It's been quite the week for writing on documentary cinema. Robert Greene, one of nonfiction's most insightful thinkers, looked back at the last decade to really parse out just how much has changed in documentary cinema over the past ten years, while Emily Buder worked over the ethics of documentary filmmaking via three recent films. Elsewhere, Kartemquin revealed $90k in funding for 12 new projects, Doclisboa revealed its complete 2019 program, the full DOC NYC PRO lineup was announced, The D-Word & IDA are tag-teaming on another public discussion - this one on documentary budgeting - The Los Angeles Times listed their 20 best Asian American films of the last 20 years, and Sight & Sound published a new video essay by Charlie Lyne on TikTok's potential as media criticism. And that's only a fraction of this week's bounty. So grab some caffeine and catch up with all that's happened in the world of nonfiction in the past week.
-Jordan M. Smith
How the Decade’s Best Documentaries Chart Radical Changes in Filmmaking At Hyperallergic, Robert Greene looked back at the previous decade of documentary filmmaking to see just how much the field has changed in the last ten years: “This decade has seen American documentarians fight for our right to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable, while we’ve also struggled more openly with the inbuilt ethical dilemmas of the form. During a panel at the 2013 True/False Film Festival aptly called ‘Every Cut is a Lie,’ editor Nels Bangerter described the standard practice of cutting down interviews for intelligibility and meaning. He was then challenged by an audience member, who asked if his films ‘really deserve the name of documentary.’ ‘I think it’s a matter of education,’ Bangerter responded, adding: ‘Every now and then an audience member or even a friend will be surprised, and a little saddened, to find out what we as documentary editors sometimes slip by them … People just don’t want to feel duped. I think it’s tempting to blame the audience a little bit — maybe they shouldn’t be so naive. But it’s also the fault of the whole documentary endeavor for allowing and even taking advantage of the perception that we would never do such a thing.’ One way to interpret how documentary filmmaking has changed over this decade is as a collective response to Bangerter’s speculation that it’s ‘perhaps the fault of documentary filmmakers that it’s not openly and widely enough known that we’re not adhering to strict journalistic guidelines.’ If we wanted better documentary viewers, we needed to make better films, as critic Scott Tobias implied in one of the many thinkpieces on the ‘golden age’ of documentary written this decade.”
Ava DuVernay’s Array is a Place for Women and Filmmakers of Color in L.A. Ryan Faughnder covered the launch of Ava DuVernay's new movie theater for The Los Angeles Times: “Part of the goal of the campus is to create a physical space where women and artists of color can promote and showcase their work for years to come. DuVernay’s efforts could provide a boost for filmmakers like Garrett Bradley, 33, a New Orleans-based director whom DuVernay hired to make an episode of TV series QUEEN SUGAR. Bradley will visit the location in October to screen her short films ALONE and AMERICA as part of the series. ‘Historically, having physical space has been monumental to ensuring that a community can survive,’ said Bradley in a phone interview. ‘Establishing this campus, which will embody the change Ava is working for, will ensure a radical type of institutional support for generations to come.’ DuVernay’s collective, as she calls it, consists of three separate entities, all of which call Array Creative Campus home. The newest is Array Alliance, the nonprofit organization she founded last year to fund programming and educational events promoting social impact and boosting women and nonwhite filmmakers. Array Alliance is funding the new screening series at the campus. The nonprofit aims to raise at least $2 million annually for screenings, events and other activities, according to state records.”
This Is the Woman Shaking up Film Independent IndieWire’s Tambay Obenson profiled Film Independent's artistic director, Jacqueline Lyanga, and previewed her fledgling ‘The New Wave’ series: “In real-estate parlance, new artistic director Jacqueline Lyanga came to Film Independent when it was something of a fixer-upper. Longtime Los Angeles Film Festival director Stephanie Allain left the organization in 2016 to return to producing, and last September board chair Mary Sweeney announced the decision to shutter the festival after 23 years in order to ‘explore a more nimble, sustainable form of exhibiting and celebrating independent film artists year round.’ However, independent film was in something of a year-round crisis of its own. While the spirit of independent film was alive and well (as were Film Independent’s own Independent Spirit Awards), specialty box office has seen a marked decline and films are slower to sell. So Lyanga, who joined the organization in May, started tearing down walls. On October 18, the former AFI Fest director will launch ‘The New Wave,’ a three-day series that’s free to the public and brings together artists and industry leaders in keynotes, panels, and other programming. She said it reflects the kind of collaborative and forward-looking work that she wants to fuel her reimagined expansion of the nearly 40-year-old organization.”
