This past week, Stephanie Vincenti shared a helpful list of 21 documentary film festivals to take note of for the remainder of 2019 over at The Documentary Life, but one she missed was the truly lovely little nonfiction focused One Take Film Festival, which I had the pleasure of visiting in Rochester, NY this past weekend. Tightly curated by program directors Linda Moroney and Bri Merkel, the festival brought circuit hits like JAWLINE, MIDNIGHT TRAVELER and THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM (with a live score performed by Emmy-winning composer Jeff Beal, leading The Empire Film and Media Ensemble) to this mid-market cinema haven for the third year in a row. Sitting in a packed house at The Little on Friday night for a screening of Alison Klayman's THE BRINK while most folks on the planet were obsessing over super heroes, I was warmly reminded that while much of my weekly reporting sparks from big-market festivals and coastal releases, it is thriving regional festivals and series like One Take that keep documentary cinema thriving in communities around the world.
All that said, there was plenty of doc news on the world stage this week with THE JINX back in headlines, Oscar qualifying updates making new waves, Tribeca and Hot Docs festivals in full swing and much, much more to catch up with. Read on!
-Jordan M. Smith
PS: I will be returning to Rochester next weekend for the fifth annual Nitrate Picture Show (last year concluded with a surprise screening of Robert Flaherty's MAN OF ARAN on a vintage nitrate 35mm print!) and I more than likely won't have time in transit to whip together a worthy memo. So, look for a new memo in your inboxes in two weeks!
DOC NYC PRO
Funding Your Doc Boot Camp
Tuesday, April 30 at IFC Center, 10 am - 4pm
You have your documentary idea ready to go – and now the biggest question is where is the money coming from? Don’t be scared – be informed! In this day-long boot camp from IFC Center and DOC NYC PRO, we’ll hear from documentary experts about how to find and talk to funders, how to create a budget that works for you, and more! Ticket price also includes admission to and a free drink at a post-workshop happy hour networking session!
Tickets are on sale for $99 for the full day (or $80 for IFC Center members – please enter your member code to redeem). Seating is limited.
As Durst Murder Case Goes Forward, HBO’s Film Will Also Be on Trial
Anyone who watched HBO's 2015 zeitgeist capturing mini-series THE JINX: THE LIFE AND DEATHS OF ROBERT DURST as it aired live will surely remember the shock and awe of its revealing final moments. Finally, years later Robert A. Durst and his lawyers are now preparing for trial and Charles V. Bagli of The New York Times has revealed a critical new detail in an extensively researched new feature: "It turns out Mr. Durst’s remarks were significantly edited; rather than being consecutive, the two sentences had been plucked from among the 20 in his rambling remarks, and presented out of order. Mr. Durst’s lawyers are now preparing to cite those edits — they’ll call them manipulations — in an effort to cripple his prosecution as they get ready for a trial set to begin in a few months in California."
After 50 Years, Film Society of Lincoln Center Is a ‘Society’ No More Sara Aridi reports the change in The New York Times: "The Film Society of Lincoln Center turns 50 this year. To celebrate, the organization is holding an anniversary gala Monday and planning free summer movies. But most important may be what won’t be around for the festivities: The organization is dropping “society” from its name. Beginning Monday, it will be known as Film at Lincoln Center. "The change, modeled on Jazz at Lincoln Center, has been in the works for years. Lesli Klainberg, the group’s executive director, described the move as primarily an effort to broaden the institution’s appeal and reach a wider audience."
Why We Need a New Civil War Documentary
Reflecting on Henry Louis Gates’s new multi-part documentary RECONSTRUCTION on PBS (which is currently streaming for free) and its undeniable link to Ken Burns' seminal 1990 series THE CIVIL WAR, Keri Leigh Merritt calls for a new Civil War film via Smithsonian Magazine, "Garnering scores of awards, THE CIVIL WAR has now influenced generations of Americans and shaped their beliefs about slavery, the war itself, and its aftermath. The documentary had an outsized effect on how many Americans think about the war, but it’s one that unfortunately lead to a fundamental misunderstanding about slavery and its legacies—a failing that both undergirds and fuels the flames of racism today."
