The first still from Paul Thomas Anderson's JUNUN
In a week in which the Toronto International Film Festival announced its programming schedule for its ever eventful Doc Conference and Hot Docs announced the appointment of Shane Smith as their new Director of Programming in an attempt to plug the hole left by the departure of Charlotte Cook earlier this year, the biggest news of the week may be the release of the New York Film Festival’s lineup. Most notably, included as part of the Special Events programming is the world premiere of JUNUN, Paul Thomas Anderson’s first attempt at documentary filmmaking. According to Nicholas Kemp’s Film Society of Lincoln Center announcement, the film “follows the musical journey of his close friend and collaborator Jonny Greenwood to northern India, to record an album with an Israeli musician Shye Ben Tzur and illustrious local musicians.” Reporting for Rolling Stone, Daniel Kreps outlined the surprise film’s origins.
Prior to the world premiere of Fredrick Wiseman’s IN JACKSON HEIGHTS in Venice and its subsequent screenings at TIFF in tandem with showings of his recently restored classic TITICUT FOLLIES, A.O. Scott celebrated the legendary doc filmmaker in The New York Times, gushing, “There are nonfiction films that force you to suppress your summarizing reflexes, to slow your thinking and open your sensory receptors to new modes of perception, even when what you are perceiving seems to be perfectly ordinary. The master of this kind of filmmaking is Frederick Wiseman, now 85, whose sustained acts of attention to various places, institutions and social phenomena constitute one of the great monuments of modern filmmaking.”
While Wiseman was on the mind of Scott, Variety’s Addie Morfoot had the Emmys and their recent rule changes on the brain. She writes, “a rule change this year has opened up the Emmy nonfiction category, allowing theatrical hits such as CITIZENFOUR to compete for Emmys,” increasing the competition in an already increasingly competitive field which now includes titles from Netflix, while Emmy mainstays like PBS and HBO continue to produce outstanding content. Realscreen’s Kevin Ritchie reports that Justine Nagan, POV’s new executive producer and executive director of American Documentary, has plenty to plans already in the works to keep PBS on the fore of doc filmmaking. The 67th Primetime Emmy Awards will air September 20, 2015.
Still from Barbara Kopple's MISS SHARON JONES!, premiering as part of TIFF Docs
Following the rather shocking news that Michael Moore would debuting his previously unannounced new film WHERE TO INVADE NEXT at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Thom Powers and the TIFF gang have revealed the entire TIFF Docs program which no consists of a staggering 31 films. The slate includes a wealth of music based docs such as Barbara Kopple’s MISS SHARON JONES!, Morgan Neville’s THE MUSIC OF STRANGERS: YO-YO MA AND THE SILK ROAD ENSEMBLE, Kahlil Joseph’s THE REFLEKTOR TAPES, which was previewed by Hugh McIntyre at Forbes, and a new film shot by Sydney Pollack titled AMAZING GRACE on Aretha Franklin’s record of the same name. The film received a pair of previews thanks to Steven Zeitchik at the LA Times and Flavorwire’s Jason Bailey. Also included in the lineup is IN JACKSON HEIGHTS, by Fredrick Wiseman, who was interviewed this week about the film by David Ehrlich at Little White Lies.
Thom Powers himself spoke about the docs at TIFF this year with Realscreen’s Kevin Ritchie, as well as with David Poland on his Youtube interview series DP/30. Writing for indieWIRE, Laura Berger also surveyed the non-fiction offerings at the fest, as did Tom Roston at Doc Soup, Gregg Kilday at The Hollywood Reporter, Michael Cieply for The New York Times and Matt Goldberg at Collider. While TIFF Docs harbors the majority of non-fiction films at the festival, two new programs offer a few surprises including Alan Zweig‘s HURT: THE STEVE FONYO STORY, which screens as part of the new Platform competition reports Realscreen’s Daniele Alcinii, and Morgan Neville’s KEITH RICHARD: UNDER THE INFLUENCE, which will play in the new television sidebar, Primetime, reports Jeremy Egner in The New York Times.
Ambulante California, an nontraditional roving film festival that calls to mind the travelling festival project put together by actress Tilda Swinton and filmmaker Mark Cousins back in 2009, has also announced their documentary stuffed lineup according to Kate Erbland at indieWIRE. Carolina A. Miranda of the LA times attempted to explain why Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, the festival organizers, have decided to stay away from utilizing traditional movie theaters for their Ambulante screenings. Also on the topic of festival lineups, Basil Tsiokos previewed the doc offerings at this year’s Sarajevo Film Festival at What (not) To Doc.
I must apologize – without warning I took leave weekend to venture off to Rochester, NY to attend the Toronto Film Society’s yearly raid of the Eastman House to watch two days worth of rarely screened prints of films such as Karl Brown’s STARK LOVE, William A. Wellman’s TRACK OF THE CAT and Mikio Naruse’s KIMIKO. But with a lineup like that, who could blame me?