Kartemquin Diverse Voices Accelerator & Emerging Storyteller Funds Grantees In a press release sent out on Tuesday, Kartemquin revealed how $90k of funding would be shared among 12 new projects: “Kartemquin Films today announced the 12 documentary projects that will receive Diverse Voices Accelerator Fund and Emerging Storyteller Fund grants. Kartemquin will celebrate the grantees and provide previews of select works-in-progress that received the funding at the organization’s 2nd annual Empowering Truth Benefit Luncheon on October 29 at The Standard Club in Chicago, IL. ‘This slate of grantees comprises an exciting array of cinematic styles and distinctive directorial perspectives, all sharing an alignment with Kartemquin’s mission of supporting independent filmmakers utilizing the documentary form to deepen our understanding of society through everyday human drama,’ said Jolene Pinder, Kartemquin Executive Director.”
FEMALE AUTHORSHIP AND THE DOCUMENTARY IMAGE
Edited by Boel Ulfsdotter and Anna Backman Rogers
"This book, like its twin volume Female Authorship and Documentary Strategies, centers on pressing issues in relation to female authorship in contemporary documentary practices. Addressing the politics of representation and authorship both behind and in front of the camera, a range of international scholars now expand the theoretical and practical framework informing the current scholarship on documentary cinema, which has so far neglected questions of gender."
FEMALE AGENCY AND DOCUMENTARY STRATEGIES
Edited by Boel Ulfsdotter and Anna Backman Rogers
"Female Agency and Documentary Strategies centres on how self-portraiture and contemporary documentary manifestations such as blogging and the prevalent usage of social media shape and inform female subjectivities and claims to truth. The book examines the scope of authorship and agency open to women using these technologies as a form of activism, centring on notions of relationality, selfhood and subjectivity, and includes interviews with Hong Kong based activist filmmaker and scholar Vivian Wenli Lin and Spanish documentarist Mercedes Alvarez."
DOC NYC Reveals Lineup for 8-Day PRO Conference Announced via festival press release: “DOC NYC is proud to announce the lineup for DOC NYC PRO. The eight-day PRO conference features a lineup of over 180 speakers including notable filmmakers Feras Fayyad, Lauren Greenfield, Asif Kapadia, Roger Ross Williams and Nanfu Wang who will all appear on panels for the festival’s popular Short List Day (Nov. 8). ‘Every year I learn new things at DOC NYC PRO,’ said Artistic Director Thom Powers. ‘It’s an unparalleled showcase of knowledge from the world’s leading documentary makers and experts.’”
Doclisboa ’19 Full Program Announced Announced via festival press release: “A glimpse across vast territories, through the most varied artistic voices, in the most diverse times of History and Cinema: this is the line that defines the programme of this year’s edition of Doclisboa...The programme this year has 303 films in its reach, 39 world premieres and 45 international premieres divided by competitive and non-competitive sections: International Competition, National Competition, New Visions, From the Earth to the Moon, Heart Beat, Retrospective Jocelyne Saab, Retrospective The Rise and Fall of the Wall – The Cinema of East Germany, Cinema of Urgency, Green Years and Doc Alliance.”
