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IDA Awards. Sundance 2020. More awards. And more awards. And despite all that, the most notable news of the week is IDA and Doc Society's motion to file suit against the State Department on behalf of documentary filmmakers the world over (be sure to check out both Ed Pilkington's news report and Simon Kilmurry's explanation from IDA's perspective). That's kind of a big deal. Plus, the new African film initiative DOC-A launched, Field of Vision got a new managing director, a vast online archive called Open Memory Box went live, as always, that's not all.
-Jordan M. Smith

US Government Edict Puts International Filmmakers in Danger, Lawsuit Claims
Ed Pilkington report on the legal action at The Guardian: “Documentary filmmakers operating in some of the most dangerous countries in the world are having their work disrupted and security compromised by a Trump administration edict that forces them to disclose their social media activities when applying to enter the US, a new lawsuit claims. The US homeland security and state departments were sued in a federal court in Washington on Thursday over a rule change that the plaintiffs argue could put filmmakers in personal peril. The suit concerns a registration requirement introduced in May that affects more than 14 million visa applicants each year, obliging them to disclose all social media behavior including the pseudonymous handles they use to protect their identity. The legal action has been brought by two US-based documentary film organizations that collaborate with international directors and producers. The films created through these networks often deal with highly sensitive subjects such as political dissent and corruption.”

IDA Files Lawsuit against State Dept. & DHS over Visa Rules
Simon Kilmurry explains the lawsuit over at IDA: “Today, IDA and Doc Society, with support from the Knight First Amendment Institute and the Brennan Center for Justice, filed a lawsuit against the State Department on behalf of documentary filmmakers. New rules issued earlier this year by the State Department as part of the US administration’s ‘extreme vetting’ program require almost everyone applying for a U.S. visa to disclose all social media handles they’ve used in the past five years on some 20 platforms, including YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, as well as China’s massively popular Weibo and Russia’s VK. They enable the U.S. government to vacuum up public posts, pictures and other personal details of roughly 15 million people each year, including artists, activists and dissidents worldwide.”

The Winners of the 35th IDA Documentary Awards
Anne Thompson pieced together a rundown of the 2019 IDA Award winners for IndieWire: “Filmmakers Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts’ FOR SAMA (PBS) took top honors at the 35th Annual IDA Documentary Awards at the Paramount Theatre Saturday night. The harrowing and intimate portrait of a young couple who continued to live in Aleppo with their new baby while under intense fire from government troops took home Best Feature. ‘It’s a dark time in the world,’ said British filmmaker Watts, who helped Al-Kateab shape her extraordinary footage into a film. ‘When I think about documentaries right now I feel hope that things are going to get better.’ A show of enthusiastic IDA support came early in the evening with a rousing standing ovation when Al-Kateab accepted the coveted Courage Under Fire award, given to someone who demonstrates extraordinary courage in pursuit of the truth. The Channel 4 film has already notched documentary wins from the European Film Awards, the British Independent Film Awards, and the Cannes Film Festival, as well as a PGA nomination.”

A Quick Awards Rundown From the Past Week

New York Film Critics Circle - Best Non-Fiction Film: HONEYLAND

Los Angeles Film Critics Association - Best Documentary: AMERICAN FACTORY

The National Board of Review - Best Documentary: MAIDEN

Gotham Awards - Best Documentary: AMERICAN FACTORY

European Film Awards - Best European Documentary: FOR SAMA

2020 Sundance Film Festival: 118 Feature Films Announced
Announced via press release: “118 feature-length films, representing 27 countries and 44 first-time feature filmmakers. Of the 65 directors in all four competition categories, comprising 56 films, 46% are women, 38% are people of color, and 12% are LGBTQ+. In the U.S. Dramatic Competition, 47% of the directors are women; 53% are people of color; 5% are LGBTQ+. In this year’s U.S. Documentary Competition, 45% are women; 23% are people of color; 23% are LGBTQ+.”

