What could be more patriotic than hunkering down in a dark theater for some good, old fashioned non-fiction cinema? According to Tom Brueggemann at Indiewire, this past weekend a substantial amount of American’s did just that, with Asif Kapadia’s AMY taking in a commendable $222,105 on just 6 screens, with plenty more to follow. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom the film broke records as the highest grossing non-fiction film on its opening weekend according to Catherine Shoard in The Guardian. Having premiered to rave reviews at Cannes, the film continues to garner critical acclaim. In just the past few days AMY was selected by Jonathan Romney as Film Comment’s Film of the Week, Jane Giles featured the film in Sight & Sound, Joe Coscarelli wrote at length about it in The New York Times and David Edelstein said Kapadia’s portrait was “alternately thrilling and devastating” at Vulture. The praise continues from Flavorwire’s Jillian Mapes, The Guardian’s Mark Kermode, RogerEbert.com’s Susan Wloszczyna and Little White Lies’ Sophie Monks Kaufman, while Steven Hyden at Grantland and Luke Goodsell at Movie Mezzanine deepened the critical conversation with their own substantial reflections on the film.
In addition to reviewing AMY for The Dissolve, Keith Phipps also interviewed by producer James Gay-Rees and director Asif Kapadia at length about how they came to know of their future subject and how they got involved in trying to tell her tragic story. Similarly, Mekado Murphy interviewed Kapadia for The New York Times, and their conversation is paired with a trailer overdubbed with a brief audio commentary by Kapadia himself. Manori Ravindran also have the pleasure of speaking with Gay-Rees about AMY at Realscreen.
Each year the Academy of Motion Pictures re-evaluate their rules for Oscar consideration and the like. Last Tuesday, it was announced that the Documentary Short Subject shortlist would be changing from a maximum of 8 films to 10, and the actual nominations would be set at a static 5 films, rather than fluctuating from 3 to 5 films each year. Anne Thompson reported on the list of Oscar rule changes for Indiewire, while Daniele Alcinii wrote about the news for Realscreen.
While major awards are always a fast track to cinematic cultural recognition, Anthony Kaufman pored over whether celebrity supporters actually have any impact on whether or not documentaries find a market or not for Indiewire. Unsurprisingly, filmmakers like Rachel Boynton who directed BIG MEN and had Brad Pitt as a supported found that “Basically, it makes people feel like your film will be taken seriously by the world when it’s finished. And that can be the difference between getting a ‘no’ and getting a ‘yes.'”
Contemplating film form rather than marketing, Ben Kenigsberg wrote a feature in The New York Times that sees filmmakers such as CARTEL LAND director Matthew Heineman and doc curators such as our own Thom Powers speaking on manipulative, often aesthetically based choices made when constructing non-fiction features. Joe Berlinger, of films like BROTHER’S KEEPER and PARADISE LOST, thinks there needs to be a balance of intimacy and aesthetics, stating, ““The more you treat your interview and your documentary situation like a film set, the less people are comfortable, and the less spontaneous action you can film.”
Among the deluge of festival reports and theatrical reviews that came in this past week, the most interesting tidbit may be the announcement that docu legend Frederick Wisemen has taken to Kickstarter in hopes of raising funds to complete his 40th feature film, IN JACKSON HEIGHTS. The campaign page features a short video of the director himself pitching his project, as well as the first trailer for the film. Manori Ravindran reported on Wiseman’s first foray into the crowdfunding over at Realscreen, as did Sarah Salovaara for Filmmaker Magazine.
Though the Sheffield Doc/Fest having wrapped a couple weeks back, both Cineuropa’s Naman Ramachandran and Realscreen’s Manori Ravindran reported early this past week that Joshua Oppenheimer’s THE LOOK OF SILENCE took home the festival’s Audience Award, while Sean MacAllister’s A SYRIAN LOVE STORY, reviewed by Camillo De Macro at Cineuropa, took home the Grand Jury Prize. De Marco also wrote a piece on the awards handed out at this year’s Bologna Biografilm Festival, including the Unipol Award for Best Film which was given to Patricio Guzman for THE PEARL BUTTON. Back stateside, as reported by Kevin Ritchie at Realscreen, Mo-Young Jin’s MY LOVE, DON’T CROSS THAT RIVER won the LA Film Fest Documentary prize. Ritchie also covered the 10 films shortlisted for next year’s Cinema Eye Awards for television projects, which include Alex Gibney’s GOING CLEAR, Alex Winter’s DEEP WEB and Jose Antonio Vargas’ DOCUMENTED.
