If I'm being really honest, I'm always a bit thankful when awards season comes to an end. I'm excited for the filmmakers who've put in the work and are receiving recognition for their hard work and artistic visions that have against all odds come to fruition and somehow reached audiences around the world, but I always secretly just want to get back to brass tacks - watching new films, discussing the next exciting thing in nonfiction. The glitz and glam and repetitive, congratulatory nature is just not my bag. That said, this year's documentary award season nominees have been quite an extraordinary bunch and I couldn't be more happy for all those who took home awards from the Oscars last night and the Independent Spirit Awards the night prior. There is no way to predict who might win what awards, but this year there was a satisfying sense of distribution amongst most of the nominees.
And while everyone was likely focusing on the Academy Awards this past week, there were plenty of other documentary happenings taking place elsewhere, from lineup announcements from New Directors/New Films, CPH:DOX, and ZagrebDox, to Field of Visions 2019 Fellows being revealed, there was quite a lot of movement in the world of nonfiction cinema this past week. So, please mind the gap in sectional introductions this week and read on, straight to the news.
-Jordan M. Smith
PS: This coming weekend I'll be eyeballs deep in documentaries at the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri, so I will be taking the week away from the memo, returning Monday, March 11th. If you happen to be heading that way, please drop me a line. Until then, happy watching!
DOC NYC PRO
DOC NYC PRO Editing For Documentaries Boot Camp
Tomorrow IFC Center and DOC NYC PRO will be hosting a day long Editing For Documentaries Boot Camp. Attendees will hear from five documentary editors, one-on-one with a moderator, sharing stories, clips, and examples from films they’ve worked on. Among the event's lineup is a case study on Oscar winner FREE SOLO. Tickets are still available and include admission to and a free drink at a post-workshop happy hour networking session.
2019 Academy Award Winners
Lauren Wissot noted at Hammer To Nail that the 'Best Documentary Feature' category is perhaps the most thrillingly diverse Oscars category period". For me, this year was also the most exciting, most formally exciting lineup of nominees in years. Early in the night, Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi were awarded the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for their DOC NYC short-listed FREE SOLO. More unpredictably, the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject was awarded to Rayka Zehtabachi and Melissa Berton for their film PERIOD. END OF SENTENCE.
Notable stories on Oscar nominees came in from the following:
2019 Independent Spirit Award Winners
Prior to the Oscars, director Bing Liu won the Truer Than Fiction Award at the Independent Spirit Awards for MINDING THE GAP, while Morgan Neville won Best Documentary for his Academy snubbed WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?, both of which were also DOC NYC short-listers.
Third Annual 'Cost of Docs' Survey Published The Whickers, in association with Sheffield Doc/Fest, have published their third annual The Cost of Docs Survey, which "reveals the passion, pain points and increasing challenges facing this specialist sector of film production." The full report can be found here.
Field of Vision Announces 2019 Fellows
In an exclusive scoop for IndieWire, Jude Dry broke the news that Field of Vision, the award-winning documentary unit of First Look Media, announced its 2019 fellows. "The Field of Vision fellowship is a year-long, collaborative program designed to support filmmakers in achieving their long-term artistic goals. The four 2019 Field of Vision fellows are: artist and filmmaker Heba Y. Amin, artist and filmmaker Ja’Tovia M. Gary, director, producer and cinematographer Heloisa Passos and filmmaker Bassam Tariq."
LA Archivist Collective Investigates Unfinished Works & Their Potential
Film programmer K.J. Relth asked his colleague, "Archivist Todd Wiener, how a film archive might prioritize space for material whose dynamism might just culminate on a shelf, an inquiry first and foremost concerned with the potential futures of unfinished and unrealized projects. Todd immediately points me toward the elements for IT'S ALL TRUE, Orson Welles’ unrealized 1941-42 film, for which UCLA holds over 700 unique elements, including unedited takes, original nitrate picture negatives, rushes, and magnetic audio tracks. Some of this material was incorporated into the 1993 documentary IT'S ALL TRUE: BASED ON AN UNFINISHED FILM BY ORSON WELLES by filmmakers and producers Richard Wilson, Bill Krohn, and Myron Meisel, which critic Jonathan Rosenbaum argued 'represents the first major effort after half a century of obfuscation to set the record straight' on Welles’s then-tarnished reputation. Is this experiment from 1993 to now be considered the definitive version of IT'S ALL TRUE? With the huge publicity push that accompanied the recent completion of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND (begun in 1970 and finished this year, yet another of Welles’ notoriously unfinished films), will any of these 700-plus elements be mobilized yet again?"
