The International Documentary Association had a stream of major announcements again this week as it revealed its 2019 shortlists, several IDA honors, and its Enterprise Documentary Fund grantees. Yet, there was plenty happening on the festival circuit, with DOC NYC, Hot Springs, and DOK Leipzig all announcing their full 2019 lineups, the BFI London Film Festival unveiling its award winners and much more. And maybe the most notable news of the week not relating to awards or festivals was the announcement from Laura Poitras that she would be stepping down from her position as executive producer of Field of Vision, leaving Charlotte Cook alone at the helm. With her focus back on feature filmmaking, I'm excited to see what comes next.
Oscar-Winning Director Laura Poitras Steps Down From Field of Vision Eric Kohn broke the news at IndieWire: “Laura Poitras became a rock star of the documentary world with 2014’s Oscar-winning CITIZENFOUR, an explosive and definitive account of the Edward Snowden story that brought Poitras’ investigative filmmaking to a global audience. Since then, she has completed just one feature, the Julian Assange portrait RISK, but supported countless others as the co-creator and executive producer behind Field of Vision, the documentary film unit designed to support investigative filmmaking on a wavelength similar to her own. Now, she’s ready to return to her filmmaking full time. Poitras is stepping down from her leadership position at Field of Vision to focus on her next feature, though will remain onboard at parent company First Look Media. Charlotte Cook, who co-founded the project with Poitras and filmmaker A.J. Schnack in 2015, will continue to lead the organization. ‘In the last year, I felt like that Field of Vision established itself in the documentary field, and I felt I was spread too thin, having sometimes 20 films that I needed to look at,’ Poitras said. She added that she would continue supporting a handful of documentaries in development, including three confidential projects about sexual assault and abuse. And there may be others.”
ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT
DOC NYC Announces Full Festival Lineup for 2019 Announced via festival press release: "DOC NYC is pleased to announce the full lineup for its tenth edition, running November 6-15 at the IFC Center in Greenwich Village and Chelsea’s SVA Theatre and Cinépolis Chelsea. This year’s festival will include: 300+ films and events, 28 world premieres, 27 U.S. or North American premieres, [and] 500+ filmmakers and special guests in person. This year’s festival is dedicated to the memory of D.A. Pennebaker, who was a constant presence at DOC NYC since its first year until his death this past summer. In 2014, at the festival’s inaugural Visionaries Tribute, he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award along with his partner Chris Hegedus. This year’s festival poster features a photograph of Pennebaker taken by Don MacSorley in 1967 during the filming of the classic documentary MONTEREY POP.”
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival 2019 Lineup Revealed Announced via festival press release: “The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival (HSDFF), the longest running all-documentary film festival in North American, announced today the slate of feature films that will screen as part of the 28th edition of the annual Hot Springs, Arkansas festival. The HSDFF is lead primarily by working filmmakers who are crafting an inclusive festival of a diverse group of documentary filmmakers from across the globe. ‘Our programs are designed by and for filmmakers and it is our hope that our festival will inspire, support, challenge and rejuvenate our attending industry guests,’ says Executive Director, Jennifer Gerber. ‘This year we are growing our filmmaker development programs with the goal of HSDFF becoming a central meeting place for independent documentary filmmakers in this Southern region’...The filmmaker-led organization will showcase the best nonfiction films of the year including: 17 BLOCKS, FOR SAMA, KIFARU, THE KINGMAKER, LOS REYES, ONE CHILD NATION and VARDA BY AGNES” The festival is scheduled to run October 18th through October 26th.
DOK Leipzig 2019 Program Announced Announced via festival press release: “Break out your calendars, because the 2019 DOK Leipzig programme is complete and tickets are on sale! This year we are showing 310 films and interactive works from 63 countries. The 161 films in our Official Selection include six for competition, along with the international programme, and the Late Harvest section, which was introduced last year. There are also 10 Special Programmes featuring a curated film selection for viewers to discover. This year more than half of the directors of films in the Official Selection are female. The works in the 62nd edition of DOK Leipzig present surprising perspectives on commonly held beliefs about the realities of life and (gender) role models. They also question political and economic systems, patterns of thought and concepts such as ‘truth’ and ‘reality’. Other themes include right-wing ideology and violence, along with media phenomena such as ‘fake news’ and whistleblowing – topics currently being addressed by documentary filmmakers worldwide.” The festival is scheduled to run October 28th through November 3rd.
