The world of documentaries, and I suppose the film world in general, almost always has that uncomfortable hurry up and wait feeling bubbling beneath the surface. We're always being bombarded with the excitement of announcements and the subsequent periods of waiting before our turn to witness. And then comes the excitement of communal discussion and again the wait for others to access as films start to filter through various channels of distribution. Post-True/False and faced with yet another wave of festival lineup announcements, I'm in that rare in between, still feeling the festival afterglow while taking in the pleasurable anticipation of more new films hovering just over horizon. Hopefully I can share a bit of that feeling by sharing in the wealth of this week's doc news.
In this week's memo we've got lineup announcements from Tribeca and Hot Docs, festival takes from Miami and True/False, an insightful doc distribution report in the wake of Sundance, several new opportunities for those in doc development, a quartet of new releases and a whole lot more. Let's keep that glow going.
- Jordan M. Smith
DOC NYC PRO
DOC NYC PRO Cinematography for Documentaries Boot Camp
Tomorrow IFC Center and DOC NYC PRO will be hosting a day long Cinematography for Documentaries Boot Camp. Attendees will hear from five documentary cinematographers one-on-one with a moderator, sharing best practices, clips and examples from films they’ve worked on. Tickets are still available and include admission to and a free drink at a post-workshop happy hour session.
New Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize For Film Announced
Early last week the Library of Congress, The Better Angels Society and the Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation announced a new annual award "designed to provide finishing funds for feature length American history documentaries in the tradition of Ken Burns," called the Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize For Film. "The award, which will be presented each fall at a gala at the Library of Congress, will recognize a filmmaker whose documentary uses original research and compelling narrative to tell stories that touch on some aspect of American history...The winner will receive a $200,000 finishing grant to help with the final production of the film. The submission deadline for the inaugural prize is June 1." Additionally, "The Better Angels will partner with National History Day, to award the Next Generation Angels Awards recognizing six individual documentary filmmakers in the junior and senior divisions."
RIP Documentary Filmmaker Andrew Berends
Reporting for IndieWire, Steve Greene broke the news last Sunday, "Andrew Berends, the director of five documentary films and most recently a cameraman on the Oscar-winning FREE SOLO, has died." He was 46. At a moving and informative memorial page set up in his honor, friends and colleagues revealed that Berends was suffering from a private battle with Parkinson's disease. At the International Documentary Association's website, filmmaker James Longley shared a heartfelt remembrance of his late friend.
Leaked Documents Show the U.S. Government Tracking Journalists and Immigration Advocates Through a Secret Database
In a shocking report from Tom Jones, Mari Payton and Bill Feather of NBC San Diego, "Documents obtained by NBC 7 Investigates show the U.S. government created a secret database of activists, journalists, and social media influencers tied to the migrant caravan and in some cases, placed alerts on their passports....The documents list people who officials think should be targeted for screening at the border. The individuals listed include ten journalists, seven of whom are U.S. citizens, a U.S. attorney, and 48 people from the U.S. and other countries, labeled as organizers, instigators or their roles 'unknown.'"
Doc Distribution in the Wake of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival
A few years back the Sundance Institute itself interviewed Peter Broderick, president of film distribution consulting firm Paradigm Consulting, about his role in the indie film world. Last month, Broderick published an in depth report on the current state of the documentary distribution market post-Sundance 2019 that deserves a bit more attention than it has up until now. This was one of my key takeaways, "In our society there is a great disparity between the opportunities for the 1% and the 99%. For independent filmmakers, there is also a great disparity between the opportunities for the 3% chosen by Sundance and the remaining 97%. This disparity is not Sundance’s fault. The Festival can only include a limited number of films (this year 121 features and documentaries). There are many strong festivals around the world that showcase other excellent films and talented filmmakers. But with the exception of Cannes and Toronto, these films and filmmakers do not get as much attention as they deserve. Distributors and the press rely on Sundance to present outstanding films to them. Few companies and publications go much further to proactively discover the wealth of emerging talent around the world. A sustainable Golden Age will require the best films made by the 97% as well as the best films made by the 3%. Fortunately, there is an exciting New World of Distribution that has created unprecedented opportunities for all independent filmmakers."
School of Visual Arts (SVA NYC) Documentary Summer Residency
The application deadline for SVA's Documentary Filmmaking Summer Studio Residency (June 3-18) is fast approaching. "The intensive program will cover interview skills, lighting, camera, sound, editing and more. You will get access to a full suite of equipment including industry-level cameras, microphones, recorders, lighting, and edit stations, feedback from faculty and peers, and screenings with guest filmmakers." The priority application deadline is April 1, 2019. Early application is highly recommended. Apply here.
2019 Tribeca Film Festival Lineup Revealed
Last Tuesday, the Tribeca Film Festival revealed its 2019 lineup, featuring 51 documentaries (12 features, 39 shorts), including the opening night world premiere of Roger Ross Williams’ THE APOLLO. "This year's features program includes 103 films from 124 filmmakers. 50% of the films selected in the three competition sections are directed by women filmmakers. The lineup includes 81 world premieres, three international premieres, eight North American premieres, one U.S. Premiere, and 10 New York premieres. This year's program also includes 42 first-time filmmakers and 19 Tribeca alums returning to the Festival with their latest projects. 40% of the feature films have one or more women directors, 29% of the feature films are directed by filmmakers of color, and 13% of the feature films are by individuals who identify as LGBTQIA. The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival was programmed from more than 9,295 total submissions." The 18th annual Tribeca Film Festival will take place April 24 - May 5, 2019.