In my absence, startling news broke that Michael Moore had somehow managed to complete a film completely in secret and that our own Thom Powers and the TIFF programming team would have the pleasure of world premiering it as part of their headlining Special Presentations in Toronto come September. Moore’s film, titled WHERE TO INVADE NEXT, has sparked much excitement in the doc community, instantly shooting to the top of my latest most anticipated unreleased docs list published over at IONCINEMA. Anne Thompson, ruminating over at indieWIRE, wrote a piece detailing just how TIFF came to nab Moore’s latest hot commodity. In addition to WHERE TO INVADE NEXT, TIFF also released their lineup of Canadian features at this year’s fest, including a quintet of docs – Brian D. Johnson’s AL PURDY WAS HERE, Patrick Reed and Michelle Shephard’s GUANTANAMO’S CHILD: OMAR KHADR, Mina Shum’s NINTH FLOOR, Avi Lewis’ THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING and Geneviève Dulude-De Celles’ WELCOME TO F.L.
Prior to TIFF releasing their first wave of films, the Venice International Film Festival also released their staggering lineup of features which includes such notable films as Fredrick Wiseman’s IN JACKSON HEIGHTS, Amy Berg’s JANIS, as well as Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow’s DE PALMA. And while announcements are being made elsewhere, the Locarno International Film Festival is currently in full swing. David Hudson is keeping close tabs on all the coverage coming out of Locarno over at Keyframe, while Basil Tsiokos wrote up preview of the festival’s non-fiction offerings at What (not) To Doc.
It’s now midway through the year and awards season is already looming large. On Wednesday of last week, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced their nominations for the 36th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards, calling attention to the fact that nontraditional production outlets like The New York Times and Netflix continue to garner critical attention. Among many others, Daniele Alcinii reported on the nominations for Realscreen. While the Emmy noms have already been announced, the Cinema Eye Honors are still taking regular submissions until this coming Friday.
Each year the Toronto International Film Festival is always a big part of the awards season kick off and this past week Realscreen’s Manori Ravindran reported that doc directors Asif Kapadia and Avi Lewis, actor Bill Hader and author Naomi Klein will be among the featured guests of this year’s Doc Conference taking place during Toronto’s premiere festival in September. In other festival news, Basil Tsiokos wrote up a preview of the non-fiction fare on offer at the upcoming Asian American International Film Festival at What (not) To Doc, while Jorn Rossing Jensen of Cineuropa listed the contenders at this year’s Nordisk Panorama Film Festival in Malmö, Sweden. In addition, Cineuropa’s Vitor Pinto spoke with EDN director Paul Pauwels about Lisbon Docs’ new preliminary development labs, THE LAB. While it was announced that, among many others notable films, Ben Rivers’ THE SKY TREMBLES AND THE EARTH IS AFRAID AND THE TWO EYES ARE NOT will premiere at this year’s Locarno Film Festival, MUBI’s Tom Stevenson comprehensively previewed Rivers’ upcoming form blending BBC Drama Block installation THE TWO EYES ARE NOT BROTHERS.
After an extensive festival run that garnered a unanimous flood of exultant praise, Joshua Oppenheimer’s THE LOOK OF SILENCE is just finally reaching domestic theaters. The New York Times ran a trio of stories on the film this week – a review by A.O. Scott in which he compares Oppenheimer’s work to Claude Lanzmann’s monumental holocaust doc, SHOAH, a piece by Cara Buckley in which she reports on the uncertain futures of the Indonesians who helped in the production of the film, and an interview by Adam Shatz in which Oppenheimer, reflecting on ever going back to Indonesia states, “I could probably get into Indonesia without incident. I’m just not sure I would get out alive again.”
Our own Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen selected the film as WNYC’s Documentary of the Week, while, at indieWIRE, Anthony Kaufman wrote a piece that questioned whether or not The LOOK OF SILENCE has already claimed the title of Best Documentary of the Year. Adding critical depth to the conversations surrounding Oppenheimer’s latest, Flavorwire’s Jason Bailey, LA Times’ Janet Kinosian, and Movie Mezzanine’s Jake Cole each wrote lengthy reflections on the film. Eric Hynes also composed some astute thoughts on the film at Reverse Shot, as did Tony Pipolo at Artforum and Dana Stevens for Slate. Writing at Doc Soup, Tom Roston recommended some things to watch before seeing Oppenheimer’s new film, while Joshua Brunsting reviewed the film for Criterion Cast and Glenn Kenny did the same for RogerEbert.com. Oppenheimer himself has been on the press tour, speaking with everyone under the sun including indieWIRE’s Ryan Lattanzio, The L Magazine’s Elise Nakhnikian, Jamie Maleszka for Nonfics, and even me, for IONCINEMA. Rounding out the film’s coverage, Sight & Sound published a piece by Robert Greene comparing the politically motivated filmmaking techniques of Joshua Oppenheimer and Adam Curtis.