NYFF’s Spotlight on Documentary 2019 David Hudson pieced together a solid overview of the nonfiction offerings at this year’s New York Film Festival at Criterion’s The Daily: “One of the most anticipated films lined up for the Spotlight on Documentary program at this year’s New York Film Festival has been the latest installment in a project over half a century ago. In SEVEN UP! (1964), director Paul Almond and producers at what was then Granada Television captured the lives of fourteen British seven-year-olds. With 7 PLUS SEVEN (1970), Michael Apted took over and has been revisiting his subjects every seven years. Reviewing 63 UP, the ninth film in the series, for Variety, Chris Willman notes that ‘moppetry has given way to meditations on mortality, as the participants deal with parental losses and consider the time limit on their own lives, if not the series.’”
Highlights from the Third Week of the New York Film Festival Writing in The New Yorker, Richard Brody ruminated on Agnès Varda's swansong and the latest from Theo Anthony: “The sublime originality of the work and the life of Agnès Varda, who died in March, at the age of ninety, provides her last film, VARDA BY AGNES, with both its subject and its form. It’s a personal journey through her career, centered on a series of public lectures, interviews, and conversations that mesh with clips from her work—museum installations and videos as well as movies—and with staged sequences that provide a theatrical context for her reminiscences and reflections...Theo Anthony, whose documentary “Rat Film,” from 2016, advanced from an encounter with a single rodent to probing historical analyses and utopian political speculations, directed SUBJECT TO REVIEW, an episode of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, which screens October 9th and 10th in the short-film “Documentary” program. Here, Anthony also begins with a phenomenon of narrow scope—the video setup, called Hawk-Eye, that has been in use since 2006 as the final arbiter of line calls in professional tennis—and expands it to explore fundamental questions in the game and in society at large.”
Camden and Points North: Shining a Light on Power Leah Hurley reflected on their experience at CIFF and Points North 2019 in Documentary magazine: “Here I am, three weeks out from the immersive experience of the Camden International Film Festival and Points North Forum, and the rhythms of everyday life are tugging on me hard once again. Still, my mind's eye keeps finding its way back to the vivid imagery of the weekend—young children laughing and playing in the most ordinary way while in a refugee camp in Bulgaria (Midnight Traveler); a female truck driver combing her hair in a roadside truck stop (Driver, the Points North Pitch winner); buckets of silvery baby eels writhing and shimmering after being harvested late at night on the coast of Maine (Elvers); the prolific doodles of artist Alan Magee on Post-its, notes and scraps of paper offering windows into the nuance of the human experience (Alan Magee: Art Is Not a Solace); and fanciful, hand-illustrated deer chasing each other around an endless circle before transforming into something anew in the CIFF bumper. I am so grateful for the tremendous freedom in being reminded how much bigger the world is than me.”
Romanian Auteur Cristi Puiu to Be Sole Juror at Ji.hlava Doc Film Festival Variety's Will Tizard took note of Ji.hlava fest's announcement: “The Czech Republic’s top competitive doc event, the Ji.hlava fest, announced today the main prize for its 23rd edition will be decided by sole juror director-screenwriter Cristi Puiu, a leading figure in the Romanian New Wave. The Opus Bonum section, screening international non-fiction films, traditionally invites a single juror, who will this year weigh nine works including entries from France, the U.K., India, Madagascar and Palestine. Docs in a wide variety of formats take on issues from racism to environmental disasters along with personal stories of soldiers, reformers and political leaders.”
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What at first appeared to be a somewhat sleepy release week actually is actually quite fruitful, with two separate doc gifts: Thom Zimny's bio THE GIFT: THE JOURNEY OF JOHNNY CASH, which is playing at Cinema Village and will soon be available as a YouTube original on November 11th, and Robin McKenna's essay film on gift cultures, GIFT, which is showing at Quad Cinema. Also screening is Brian Ivie's EMANUEL, on the Charleston church shooting, is showing in limited release around the country, as is Louis Schwartzberg's mushroom doc FANTASTIC FUNGI.