Slamdance 2020 Lineup Revealed
Dino-Ray Ramos reported on the festival's reveal for Deadline: "The 26th edition of the Slamdance Film Festival has set its slate for the films in the Narrative and Documentary Feature Film Competition programs as well as the lineup for their Breakouts section. The fest will take place in Park City, Utah January 24-30, 2020. As the fest 'by filmmakers, for filmmakers,' this year’s Slamdance will feature 16 premieres, including 10 world premieres with films from United States, Belarus, Canada Germany, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia, and South Africa. The films in competition are feature-length directorial debuts with budgets of less than $1 million and without US distribution. Films in both categories are also eligible for the Audience Award and Spirit of Slamdance Award."

IDFA 2019: Telling Truths and Meeting Friends
After attending IDFA 2019, Patricia Aufderheide reported on the experience for Documentary Magazine: “For doc filmmakers, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) is above all where you can find your people. It's a networking paradise. Held in a variety of quaintly historic locations throughout downtown Amsterdam, it's where you can arrive with questions and leave with answers—and possibly new friends. Not only are there opportunities for newbies and the just-arrived to parachute into the action—there’s a nightly gathering, a coffee house and a one-stop information center, for starters—but also a myriad of curated convening where peer education and socializing nicely mix. Probably the best known is the IDFA Forum, where the flinty television programmers—mostly public broadcasters, but not all—poke politely at pitches for audience-friendly docs. Oh, and there are a lot of parties. IDFA is also a glorious place to watch cinema. Its temple is the Tuschinski Theater, a palace created in 1921 in a delirious mix of art deco and art nouveau and restored in the late 1990s. Abraham Tuschinski, the businessman who built it, was later murdered at Auschwitz, also making the venue a memorial to his legacy and a natural for hosting truth-telling events. Its main theater's 1,200 seats were packed for many showings, especially those for the films of festival guest-of-honor Patricio Guzmán.”


By Maxine Trump
"The Documentary Filmmaker’s Roadmap is a concise and practical guide to making a feature-length documentary film—from funding to production to distribution, exhibition and marketing. Using her award-winning film MUSICWOOD—a New York Times Critics’ Pick—as a case study, director Maxine Trump guides the reader through the complex lifecycle of the documentary Film. Her interviews with lawyers, funders, distributors, TV executives and festival programmers provide a behind-the-scenes look that will assist readers on their own filmmaking journey."


Four new releases hit theaters this week: Luke Lorentzen's DOC NYC alum MIDNIGHT FAMILY is at The Metrograph, Beniamino Barrese's personal portrait THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MY MOTHER is playing the Quad Cinema, Jean-Gabriel Périot's archival Red Army Faction doc A GERMAN YOUTH is showing at the Spectacle Theater, and Jon Kasbe's poaching doc WHEN LAMBS BECOME LIONS is screening at Village East Cinema.


New Initiative Aims to Bolster Africa’s Documentary Film Community
In an exclusive for IndieWire, Tambay Obenson broke the news of the new initiative: “A new effort is underway to build an authentic documentary film culture on the African continent, with the long-term objective of strengthening African presence in the documentary marketplace. The newly launched DOC-A — also known as Documentary Africa — has been spearheaded by Comorian Executive Director Mohamed Saïd Ouma, an active member of FEPACI (the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers) and The African Heritage Project, which aims to restore 50 African films of major historic, cultural and artistic significance.”

Announcing Field of Vision’s New Managing Director, Kristen Fitzpatrick
Announced via press release: "We're thrilled to welcome Kristen Fitzpatrick to our team as our new Managing Director. Kristen is a Brooklyn-based distribution and impact strategist and production consultant. Prior to Field of Vision, she was the Director of Acquisition & Distribution at Women Make Movies, the world’s leading distributor of independent films by and about women, for nearly 20 years. There she strategized the release of 25 films annually as well as programmed the global exhibition of WMMs core collection. Kristen was also the Production and Impact Director at A Moment in Time Productions, a board member at NewFest and a programmer at Spectacle Theater. In addition to her work at Field of Vision, Kristen is currently a production consultant at Still I Rise Films. Kristen will begin her new role in the New Year, and in her new role will be working collaboratively with our Executive Producer, Charlotte Cook, to implement and support Field of Vision's creative vision and mission. Kristen will also be managing Field of Vision’s shorts team and day-to-day operations, and creating and launching new initiatives."

