Although the big news breaking today is the 2020 Oscar nominations in all fields, there's a lot to catch up on from the week that's just ended. We'll be covering the nominations and their effects in next week's Memo, but in the meantime, this past week was full of awards, initiatives and announcements. The weekend long celebration that is Cinema Eye Honors wrapped up with its award ceremony on Monday night, the MacArthur Foundation's Kathy Im spoke out about the importance of funding a free and independent media, IFC Center's CraftEd. Seminars announced an upcoming day exploring how to sustain a career as an independent filmmaker, Kartemquin revealed its 2020 Diverse Voices in Docs Fellows, Kickstarter announced a new shorts initiative titled Long Story Short, and MoMA is making moves with its newly unveiled 2020 Doc Fortnight lineup and To Save and Project series. And as usual, there's much more doc news after the break. Until next week...
-Jordan M. Smith
The 2020 Cinema Eye Honors Announced via press release: “AMERICAN FACTORY, the verite portrait of a once-closed Ohio factory that is bought by a Chinese compayn, took top honors at tonight’s Cinema Eye Honors, winning the awards for Outstanding Nonfiction Feature and Outstanding Direction for veteran filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert. Bognar and Reichert are the first directing team to win either award in Cinema Eye history. APOLLO 11, an epic retelling of the first humans to land on the moon and return to Earth, also won two awards, Outstanding Editing for director/editor Todd Douglas Miller and Original Score for composer Matt Morton. In addition to AMERICAN FACTORY and APOLLO 11, a number of other films on the Academy Awards Documentary Feature Shortlist received awards.”
Challenging the ‘Master Narrative’ Kathy Im, Director of Journalism and Media at MacArthur Foundation, reflects on challenging the “master narrative” through support for strong, inclusive journalism: "Earlier this year, the Journalism and Media team at the MacArthur Foundation—responsible for disbursing $25 million in grants for nonprofit journalism, documentary storytelling, and civic media—visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. It is a beautiful and mesmerizing achievement of architecture and design, but more importantly, the museum is an epic retelling of American history. It is a reaction to, and correction for, the history most Americans have been taught: the master narrative. The reason we visited the museum as a team was to understand and underscore the profound and lasting effect our grantmaking choices can have on either reinforcing the master narrative or advancing a more complete, nuanced, inclusive, and oftentimes inconvenient American narrative. A free and independent media is an essential pillar of democratic societies. But funding noncommercial, public interest media for the purpose of informing and engaging Americans can feel like a fool’s errand in this current atmosphere of partisanship, filter bubbles, and fake news. The master narrative relies on cynicism and apathy. It takes advantage of the powerless and promulgates a point of view in its favor. It allures with simplicity and empty promises about the American Dream. The master fiction is not written by one group or party, it is written, recorded, and repeated by all, especially those who are quiet and complicit.”
The 2020 Diverse Voices in Docs (DVID) Fellows Announced via press release: "Kartemquin Films and the Community Film Workshop of Chicago today announced the eight new 2020 Diverse Voices in Docs (DVID) fellows. Now in its 8th year, DVID is a professional mentorship program for Midwestern documentary filmmakers of color, created by Kartemquin Films and the Community Film Workshop of Chicago. Fellows are chosen from a pool of applicants with a demonstrated commitment to social issue documentary. The 2020 fellows are: Zanah Thirus, Vianca Fuster, Adewole A. Aboiye, Oli Rodriguez, Tommy Franklin, Samuel Rong, Eric D. Seals, and Suja A. Thomas.”
