All the anticipation and debates are over - awards season has finally come to a close and AMERICAN FACTORY and FOR SAMA (both DOC NYC alums) have been crowned with some of the most coveted honors between the Oscars, Independent Spirit Awards and BAFTAs all concluding in the last week. Some fun trivia: this is the second year in a row that the recipient of DOC NYC’s Robert and Anne Drew award has gone on to win the Oscar. Last year it was FREE SOLO, this year it was AMERICAN FACTORY. Along with all the awards show news, there were plenty of other doc happenings that took place: DCTV announced their Winter 2020 series lineup, Denis Shiryaev experimented with upscaling a famed Lumière film to 4k with miraculous results, MoMA's Doc Fortnight is currently running through February 19th, there were reports on all the movies sold at Sundance, new lineup announcements from the Berlinale and SXSW, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Venture forth!
Bolsonaro Gov't Attacks Oscar Nominee Petra Costa as 'Anti-Brazil Activist' Reporting for The Guardian, Tom Phillips covered the political attack: “Most governments celebrate when their citizens are nominated for Academy Awards – but not in Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil. In an extraordinary barrage of tweets on Monday, the presidential agency responsible for elevating Brazil’s international profile savaged documentary director Petra Costa, branding her “an anti-Brazil activist” who had ‘tarnished the country’s image abroad’. Bolsonaro’s politician son, Eduardo, led the charge, calling Costa a ‘canalha’ – which translates roughly as ‘scumbag’. Costa’s Netflix film THE EDGE OF DEMOCRACY was nominated for the best documentary Oscar last month, and the 36-year-old filmmaker has become a prominent international critic of Bolsonaro’s far-right administration. The immediate trigger for the presidential attack – which Brazilian experts called unconstitutional – was an interview Costa gave to the American journalist Hari Sreenivasan last week. In it, Costa laments Bolsonaro’s fake news-fuelled rise to power and criticises the former army captain’s encouragement of Amazon deforestation and police killings, which she said had risen 20% in Rio de Janeiro state since Bolsonaro’s election. Bolsonaro loyalists and relatives took exception to those remarks.”
Are Women Finally in View? In a feature in POV Magazine, Susan G. Cole asks if female filmmakers are finally getting their fair chance: “Telefilm Canada commits to parity. The National Film Board commits to 50/50 gender parity. Even the most skeptical feminist observer would have to admit that the landscape has a chance of getting significantly more fertile for female creators. Women working in the field say they do feel like the ground has shifted...But nobody’s doing a victory dance yet. There are still huge gaps when it comes to female editors, cinematographers, sound operators and directors. A study released last May from Women in View shows only small improvements. The most promising numbers indicate that between 2014 and 2017, women’s share of television film writing, directing and cinematography rose 6%, but women still represent only 28% of the creators in those categories.”
Actually, Female Directors Are Dominating In Documentaries Jean Bentley stakes her claim at Elle: "It's 2020, and the statistic is still staggering: Only five women have ever been nominated for Best Director in the Oscars’ 92-year history. Zero women received a nomination this year, despite the wealth of critically-acclaimed work from female directors. But as women continue to fight to break into the directing boys’ club, they're carving out space for themselves in documentaries. Greta Gerwig's LITTLE WOMEN is the only movie directed by a woman up for Best Picture in 2020, but women directed or co-directed four of the five films nominated for Best Documentary: AMERICAN FACTORY, about the culture clash between American and Chinese workers when a Chinese company takes over an abandoned Ohio GM plant; THE EDGE OF DEMOCRACY, about the fallout of an impeachment scandal in Brazil; HONEYLAND, an intimate look into the life of a Macedonian beekeper; and FOR SAMA, the story of a Syrian woman raising her daughter as her husband works as one of the last remaining doctors in Aleppo. These women also serve as their films’ producers, the people who actually take home the trophies for the documentary Oscar. (The fifth film in this category, THE CAVE, follows the female doctor in charge of an underground Syrian hospital, and has two women producers.)”
Neural Networks Upscale Louis Lumière Film from 1896 to 4K Andrew Liszewski reported for Gizmodo on the extraordinary results: “There are lots of valid reasons to be worried about how deep learning techniques could potentially be used to manipulate footage for nefarious reasons. But as Denis Shiryaev demonstrates by upscaling some old black and white film footage from 1896, those AI-powered tools can also be a powerful way to bring the past back to life...L’ARRIVÉE D’UN TRAIN EN GARE DE LA CIOTAT doesn’t have the same effect on modern audiences, but Denis Shiryaev wondered if it could be made more compelling by using neural network powered algorithms (including Topaz Labs’ Gigapixel AI and DAIN) to not only upscale the footage to 4K, but also increase the frame rate to 60 frames per second. You might yell at your parents for using the motion smoothing setting on their fancy new TV, but here the increased frame rate has a dramatic effect on drawing you into the action.”