2019 Hot Docs Special Presentations Announced
In a first look at its 2019 program, the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival unveiled the 15 films that make up its Special Presentations. "Notable subjects featured as part of the Special Presentations program include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, newly elected Democratic Congressperson and the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress (KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE); Diana Kennedy, the “Mick Jagger of Mexican cuisine” (NOTHING FANCY: DIANA KENNEDY); and Pulitzer Prize–winning author N. Scott Momaday, one of Native America’s most celebrated literary figures (N. SCOTT MOMADAY: WORDS FROM A BEAR)." The 2019 Hot Docs Festival will run April 25 - May 5, 2019.
Miami International Film Festival Wraps Up
Midway through the 36th annual Miami International Film Festival, Akiva Gottlieb spoke with festival director Jaie Laplante for Variety, "This year’s edition, which runs from March 1-10, will showcase more than 160 films from more than 40 different countries. 'We’ve always had a special affinity for works from the Ibero-American world — Spain, Portugal, the Caribbean, Central America, South America,' Laplante says. 'It’s a reputation that has been built up over the years.'"
Reports From True/False
With increasing regularity, True/False has been attracting press attention. Post-festival, Nicolas Rapold reported from the fest on the Film Comment Podcast, while A.A. Dowd gave his thoughts on this year's edition for A.V. Club, Mary McNamara shared her personal connection to Columbia in her piece in the Los Angeles Times, while Vadim Rizov spoke with THE HOTTEST AUGUST director Brett Story for Filmmaker Magazine following its world premiere at the festival. My own take on this year's edition are forthcoming in Senses of Cinema.
Dan Reed's controversial Michael Jackson documentary LEAVING NEVERLAND has been making waves since its Sundance debut, but has just reached a wider audience thanks to HBO's primetime release last week. HBO also is launching the four part miniseries THE CASE AGAINST ADNAN SYED, which attempts to visualize the story that took the world by storm thanks to Serial. Gabrielle Brady's 2018 Tribeca Film Festival award winner ISLAND OF THE HUNGRY GHOSTS finally hit theaters in limited release after a lengthy tour of the festival circuit, and the same can be said of Khalik Allah’s BLACK MOTHER, both of which I absolutely loved.
Canada’s NFB Achieves Gender Parity Goals for Third Consecutive Year
According to Frederick Blichert's report at Realscreen, "The 2018 results — which are preliminary, as the fiscal year ends later this month — reveal that 48% of NFB works were directed by women, with 38% directed by men and 14% by mixed teams. In addition, 44% of the NFB’s production budget was allocated to works created by women, with 41% for works by men and 15% for works by mixed teams. In 2016, the NFB formally committed to ensuring that half of its productions would be directed by women and half of production spending would be allocated to projects directed by women by 2019."
Renew the Encounter: A Manifesto by RaMell Ross
As part of a special section of manifestos assembled and edited by B. Ruby Rich for the latest issue of Film Quarterly, Oscar nominated director RaMell Ross put forth his own spin on a cinematic manifesto, titled Renew the Encounter. Just one sampling of many powerful declarations, "Reach the mainstream with nonindustrial image production. Work outside of industrial time and factory processes (and beyond the arthritics of the old avant-garde). Time becomes the new medium, a clock measuring the long macro drawl of a racial gesture left out, its meaning in respite for a pacemaker’s life span or two. Weather and sculpture. Iterations of time in the phenomenon called blackness. InAmerica suspension. A mountain to its knees. A movement toward the present. An acquired taste for images and films. Of their own volition"
TCM Diary: Man of Aran
Last year at the forth annual Nitrate Picture Show the festival of film conservation's closing night Blind Date with Nitrate screening turned out to be Robert Flaherty's rarely seen MAN OF ARAN. In the latest edition of Film Comment's online column TCM Diary, Sheila O'Malley ruminates on the early nonfiction work, "Flaherty’s reputation as the 'father of documentary film' has been debated for 80 years, and his legacy is a mixed one, but in Man of Aran it’s Flaherty’s footage of the landscape that still shocks and stuns. The ferocity of the sea crashing against the sheer cliff faces, the towering geysers of foam, the pure wildness of it all—none of this is an exaggeration or a fiction."
The Fog of Truth on HILLBILLY & INGRID
On the latest episode of the podcast The Fog of Truth, the hosts discuss portrayals of Southern culture as the discussion centers around Ashley York and Sally Rubin's HILLBILLY, followed by an interview with Morrisa Maltz, the director of INGRID.
DOC NYC ALUMNI NEWS
Mark Cousins' THE EYES OF ORSON WELLES 2018 DOC NYC Behind The Scenes
Will receive a limited theatrical release starting on Friday.
NEWLY STREAMING DOC SHORT
SCENES FROM A DRY CITY
Directed by Simon Wood and François Verster
What happens when a major metropolitan area runs out of water? In Cape Town, South Africa, residents fear the arrival of “Day Zero,” when the city’s taps will be shut off.
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.