Long Story Short: Kickstarter Sends A Call for Short Film Projects Announced via press release: “No longer just a stepping stone to the breakthrough feature or a means for industry recognition (although both of these compelling outcomes hold true), audiences are also now appreciating the power of the short film. With Long Story Short, Kickstarter Film invites creators to take part in a month long homage to short-form filmmaking. Throughout March, we’ll feature live short film projects in every genre, share new creator resources, and take a look back at some of the outstanding short filmmaking we’ve seen in the past 10 years...Have a short you’ve been wanting to create? If raising money and building community for your short film is something you’ve been mulling over for a while, mull no more. We’re inviting emerging and established filmmakers, film students, and other enthusiastic cinephiles to make something new. Here’s how creators can get involved with Long Story Short: Create a short film project on Kickstarter, making sure to select ‘Shorts’ as your subcategory. Launch your project anytime between March 1 and 31, 2020. Give us a heads up at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Doc Fortnight 2020 Lineup Revealed Announced via press release: “The Museum of Modern Art announces the full festival lineup for Doc Fortnight 2020, the 19th edition of its annual showcase of outstanding and innovative nonfiction film. This year’s festival, which runs from February 5 to 19, 2020, includes over 28 documentary features and short film pairings, 12 world premieres, 17 North American premieres, and 14 US premieres from 38 countries. Doc Fortnight 2020 presents new works by Michael Almereyda, Terence Nance, Denis Côté, Sky Hopinka, Lucretia Martel, Akosua Adoma Owusu, Ben Rivers, Lynne Sachs, Kazuhiro Soda, Roger Ross Williams, Maya Khoury and the Abounaddara Collective, and many others.”
This Festival Could Alter Your Sense of Film History Ben Kenigsberg outlined this year’s MoMA series To Save and Project in The New York Times: “To Save and Project, the Museum of Modern Art’s annual festival of film preservation, offers those lessons and more. The series, running Thursday through Jan. 22, showcases recent restorations from the museum and other archives around the world...Other innovations may have occurred earlier than is widely recognized. Leo Hurwitz, a documentarian marginalized by the Hollywood blacklist, has three short films in the program from the early 1950s. Two, EMERGENCY WARD and THE YOUNG FIGHTER, neither of which apparently warranted a mention in his obituary, lay the groundwork for the “direct cinema” movement of Robert Drew and the Maysles brothers, which dictated that filmmakers should shoot unfolding events, interposing themselves as little as possible.”
CRAFT ED. SEMINARS
Making a living as an independent filmmaker—or any kind of artist—has never been easy, but CraftEd has assembled a group of pros to help you chart out a course for a sustainable career. From learning how to juggle a flexible day job that lets you develop new skills and also get paid; to finding groups that offer professional, funding and creative support; to learning how to market yourself to employers and audiences, this all-day event gives you tools to smooth your path, whether you’re working in film or in another creative art. The day includes a coffee & bagel breakfast, as well as a post-seminar happy hour for networking with presenters and attendees.
DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING IN CONTEMPORARY BRAZIL: CINEMATIC ARCHIVES OF THE PRESENT
Written by Gustavo Procopio Furtado
"This book examines the vibrant field of documentary filmmaking in Brazil from the transition to democracy in 1985 to the present. Marked by significant efforts toward the democratization of Brazil's highly unequal society, this period also witnessed the documentary's rise to unprecedented vitality in quantity, quality, and diversity of production-which includes polished auteur films as well as rough-hewn collaborative works, films made in major metropolitan regions as well as in indigenous villages and in remote parts of the Amazon, intimate first-person documentaries as well as films that dive headfirst into struggles for social justice."
Two new docs hit theaters this week: AFTERWARD, Ofra Bloch's investigation of anti-Semitism, is showing at the Village East Cinema, while Nikolaus Geyrhalter's look at the human impact on our planet in EARTH is showing at Anthology Film Archives.
Meerkat Media Worker Cooperative Seeking Documentary Filmmakers Announced via press release: “Meerkat Media is a production company cooperative and artist collective located in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Our cooperative produces a wide range of work, with an emphasis on short-form commissioned documentaries for clients, mostly non-profits that align with our social justice values, and compelling feature-length documentaries. You can see samples of our work here. We are currently looking to add new worker-owners to our production company team! This is not a traditional, salaried job, but rather is a unique position best suited for someone interested in collectively owning and running a non-hierarchical cooperative business as well as making films. Our goal is to balance the flexibility of a freelance career, with the stability, shared resources and support that comes with a collective endeavor...Applications due January 24th.”
Priority Deadline for MFA Social Documentary at SVA Fall 2020 Nearing Announced via press release: “Ready to incite change and amplify the compelling stories you find in the world? SVA’s graduate documentary film program sharpens your artistic voice. Gain mentorship from award-winning filmmaker faculty and make your own films. Exclusive masterclasses with New York’s prolific documentary community builds your industry relationships. Alumni find great success; winning Emmy and Student Academy Awards, and with their films in major festivals and broadcast around the world. Find out how SocDoc will further your documentary career. Priority Deadline: January 15, 2020. Get in touch for more information.”
