This week the COVID-19 doc industry responses continue with a major emergency funding relief announcement from the Sundance Institute, an expansion upon Seed&Spark's initial efforts to support film festivals during this time, and the news that Cannes will not be happening as previously announced (though it's still unclear what it will in fact materialize as). It was also announced that Gabor Kalman, filmmaker and founding board member of IDA, has died, and Todd McCarthy, former lead film critic at The Hollywood Reporter, has been fired in a wave of mass layoffs by the publication. And as usual, there is much more to catch up with. Until next week...
-Jordan M. Smith
Sundance Institute Responds to COVID-19 with $1Million in Emergency Relief Announced via press release: “Listening to artists and colleagues across our field, we recognize the need for an urgent response to the current crisis combined with longer-term reimagination of the ways we support artists and design the systems that enable their work to reach audiences. Today we are announcing part of our urgent response, as we continue to work towards longer and sustainable solutions. Three things are clear: First, it is essential that significant resources go directly to artists who are struggling financially, in order to support their basic needs and their work. Second, the need right now is greater than any one artist or group and disproportionately affects artists from historically underrepresented communities. Third, it’s clear that collaboration and collective impact will be needed to address the extent of the challenge. This moment calls for a radical shift in strategy in the way we support independent artists in film, media, and theatre. We are launching a $1 million urgent fund to support the immediate needs of artists in our community, as well as other filmmakers in need and organizations that share our focus on inclusive storytelling. One-third of the fund will support Sundance Institute-curated artists, while two-thirds will be dedicated to emergency support for the wider community of independent artists, deployed in collaboration with partner nonprofit organizations.”
Seed&Spark Launches Platform To Boost Film Festivals Affected By COVID-19 Dino-Ray Ramos had the exclusive report on Seed&Spark’s new initiative at Deadline: “As film festivals postpone and cancel across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, independent films have taken a hit — but Seed&Spark has stepped into action to help by launching a platform specifically built for online festivals. Some high-profile actors and filmmakers have already signed on to support the initiative. Seed&Spark has shed light on improving equity and inclusion in entertainment for the last 8 years. The new online screening platform is an effort to help save 2020 film festivals as indie filmmakers try to figure out what to do with their projects.”
MoMI Premieres ROOM H.264: QUARANTINE, APRIL 2020 Online Announced via press release: “‘Hello, Filmmakers: We hope you are well and coping the best you can in whatever state of quarantine you're experiencing in this very strange moment.’ In response to the cancellation of film festivals around the world and disruption in the lives and work of filmmakers, Eric Hynes, Damon Smith, and Jeff Reichert filmed and edited the documentary ROOM H.264: QUARANTINE, APRIL 2020 over the course of the last two weeks. Shot via Skype, it features those whose work was slated to screen at festivals like SXSW, CPH:DOX, Tribeca, First Look, and more. The documentary depicts a broad range of filmmakers, each sequestered in their own spaces in locations throughout North America, Europe, Africa, and beyond, responding to a question first posed by Wim Wenders in his classic 1982 documentary experiment ROOM 666, and perhaps newly resonant today: ‘Is cinema becoming a dead language—an art form which is already in decline?’” You will also find the film below in our Streaming Shorts section.
Gabor Kalman, Founding Board Member of IDA, Dies Simon Kilmurry shared the news of Kalman's passing at IDA: “Award-winning documentary filmmaker Gabor Kalman, one of the founding members of IDA and the creator of the IDA David L. Wolper Student Documentary Achievement Award, passed away on April 12. Gabor was a sweet, kind-hearted person, with a profound heart-wrenching story. Born in Hungary, he was ten years old when Hitler's troops marched into his country; Gabor was forced into hiding when his name turned up on the ‘Jaross List’ of Jews from his village slated for ‘extermination.’ He survived the Holocaust and World War II, as well as the post-War Soviet occupation. A decade later, while a university student at Jewish Gymnasium in Budapest, Gabor participated in the 1956 uprising; as the Soviet tanks rolled into the capital city to crush the revolt, he fled to the US.”
Esteemed THR Lead Film Critic Todd McCarthy Writes About His Abrupt Firing Longtime lead film critic of The Hollywood Reporter Todd McCarthy reflects on his abrupt firing in Deadline: “A month ago I was surprised, out of nowhere, to get a nice raise. Yesterday I got the boot. By guys I’ve never met. Apparently if you make over a certain amount, you’re suddenly too expensive for the new owners of The Hollywood Reporter, which has recently been reported as losing in the vicinity of $15 million per year. Dozens are being forced to walk the plank. It’s a bloodbath.”
ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT
Cannes 2020 No Longer Happening In Its Original Form Announced via press release: “Following the French President's statement, on Monday, April 13th, we acknowledged that the postponement of the 73rd International Cannes Film Festival, initially considered for the end of June to the beginning of July, is no longer an option. It is clearly difficult to assume that the Festival de Cannes could be held this year in its original form. Nevertheless, since yesterday evening we have started many discussions with professionals, in France and abroad. They agree that the Festival de Cannes, an essential pillar for the film industry, must explore all contingencies allowing to support the year of Cinema by making Cannes 2020 real, in a way or another. When the health crisis, whose resolution remains the priority of all, passes, we will have to reiterate and prove the importance of cinema and the role that its work, artists, professionals, film theatres and their audiences, play in our lives. This is how the Festival de Cannes and the Marché du Film intend to contribute. We are committed to it and we would like to thank everyone who is by our side, public officials (Cannes' City Halle, Ministry of Culture, the CNC), industry members as well as our partners. Each and everyone knows that many uncertainties are still reigning over the international health situation. We hope to be able to communicate promptly regarding the shapes that this Cannes 2020 will take.” In a parallel release the festival announced that “the Directors’ Fortnight, the Semaine de la Critique and ACID regret to announce the cancellation of their 2020 editions in Cannes.”
Cannes' Marché du Film 2020: Online Announced via press release: “The Festival de Cannes will launch the Marché du Film online on Monday, June 22 to support film industry professionals. In these trying times for the whole world, and in view of the fragile prospects for the world of cinema, the Festival has announced that it does not wish to abandon the field. ‘No one knows what the second half of the year may bring and whether it will be possible to organize major film events again in 2020, including the Festival de Cannes’ said Thierry Frémaux, General Delegate of the Festival. ‘Cannes has therefore decided to adapt its format for this peculiar year. Here's a first initiative: a Marché du Film Online, launched by Jérôme Paillard, Executive Director of the Marché. This brand new kind of market is organized in consultation and with the participation of many professionals from all over the world.’ The Festival de Cannes is therefore announcing the launch of the Marché du Film Online, a standalone online market created to support the international film industry and help professionals. It will be held from Monday 22 to Friday 26 June.”
2020 Tribeca Film Institute Network Announced Announced via press release: “We're excited to announce the participants of our annual TFI Network, a film market that convenes their newly-supported storytellers to engage and foster partnerships with industry professionals. TFI Network, presented by AT&T, typically brings artists from all over the world to New York City for a day of pitch prep and industry roundtables and two days of one-on-one individual meetings with industry during the Tribeca Film Festival. Given the circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 TFI Network will be hosted as a virtual event April 27 through May 1.”
A Film Festival Screening In VR? ASK NO QUESTIONS Doc Is Trying It Patrick Hipes at Deadline reports: “The filmmakers behind this year’s Slamdance documentary ASK NO QUESTIONS saw their film’s festival run waylaid this spring by the industry’s coronavirus shutdown. Now they are teaming with San Francisco’s DocFest, where the pic was headed next, in an effort bring the fest screening experience to audiences in their homes. It’s the latest effort from the indie film industry to survive in a world suddenly without access to its lifeblood: festivals like the shuttered SXSW and Tribeca and specialty theaters nationwide. The idea is an interesting one: Beginning April 28, Lofty Sky Pictures will screen ASK NO QUESTIONS, a 2D film, in a 3D virtual theatrical environment dubbed VR Movie House, with each of the four showings to be followed by filmmaker Q&As. As part of the initiative, the company is using BigscreenVR to deliver the screenings via avatars in the virtual world.”
Hot Docs Reveals 2020 Program Announced via press release: “Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, North America's largest documentary festival, conference and market, announces the program for its 2020 Festival. Showcasing the best in Canadian and international documentary, this year's Festival features 226 amazing docs and 12 interdisciplinary projects from 63 countries, with 51 per cent of directors in the Festival being women...Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Festival's public screenings have been postponed and will be rescheduled for a later date. The industry market events and services will be held online.”
Sheffield Doc/Fest’s MeetMarket and Alternate Realities Selections Announced via press release: “Our flagship pitching initiatives MeetMarket (for features and series) and Alternate Realities Talent Market (for new media creatives) are set to proceed via virtual video-conferencing from 8 to 10 June, 2020. For the 15th edition of the MeetMarket 48 projects, chosen from over 500 applications, have been invited to present to international industry representatives including funds, foundations, commissioning editors for broadcast and SVOD platforms, distributors, sales agents, festival programmers, NGOs, and co-production partners. The Alternate Realities Talent Market, now in its 7th edition, exists to foster collaborations between artists, creatives and organisations focused on using digital technologies to push storytelling in exciting new directions. This year 20 teams have been selected for match-made connections with curators, exhibitors, galleries, museums, international festivals, broadcasters, funding bodies, NGOs and distributors.”
