Greetings! A quick reminder to those still new to the Monday Memo - this is a jam packed weekly rundown of all the latest documentary news from the festival circuit, awards season commentators, industry development circles, new theatrical and notable streaming releases, and whatever else tickles our nonfiction focused fancy. You can unsubscribe at the bottom of this email if you so choose.
This week we saw the passing of experimental film hero Jonas Mekas, the announcement of the 2019 Oscar nominees, the unveiling of a new touring Abbas Kiarostami retrospective, a deluge of doc coverage coming out of Park City during the first weekend of this year's Sundance festivities, and the theatrical release of Jean-Luc Godard's latest essay film THE IMAGE BOOK, not to mention the replacement of Stranger Than Fiction, the Monday Memo's own long running home, with Pure Nonfiction at IFC Center beginning next week, and more. Thanks for reading.
-Jordan M. Smith
R.I.P. Jonas Mekas
On the morning of January 23rd, Anthology Film Archives posted on Twitter, "It’s with enormous sadness and a great sense of loss that we share the news of the passing of Anthology’s founder, Jonas Mekas. He died peacefully at home, with family at his side." Manohla Dargis reflected on the loss via Instagram, "Jonas Mekas has died. He was 96. One of the cinematic giants of the 20th century, Mekas had an extraordinary life and his influence was profound. I'm going to write something on him later, but for now here's this: earlier this month, the writer John Leland asked him about death and the afterlife. 'It’s a very normal transition,' Mekas said. 'What’s beyond that line, it’s where the mystery begins, where it becomes interesting.'" A number of moving obituaries and remembrances of the man, myth and experimental film legend have turned up around the net:
2019 Oscar Nominees
Last week kicked up with a bang as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed its nominations for the 91st Academy Awards. Responding to the announcement, Jason Parham wrote at Wired about how this year's Oscar nominations prove we're in a new age of documentaries.
Nominees for Best Documentary (Feature) are:
FREE SOLO, directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin
HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING, directed by RaMell Ross
MINDING THE GAP, directed by Bing Liu
OF FATHERS AND SONS, directed by Talal Derki
RBG, directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen
Nominees for Best Documentary (Short Subject) are:
PERIOD. END OF SENTENCE., directed by Rayka Zehtabchi
Pure Nonfiction at IFC Replaces Stranger Than Fiction
Earlier today, Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen revealed that their long running documentary series Stranger Than Fiction has been replaced by Pure Nonfiction at IFC Center. The move rebrands their screening series while merging the branding of their popular documentary podcast Pure Nonfiction. "The series, hosted by Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen, was formerly known as Stranger Than Fiction based at IFC Center since 2005. It has a reputation as 'a vital outpost for award-winning documentaries' (New York Times). The change in name aligns the series to the Pure Nonfiction podcast, in which Powers interviews documentary filmmakers, now in its fourth year." The Winter 2019 Season of Pure Nonfiction at IFC Center begins next Tuesday, February 5th. Here is the complete season schedule:
Feb 5: Opening Night – UNITED SKATES (2018, Q&A w/ dir. Tina Brown & subject Reggie)
Mar 26: Closing Night – THE BRINK (2019, Q&A w/ dir. Alison Klayman)
First Impressions From Sundance
Variety's Matt Donnelly and Brent Lang might be right - documentaries may very well be the hottest ticket at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (be sure to checkout their doc preview). While a flood of first impressions have been posted over the course of the first weekend of Sundance 2019, Daniele Alcinii and Frederick Blichert of Realscreen shared a series of mini interviews with top documentary distributors about what they hope to find at the festival, as IndieWire's Chris O'Falt looked at what cameras, lens and formats doc filmmakers favored this year.
Hot Docs to Honor Filmmakers Julia Ivanova and Julia Rechert
In a trio of press releases last Wednesday morning, the Hot Docs Board of Directors announced that "it has chosen three-time Academy Award nominee Julia Reichert as the recipient of its 2019 Outstanding Achievement Award." Additionally, they also revealed that they "will pay tribute to award-winning Canadian filmmaker Julia Ivonova with this year's Focus On retrospective, an annual program showcasing the work of a significant Canadian filmmaker." In the final release, the festival unveiled its "that the 2019 Festival will showcase recent works from Italy in its Made In program. Film titles for the program will be announced in March."
A huge percentage of film journalists are eyeballs deep in Sundance fare, so its unsurprising that this week was a light week for doc releases. That said, THE IMAGE BOOK has plenty of cinephiles' attention. Many folks might not at first consider Jean-Luc Godard's latest work of cinematic collage a documentary, but I've long believed essay films like Godard's notoriously difficult late period works should be welcomed within the realm of nonfiction despite their brashly experimental leanings. I'm with Blake Williams, who aptly wrote shortly after the film's Cannes premiere, "These are films that ignite every interpretative impulse in our brains without satisfying our desires to be passive, unproductive viewers; they do not give clarity or any obvious avenues through the deluge of information, even if they make us feel as though, were we smarter, more knowledgable, bilingual cinephiles, we would be able to do just that. It’s in this way that Godard’s films also invite us to improve ourselves, something I think very few other artists achieve."
Janus Films Reveal Touring Abbas Kiarostami Retrospective
Friday brought uplifting news from Janus Films in the form of a brief but exciting blog post: "We're thrilled to announce that, beginning August 2 at IFC Center in New York, Janus Films will be presenting a touring Abbas Kiarostami retrospective spanning the great Iranian master’s career, including the Koker Trilogy, Taste of Cherry, rare shorts, documentaries, new restorations undertaken by the Criterion Collection and mk2 with the invaluable contribution of Ahmad Kiarostami, and more!"
New Streaming Service OVID.TV To Launch In March
Jonathan Miller, of Icarus Films, announced that six founding content partners - Bullfrog Films, Distrib Films US, First Run Features, Grasshopper Film, Icarus Films, and KimStim - have joined together to form OVID.TV, "an innovative new video-on-demand subscription service drawing from the catalogs of these leading content providers of quality arthouse, documentary, and social issue films," scheduled to launch in March of this year. According to the press release, "In the summer of 2019, OVID will add hundreds of arthouse feature films, including those directed by Bi Gan, Pedro Costa, Claire Denis, Bruno Dumont, Cheryl Dunye, Philippe Garrel, Nikita Mikhalkov, Eric Rohmer, Raul Ruiz, Dominga Sotomayor, Jean-Marie Straub and Danielle Huillet. Additional titles, most not available elsewhere, will be added monthly in curated collections that include both documentaries and narrative fiction."
SVA’s MFA Social Doc Film Program Applications for Fall 2019 Due Feb 1
Ever considered pursuing a career in the documentary industry? SVA's MFA in Social Documentary Film Program gives students the opportunity to learn how to find and capture important stories that speak to varied audiences on subjects of public concern, within a social, political and cultural consciousness that can change how we view our world. The application deadline for the Fall 2019 semester is February 1st.
NEWLY STREAMING DOC SHORTS
FIGHTING SHAME Directed by Sally Ogden
A group of women use everyday items to tell of the sacrifices and difficult choices they face, and the community initiatives they have launched in an attempt to tackle the shame surrounding poverty and make policymakers listen
LOST WORLD Directed by Kalyanee Mam
A new short from Kalyanee Mam, the Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner for Feature Documentary. As Singapore dredges sand out from beneath Cambodia's mangrove forests, an ecosystem, a communal way of life, and one woman's relationship to her beloved home are faced with the threat of erasure.
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.