Oprah Winfrey Pulls Out of Documentary on the Music Mogul Russell Simmons Nicole Sperling made the report for The New York Times: “Oprah Winfrey said on Friday that she was cutting ties with a documentary centered on women who have accused the music mogul Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct. The untitled film, scheduled to have its premiere this month at the Sundance Film Festival, focuses primarily on the executive Drew Dixon, who accused Mr. Simmons of raping her, an accusation Mr. Simmons has repeatedly denied. Ms. Winfrey had served as an executive producer on the project by the veteran documentary filmmaking duo Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, whose works include the 2015 film THE HUNTING GROUND, an examination of rape on American college campuses, and THE INVISIBLE WAR about sexual assault in the United States military. With Ms. Winfrey’s departure, the film has also lost its distributor, Apple TV Plus. Apple had agreed to make the documentary available on its streaming platform as part of Ms. Winfrey’s overall deal with the company. In a statement, Ms. Winfrey said she ‘unequivocally believes and supports the women,’ adding that their stories ‘deserve to be told and heard.’”
How Editor Kim Horton Mixed Old and New Footage for Michael Apted’s 63 UP Tim Gray spoke with the filmmakers for Variety: "BritBox makes its theatrical debut with 63 UP, currently in theaters before its launch on the streaming service. The new edition follows the same format as the others: Each subject is given about 10 minutes, during which Horton must present a recap of their lives from the film archives, along with updates via a one-on-one interview and B-roll footage. ‘We treat each film as if a viewer hasn’t previously seen the others,’ Horton says. ‘Some archive moments are familiar, because why wouldn’t you use those? But with each new interview come new opportunities. I like to go back into the archives to find stuff we haven’t used before.’”
Impact Partners Elevates Jenny Raskin to Executive Director Daniele Alcinii broke the news at Realscreen: “Independent documentary financier Impact Partners has promoted long-time executive Jenny Raskin to the role of executive director, replacing company founder Dan Cogan. Cogan will remain with Impact Partners in an advisory role after unveiling last summer that he and his wife, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Liz Garbus, would be launching the non-fiction production outfit, Story Syndicate. Raskin, meanwhile, will work closely alongside Impact Partners co-founder Geralyn Dreyfous who also works in an advisory role to the company.”
How Mark Monroe Helps Keep Documentaries on Track Addie Morfoot interviewed Monroe for Variety: “It was November 2018 and Nanfu Wang had four weeks before picture-lock on her third feature documentary, ONE CHILD NATION. The film, which Wang co-directed and edited, had already been accepted to the 2019 Sundance Film Festival but wasn’t quite ready. ‘I was debating and really struggling with what note to end the film on,’ Wang says. ‘I needed a fresh set of eyes.’ Enter the documentary whisperer, Mark Monroe. The University of Oklahoma journalism graduate has been the doc industry’s go-to guy for the past decade. His writing on the 2009 Academy Award-winning THE COVE put him on the map.”
DOC NYC ALUMNI
Denali Tiller's TRE MAISON DASAN 2018 DOC NYC Modern Family
Will be released on DVD via Passion River on January 20th.
Eddie Rosenstein's THE FREEDOM TO MARRY 2016 DOC NYC Fight The Power
Will be released on DVD via Dreamscape on January 21st.
Ofra Bloch's AFTERWARD 2018 DOC NYC International Perspectives
Will have have its VOD release on January 28th.
Shamira Raphaëla & Clarice Gargard's DADDY AND THE WARLORD 2019 DOC NYC Modern Family
Will have its primetime premiere on AfroPoP on February 3rd.
FEATURED STREAMING DOC SHORT
THE MOST IDEAL PLACE
Directed by David Regos
When preparations were being made for the historic Apollo 11 moon mission, three space stations around the globe were needed to keep track of the spaceflight. One was in California, one in Australia and the third was in an unknown sleepy village in the middle of Spain. This award winning short shows the crucial role that the town of Fresnedillas played in July 1969, and tells the story of the local Spaniards who unexpectedly became an important part of this monumental event.
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.