The Whickers Announce Film & TV Funding Award Finalists 2020 Announced via press release: “We are very happy to announce this year’s finalists for The Whickers Film & TV Funding Award – all in with the chance of winning £80,000 to produce their first feature length documentary film. Click on the images below for further details on the five outstanding projects that have been selected, and make sure to see the finalists in action at The Whickers Virtual Pitch from 11am on Wednesday 10th June at Sheffield Doc/Fest‘s 2020 Online Edition. Tickets coming soon.”
Visions du Réel 2020 Overview Basil Tsiokos put forth a preview of the offerings of the online edition of Visions du Réel at What (not) To Doc: “This well-respected Swiss nonfiction event remarkably has been able to respond quickly to the COVID-19 crisis, transitioning to a robust online edition, most of which is available worldwide for free. The notable exception to broad access is the National Competition, which is limited to audiences in Switzerland beginning today. Among the offerings are world premieres like Aldo Gugolz’s COWS ON THE ROOF, a portrait of an expectant father and Alpine cheese producer as he reckons with guilt; Nick Brandestini’s SAPELO, about the vanishing Geechee African American community of the titular Georgian barrier island; Mirjam Landolt’s RARA AVIS, which follows a rehabilitation program for teenagers on a sailboat; Olivier Zuchuat’s THE PERIMETER OF KAMSÉ, about the efforts of the women of a Burkina Faso village to combat desertification; Raphaël Holzer’s PRIVÉ, the filmmaker’s profile of his detective father; and Julie Biro and Antoine Jaccoud’s RETURN TO VISEGRAD, chronicling the reunion of Serbian and Bosnian classmates separated by war.”
A Way of Life in Peril: Film Festival Distribution in the Age of COVID-19 Jeffrey Winter spoke with Thom Powers on the topic at The Film Collaborative: "Perhaps unscientifically, I routinely name Thom Powers as the most important individual documentary programmer in the world. Given his roles at TIFF, DOC NYC, CPH:DOX, Miami, etc., he plays a prominent role in pre-determining the path that many documentaries take to the marketplace. Now that Spring festivals are shuttered and the fate of a few remaining Summer festivals hang in the balance, the eyes are of the film world are inevitably turning to the Fall, or what I like to call 'Thom Powers territory.' So, it is with great pleasure that this week we bring you words and wisdom from the man himself, as he joins us here for an interview in this fourth part of our series."
Why I Miss Movie Theaters, and Why Nothing Can Replace Them At Variety, Owen Gleiberman mourns the ability to go out for a movie: “Lately, I’ve been thinking about how much I miss movie theaters. I don’t just mean that I miss watching eye-zapping sensory-overload spectacles on the big screen. I don’t just mean that I miss watching vibrant life-size dramas that, by virtue of being on the big screen, become a kind of spectacle, one that’s larger-than-life in its intimacy. I mean that I miss the experience of going out to a movie, of giving yourself over to it, of getting lost in it, of being taken away from this world. Warning: Don’t try this at home. Or, at least, not if you want it to work as well as it does in the cavernous dark.”
Themed Playlist: Women-Made Indigenous Cinema from Canada The Centre for Screen Cultures have published this excellent watchlist put together by Girish Shambu: “Calls to socially distance and self-isolate are driving people to look for things to watch. But the sheer amount of options out there can be overwhelming. For this reason, we at the Centre for Screen Cultures are producing themed playlists of film, video, and television so you can organise your own series or festival at home (or home school). They will update here. We are fortunate to have film blogger, cinephile, film critic and educator, Girish Shambu, provide a list of 10 film/media works made by Indigenous women from Canada. All of them can be streamed for free at the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) website. From Girish: ‘I owe profuse thanks to my friend Michelle van Beusekom, who introduced me to many of these films when she did a series of Facebook posts last June for National Indigenous History Month. Thank you for the gift of these many discoveries, Michelle. This list begins and ends with the great Alanis Obomsawin, the Abenaki filmmaker, singer and activist who has made over 50 films in the course of 5 decades. In Canadian film culture, she is a household name—I only wish it were so all over the world.’”
