I, like Alison Herman of The Ringer and Jennifer Vineyard of The New York Times, have been taking in the new David Attenborough narrated Netflix nature series OUR PLANET and have been taken aback by its blunt assessment of the state of humanity's disastrous impact on the natural world. Very few nature docs produced with massive worldwide audiences in mind have taken such a startling environmentalist viewpoint. It's no secret that human activity has made the single greatest impact on Earth's radically shifting climate, yet some folks have been outraged by the truths Netflix has put forth with this series, but it's times like these I'm glad to pay for a Netflix subscription.
OUR PLANET may have stirred the press pot the hardest this week, but there was also the Peabodys, the newly announced Follow Focus grant, Disney's new streaming service, Sheffield's market highlights and IndieWire's Emmy doc predictions to delve into. So dive away!
-Jordan M. Smith
Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at IFC Center at 7:30 pm
THIS IS PERSONAL
Q&A w/ dir. Amy Berg & subjects Tamika Mallory (Women's March) & Nancy Kaufman (Nat'l Council of Jewish Women)
"While the 2016 election catalyzed the Women’s March and a new era of feminist activism, Tamika Mallory and Erika Andiola have been fighting for their communities for decades. Their stories expose the fundamental connection between personal and political and raise the question: what’s intersectionality and how can it save the world?"
HAIL SATAN? looks at the Satanic Temple that started six years ago as political provocation and grew into an international movement. Director Penny Lane (OUR NIXON, NUTS!) and producer Gabriel Sedgwick got drawn into the topic by a Village Voice article by Anna Merlan. HAIL SATAN? opens Wednesday, April 17 at IFC Center with a national rollout to follow.
78th Annual Peabody Awards Nominees Announced
"The Peabody Awards Board of Jurors has announced the 60 nominees that represent the most compelling and empowering stories released in broadcasting and digital media during 2018. The nominees were selected by unanimous vote of 19 jurors from more than 1,200 entries from television, radio/podcasts and the web in entertainment, news, documentary, children’s and public service programming. Thirty winners selected from amongst these nominees will be announced beginning next week."
Follow Focus, A New Grant Opportunity for a Short Documentary Film
There was an exciting new funding opportunity announced by Points North Institute, ScreeningRoom and Jigsaw Productions this week: "Follow Focus, a new grant opportunity for a short documentary film entering into post-production. One selected documentary filmmaker or video journalist will receive $10,000 grant towards the creation of a short, cinematic documentary film, a one year ScreeningRoom Pro account, and mentorship from a leading producer and editor. The selected filmmaker will also have the opportunity to premiere their film at the 2019 Camden International Film Festival in September. Applications will be accepted through May 30th at midnight."
Disney+ set for November launch, reveals non-fiction slate Reporting for Realscreen, Frederick Blichert shared the news that, "The Walt Disney Company will launch its much-anticipated streaming service Disney+ this November, with thousands of episodes of television and hundreds of feature films in its library and a competitive price point of US$6.99 per month...Following MARVEL'S 616 will be the wildlife conservation-themed EARTHKEEPERS (w/t), a 'cinematic documentary series' about the animal kingdom and the people working to study and protect it. It is executive produced by McGinn, Sterman and Gelb for Supper Club, and Cristina Colissimo and Jordana Glick-Franzheim for Wellworth Pictures."
Criterion Channel Lives! Company President Explains Going Solo After FilmStruck’s Death IndieWire's Eric Kohn spoke with Peter Becker and Penelope Bartlett about the newly launched Crtierion Channel: "Criterion Collection president Peter Becker knew FilmStruck’s death was imminent, weeks in advance of news reports late last October. And long before industry luminaries ranging from Martin Scorsese to Bill Hader sent up flares to save the Turner Classic Movies streaming platform, Becker and his peers had a contingency plan to save FilmStruck’s Criterion Channel."
Sheffield Doc/Fest Announces Market and Industry Highlights
"Andee Ryder, Mark Cousins, Sally Potter, Eleanor Emptage, Sara Stockmann, Teddy Leifer, Adam Darke, Mads Bruger, Jerry Rothwell, Zhao Liang, Eva Weber, Mike Lerner, Orlando von Einsiedel, Damon Davis, and Barak Heymann are among the producers and directors from the 62 project teams selected to participate at the 15th edition of Sheffield Doc/Fest’s flagship pitching forum, MeetMarket."
Wisconsin Film Festival: Not Docudramas, But Docus as Dramas David Bordwell rarely writes about documentaries, so it is with much pleasure to find that this week he wrote about three at the Wisconsin Film Festival: "Our days and nights at our annual film festival would have been hopelessly frustrating if we hadn’t already seen several of the fine items on offer. At other festivals we caught ASAKO I AND II, ASH IS PUREST WHITE, DOGMAN, THE EYES OF ORSON WELLES, THE GIRL IN THE WINDOW, GIRLS ALWAYS HAPPY, THE IMAGE BOOK, LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, LUCKY TO BE A WOMAN, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, PETERLOO, ROSITA, SHADOW, STYX, TRANSIT, and WOMAN AT WAR. As you can see, our programmers assembled a spectacular array of movies. Most of these we’d happily watch again, but there were so many new offerings we had to resist. With this elbow room I could pay attention to three documentaries I’d been looking forward to. They had all the appeal of a fictional film, with keen plots and tricky narration and fascinating characters. It didn’t hurt that two were about world-class celebrities and the third appealed to my deepest conspiracy-theory instincts."
