Monday Memo: DOC NYC PRO Announced, Field of Vision Sets Off


While the New York Film Festival rages on with the upcoming premiere of Paul Thomas Anderson’s JUNUN this coming week and Jacob Bernstein’s EVERYTHING IS COPY (which was reviewed by Steven Zeitchik in The Los Angeles Times and by Variety’s Nick Schager) this past week, DOC NYC is gearing up for their own festivities, announcing a rebrand of their industry conference with DOC NYC PRO. The eight-day series of talks, panels, masterclasses, and professional development workshops was reported on by Realscreen’s Kevin Ritchie. Speakers already scheduled to present at the already stacked event include Sheila Nevins, Jon Alpert, Abigail Disney, Kirby Dick, Justine Nagan, Simon Kilmurry and Dan Cogan.

Stephen Holden wrote a broad overview of the New York Film Festival for The New York Times, making special mention of Michael Moore’s TIFF-premiered WHERE TO INVADE NEXT, which was just picked up for theatrical release this past week by ex-Radius heads Tom Quinn and Jason Janego and Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League’s still unnamed new distribution company. Jeremy Kay of Screen Daily broke the news, with subsequent reports coming in from Variety’s Dave McNary and Brent Lang, as well as from Deadline’s Patrick Hipes. The Guardian’s Nigel M. Smith quoted Moore speaking at the press conference of his new film and why he didn’t invade the UK for ideas as saying, “We don’t have much to learn from the UK…The UK has in recent years started to look too much like us.” Eric Hynes reviewed Moore’s latest project (along with other TIFF Docs) for Film Comment, aptly observing that “Every interview is a setup, every scene is “a scene,” and his every appearance contradictorily signifies both Liberal Crusader and Ugly American. We’re invited to see these layers of artifice, and encouraged to feel and think more deeply because, not in spite, of them.” In anticipation of the film, The Close-Up podcast released an in-depth conversation with the filmmaker recorded back in 2012.

As festival season rolls on, Oscar debate begins to heat up, as Peter Knegt‘s pair of pieces in indieWIRE on the likeliest doc candidates to go up for Oscars later this year. He pegs AMY as the front runner, but only head of THE HUNTING GROUND, CARTEL LAND, THE LOOK OF SILENCE and THE WOLFPACK by a smidge.

Last week here at Stranger Than Fiction we kicked of our Fall 2015 season with director Evgeny Afineevsky’s WINTER ON FIRE: UKRAINE’S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM. If you missed the screening, you can now watch the post-screening conversation between Thom Powers and the filmmaker, or read Jeffrey Fleishman‘s rave in The Los Angeles Times. We also had a late addition to our Fall schedule, slotting in director Jennifer Peedom’s Mount Everest climbing doc SHERPA on on November 5th. The film was, in addition to being selected as WNYC’s Documentary of the Week, glowingly reviewed by Sheri Linden in The Los Angeles Times and Ken Jaworowski in The New York Times. Tomorrow we welcome directors Ellen Spiro and Phil Donahue with their intimate and transformational new feature, BODY OF WAR! Screening tickets and season passes are still available for purchase here!

Continue reading…

WINTER ON FIRE: Front Row to the Ukrainian Revolution


It’s an all too familiar story – a peaceful protest fueled by a deep desire for change becomes a violent battle for basic human rights. In the past few years, we’ve witnessed the rise of revolutions in Egypt, in Spain, and in the US, but on the opening night of the Fall season of Stranger Than Fiction, we had a front row seat to an uprising in The Ukraine, and a country’s struggle for independence, freedom, and a better future.

WINTER ON FIRE: UKRAINE’S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM follows 93 days of protests that began in Kiev’s Maidan Square, following then-president Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign an agreement that would allow his country to enter the European Union. The people of Ukraine saw inclusion in the EU as a move that would help stabilize the long-flailing country, and usher in a new era of hope, independence, and eventual prosperity. But Yanukovych instead signed a major deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and in the eyes of millions of Ukrainians, betrayed his country and his people.

Director Evgeny Afineevsky brings viewers to the front lines of this turbulent time in Ukraine’s history, and shows how a peaceful youth movement morphed into a bloody struggle. With a crew of over 20 cinematographers using a combination of cameras, Afineevsky and his team capture the major battles and hidden moments that fueled a revolution.

“For the people of Ukraine, this was an important moment in their history, and a chance for them to show that the people still have the power,” Afineevsky said during the Q&A following Tuesday’s screening at the IFC Center. “It started as a joyful youth movement. No one expected thing to unfold the way they did.”

Continue reading…

Monday Memo: FIELD OF VISION & JUNUN Set For Online Debuts Post-NYFF


After being inundated by an avalanche of doc news in the wake of TIFF, this past week has been comparatively quite quiet. Coverage from Toronto keeps trickling in through pieces like Jason Gorber‘s list of the festival’s top docs that was published over at Nonfics and film reviews like my piece on Kent Jones’ HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT posted at IONCINEMA, while most media has already trained their eyes on the New York Film Festival which kicked off last Friday. Prior to opening night, Manohla Dargis wrote a thorough preview of the fest for The New York Times, as did Basil Tsiokos at What (not) To Doc, both of whom somehow overlooked the world premiere of Laura Poitras, AJ Schnack and Charlotte Cook’s FIELD OF VISION short subject series, which took place last night. If (like most of us) you weren’t able to make yesterday’s screening at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the series is scheduled to hit the net tomorrow!