DCTV Announces Winter 2020 Series Lineup Announced via press release: “Awards season has reached a fever pitch and we at DCTV are breathing a sigh of relief that a new DCTV Presents is just around the corner. At a time when Hollywood seems to have little room for the unfamiliar, we proudly unveil a slate of films that illuminate dazzling corners of the human experience so often out of sight. See what’s in store in the latest installment of our documentary screening and events series. Kicking off our Winter 2020 season, DocuMixer with Rooftop Films (Feb 10), will welcome old and new friends to the firehouse for a filmmaker mixer with one of our fave partner organizations. We’ll then have a special retrospective: Films by Madeline Anderson (Feb 24). Credited and celebrated as the first black female documentary director, we are thrilled to present three of Anderson’s films recently preserved by the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History & Culture that bring viewers to the front lines of the fight for civil rights. Madeline Anderson joins for a post-screening discussion, moderated by The New School’s Michelle Materre.”
ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT
At MoMA’s Doc Fortnight, Films Focused on Labor and Alienation Shine At Hyperallergic, Dan Schindel previews the offerings to be had at this year’s edition of MoMA’s Doc Fortnight: “This year, the program for Doc Fortnight — the Museum of Modern Art’s annual showcase of international documentary media — heavily emphasizes both labor and alienation, and often how the two subjects are related. Works featured in the festival include an epic film about a trans outsider attempting to shake up Japanese politics, a film about a summer camp for disabled teens produced by the Obamas, a VR experience comparing historical and contemporary racial segregation, a trilogy of shorts on the cultural perception of the afro, and a metaphorical meditation on a strained relationship between mother and child which Hyperallergic’s Jake Pitre has previously praised. Both overtly and subtly, each of these films deal with how people act when in some way estranged from the society around them.”
Seven Film To See at Doc Fortnight 2020 Joshua Brunsting listed his favorites to look for at Doc Fortnight this year for Criterion Cast: “Now in its 19th year, The Museum of Modern Art once again kicks off the second month of the new year with its Doc Fortnight series. The museum’s annual cross-section of non-fiction and hybrid filmmaking both feature length and short, Doc Fortnight brings together films from directors of all sorts, putting in context films like a new 14-hour film history documentary from Mark Cousins and a new two-minute short film from legendary filmmaker Lucrecia Martel, making its North American premiere here at this festival. Truly one of the year’s most entrancing, incredibly well curated collections of films, Doc Fortnight is one of the few film festivals still placing experimental and avant-garde works alongside those of a more commercial focus. With over 28 films, however, the lineup can be a bit daunting, especially as the most interesting films are from those directors one may not be familiar with. So here are seven films from this 14 day event that will hopefully be the talk of the festival.”
A Complete List of Movies Sold at Sundance (and How Much $$$ They Cost) Chris Lee reported the sales at Vulture: “The spasm of big-bet deal-making that convulsed last year’s Sundance Film Festival can be summarized in four words: maximal outlay, minimal intake...Perhaps not coincidentally, this year’s installment of North America’s preeminent showcase for independent cinema got off to a sluggish start, notably absent the kind of late-night bidding wars and streamer-versus-studio jockeying that came to define the last fest. But by its conclusion Sunday, the erstwhile Hollywood on Ice had notched a healthy batch of megadeals indicating that this sleepy ski town at the base of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains remains a decent-enough movie marketplace even while picking up new relevancy in the TV space, thanks to an escalating arms race in the streaming wars.”
Berlinale Reveals Its 2020 Documentary Competition Lineup & Jury Announced via press release: “The Berlin International Film Festival has long been committed to the diversity of documentary forms. A distinct award for the best documentary film was launched in 2017. As of 2020, the Berlinale Documentary Award, endowed with 40,000 Euro in prize money, will be sponsored by public broadcaster Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (rbb). In total, 21 documentary forms from the sections Competition, Berlinale Special, Encounters, Panorama, Forum, Generation and Perspektive Deutsches Kino are nominated for the Berlinale Documentary Award. The prize money will be shared by the director and the producer of the winning film. The award will be presented during the official Award Ceremony at the Berlinale Palast on February 29, 2020.”
