The Time For Burning Is Now


Writing and videography by Joseph Schroeder, who has managed the production of highly acclaimed educational and informational programming for networks such as PBS, A&E and National Geographic for over a decade. Currently the Vice President of Production and Operations of The Independent Production Fund. Follow him on Twitter and see more of his work on his website.

Stranger Than Fiction opened its Spring 2017 season with a 50th anniversary screening of the landmark film, A Time for Burning, and a Q&A with its director, Bill Jersey.  What followed was not only a master class on a documentary filmmaking, but an exploration of race relations back in 1967 and right now in 2017.

A Time For Burning portrays the leaders of the Augustana Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska, struggling with how to integrate African-Americans into their parish in 1965.  The congregation is led by a charismatic young preacher, Bill Youngdahl, who believes the only way to move forward is to integrate fully, starting with a number of home interracial exchange visits with nearby Hope Lutheran Church.  He is determined to create a place where “People can take different sides of the issue and still forgive each other.”  Many members agree, including Ray Christensen, who believes “The world is going to pass us by on the biggest issue of our lifetime.”  But a divide soon presents itself, most notably through council leaders of the church, who repeatedly state that “the timing is not good” regarding the issue.

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Monday Memo: Art of the Real In Full Swing


Still of Laura Poitras' RISK, Art of the Real's Closing Night Film.

While Richard Brody and Basil Tsiokos reminded us that both the Tribeca Film Festival and the Brazilian doc festival It’s All True began last Thursday, both of which are hosting a handful of doc world premieres and festival favorites, it seems that the large majority of journalistic eyes were focused on the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual Art of the Real festival this past week. Writing in MUBI’s Notebook, Jaime Grijalba Gómez works through how the program reveals “what is at the core of what we call documentary or non-fiction cinema,” just as Daniel Walber looked at “what critics can learn from [the festival’s] great programming” for Nonfics. Michael Sicinski highlighted his favorites from the festival thus far in Village Voice, including Patric Chiha’s “docudrama about Bulgarian Roma hustlers in Vienna” BROTHERS OF THE NIGHT, which Tanner Tafelski gushed about over at Kinoscope. Additionally, Neil Young spoke with director Austin Lynch for Little White Lies about his directorial debut GRAY HOUSE, as Em Cominotti and Jeffrey Dunn Rovinelli, the co-directors of EMPATHY, interviewed each other for Brooklyn Magazine.

Tuesday saw The Peabody Awards Board of Jurors reveal its 12 winners in its Documentary category for programs released in 2016. Laura Berger covered the announcement for Women and Hollywood, noting that seven of the twelve films are women-directed or co-directed, including Dawn Porter’s Stranger Than Fiction alum TRAPPED.

Speaking of Stranger Than Fiction, our spring season continues tomorrow with Kyoko Miyake’s Sundance hit TOKYO IDOLS, which gets at the heart of a Japanese cultural phenomenon driven by an obsession with young female sexuality and internet popularity. Director Miyake will take part in a live post-screening Q&A. Tickets are still available for this event here.

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Monday Memo: POV’s 30th Season Announced


After a week away to take care of unexpected life happenings, the memo is back! First up PBS’s announcement of the lineup for the 30th season of POV, featuring the likes of CAMERAPERSON, DO NOT RESIST, Oscar nominated shorts JOE’S VIOLIN and 4.1 MILES and more. The series begins on June 26th with Julia Meltzer’s DALYA’S OTHER COUNTRY. Curators looking to host a screening of any of the films can now book a handful of the films via the POV Lending Library.

The Cannes Film Festival also revealed their 2017 selections last Thursday, with few doc picks as has been traditionally the case. David Hudson dug through the selections for Fandor, noting Claude Lanzmann’s new doc on North Korea titled NAPALM, and Raymond Depardon‘s 12 DAYS, a documentary mysteriously about “where justice and psychiatry meet.”

Tomorrow at the IFC Center, our Spring Season will kick off with Bill Jersey’s 1967 landmark of the cinéma vérité movement, A TIME FOR BURNING. Director Jersey will be on hand for live Q&A. Tickets for the event and spring season passes are still available here.

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Spring Season Announced!


Stranger Than Fiction packs the spring season of its 13th year with sneak previews, classics and bonus screenings. The season begins on April 18 with the Oscar-nominated “A Time for Burning” (1966), exploring a clash over racial integration in a Midwestern church during the peak of the civil rights movement. The film will screen on a 35 mm print, courtesy of the Academy Film Archive, followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Bill Jersey.

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Monday Memo: #100


Many of you may remember, a little over two years ago the admirable Rahul Chadha, whom manned the memo long before I, announced that he would be permanently signing off. As a budding doc journalist and avid tracker of doc development, I had come to love and rely on the memo for my weekly comprehensive fix of doc news and was mildly worried this helpful resource was doomed. In a surprise twist of fate, at the recommendation of Rahul, I was asked by Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen, the dynamic duo behind Stranger Than Fiction, if I’d like to fill Rahul’s considerable shoes and continue on with the memo under my watch. Without hesitation, I jumped at the chance, and to my astonishment, this week’s Monday Memo marks my hundredth. Before we get into this week’s memo I just wanted to thank Rahul for recommending me, and Thom and Raphaela for the opportunity. It’s been an honor and great source of pride. So, without further ado…

Following in the wake of Trump’s proposed budget cuts, Michael Schneider reports for IndieWire that Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland publicly took issue with several PBS’ Independent Lens documentaries at a House subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, stating, “When you produce shows like KUMU HINA, almost a third of a million dollar investment, or BABY MAMA HIGH [which cost] $50,000, which you know $50,000 pays for the healthcare of ten individuals on the Affordable Care Act, I have to respond to people in my district… and in fact they would resent if I was publicly funding that.” That came just days after Raney Aronson-Rath, the executive producer of PBS’ Frontline, published a public cry for help on Frontline’s website in response to the proposed budget cuts. She urges, “If you feel as I do that public media is essential to our democracy and to enhancing public understanding of the critical issues of our day, please make your voice heard. Visit www.ProtectMyPublicMedia.org to both sign a petition to support continued funding and to find information about the ways public media serves our communities.”

Here at Stranger Than Fiction, our winter season wrapped up last week with Amanda Micheli’s VEGAS BABY. If you missed out on any of our winter screenings, I urge you to go back and read Joseph Schroeder and Megan Scanlon‘s recaps of each event, complete with live Q&A videos and more. We’ll be announcing our spring lineup within the coming weeks.

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