Impact Partners Documentary Producers Fellowship Application Now Open
Announced via press release: “With our Documentary Producers Fellowship, Impact Partners aims to celebrate the independent documentary producer and foster emerging producing talent through a yearlong program of workshops with some of the most prominent luminaries in the field of documentary film. Applications to join our fourth fellowship cohort are now open! In addition to completing the Application Form, candidates must have someone they've worked closely with submit a Recommendation Form on their behalf. Both forms will close on Wednesday, February 5th, 2020.”

New Online Archive Goes Live: Open Memory Box
Open Memory box is now the biggest digitized collection of home movies from East Germany: "2283 rolls of 8mm celluloid film. 415 hours total length. 1947-1990 historical period. 149 families from 102 locations. filmed in the GDR or abroad. expert curation of the collection since 2015.”

A Conversation with Iván Osnovikoff and Bettina Perut (LOS REYES)
Christopher Llewellyn Reed spoke with the filmmakers for Hammer To Nail: “How did you decide to make a movie about the Los Reyes Skate Park and focus, visually, on these two stray dogs, Football and Chola? Bettina Perut: In the beginning, we were thinking about making a movie about skaters; teenagers, skaters in the skate park, with their problems, with their families, with their codes. But we thought that this kind of thing was very conventional, and we wanted a different approach. Iván Osnovikoff: One day, I was skating in the park and Bettina called me, saying, ‘This a failure, we have to quit.’ And I tried to convince her, saying, ‘I have these dogs playing with a ball in one of the bowls,’ and I told her, ‘Bettina, you need to come see this.’ And she went the very next day and she said, ‘Okay, this film must be about these two dogs.’”

Martin Scorsese's PUBLIC SPEAKING Should Be Considered One of His Best
Will DiGravio makes a case for one of Scorsese’s most underrated works of nonfiction over at Nonfics: “With PUBLIC SPEAKING, Martin Scorsese achieved the impossible: he made the most interesting person in the world more interesting, and a film that nearly rivals its subject, the writer Fran Lebowitz, in originality. The brilliance of PUBLIC SPEAKING is the way it deviates from the typical form that documentaries about a single person usually take. Other films about the legends of American letters like, such as EVERYTHING IS COPY (Nora Ephron) and THE UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA (Gore Vidal), rely heavily on interviewees who are there to assure the viewer that yes, the subject was just as fun, interesting, and complex as we had previously thought. Instead, Scorsese lets Lebowitz herself, literally and figuratively, do the talking.”


Caroll Spinney, Big Bird’s Alter Ego on ‘Sesame Street,’ Is Dead at 85
Robert D. McFadden broke the news that the subject of DOC NYC alumni I AM BIG BIRD, Caroll Spinney has died: "Sometimes he stood 8 feet 2 inches tall. Sometimes he lived in a garbage can. He often cited numbers and letters of the alphabet, and for nearly a half century on “Sesame Street” he was Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, opening magic doors for children on the secrets of growing up and the gentle arts of friendship. His name was Caroll Spinney — not that many people would know it — and he was the comfortably anonymous whole-body puppeteer who, since the 1969 inception of the public television show that has nurtured untold millions of children, had portrayed the sweet-natured, canary-yellow giant bird and the misanthropic, furry-green bellyacher in the trash can outside 123 Sesame Street. Mr. Spinney, who also performed his characters in live concerts around the world and at the White House many times and was featured in films, documentaries and record albums, died on Sunday at his home in Woodstock, Conn. He was 85."

2018 DOC NYC Portraits
Will receive a DVD release on December 10th via Grasshopper Film.

2018 DOC NYC Metropolis
Will receive a DVD release on December 17th via Juno Films.

2018 DOC NYC Behind the Scenes
Will have a theatrical release on December 25th.

2019 DOC NYC Winner's Circle
Will have its primetime premiere on December 30th via POV.
Directed by Jeremy Deller
Part of ‘Second Summer of Love’—a four-part series in collaboration with Frieze—the new film written and directed by Jeremy Deller, explores the social history of the UK between 1985 and 1993 through the lens of acid house and rave music. The film is based on a real-life lecture given to a class of students in London.

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.

This week's project:

Directed By
Hannah Jayanti

Funding Goal: $30,000
As always, if you have any tips or recommendations for next week's Memo, please contact me via email here or on Twitter at @Rectangular_Eye.
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