The Unshakable Necessity of Nature Documentaries in the face of Ecological Ruin
Like an acerbic call to arms, Cole Henry of Nonfics celebrates recent nature documentaries for taking on capitalism: "We need documentaries like PENGUINS and OUR PLANET now more than ever, for they show beauty and all that the Earth has to offer. But more importantly, they refuse to shy away from the eviscerating truths that we, the human race, are like termites in a rotting wall. Earth is fragile and we are eating it alive and stripping it of all natural resources all in the name of commerce. Every living and non-living thing must be documented because there will come a day, be it sooner or later, when Earth is utterly unrecognizable, and in the words of the great Werner Herzog, 'If we do not develop adequate images we will die out like the dinosaurs.'"
CHASING THE THUNDER
Q&A w/ dirs. Mark Benjamin & Marc Levin, prod. Katie Carpenter, &
Sea Shepherd Peter Hammarstedt
With compelling high seas blue water action, this eco thriller is an anti-poaching documentary with the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd vessels CHASING THE THUNDER, the notorious pirate poacher, to the bottom of the sea.
Werner Herzog talks about the history of Germany, the Soviet Union and dispenses marital advice on this episode. His latest film “Meeting Gorbachev” is based on interviews he conducted with the former Soviet leader over 2017-18. The film was co-directed by his longtime producer André Singer. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviewed Herzog at TIFF Doc Conference in September 2018.
IDFA and IFFR Call for Immediate Release of Myanmar Filmmaker and Festival Director Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi
"On April 12, 2019, filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi was arrested by the Myanmar authorities after being sued by a military officer for 'insulting and defaming the Army.' Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi is a prominent filmmaker in Myanmar, and as such, an important voice in cinema in general. Additionally, Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi is the co-founder of the Human Rights Human Dignity Film Festival in Yangon." Please read the statement and add your signature.
Tribeca 2019 Kicks Off Strong With THE APOLLO (At the Apollo)
The Tribeca Film Festival is now in full swing and Pete Hammond reports for Deadline, "As evidenced by Wednesday’s opening-night screening of THE APOLLO, this promises to be an exceptionally good year for the documentary competition at the Tribeca Film Festival. " Flavorwire's Jason Bailey also attended THE APOLLO's premiere, "The picture works best when it sticks to the riveting history of the venue, and to its tricky present as a not-for-profit foundation. In Frederick Wisesman-style eavesdropping on board meetings and discussions, the parties tasked with keeping the venue alive must ask: Is it a shrine to the past or a continued presence? (The film seems to hope for the latter, and uses as its framework the theater’s 2018 staging and premiere of a live adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World & Me.)"
Director of Programming Shane Smith Discusses Hot Docs 2019 Highlights
Previewing this year's Hot Docs offerings at Realscreen, Selina Chignall spoke with Hot Docs’ director of programming Shane Smith: "We are seeing the evolution of documentary language that filmmakers are using to tell all kinds of stories – not just creative or artistic subjects – but creative and artistic approaches to heavier and more challenging subjects that don’t often receive that kind of treatment."
Art of the Real 2019: Exhibiting Films That Explore Their Own Hybridity
Writing for MUBI's Notebook, David Perrin looked at some of the highlights from the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual experimental nonfiction festival: "Surveying the border where non-fiction seamlessly fades into fiction and vice versa, it is a festival that celebrates a kind of cinema that exists largely on the periphery of what is accepted as documentary, exhibiting films that explore their own hybridity, while still engaging with content that is at once personal and very much tethered to the real world."
Doc/Fest 2019 to Open With Asif Kapadia's DIEGO MARADONA
Though recently announced to have its world premiere out of competition at Cannes, Asif Kapadia's latest archival celebrity portrait DIEGO MARADONA will have its UK premiere as the opening film at Doc/Fest 2019 according to the festival's announcement last week.