The Invisible Sound Design of Archival Documentary Christopher Campbell spoke with CRIP CAMP sound supervisor Jacob Bloomfield-Misrach about his work at Nonfics: “When a documentary is comprised of a variety of source material, the film requires a lot of sound editing to create consistent audio levels for a soundtrack that flows without distraction. But how many viewers know that a lot more goes into the sound design of a documentary, especially one made up mostly of archival footage? The award-winning documentary CRIP CAMP: A DISABILITY REVOLUTION is co-directed and produced by James ‘Jim’ LeBrecht, whose career primarily consists of doing sound for nonfiction films. And his wife and fellow producer on the film, Sara Bolder, is a veteran Hollywood dialogue editor who worked on such blockbusters as JURASSIC PARK, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY. Obviously they’d want this new film to have the best sound design possible. For the job, the couple (along with the other co-director and producer Nicole Newnham) hired someone very close to them: Jacob Bloomfield-Misrach. As the sound supervisor for CRIP CAMP, he managed the sound design of an ambitious project mostly made up of early video material as well as an array of news footage, all of which together chronicles an experiential history of the disabled rights movement.”
Stream and Shout: 10 Underseen Rock Documentaries Elisabeth Vincentelli has put together this list of rock doc recommendations for The New York Times: “As we all hole up, rock documentaries can perk up any living room. But in the list below, I opted to skip the well-known ones. Don’t look for stadium headliners or anything by Martin Scorsese. The emphasis is on lesser-known personalities whose energy is palpable through a screen of any size. Also required was a portrayal of community-building and togetherness — something many of us are craving right now — and a healthy amount of music, preferably loud, live and with a ‘you are there’ quality. Minus the stinky bathrooms, of course.”
Netflix Releases 10 Educational Docs on YouTube, Free Announced via press release: “For many years, Netflix has allowed teachers to screen documentaries in their classrooms. However, this isn’t possible with schools closed. So at their request, we have made a selection of our documentary features and series available on the Netflix US YouTube channel. See the full list of documentary films and series below. Each title also has educational resources available, which can be used by both students and teachers - and we’ll be doing Q&As with some of the creators behind these projects so that students can hear from them firsthand. We hope this will, in a small way, help teachers around the world.”
Gravitas Ventures Launch Behind The Doc Podcast Announced via press release and now available on all podcasting platforms: “Behind the Doc takes you on a behind the scenes look at some of the most authentic, illuminating, and exciting documentaries chosen from the Gravitas Ventures collection.” On the first episode: “After seeing a presentation on the song ‘Who Let the Dogs Out,’ filmmaker Brent Hodge knew that there was a movie to be made. Brent Hodge (producer/director) and Aly Kelly (producer) take us with them on the journey of a lifetime as we discuss what it was like in the making of this documentary, meeting Ben Sisto, and the long line of ownership for one of the most popular songs of the late 90’s. This podcast will leave you wondering, who did let the dogs out?”
Both Puloma Basu and Robert Hatch-Miller's NYC record store history OTHER MUSIC and Halina Dyrschka's art bio BEYOND THE VISIBLE - HILMA AF KLINT are both available via various arthouse supporting virtual releases, while Jason Hehir's hotly anticipated 10 part Michael Jordan series THE LAST DANCE began its 2 episode per week release last night via ESPN.
Benjamin May's THE LEGEND OF SWEE’ PEA 2015 DOC NYC Jock Docs
Is now available on VOD.
Deia Schlosberg's THE STORY OF PLASTIC 2019 DOC NYC Green Screens
Will have its television premiere on April 22nd via Discovery Channel.
Chris Cassidy's DENNIS AND LOIS 2018 DOC NYC True Love
Will be released on Blu-ray/DVD/VOD on April 28th via Gravitas Ventures.
Justin Pemberton's CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY 2019 DOC NYC New World Order
Will be released online via Kino Marquee on May 1st.
Elizabeth Carroll's NOTHING FANCY: DIANA KENNEDY 2019 DOC NYC Food For Thought
Will be released online via Greenwich Entertainment on May 22nd.
FEATURED STREAMING DOC SHORT
ROOM H.264: QUARANTINE, APRIL 2020
Directed by Eric Hynes, Jeff Reichert & Damon Smith “ROOM H.264: QUARANTINE, APRIL 2020 is the fourth chapter in an ongoing 21st-century update on Wim Wenders's feature-length documentary ROOM 666. In ROOM 666, Wenders invited filmmakers attending the Cannes Film Festival in 1982 into a hotel room for ten minutes to answer a single question related to the future of cinema. Hynes, Reichert, and Smith have been revisiting the concept and spirit of Wenders’s project since 2016, with the participation of filmmakers such as Kirsten Johnson, Robert Greene, Bing Liu, Julia Reichert, Brett Story, Feras Fayyad, Ashley Connor, Nanfu Wang, and many others. To date, well over 70 contemporary filmmakers have participated in the ROOM H.264 project."
FUND THIS PROJECT
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