20 More Docs Added to SXSW 2020 Lineup Realscreen’s Jillian Morgan reported on the festival’s latest additions: “Andrew Rossi’s AFTER TRUTH: DISINFORMATION AND THE COST OF FAKE NEWS, Sarah Brennan Kolb’s GOOD OL GIRL and Mary Mazzio’s A MOST BEAUTIFUL THING are among the newest additions to the 27th edition of the SXSW Film Festival lineup. The 2020 festival, held March 13 to 22 in Austin, Texas, revealed the titles added to its program Wednesday (Feb. 5) for Midnighters, Festival Favorites, Shorts and Special Events, among other sections. This year’s program has 135 feature films, including 99 world premieres, nine North American premieres, five U.S. Premieres and 75 films from first-time filmmakers.”
Hot Docs-Blue Ice Group Doc Fund Awards $115,000 to 10 African Doc Projects Announced via press release: “Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and Blue Ice Group are pleased to announce that 10 African film projects have been chosen to receive a total of $115,000 CAD in development and production grants from the Hot Docs-Blue Ice Group Documentary Fund in its ninth round of disbursements. Selected from 80 submissions from 26 different African countries, six projects will receive development grants, one will receive a production grant, and three will receive completion grants. Five of the grant recipients will also receive support to attend Hot Docs 2020, where they will take part in a creative filmmakers’ lab, attend Hot Docs screenings, conference sessions, the Hot Docs Forum and various networking events, and participate in a year-round peer-to-peer mentorship program. They will also receive support to attend a festival/market in Africa.”
Tribeca, ESPN & Big Sky Announce Finalists for Short Doc Pitch Competition Announced via press release: “Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) and ESPN Films have selected six finalists from the American West to pitch their short documentaries, which all focus on health through the lens of athleticism, sports and competition, at the 2020 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. Each team will have seven minutes to present their project to a jury of award-winning filmmakers, industry leaders, and programmers. One winning project will receive a production grant of USD $25,000 and year-round mentorship and career development through TFI’s IF/Then Shorts program.”
All About Crowdfunding Tuesday, February 18, 2020
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.
IDA Enterprise Doc Fund Production Grant Now Accepting Applications Announced via press release: “The Enterprise Production Grant is now accepting applications until Sunday, March 1, 2020. The IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund provides production funds to feature-length documentary films taking on in-depth explorations of original, contemporary stories and integrating journalistic practice into the filmmaking process. In addition to funds, grantees will receive additional resources and expertise tailored to the needs of the project. Inclusion and diversity, both in terms of the filmmaking team and subject matter, are a priority of the fund.”
The Filmmakers Behind IN THE ABSENCE on What It Can Teach Americans Violet Kim spoke with director Yi Seung-jun and producer Gary Byung-seok Kam for Slate: “The “absence” in the title of IN THE ABSENCE, the Oscar-nominated documentary short from director Yi Seung-jun, refers to the absence of the government. The film is about the sinking of a South Korean passenger ferry in 2014, an incident that claimed more than 300 lives, most of them high school students on a field trip. The disaster is now widely blamed on government negligence and helped lead to the impeachment of South Korea’s president...Following the film’s history-making nomination—it and PARASITE are the first South Korean films to ever receive recognition from the Academy Awards—I spoke to Yi and producer Gary Byung-seok Kam. In our conversation, which has been condensed and edited for clarity, we discussed the context and resonances of the Sewol sinking, the short’s strategic omissions, and the unique challenge of balancing respect for the subjects of the film with respect for the film as a work of cinematic journalism.”
Lana Wilson on Capturing a Changing Taylor Swift in MISS AMERICANA Piya Sinha-Roy spoke with the director for The Hollywood Reporter: “Taylor Swift doesn't care about your approval. Not anymore. That's the narrative that takes shape in the new Netflix documentary Miss Americana, in which director Lana Wilson follows Swift over the course of the pop star's personal and professional redefinition of her career. As Swift, who broke out as a country singer at the age of 15, heads toward the milestone of turning 30, the singer-songwriter encounters and endures a series of events that forces her to reassess her own voice and platform. Months before the film's release, Wilson, Swift and Netflix hit a snag after the singer parted ways with Scott Borchetta's Big Machine Label group and saw her entire catalog of music sold to Scooter Braun, a move about which she voiced her unhappiness and added that Borchetta and Braun were refusing to allow the use of her music in the documentary.”
I Used to Be a Taylor Swift Fan. MISS AMERICANA Reminded Me Why. Nancy Coleman reveals how Lana Wilson’s film affected her in The New York Times: “I started watching MISS AMERICANA certain of what I would see: some songwriting behind the scenes, Swift clapping back over negative media coverage, a few shots of Meredith and Olivia and Benjamin, Swift’s cats. (The film definitely delivered on the feline front. But no mention, thankfully, of CATS.) All of those boxes were checked, including a particularly cringe-worthy scene of Swift enthusiastically writing ‘Me!,’ the first single from ‘Lover’ and objectively — as in, my completely subjective opinion, but one that everyone should share — the album’s worst track. But for every moment I knew was coming, there was another that took me by surprise. The one thing I didn’t expect was how genuine the film would feel, the sympathy it would dredge up for me. It rekindled a connection to Swift as a person, beyond my nostalgia for her early albums, that I haven’t felt in a long time.”
