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We're in the midst of summer, which means we've reached that pre-fall festival and awards season haze in which plenty of spring festival films are beginning to find audiences, production organizations are making moves and notable programmers seem to be shuffling from one gig to the next. This week POV launched their second season of shorts and the News & Documentary Emmys announced their nominees and the Grierson Awards dropped its short list. MTV revealed its first run of docs under the eyes of Sheila Nevins, while her former home at HBO unveiled its own fall slate. Sight & Sound found a new Editor-in-Chief, our Doc Books section is back with a brand new edition, Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster return with a newly streaming short, and Alex Chilton is the subject of a new doc production looking for funding via Kickstarter. And that's just skimming the surface during this wildly busy week of doc happenings. Stay cool and dig in.
-Jordan M. Smith

POV Shorts Returns For Season 2 on PBS
POV Shorts, American Documentary's newest broadcast series, begins its 2nd season on PBS July 22 and streaming on Launched last year as one of the first series on public television dedicated to independent short-form documentaries, the series returns with critically-acclaimed projects packaged into eight episodes. Episodes will be made available to PBS programmers on select dates through October.” Watch the first film of the season below in in our Streaming Short Doc section!

Nominees for the 40th Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards Announced
Nominations for the 40th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards were announced today by The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS).  The News & Documentary Emmy Awards will be presented on Tuesday, September 24th, 2019, at a ceremony at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in New York City.”

Nominated DOC NYC alumni include: 
Outstanding Politics and Government Documentary

Outstanding Social Issue Documentary

Outstanding Arts & Culture Documentary

Outstanding Short Documentary

Best Documentary

Outstanding Research

Outstanding Lighting Direction and Scenic Design

MTV Announces First Run of Films in New Documentary Division
Associated Press reported on MTV's new documentary division and its first wave of films: “Films about living in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol and a St. Louis-area activist turned politician will be the first released by MTV’s new documentary division. MTV announced earlier this year that it had hired Sheila Nevins, who for many years was among the most influential people in the documentary business as gatekeeper for such projects at HBO. Her new employer has charged her to build a documentary unit for the youth-oriented network. 17 BLOCKS tells the story of an African American family in Washington. ST. LOUIS SUPERMAN is about Bruce Franks Jr., who was involved in protests against law enforcement in Ferguson, Missouri, and then was elected to the Missouri legislature. Both films will have short theater runs before appearing on MTV this fall.”

HBO Unveils Docu Slate For Rest Of 2019
Breaking the news at Deadline, Erik Pedersen reports that in addition to a new documentary series about the Atlanta child murders of the late 1970s and early ’80s, HBO Documentary Films revealed its documentary slate for the second half of 2019. The season kicks off on July 31st with UNMASKING JIHADI JOHN: ANATOMY OF A TERRORIST.

Documentary Magazine Spring 2019 Issue
The latest issue of IDA’s Documentary magazine is now live, featuring Richard Shpuntoff on how DocMontevideo and CCDoc are bringing change to Latin American docmaking, Patricia Aufderheide on negotiating copyright exceptions across borders, Manori Ravindran on how the Why Foundation promotes human rights through documentary film, and much more.

Mike Williams Appointed Sight & Sound’s New Editor-in-Chief
Mike Williams has been appointed Editor-in-Chief of Sight & Sound, the leading monthly film magazine and website published by the BFI, offering readers in the UK and around the world in depth insight, criticism and reviews of the best of UK and international filmmaking. Williams, who will join Sight & Sound in August, brings extensive award-winning experience from the world of cross-platform publishing. As Editor-in-Chief of NME he was responsible for transitioning the leading music publication into a digital-first brand and its output across digital, print, events and commercial partnerships.”

Grierson Awards 2019 Shortlist Announced
The Grierson Trust is delighted to announce the shortlist for the 2019 Grierson Awards in association with All3Media...Of the 105 films on the shortlist, the BBC has a bumper 52 entries in the running, Channel 4 follows with 17 and Netflix has 12 in the mix. ITV have three films listed with ITV2 making a shortlist debut alongside RT and Amazon Prime. Channel 5 has one film and the remainder is made up of festival and university screenings alongside theatrical releases and smaller digital outlets.”