Though there are three notable releases this week, all theatrical in nature, there is for whatever reason decidedly not a whole lot of real time critical coverage thus far for Scott Balcerek's NYT Critics' Pick SATAN & ADAM, Disney's latest warmly reviewed nature doc PENGUINS, or Vlada Knowlton's inspiring trans rights film THE MOST DANGEROUS YEAR, but that doesn't mean that they don't deserve some extra attention.
Emmy Predictions 2019: Best Documentary or Nonfiction Series IndieWire's Ben Travers examined the likely documentary candidates for this year's Emmy Awards: "Netflix, HBO, Showtime, PBS — a lot of the perennial players are still competing for Best Documentary Series in 2019, but there are a few less consistent — or even brand new — networks looking to get recognized as well. First and foremost is Starz, which made its first foray into docuseries in late 2018 with Steve James’ AMERICA TO ME and the LeBron James-produced WARRIORS OF LIBERTY CITY. The former earned incredible reviews and landed on a number of year-end best lists, which should help elevate it among a crowd of more high-profile entries."
How AMAZING GRACE Was Born, Buried and Resurrected Natalie Rinn, writing in The New York Times, digs into the history of why AMAZING GRACE has just now reached audiences decades after the famed Aretha Franklin concert was filmed: "[Film producer Alan] Elliott, who had worked as a music producer under [Atlantic Records producer Jerry] Wexler, first learned about the footage from him in 1990 and had never forgotten about it. In search of a new project, Elliott acquired the assets from Warner Bros. Films in 2008, with Pollack’s blessing. Pollack, who died that same year, never saw the film completed. With advances in digital technology, Elliott was soon able to synchronize the footage. But there was another roadblock: Franklin herself. Publicly, she said she loved the film. But she sued multiple times to prevent its being seen."
A True Reality Show: The Unexpectedly Distressing OUR PLANET Ruminating at The Ringer, Alison Herman looks at just how unpleasant the realities of nature actually can be in OUR PLANET: "But OUR PLANET distinguishes itself by emphasizing nature’s fragility as much as its beauty. Attenborough’s script is deeply concerned with the immediate effects and potential fallout of climate change. Forests and ice caps are shown shrinking from space to emphasize the sheer scale of humankind’s destruction; animals are depicted suffering the consequences of limited resources to show the intimate and devastating impact of global warming. So distressing are certain passages of Our Planet that Netflix issued a content warning for certain scenes that might disturb sensitive viewers, complete with time stamps. An interlude featuring walruses, overcrowded by vanishing sea ice onto a rocky beach, tumbling off a sheer cliff face to their likely deaths has already become infamous."
A Netflix Nature Series Says to Viewers: Don’t Like What You See? Do Something About It Jennifer Vineyard of The New York Times interviewed Keith Scholey and Adam Chapman, who produced and directed two episodes of the new Netflix nature series OUR PLANET, and, separately, Sophie Lanfear, who produced and directed one episode: "The only reason I was interested in working on OUR PLANET is that it had conservation very much at the heart of the series. Often it’s a last-minute thing — two lines of commentary at the end of the show. To me, it’s about designing the whole structure of the film with a conservation message, and having the visual kinds of sequences that show you, not tell you, what is going on with the world."
Fear Not, for More Documentary Now! Is on the Way Reporting for Vulture, Megh Wright excited shared: "Here’s some good news to start your week: Seth Meyers, John Mulaney, Fred Armisen, and Rhys Thomas’s IFC series Documentary Now! isn’t leaving us anytime soon. The network announced today that it’s renewed the Lorne Michaels-produced show for a 53rd (a.k.a. fourth) season, which will consist of seven new episodes. A premiere date has not yet been set – the press release says it’s because the co-creators 'are super busy' – but hopefully the wait is not as long as the three-year wait between seasons two and three."
Doug Block's 10 Rules of Personal Documentary Filmmaking
The good folks at Desktop Documentaries republished Doug Block's nonfiction filmmaking manifesto, '10 Rules of Personal Documentary Filmmaking': "RULE #2: A personal doc is not your personal therapy - Imagine your film playing before a packed audience on a big screen. It's not the place for getting even with nasty ol' mom and dad, believe me. It's not for whining about your rotten childhood. It's not the vehicle for getting the attention you've desperately craved all your life. Whether it's a personal doc or not, moviegoers want to be entertained, educated and, most of all, enthralled. They want to go along with you on your ride, not see you working through your issues. Spare us, and go see a good shrink. And save a ton of money in the process, too."
Subject to Reality: Women and Documentary Film
by Shilyh Warren
"Revolutionary thinking around gender and race merged with new film technologies to usher in a wave of women's documentaries in the 1970s. Driven by the various promises of second-wave feminism, activist filmmakers believed authentic stories about women would bring more people into an imminent revolution. Yet their films soon faded into obscurity."
IN THE ABSENCE
Directed by Yi Seung-Jun
When the passenger ferry MV Sewol sank off the coast of South Korea in 2014, over three hundred people lost their lives, most of them schoolchildren. Years later, the victims’ families and survivors are still demanding justice from national authorities.
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.