Interview: Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar Eric Hynes spoke with the AMERICAN FACTORY directors for Film Comment: “When talking to Julia Reichert and Steve Bognar, issues of class and labor, of how class and labor shape and inform us as people, are often the main text, and otherwise subtext. This was the case last spring when I conducted the first of several extended conversations with Reichert and Bognar, stretching to the fall, in New York. The documentary team was since nominated for an Academy Award for their current film, AMERICAN FACTORY, ‘an omnivorous account of the opening of the Chinese-owned Fuyao car windshield plant in Dayton, Ohio’ [Film Comment September/October 2019]. It is their second nomination as a team (filming in the same building that they watched shutter 10 years prior with their 2009 Academy Award–nominated THE LAST TRUCK: CLOSING OF A G.M. PLANT), and Reichert’s fourth nomination overall (starting with UNION MAIDS in 1976).”
Harper's Bazaar’s Lists Best Docs of 2020 That Have Been Announced So Far Ariana Marsh lists her favorite docs of the year thus far in Harper's Bazaar: “Though scripted features tend to dominate must-watch lists, this year's lineup of documentaries (so far) just might change that. From biopics about Taylor Swift, Hillary Clinton, and Greta Thunberg to investigative features that take on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the opioid crisis, and fake news, there's no shortage of unscripted, real-life films to sink your teeth—and eyes—into. Not to mention, Tiffany Haddish will be appearing in a hidden-camera prank film that absolutely counts as a documentary. Even if you get your fill of hard-hitting journalism via podcasts and the paper, there will still be a feature you won't want to miss.”
Oscar-nominated documentary FOR SAMA takes a personal journey through the war in Syria. Waad Al-Kateab became a citizen journalist, capturing the siege of Aleppo and events of her own life. We watch her fall in love and get married to a doctor, Hamza, who shares her commitment to stay in Aleppo. The film is framed as a message for their daughter Sama who’s born during the war. In 2016, Waad and her family were finally forced to evacuate. In exile, she teamed with British filmmaker Edward Watts to shape her footage through a long editing process. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviews Waad and Edward about their collaboration.
Though there is just a single new release this week in Rachel Dretzin and Phil Bertelsen's headline making Netflix mini-series WHO KILLED MALCOLM X?, we have a special offer for NYC locals:
THIS IS NOT A MOVIE screens as part of the Canada Now 2020 program at IFC Center on Sun. Feb. 16 at 4:30 pm, with dir. Yung Chang in person for a Q&A.
Discount code for $3 off regular adult tickets to THIS IS NOT A MOVIE:
Shamira Raphaëla & Clarice Gargard's DADDY AND THE WARLORD 2019 DOC NYC Modern Family
Will have its primetime premiere on AfroPoP tonight (rescheduled).
Barbara Kopple’s DESERT ONE 2019 DOC NYC Masters
Will have a sneak preview screening at Pure Nonfiction on February 11th.
Patricio Guzmán's THE CORDILLERA OF DREAMS 2019 DOC NYC Masters
Will receive a theatrical release on February 12th via Icarus Films.
Clayton Brown and Monica Long Ross's WE BELIEVE IN DINOSAURS 2019 DOC NYC American Perspectives
Will have its primetime premiere on Independent Lens on February 17th.
Mark Landsman's SCANDALOUS 2019 DOC NYC American Perspectives
Will receive a DVD release on February 18th via Magnolia Pictures.
Daniel Roher's ONCE WERE BROTHERS 2019 DOC NYC Special Events
Will receive a theatrical release on February 21st via Magnolia Pictures.
Lauren Greenfield's THE KINGMAKER 2019 DOC NYC Short List: Features
Will have its primetime premiere on February 28th via Showtime.
Alyssa Fedele & Zachary Fink's THE RESCUE LIST 2018 DOC NYC Fight the Power
Will have its primetime premiere via PBS on March 23rd.
FEATURED STREAMING DOC SHORT
OUT OF THE BLUE
Directed by Jonathan Bregel & Steve Hoover
"A 78-year-old man covered his body with one beautiful tattoo. The retired Principal City Planner for Baltimore talks about trees, consciousness, letting go of life and his genitals."
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.