BFI London Film Festival 2019: Documentary Overview At What (not) To Doc, Basil Tsiokos looked at the latest doc offerings to be found at the BFI London Film Festival, which is now in progress: “Nonfiction makes up about a fifth of this notable UK event’s 200+ lineup. The festival’s Documentary Competition includes a mix of both recent festival favorites and less familiar titles – among the latter are Rubika Shah’s WHITE RIOT, about 1970s protest movement Rock Against Racism; José Filipe Costa’s hybrid A PLEASURE, COMRADES!, which revisits the dawning sexual liberation of post-dictatorship Portugal of the mid-1970s; and Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian’s I AM (NOT) A MONSTER, a survey of alternative thinkers around the world.”
imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival Announces Full Programming Announced via festival press release: “The 20th imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival is proud to announce the full programming of works by Indigenous screen-content creators for the Festival, running October 22-27, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario...Documentary features screening at imagineNATIVE will include: the Canadian premiere of HAKA PUAI TE KAINGA (EATING UP EASTER), directed by Sergio Mata’u Rapu; the Canadian premiere of FOR MY FATHER’S KINGDOM, directed by Vea Mafile`o and Jeremiah Tauamiti; the International premiere of USHUI, THE MOON AND THE SUN, directed by Nicolás Rojas Sánchez; the Ontario premiere of SEMBRADORAS DE VIDA (MOTHERS OF THE LAND), directed by Alvaro Sarmiento and Diego Sarmiento; the World premiere of NOT JUST NUMBERS, directed by Shirleen Campbell; THE BOOK OF THE SEA, directed by Aleksei Vakhrushev; N. Scott Momaday: WORDS FROM A BEAR, directed by Jeffrey Palmer; the International premiere of WIK VS QUEENSLAND, directed by Dean Gibson; the world premiere of HUGO BLANCO, RÍO PROFUNDO (HUGO BLANCO, DEEP RIVER), directed by Malena Martinez Cabrera; and the Canadian premiere of MAUI’S HOOK, directed by Paora Te Oti Takarangi Joseph.”
Its another somewhat sleepy release week, with the Selena Gomez produced LIVING UNDOCUMENTED miniseries now available on Netflix, Alexandre O. Philippe's making of doc MEMORY: THE ORIGINS OF ALIEN in limited release, and Olivier Meyrou's long unreleased portrait of Yves Saint Laurent, CELEBRATION, is currently playing at Film Forum.
Getting Real Special Topic Series: Documentary Budgeting The D-Word and IDA are teaming up once again for a series of industry discussions, this time on documentary budgeting: “Has budgeting, scheduling and managing your documentary got you down? Are you struggling to prepare a realistic budget for prospective funders? Or is the phase-by-phase nature of indie doc fundraising frustrating your ability to make – or stick to – your planned budget? In this practical weeklong D-Word special topic, Emmy and Berlinale winning filmmaker Robert Bahar and veteran producer Lisa Remington will provide an overview of the budgeting process and answer questions. The conversation will draw on Bahar's popular Documentary magazine article ‘A (Revised!) Introduction to Documentary Budgeting’ (which includes a downloadable budget template) and his budgeting workshop, most recently presented at the IDA’s Getting Real ’18 conference.”
Where to Begin with Kim Longinotto Making her case at the BFI, Ros Cranston argues that the brave, observational documentaries of Kim Longinotto might become our next obsession: “Kim Longinotto’s subtle observational style and potent subject matter – often focusing on women facing very challenging circumstances – have won her many admirers, but she lacks the widespread recognition of some of her better known peers including fellow documentarist and friend, Nick Broomfield. This may be partly down to her unobtrusive style of filmmaking: scenes unfold apparently at their own pace, and she does not appear in front of the camera as does Broomfield, though occasionally her voice can be heard off screen. The gentle pacing of her films is in contrast with the often tough subject matter – including child abuse and female genital mutilation – and Longinotto skilfully draws the viewer into unfamiliar communities around the world.”
Celebrating Shirley Clarke Just in time for what would have been Shirley Clarke’s centenary, David Hudson put together an excellent and extensive dossier of writings on her work for Criterion’s The Daily: “Dancer-turned-filmmaker Shirley Clarke, a crucial figure in the New American Cinema movement of the early 1960s, was born one hundred years ago today. Two retrospectives are marking the occasion, one at New York’s Film Forum and the other on the Criterion Channel. Both programs are anchored by the features that established Clarke’s reputation as a pioneer of the sort of films that, as director and programmer Robert Greene put it in an essay for Sight & Sound a few years ago, ‘cross-pollinate fictional and nonfictional modes.’ Film Forum and the Channel are also showcasing Clarke’s forty-one-minute ROBERT FROST: A LOVER’S QUARREL WITH THE WORLD (1963) and nearly twenty of the short films Clarke made between the early ’50s and mid-’80s.”