By Nick Fraser

"Documentary films are the rock and roll of our times. Why are they made? Who are in the tribe of documentary film-makers? Do their films really change the world? Eighteen years ago, Nick Fraser created BBC Storyville, producing films that won Oscars, BAFTAs, and Peabody Awards. He found film-makers from all across the world covering important subjects in documentaries. In Say What Happened he describes the frenzied, intense world of documentary film-making, tracing its history back to the early pioneers, such as Dziga Vertov and his ground-breaking MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA."

Nick Fraser: ‘Documentaries Can Change the World’
Tim Lewis spoke with the former Storyville editor about his new book for The Guardian: “Shortly after finishing the first draft, Fraser was giving a talk in London and had just shown a clip of one of his favourite Storyville docs, the 2007 film THE ENGLISH SURGEON, about the British neurologist Henry Marsh, when he had to sit down; his thinking was muddled, he couldn’t speak. Fraser had, extraordinarily, had a stroke just as he was talking about the otherworldly impact of brain injuries. The book was finished in his recovery, which is going well. He lives in west London and is creative director of the documentary streaming service and production house Docsville.”

2019 Venice Film Festival Lineup Revealed
There has been quite a bit of outrage regarding Venice’s lack of women filmmakers in competition this year, and the ratio doesn’t get a whole lot better when looking at the out-of-competition documentary section either. Regardless, the films - including new work by Alex Gibney, Sergei Loznitsa and Andrea Segre - have been revealed. Make of that what you will.

Springsteen Concert Film WESTERN STARS to Receive World Premiere in Toronto
Barry Walsh of Realscreen noted with the first wave of lineup announcements from the Toronto International Film Festival, “WESTERN STARS, a concert film featuring and co-directed by Bruce Springsteen, will have its world premiere at the upcoming edition of the Toronto International Film Festival in a gala presentation. Co-directed by frequent collaborator Thom Zimny, the film features Springsteen performing music from his album of the same name and sees the iconic rocker musing on “life, rock and the American dream,” according to the festival. The title is the sole non-fiction feature announced within a slate of films unveiled today (July 23)”

Co-founder & Artistic Director Paul Sturtz and Programmer Abby Sun Leaving True/False Film Fest
True/False announced via press release, “Paul Sturtz, artistic director and co-founder of True/False Film Fest and co-founder of Ragtag Cinema, is stepping away from Ragtag Film Society to pursue new opportunities." Additionally, True/False programmer Abby Sun also revealed on the same day that she would also be leaving the festival, writing: “I'm writing to let you know that in May, I decided to leave my role as Programmer at True/False Film Fest...I have decided to devote my time to further develop my capacity to grow and nourish both myself and others in fiercely independent film. I'm freelancing and looking for opportunities in distribution, programming, project development & funding.”

Sheffield Doc/Fest on Hunt for Senior Programmer Following Luke Moody Resignation
Reporting for Realscreen, Daniele Alcinii notes that in the wake of Luke Moody’s departure, “...The festival is now recruiting a senior film programmer to work alongside festival director Cintia Gil, who joins the festival in November from Portugal’s Doclisboa International Film Festival, and current interim director Melanie Iredale, who will return to her role as deputy director in November. The senior film programmer will be tasked with devising and delivering film events, fundraising activity to support the films team, and supporting filmmakers and developing audiences during the festival and year-round.”

This week audiences have a trio of festival darlings in Tamara Kotevska's beautiful beekeeping doc HONEYLAND, Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts' intimate Syria diary FOR SAMA, Avi Belkin's archival portrait MIKE WALLACE IS HERE all hitting theaters in limited release, while Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer's data scandal exposé THE GREAT HACK is now available on Netflix.


