As someone who has long adored the work of Agnès Varda, news that she's putting cinema to rest with what may be her final film VARDA PAR AGNÈS, gets me a bit misty. The film had its debut at the Berlin International Film Festival last week and has received raves in all the reviews I've manage to track down thus far. Despite it looking "like a glorified TED Talk" as IndieWire's David Ehrlich notes, the "film is the perfect way for the legendary auteur to have the last word." Though there was plenty of news coming out of Berlin in past few days, including the Glashütte Original – Documentary Award winner, Varda's swansong held the majority of my attention. That's not to diminish all the other exciting happenings included in this week's memo: the BAFTA award winners, more Fyre Festival controversy, DOC NYC PRO's Editing Boot Camp, international festival lineup announcements, a quartet of new streamable releases, Doug Block's debut restored, and much, much more.
-Jordan M. Smith
As we near Oscars, every award show leading up to the big night acts as a barometer for the things to come. This past week all eyes were on the BAFTAs, as the Academy was scrambling amidst the controversy over the broadcast of technical awards. Additionally, the European Documentary Network announced the projects to partake in the Docs of Thessaloniki pitch forum, POV revealed the 32nd edition's opening night film, and more controversy unfolded around the twin Fyre Festival documentaries debuted by Netflix and Hulu.
72nd British Academy Film Award Winners Announced
Last Sunday evening, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin were honored at the 72nd British Academy Film Awards with the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary for their film FREE SOLO. Watch their acceptance speech here.
EDN Announces Lineup of Projects Selected for Docs in Thessaloniki
For its upcoming 21st edition of Docs in Thessaloniki, the European Documentary Network has announced the final selection of documentary projects that will participate in the next installment of EDN's pitching forum taking place alongside the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, which revealed its competition lineup two weeks ago. The 5-day event, where the selected documentary projects will be developed, re-written and pitched to a panel of international financiers, is set to run March 1st-5th.
ROLL RED ROLL to Open 32nd Season of POV
After having had its world premiere last year at the Tribeca Film Festival, Nancy Schwartzman's ROLL RED ROLL, been acquired by Together Films for theatrical distribution and will serve as the opening film for the 32nd season of PBS's POV series on June 17th, reports Deadline. Though the full POV lineup has yet to be announced, it joins Robert Greene's BISBEE '17, Alexandria Bombach's ON HER SHOULDERS, Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher's THE GOSPEL OF EUREKA, and Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar's THE SILENCE OF OTHERS, which have been announced in previous reports.
Netflix Fyre Festival Documentary Controversy
Though the fervor of competing Fyre Festival documentaries and their individual strengths and weaknesses has died down in the weeks since their release within days of each other by Hulu and Netflix, a new investigative story by George Civeris of Columbia Journalism Review exposed further issues with the Netflix production, "One simply doesn’t interrogate the structures that made the Fyre Fest disaster possible; the other, produced by the company that packaged and marketed Fyre in the first place, is an extension of the scam it claims to expose, a 'journalistic' autopsy on its stakeholders’ own lucrative handiwork." Furthermore, a follow-up report by Josephine Livingstone in The New Republic argues that "...what appeared to be a story of competing films turns out to be something else: A genuine investigative documentary struggling for attention against a shadow public relations campaign."
While the Berlinale was winding down this past week with awards being passed around and a new, possibly final work from Agnès Varda hitting the big screen, DOC NYC PRO revealed a new day long editing workshop, as both Tribeca and CPH:DOX gave just a small taste of the things to come.
Berlinale 2019 Wraps
Suhaib Gasmelbari was honored with the Berlinale 2019 Glashütte Original – Documentary Award for TALKING ABOUT TREES, which The Hollywood Reporter says, "Chronicles the actions of the Sudanese Film Club, a group of retired (though not through their own volition) movie directors who try to reopen a theater in the city of Omdourman, located just outside of Khartoum. But in a country dominated by Islamists who have made the existence of cinema extremely difficult, especially in the public sphere, this proves to be a Sisyphean task." Daniel Kasman of MUBI's Notebook reported on YEARS OF CONSTRUCTION by Heinz Emigholz and DELPHINE AND CAROLE by Callisto McNulty, both of which debuted at the festival, while Agnès Varda's supposed farewell to cinema in VARDA PAR AGNÈS attracted critical attention from the likes of Film Comment's Jonathan Romney and Sight & Sound's Elisabet Cabeza, who writes, "The mirror, so often used by artists to depict themselves, gives us the impression that we are staring into their eyes, and somehow seeing our own reflection too...After FACES PLACES, Varda still finds in the reflection of others the best way to talk about herself."
DOC NYC PRO Editing For Documentaries Boot Camp
Asha Phelps revealed that IFC Center and DOC NYC PRO will be hosting a day long Editing For Documentaries Boot Camp on February 26th. Attendees will hear from five documentary editors, one-on-one with a moderator, sharing stories, clips, and examples from films they’ve worked on. Tickets are available now and include admission to and a free drink at a post-workshop happy hour networking session.
2019 Tribeca Film Festival to Open With Roger Ross Williams' THE APOLLO
The Tribeca Film Festival announced that it will open its 18th edition with the world premiere of HBO's THE APOLLO, directed by Roger Ross Williams. "The film will debut at the iconic theater itself on Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 and later this year on HBO." The festival will announce its feature film slate on March 5th.
CPH:DOX Unveils 2019 Music Program CPH:DOX's SOUND & VISION film program consisting of 18 music documentaries was unveiled on Friday. "This year the program features among others the documentary DOIN' MY DRUGS about the Danish singer Thomas Buttenschøn’s global fight against AIDS in Zambia. Also, legendary names like Johnny Cash, New Order, Beth Gibbons from Portishead, Leonard Cohen, and Suede are all featured in new films at the festival." The festival's entire program will be launched on March 1st.
It's getting a bit spooky that there are more notable online releases than theatrical, no? That said, it is exciting that so many viewers have instant access at once. Joshua Rofé's Sundance debuted serial LORENA is now streaming via Amazon Prime, Jennifer Baichwal, Edward Burtynsky, and Nicholas de Pencier's TIFF premiered ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH is now available via iTunes, Xavier Burgin's HORROR NOIRE is now streaming on Shudder, and Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler's debut UNITED SKATES is now on HBO.
Sam Pollard's SAMMY DAVIS JR: I'VE GOTTA BE ME 2017 DOC NYC Centerstage
Premieres on American Masters tomorrow night at 9 pm.
Claire Simon's THE COMPETITION (LE CONCOURS) 2016 DOC NYC Behind The Scenes
Will be released theatrically via Metrograph Pictures on Friday.
NEWLY STREAMING DOC SHORT
THE BREADMAKER Directed by Susy Peña
In the midst of Venezuela’s spiralling economic crisis, Natalia and fellow members of a socialist Chavista collective have stepped in to take over production at a local bakery, La Minka. Authorities had suspended operations when the owners were accused of overpricing their loaves and hoarding flour. In March 2017, with the tacit support of the government, the collective began selling affordable bread. This is the story of their fight to safeguard the bakery's future & keep the Chavista dream alive.
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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.