In what makes for what feels like a light week in new release coverage, there are three new theatrical releases and nothing notably new hitting streaming services. Ron Mann's Venice debuted CARMINE STREET GUITARS, Maia Wechsler's IF THE DANCER DANCES and Elizabeth Rynecki's CHASING PORTRAITS are each screening in limited release around NYC.
The Live Documentary: Sam Green’s Unique Theatrical Experience
In the lead up to last week's NYC performance of A THOUSAND THOUGHTS, IndieWire's Chris O'Falt mulled over the Kronos Quartet live documentary experience, while at Film Comment, Eric Hynes spoke with co-directors Sam Green and Joe Bini. In his intro, Hynes warmly writes, "The work is the collaboration between one artist (Green) who for many years has been mainly been working in the realm of non-traditional, performance-based filmmaking, and another (Bini) who’s mainly worked as an editor of both narrative and documentary films, most consistently with Werner Herzog. More than just a step forward for both, it’s also an ecstatic alchemical reaction forged by forces mad about the moment."
Crowdfunding It For Themselves: Queer Dance On Film
Writing for Sight & Sound, Megan Christopher investigated how crowdfunding played a major roll in the productions of Amy Watson and Dennis Keighron-Foster's DEEP IN VOGUE and Leilah Weinraub’s SHAKEDOWN: "Crowdfunded cinema may have been a foreign concept only a decade ago, but it has since become a crucial part of the independent film industry, providing working-class filmmakers with a reliable means to fund their art when studios won’t. By taking back control from the grip of a consumerist market, a filmmaker may be free to explore topics which would otherwise be cast aside due to a perceived lack of profit or mainstream appeal."
Rescuing Alice Guy Blaché, a Film Pioneer, From Oblivion
Pamela B. Green’s new documentary BE NATURAL: THE UNTOLD STORY OF ALICE GUY-BLANCHÉ opened in NYC this past week and was dubbed a NYT Critics' Pick by A.O. Scott, while Elizabeth Weitzman pieced together a luxurious feature on the early cinema pioneer in The New York Times: "Until recently, Guy Blaché was mostly relegated to the footnotes: credited regularly as the first female filmmaker (when credited at all), but overlooked in terms of her impact as an artist and an innovator. And yet starting in 1896, she made around 1,000 films, constantly pushing visual and thematic boundaries. She experimented with early synchronized sound, color and special effects. She explored gender, race and class. And she inspired future giants like Sergei Eisenstein, Alfred Hitchcock and Agnès Varda."
Figuring out the Rules: Reflections on Documentaries as Puzzles
Following a visit to Art of the Real for a screening of Marine de Contes mysterious observational short THE GAME, Chris Cagle ruminates at Film Festival Documentary, "What’s remarkable to me is that there’s no aggressively formal experimentation here, nor any purposive narrational enigma. Rather, in pursuing observational style in its purest form, THE GAME puts the spectator in a kind of guessing game, and the drama of the editing and structure engages the viewer in a suspense on what of the process will make sense to the distant observer. I continue to think that documentary scholars overlook just how complex observational documentary can be."
Subject to Reality: Women and Documentary Film
by Shilyh Warren
"Revolutionary thinking around gender and race merged with new film technologies to usher in a wave of women's documentaries in the 1970s. Driven by the various promises of second-wave feminism, activist filmmakers believed authentic stories about women would bring more people into an imminent revolution. Yet their films soon faded into obscurity."
Directed by Jake Oleson
A young boxer guides his protété through his past growing up in the South Side of Chicago.
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.
This week's project:
Sonia Luokkala & Jacqueline Cleveland
Funding Goal: $30,000
"Produced in collaboration with Alaska Native People, this film illuminates the impact of the climate crisis in coastal Alaska, raising questions about climate justice, cultural survival and reconciliation by exploring two fundamentally different ways of relating with the world."
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.