New Directors/New Films Lineup Revealed
Last Thursday, the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center announced the complete lineup for the 48th annual New Directors/New Films, which is scheduled to run March 27 – April 7. Documentaries from around the world include Tamara Kotevska & Ljubomir Stefanov’s HONEYLAND, Luke Lorentzen’s MIDNIGHT FAMILY, Shengze Zhu's Rotterdam Tiger Award winner PRESENT. PERFECT., among others.
CPH:DOX Announces 2019 Competition Lineup CPH:DOX, otherwise known as the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, has announced "its entire line-up of competition titles for the 2019 event taking place next month from March 20 – 31 in the heart of Copenhagen. The full competition line-up, consisting of 66 titles and featuring 43 world premieres, 18 international premieres and 5 European premieres, also pays attention to gender representation with no less than 45% of the titles (or 30 films) being directed by one or more women."
Full Frame Announces Thematic Program Curated by RaMell Ross
The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival announced that HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING director RaMell Ross will curate its 2019 Thematic Progam. "The 2019 Thematic Program, New Lives of Time, explores poetic modes of storytelling by highlighting documentary films that offer idiosyncratic experiences—films that create space for viewers to wander their own imaginations to make connections and meaning. The series also examines how time works on screen by revealing, through a range of filmic forms, the way that passing minutes, hours, and days provide a cinematic structure and underscore deeper significance within the work."
ZagrebDox Reveals Special Fashion Dox Program
Taking place from February 24 – March 3 in Zagreb, ZagrebDox revealed a new special program - Fashion Dox, "With three documentary films about great names of the fashion scene. The program portrays two unique designers: the British rebel and activist Vivienne Westwood and the fashion pioneer of the new China Guo Pei, alongside the iconic French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his long-time shadow partner – Pierre Bergé."
Reports from Berlinale & Rotterdam 2019
Though the Berlinale and Rotterdam are already behind us this year, the folks at Film Comment published reports from Dan Sullivan and Jordan Cronk on Rotterdam experiences. Sullivan writes, "Roughly coinciding with the industrial behemoths Sundance and Berlinale, the International Film Festival Rotterdam can sometimes seem lost in the shuffle, too aesthetically and culturally distant from the red carpets at the Berlinale Palast and the Canada Goose-clad hype-orgy at Park City and yet not quite far enough. Rotterdam has the unenviable task of competing for world and international premieres with Berlinale and Sundance, a state of affairs that finds their programmers jockeying for titles with the Berlinale’s Forum and Panorama sections...Rotterdam has proven a formidable festival context for seeing new and recent experimental cinema, art exhibitions related to cinema, and the odd interesting restoration or revival, and it’s this combination of programming strains that comprises the festival’s key distinguishing trait, the reason for its enduring relevance within an increasingly crowded film festival marketplace." Meanwhile, Travis Jeppesen reminds us in his report published in Artforum, "The Berlinale has long had an interest in documentaries about artists. Through these portraits, we come to know places and spheres of experience that we might not otherwise."
Not only is WRESTLE, which opened in NYC this past weekend, WNYC's Documentary of the Week, but Jeannette Catsoulis dubbed Suzannah Herbert and Lauren Belfer's feature directorial debut a NYT Critics' Pick, writing, "WRESTLE isn’t slick or impartial, and doesn’t claim to be, yet the movie has a raw honesty that disdains forced uplift." Other releases this week include Barry Avrich's TIFF alum PROSECUTING EVIL, which opened in limited theatrical release on Friday, Madeleine Sackler's IT'S A HARD TRUTH AIN'T IT, which debuts on HBO tonight at 10 pm, and Yoruba Richen's THE GREEN BOOK: GUIDE TO FREEDOM, which will be broadcast on the Smithsonian Channel at 8 pm tonight.