The 20 best Asian American Films of the Last 20 Years This imperative new list orchestrated by Brian Hu of TheLos Angeles Times: “We invited over more than 20 Asian American critics and curators who professionally observed and debated the scene for the last two decades to participate. The titles that fed this growing movement suggest the possibility of a canon that can coexist with Asian American cinema’s more anticanon impulses, which continue to this day. To determine that canon, we invited more than 20 Asian American critics and curators who professionally observed and debated the scene for the last two decades to participate in a poll. They were limited to films from this period (2000-2019) directed by and prominently featuring Asian Americans. (Canada was bracketed off because while Asian Canadian cinema played the same festival circuit, its films were produced in a different political context surrounding issues of immigration, citizenship and national belonging all central to how Asian American cinema was first defined.) The resulting list won’t be surprising to longtime fans, but it will be a marvel to the uninitiated. Topping the poll is Justin Lin’s electrifying breakout BETTER LUCK TOMORROW. Recent films with Sundance Film Festival pedigrees crowd the rest of the top 10. But after that are lesser-known titles — comedies, family dramas, documentaries — craving rediscovery: films like Spencer Nakasako’s powerful REFUGEE about Cambodian families on two continents, and Grace Lee’s THE GRACE LEE PROJECT, about a Missouri director’s nationwide search to find Asian American women with her same name.”
Criticism in the age of TikTok If I could include another short doc this week, it would be this whip smart new video essay for Sight & Sound by Charlie Lyne on TikTok’s potential as media criticism: “Downloaded over a billion times since its launch just two years ago, TikTok has taken the tech world by storm with its endless stream of viral dance routines, comedy lip sync clips and impenetrable intertextual memes. And with a user base seemingly comprised of nothing but whip-smart 15-year-olds, it’s become perhaps the definitive online home of Generation Z. Last month I went to the Melbourne International Film Festival, intending to mentor a group of young Australian critics on the ins and outs of contemporary film writing. Instead they mentored me on the art of TikTok, and in the process pointed the way to a whole new kind of 21st-century criticism.”
Even though MTV may have shifted into reality tv programming, music videos are still here and very popular, due to the availability of online content and resources and bolder ideas than ever. They’re also still a path to get a foot in the door as a commercial or narrative director. But how do you break in, and what’s the best way to approach making one? In this half day seminar from Craft Ed. and IFC Center, we’ll hear from musicians and music video production experts who’ve worked with artists and filmmakers like Rihanna, Wiz Khalifa and Spike Jonze, sharing tips, tricks, and examples. Ticket price also includes morning coffee and a free drink at a post-seminar happy hour.
DOC NYC ALUMNI
James Erskine's THE ICE KING 2018 DOC NYC Centerstage
Will have its DVD release on October 8th via Film Movement.
Brian Ivie's EMANUEL 2018 DOC NYC American Perspectives
Will receive its theatrical release on October 11th via Fathom Events.
Arwen Curry's WORLDS OF URSULA K. LE GUIN 2018 DOC NYC Portraits
Will have its DVD/VOD release on October 15th via Grasshopper Film.
Nicolas Jack Davies's RUDEBOY: THE STORY OF TROJAN RECORDS 2018 DOC NYC Sonic Cinema
Will receive its VOD release on October 15th.
Tom Donahue's THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING 2018 DOC NYC Behind The Scenes
Will have its DVD release on October 15th via Cinedigm.
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FEATURED STREAMING DOC SHORT
Directed by Ryan Scott
In early September 2018, on the eve of the announcement of his latest album, 'Bottle It In' (celebrating its one-year anniversary this October), Kurt Vile – along with friends and fellow musicians – decamped to the Catskill Mountains in upper state New York to rehearse, prepare and ponder the year’s road ahead.
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.