As reported by Stephen Holden in The New York Times, Noah Boambach’s DE PALMA is set to make a splash later this week, as is Paul Thomas Anderson’s first non-fiction feature JUNUN, on his friend and frequent creative collaborator Jonny Greenwood. Most excitedly, much like FIELD OF VISION, JUNUN will be available for online viewing the day after its NYFF premieme on October 9th via the meticulously curated streaming service, MUBISophie Monks Kaufman wrote about the surprise development for Little White Lies.

Here at Stranger Than Fiction, tomorrow night marks the opening of our Fall 2015 season with a very special screening of TIFF’s People’s Choice Documentary Award winner WINTER ON FIRE: UKRAINE’S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM at the IFC Center! Director Evgeny Afineevsky will also be on hand for a post-screening Q&A. Season passes are still available here.

Continue reading…

Monday Memo: Field Of Vision Comes Into Focus, TIFF Fades Out Until Next Year


Phew. I’ve returned, a bit winded from another rather joyous outing in Toronto, having copiously feasted on the year’s biggest and best selection of films just about anywhere. And in my relative absence from the happenings of online cinema news, a tsunami of exciting announcements, festival coverage and more has hit the net – most essentially, The Intercept’s launch of Field of Vision, a new documentary unit co-created by filmmakers Laura Poitras, AJ Schnack and former Hot Docs Director of Programing Charlotte Cook. Variety’s Dave McNary had the exclusive on the arrival of the group, while Eric Hynes interviewed the creative trio about their intentions for Field of Vision at The Intercept itself. Paula Bernstein of indieWIRE also spoke with them about how the project hopes to impact documentary filmmaking, as did Manori Ravindran for Realscreen. According to Varun Nayar at Tech Times, “2015’s inaugural season is set to begin on Sept. 29, where Poitras will look at the man behind Wikileaks, Julian Assange, documenting his progress and his time spent in political asylum in London’s Ecuadorian embassy.”

Still riding the waves of CITIZENFOUR, Laura Poitras won the Emmy Award for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking, alongside Andrew Jarecki, who won the Emmy for Outstanding documentary or nonfiction series award for THE JINX, and Alex Gibney, who took home the prize for Outstanding documentary or nonfiction special for GOING CLEAR, reports Stephanie Merry in The Washington Post. Last week also saw the release of the European Film Awards’ first doc shortlist, which includes Asif Kapadia’s AMY, THE LOOK OF SILENCE from director Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean McAllister’s A SYRIAN LOVE STORY, according to Scott Roxborough of The Hollywood Reporter. Similarly, Manori Ravindran of Realscreen reports that Cinema Eye Honors also announced their doc shorts finalists, naming David Darg’s BODY TEAM 12 and Kitty Green’s THE FACE OF UKRAINE: CASTING OKSANA BAIUL amongst others.

Continue reading…

Monday Memo: Aretha Sues AMAZING GRACE Out Of Telluride Premiere, TIFF Screenings Still On


Out of what appears to be strictly a matter of greed, soul singing legend Aretha Franklin has filed suit and successfully received an emergency court injunction barring the Telluride Film Festival from world premiering Sydney Pollack’s long gestating posthumous documentary AMAZING GRACE, “which shows the making of Ms. Franklin’s album of the same name more than four decades ago,” reports Brooks Barnes and Michael Cieply of The New York Times. Reacting to the news Franklin issued a statement saying, “Justice, respect and what is right prevailed and one’s right to own their own self-image,” despite “a recently discovered 1968 contract that Franklin signed allowed the use of the footage,” according to The New York TimesCatherine Shoard of The Guardian covered the story as well, noting “that four years ago Franklin sued Elliott over the same issue, and ‘the lawsuit was resolved after Elliott agreed not to release the film’.” Steven Zeitchik and Rebecca Keegan of The Los Angeles Times and Tambay A. Obenson of indieWIRE also covered the news, while Chris Willman featured the film in question for The Hollywood Reporter. Looking to the Toronto Film Festival where the film is set to screen later this week, our own Thom Powers has assured the show will go on, stating, “We’re proceeding with plans to screen AMAZING GRACE at TIFF. We haven’t heard of any legal procedures regarding the film in Toronto.”

Before all this legal hub-bub went down, at What (not) To Doc Basil Tsiokos gave an overview of the non-fiction offerings screening at both Telluride and Venice, which kicked off last Wednesday. Coverage from Venice has been slowly coming in, including Kaleem Aftab‘s positive review of Rinku Kalsy’s FOR THE LOVE OF MAN for indieWIRE, Guy Lodge‘s glowing review of Amy Berg’s JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE at Variety, and a pair of supportive reviews of Evgeny Afineevsky’s WINTER ON FIRE: UKRAINE’S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM from The Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Farber and Variety’s Jay Weissberg. Weissberg also reviewed Frederick Wiseman’s latest, IN JACKSON HEIGHTS, while Manori Ravindran spoke with the institution-obsessed documentarian Realscreen about his first (and likely last) foray into crowdfunding and why he prefers long-form to television friendly films.

Continue reading…