International Documentary Association Names Journalistic Doc Grant Winners IDA revealed the awardees via press release. Frederick Blichert shared the IDA’s news break for Realscreen: “The International Documentary Association (IDA) has named this year’s winners of the Enterprise Documentary Fund’s journalistic doc grants. The IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund, launched in 2017, supports feature-length documentary films telling urgent, revelatory stories underpinned by rigorous journalistic approaches and exemplary artistic achievement, with major support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Previous winners include Rachel Lears’ KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE and Nanfu Wang and Lynn Zhang’s ONE CHILD NATION. The latest cohort of 12 films receiving production grants were unveiled at the Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival in Washington, D.C. The films selected will receive a total of $850,000 in direct funding, along with additional resources and expertise through IDA and its partners: Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the UCLA Documentary Film Legal Clinic, and Freelance Investigative Reporters and Editors. Additional support is provided by the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.”
newportFILM Announces Documentary Cinematography Lab Kathryn Sheehan, newportFILM's marketing director, shared the news: “newportFILM announced today a new program to provide support and mentorship to documentary cinematographers. The newportFILM lab, developed in consultation with Sean Flynn, Co-Founder and Program Director at Points North Institute, will host seven emerging filmmakers for a weekend long retreat offering master classes on cinematography. Shana Hagan (Director of Photography, THE KINGMAKER, GENERATION WEALTH, THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES), Nelson Hume (Director of Photography, LONG STRANGE TRIP, HAPPY VALLEY, WHITNEY) and Robb Moss (Harvard University, Chair of the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies) will serve as mentors. Accepted participants in this year’s program include Nausheen Dadabhoy, Jessica Earnshaw, Lucas Guilkey, Dana Kalmey, Robert Kolodny, Souki Mehdaoui and Christina Shaman. In this intimate, focused environment, these filmmakers will discuss their process, share their current projects with peers and receive critiques from mentors and leaders in the industry. The inaugural year will be hosted at the Norman Bird Sanctuary just outside Newport, Rhode Island.”
Jour2Fête Buys Doc & Film International Reporting for Cineuropa, Fabien Lemercier took note of Jour2Fête’s latest acquisition: “Jour2Fête is continuing its growth spurt. Founded in 2006 and initially only active as a distributor in France, the Paris-based company run by Étienne Ollagnier and Sarah Chazelle is now also involved in co-production and, since 2012, has gradually made a name for itself in the international sales sector, an activity that it will reinforce thanks to the acquisition of Doc & Film International, which has just lost its iconic CEO Daniela Elstner, who recently stepped down and was appointed managing director of UniFrance (the promotional body for French film abroad). Over the next few months, Jour2Fête and Doc & Film International will be consolidating their teams and their catalogues. The international sales division of the new entity will be headed up by Clémence Lavigne and Samuel Blanc.”
Let’s Talk About the Other Creepy Clown Movie Alison Willmore let loose about Michael Beach Nichols’s WRINKLES THE CLOWN documentary at Vulture: “Spare some pity for Funky the Clown, a peppy, round-faced entertainer who happens to ply his trade in the same part of Florida as the much creepier subject of Michael Beach Nichols’s documentary WRINKLES THE CLOWN. All Funky wants is to make people laugh, yet all anyone seems compelled to do in the face of a Funky these days is to run screaming. ‘I just came from face-painting at a party, and six of the boys wanted to be Pennywise,’ Funky grumbles as he puts on his own professional getup, which includes the traditional greasepaint, a rainbow wig, and a jumbo necktie. Googling him now suggests he’s rebranded himself as a party pirate, ceding the field to the Wrinkles of the world, not to mention the Jokers and the Its. Wrinkles is not a movie creation. He’s the persona of a real, anonymous man from Naples, Florida, who wears a polka-dot costume and a mask that looks a lot like someone tried to put cheery makeup on a week-old corpse.”
DOC NYC ALUMNI
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.
Samuel Bathrick’s 16 BARS 2018 DOC NYC Sonic Cinema
Will have its theatrical release in select theaters on November 8th via Lightyear Ent.
FEATURED STREAMING DOC SHORT
Directed by Irene Baque
A letter from the British government classifying Paulette Wilson as an illegal immigrant shook her sense of identity and belonging. “Hostile environment” policies years in the making meant Wilson and other victims of the Windrush scandal had their right to residency in the UK called into question. Executive producer Shanida Scotland proposed that the Guardian film with her as she returned to Jamaica for the first time in 50 years. It was an emotional experience for them both.
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