In Search of a 'Feminist Sensibility': Deborah Stratman's VEVER (FOR BARBARA) and Lynne Sachs' CAROLEE, BARBARA & GUNVOR
In a new piece published in Another Gaze, Adina Glickstein examines two new films by Deborah Stratman and Lynne Sachs. "These two shorts give us insight into seven women: Barbara Hammer, Maya Deren, Carolee Schneemann, and Gunvor Nelson as subjects and speakers; Lynne Sachs and Deborah Stratman from behind the camera. Watching both films, I wonder what connections there are to be drawn. Does the recent surge in filmic portraits of female trailblazers point towards a ‘feminine sensibility’, long overdue for historical recognition? I’m hesitant to speak about any ‘shared themes’ across the layered, nuanced careers that constitute this genealogy, lest these similarities be construed as an essentialised roadmap. How can we identify the beauty that comes from rejecting the strictures of masculine ways-of-being in the world without mummifying it, crystallizing these artists’ irreducible vibrancy into a prescriptive binary formula?"
IFC's DOCUMENTARY NOW! Returns For Brilliant Third Season
Writing at RogerEbert.com, Brian Tallerico reminds us, "One of the smartest and funniest shows on TV, DOCUMENTARY NOW! is back tonight for a seven-episode third season on IFC. It’s been way too long since the second season of this show ended in 2016. Two-and-a-half years is a lifetime in the crowded world of TV, so you may have forgotten how hysterically funny this spoof of film documentaries from Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, and Seth Meyers can be. It won’t be long before you remember."
POV vs. Objectivity Assia Boundaoui composed an editorial at IDA about her experience of making her incredible film THE FEELING OF BEING WATCHED. "By the time I completed my film, I was battered but transformed. Had I mistakenly gone on to make a “journalistically objective” film, it would have been far less truthful than the blisteringly personal, investigative film I ended up making. I used journalistic tools to investigate the US Justice Department, and I left behind the baggage of objectivity that had mired me for so many years. The myth of objectivity has so often been used as code for the white straight male gaze, and this tyranny of one perspective is used to negate the validity of other points of view. I don’t believe in objectivity; I believe in transparency. We each have a particular lens through which we see the world, and being transparent about where we stand and revealing the seams of our processes is as about as truthful as anyone can get. I believe that no matter what they nay-say, it is possible to make a personal film that is journalistically robust, and that a point of view and journalistic integrity have never been mutually exclusive."
Reflections on THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD
In Richard Brody's insightful review of Peter Jackson's box office hit in The New Yorker, he concludes, "A crucial contrast to Jackson’s over-manipulations is seen in some footage of contemporaneous newspaper photographs, shown in extreme closeup, with their halftone dots rivalling the image itself in prominence. These shots, with their conspicuously unnatural distortions and artifacts, have an authentic expressivity, a sort of visual music, that’s absent from Jackson’s digital normalizations. The analytical and transformative power of digital technology, whether applied to video or to sound, invites creators to see and hear more in found material than is apparent, to go beyond mere depiction and its assumptions of transparency to create something that’s “unique and original”; instead, Jackson relies on it to submerge it in what’s ordinary and derivative. It’s a tribute to his inspired dive into oral-history archives that, despite the aesthetic and dramatic banality of his approach, the movie is, somehow, utterly absorbing and deeply moving nonetheless."
How Amazon's Film Plans Differ from Netflix (and All the Rest)
Rebecca Keegan of The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Amazon studio chief Jennifer Salke about how "she's planning about 10 theatrically released movies a year, as well as 20 direct-to-service titles, as opposed to 90 movies due from Netflix in 2019."
DOC NYC ALUMNI NEWS
Hao Wu's PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF DESIRE 2018 DOC NYC Science Non-Fiction
Premieres on Independent Lens at 10 pm tonight.
Maxine Trump's TO KID OR NOT TO KID 2018 DOC NYC Modern Family
Screens as part of DCTV's screening series at 7 pm tonight.
Gustavo Salmeron's LOTS OF KIDS, A MONKEY AND A CASTLE 2017 DOC NYC Modern Family
Coming to VOD today.
Michiel Thomas's GAME FACE 2015 DOC NYC Jock Docs
To be released on DVD tomorrow.
NEWLY STREAMING DOC SHORT
FIELD NIGGAS by Khalik Allah
In advance of Khalik Allah’s acclaimed new documentary BLACK MOTHER, which opens in theaters on March 8, Grasshopper Films proudly presents his revelatory 2015 debut, a grassroots production capturing candid Harlem street life that went from a YouTube upload to a festival sensation.
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.