots of Khalik Allah’s “Camera Ministry”
Writing for Criterion's The Current, Andrew Chan spoke with Khalik Allah about his latest film BLACK MOTHER. "It doesn’t take more than a few minutes of watching a Khalik Allah film to intuit that he’s a photographer. Over the course of just two documentary features, the thirty-four-year-old, New York–bred artist has developed an instantly recognizable style at odds with much of American nonfiction filmmaking—one that invests a great deal of faith in the capacity of a single shot, untethered from discernable chronologies or narrative arcs, to capture spiritual truths. Reaching beyond social-realist conventions, Allah brings an audacious lyricism to his portraits of people of color who live under extreme conditions of marginalization."
New Episodes of the True/False Podcast
In the latest episode of the True/False Podcast, "directors Nanfu Wang (ONE CHILD NATION) and Petra Costa (THE EDGE OF DEMOCRACY) talk about how they interwove the personal and the political in their films."
What's Up Doc(umentaries)? Podcast
Thanks to a social media heads up, I was made aware of a relatively new documentary focused podcast called What's Up Doc(umentaries)? that explores new nonfiction releases with a light, pop sensibility.
DOC NYC ALUMNI NEWS
Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley & David Beilinson's ALL THE RAGE (SAVED BY SARNO) 2016 DOC NYC Metropolis
Now available to stream via Amazon Prime.
Lindsey Cordero & Armando Croda's I’M LEAVING NOW 2018 DOC NYC Portraits
Screens as part of DCTV's screening series tonight.
Alexandria Bombach's ON HER SHOULDERS 2018 DOC NYC Short List
Will be released on DVD & Blu-ray tomorrow via Oscilloscope Labs.
Dennis Scholl & Kareem Tabsch's THE LAST RESORT 2018 DOC NYC Photography on Film
Will be released on DVD tomorrow via Kino-Lorber.
Jacob Feiring's ACROCATS! (formerly SAMANTHA'S AMAZING ACROCATS) 2017 DOC NYC Wild Life
Will be released on DVD tomorrow via Gravitas Ventures.
FEATURED STREAMING DOC SHORT
CAROLEE, BARBARA AND GUNVOR
Directed by Lynne Sachs
From 2015 to 2017, Lynne visited with Carolee Schneemann, Barbara Hammer and Gunvor Nelson, three multi-faceted artists who have embraced the moving image throughout their lives. From Carolee’s 18th Century house in the woods of Upstate New York to Barbara’s West Village studio to Gunvor’s childhood village in Sweden, Lynne shoots film with each woman in the place where she finds grounding & spark.
FUND THIS PROJECT
Crowdfunding has become an integral means of raising capital for documentary filmmakers around the globe. Each week we will feature an interesting new project that needs your help to cross that critical crowdfunding finish line.