AFI Docs kicked off Wednesday and wrapped up last night in Washington, DC. In The Washington Post, Ann Hornaday wrote a substantial preview of the festival that was marked by its truthful, but accusatory headline, “In the Golden Age of documentaries, the medium could use more artistry”. At Keyframe, David Hudson kept a substantial round-up of the festival’s press coverage, while Chad Gracia’s Sundance prize winner THE RUSSIAN WOODPECKER received some attention from Manori Ravindran in Realscreen and Camillo De Marco at Cineuropa. Prior the fest, Basil Tsiokos previewed the non-fiction offerings at not just AFI Docs, but BAMcinemaFest, Frameline and the Edinburgh International Film Festival, each at What (not) to Doc.
Photo by Larry Busacca / Getty Images
Crystal Moselle’s unbelievable Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner THE WOLFPACK is undeniably the most talked about doc of the year thus far. Hitting theaters this past weekend, the film was not only selected by our own Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen as WNYC’s Documentary of the Week, but featured in the LA Times by Steven Zeitchik, Huffington Post by Matthew Jacobs, the Wall Street Journal by Caryn James, Salon thanks to Lauren Wissot and The New York Times by Cara Buckley. Manohla Dargis also reviewed Moselle’s film for The Times, as did NPR’s Ella Taylor, NY Daily News’ Joe Neumaier, RogerEbert.com’s Brian Tallerico, The Dissolve’s Tasha Robinson and Ned Benson at The Talkhouse. At Indiewire, Anne Thompson and Ryan Lattanzio posted a new video of the film’s subjects, the Angulo Brothers, remaking classic DeNiro scenes, while Simon Houpt spoke with two of the boys for The Globe and Mail. With all the attention, it’s unsurprising to find Moselle has been doing interviews with everyone, including Jenelle Riley of Variety, Jamie Maleszka at Nonfics, The Dissolve’s Tasha Robinson and Vice.
This last week also saw two substantial new entries into the doc world. The Wrap’s Itay Hod and Bent’s Jamie Gates both reported that Logo TV is launching an LGBT documentary division with a slate films that include Michele Josue’s MATT SHEPARD IS A FRIEND OF MINE and Deborah Riley Draper’s VERSAILLES ’73: AN AMERICAN REVOLUTION. Likewise, Economist Magazine has kicked off a new documentary unit, Economist Films, according to Variety’s David S. Cohen. Starting big, they’ve already posted a pair of films for viewing in DRONE RANGERS and DRUGS: WAR OR STORE?.
Just as HBO’s Vice premiered their latest episode, “Campus Coverup” (which Sarah Seltzer covered for Flavorwire), and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo began to screen Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick’s exposé of rape crimes on U.S. college campuses, THE HUNTING GROUND, in an effort “to promote legislation that would establish a uniform definition of consent, as well as reporting and investigative procedures for all his state’s public and private colleges and universities”, controversy has broken out over the film’s legitimacy thanks to an exhaustive factual critique by Emily Yoffe at Slate in which she suggests that “the filmmakers put advocacy ahead of accuracy”. In response, Flavorwire’s Jason Bailey published an article he titled “Our Brand Is Rape Skepticism: On Slate and Emily Yoffe’s Weird ‘Hunting Ground’ Obsession”. The back and forth makes for an interesting read.
In the same vein, Bailey, Deadline’s David Robb and The Hollywood Reporter’s Jonathan Handel each reported that Amy Berg’s child sex abuse in Hollywood doc, AN OPEN SECRET, has once again come under fire, this time in a threat to sue from the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists if Berg didn’t remove all references to the union from the film. Supporting the film, Jen Yamato wrote a feature on AN OPEN SECRET for The Daily Beast.
Last week our Spring Season of Stranger Than Fiction came to a close with a sold out screening of Crystal Moselle’s THE WOLFPACK. Stranger Than Fiction will return in the Fall starting September 22nd.