Sarah Polley Looks Back at How STORIES WE TELL Changed Her Life
Kate Erbland spoke with the actress and filmmaker for IndieWire: “When I watch it, I still don’t see a movie there, I just see this kind of fog that I never found my way through. The fact that anyone saw a cohesive film in there is still amazing to me. It’s a strange one because I was so close to it and because I was so deep inside it, I find it impossible to see it with any kind of perspective or distance. I think a lot of my thoughts about it revolve around reality versus fictionalization. I was telling the truth as closely as I could within telling the multiple truths in the film. In that context, I was trying to get as close to my own truth as possible without ever actually revealing my own truth.”
Abbas Kiarostami: A Retrospective now at IFC Center
The New Yorker’s Richard Brody writes about a major retrospective now playing at IFC Center in New York, opening Friday at BAMPFA in Berkeley, and traveling around the country in a tour organized by Janus Films. The program features new restorations not only of his well-known fiction films, but also rare documentary shorts and short features from early in his career. “The nearly complete retrospective of the films of the late Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, which runs through August 15th at IFC Center and will travel nationwide, is an extraordinary event. Kiarostami (who was born in 1940) rose to international prominence in the late nineteen-eighties; his fusion of fiction, nonfiction, and self-dramatizing reflexivity advanced the art of cinema, and it became emblematic of the Iranian cinema over all, which Kiarostami rendered central to the time...”

Lupita Nyong’o on Narrating a Wildlife Documentary
The Kenyan-Mexican actress spoke to Tariro Mzezewa of The New York Times about why she agreed to narrate the American iteration of the Discovery Channel’s SERENGETI: “After seeing the first two episodes, I loved where Simon was coming from and was really taken by it. I was engaged, learning about specific animals. There’s a personal relationship with specific animals and you hear about the dynamic of their species and clan. You form this personal relationship with them. I’ve also watched many of these documentaries, but I’ve never heard them narrated by an African and seldom a woman. To be both of those things and be the one telling the story is exciting.”

True Crime and the Satisfaction of the Unsolved Mystery
Writing in The New York Times, Mike Hale ruminated on how HBO and Sundance TV are offering a high-end selection of documentaries about crimes including a double murder in India and a notorious vigilante killing in the American Midwest: “The documentaries all employ the standard narrative strategies and visual language of true crime — watch them all, and you’ll have spent a lot of time slowly and ominously scanning the landscapes of far northern New York state and northwestern Missouri and the crowded streets of Noida, India. But each story calls for its own particular tactics. Erin Lee Carr, the director of I LOVE YOU, NOW DIE dramatizes the texts at the center of the case, filling the screen with them and giving them sound and color effects. Carter is seen mostly sitting silently in courtrooms, and the film is devoted largely to providing context for her text messages as a way of trying to get inside her head.”

How Errol Morris Established the Bittersweet Comedy of American Life
Katherine Steinbach looked back at Errol Morris' first three films as the documentary auteur’s foundation for Nonfics: “Errol Morris is a documentarian with a keen eye for character, style, and comedy. His subjects vary, but the films are consistently humorous and poignant. Documentary is often associated with sober discourse, and yet the form can be so pleasurable even when communicating serious content. The way personalities and information are imparted matters, because empathy and learning shouldn’t be a chore. Morris is a talented interviewer, able to draw revelatory magic from many kinds of people. But his timing is more remarkable, and you can see it clearly even in his first three features. GATES OF HEAVEN (1978), VERNON, FLORIDA (1981), and THE THIN BLUE LINE (1988) each have a sense of critical absurdity, an affectionate eye-roll at American phenomena found in lingering takes and charming non-sequiturs. Mundane and extraordinary moments build as viewers observe quirky truths that map onto greater issues, layering delight, information, and meaning.”

2018 DOC NYC Portraits
Will air on PBS American Masters (US and Canada) on August 2nd at 9 pm.

Stephen Wilkes's JAY MYSELF
2018 DOC NYC Metropolis
Will be opening at Film Forum July 31st with Q&As at prime shows Wednesday - Sunday of opening week.

Clay Tweel’s OUT OF OMAHA
2018 DOC NYC Viewfinders
Will premiere on Starz Network on September 9th at 9 pm.
Directed By Michèle Stephenson & Joe Brewster

In the Florida Panhandle lies the provincial town of Marianna, Florida, where one native resident runs a particular marathon in hopes of lifting the veil of racial terror caused by the town’s buried history.

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.

This week's project:

Directed By
David Julian Leonard

Funding Goal: $60,000

“Alex Chilton was perhaps the quintessential rock & roll hero.”
– David Marchese, Rolling Stone
As always, if you have any tips or recommendations for next week's Memo, please contact me via email here or on Twitter at @Rectangular_Eye.
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