Monday Memo: Tribeca Announces Award Winners, Sundance Introduces Climate Change Lab


Still from Craig Atkinson's DO NOT RESIST, winner of Tribeca Film Festival Best Documentary

Still from Craig Atkinson's DO NOT RESIST, winner of Tribeca Film Festival Best Documentary

Outside of Tribeca’s wrap-up and award announcements over the weekend, this week has been rather uneventful in the realm of nonfiction cinema. That said, the 15th Tribeca Film Festival concluded by giving Craig Atkinson’s DO NOT RESIST the $20,000 cash prize for Best Documentary and the Ross Brothers’ CONTEMPORARY COLOR was awarded with prizes for both Best Cinematography and Best Editing. Reflecting on the top prize winner, indieWIRE’s Eric Kohn reviewed DO NOT RESIST, while Joe Peeler of Hammer To Nail spoke with Bill Ross about his award winning color guard film,  Realscreen’s Daniele Alcinii reported on the festival’s complete awards list.

In other festival news as reported by Kevin Ritchie at Realscreen, Cannes announced that Laura Poitras’ feature length Julian Assange doc RISK (formally billed as a web series and titled ASYLUM) will have its world premiere as part of Director’s Fortnight, joining Jim Jarmusch’s Iggy Pop doc GIMME DANGER, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s HISSEIN HABRÉ: A CHADIAN TRAGEDY, and Rithy Panh’s EXIL as part of the festival’s nonfiction offerings. Meanwhile, Basil Tsiokos previewed the doc offerings at this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival at What (not) To Doc, noting the world premieres of Moby Longinotto’s THE JONESES and Michael Almereyda’s ESCAPES. Realscreen’s Kevin Ritchie reports that Sundance has announced a new development lab aiming to develop projects “that focus on climate change, conservation and the environment, and inspire viewers to take action.” And at indieWIRE, Eric Kohn, Kate Erbland, David Ehrlich and Liz Shannon Miller debated the future of film festivals, discussing current trends and cultural ruts.

Here at Stranger Than Fiction, our spring season continues tomorrow with special 15th Anniversary screening of Sandi DuBowski’s TREMBLING BEFORE G-D, featuring a post-screening Q&A with the director and film subjects David, Rabbi Steve Greenberg, Michelle, Naomi and Mark. Tickets for the event can be purchased here.

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Monday Memo: Let Me Be Brief


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If you’ll allow me, I will be brief this week. I’ve spent the last five days laid up, feverish and full of yuck, but I’m on the upward swing and there are some interesting bits of news to report. First and foremost, after weeks of teasing with podcast playlist tweets, Thom Powers’ Pure Nonfiction podcast has gone live, both on the web and iTunes, where you can get a brief hint of the documentary goodness to come. Be sure to hit up the site, subscribe via your favorite podcast service and leave him a review to get the new program some much needed exposure. The first three episodes featuring interviews with Kahane Cooperman, Dawn Porter and the filmmakers behind MAKING A MURDERER roll out this week.

Second on the agenda is the online release of AJ Schnack’s shocking Sundance short SPEAKING IS DIFFICULT, which was published this week by Field of Vision. To compliment the film’s release, The Intercept ran a disconcerting piece by John Thomason titled “What We Know and Don’t Know About Mass Shootings and Gun Deaths,” while The New York Times published Mekado Murphy‘s extensive take on Schnack’s film, noting its potential growth as further violent acts are committed. I also discussed the film with Schnack for IONCINEMA.com after it screened as part of the shorts programs at True/False.

This week at Stranger Than Fiction we’ll be screening David Van Taylor’s timely 2012 documentary ADVISE & DISSENT, the first documentary to go behind the lines and into the trenches of the judicial confirmation wars. The film tracks two opposing lobbyists and two lions of the Senate through three contested nominations, each of which inflames passions and provokes surprising conflicts and shifting alliances. Director Van Taylor will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A and tickets are still available here.

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Monday Memo: Art of the Real Begins, Full Frame Finishes, VR-focused Scenic Launches


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As more new outlets, tech companies and film festivals become interested in cinematic VR projects, filmmakers are doing the same. Co.Design’s Mark Wilson extensive report announces that HELVETICA director Gary Hustwit has launched an ambitious new VR production company called Scenic. “Scenic’s focus is producing short, documentary content in 360 degrees for virtual reality headsets. A lot of it, fast. In its first year, Scenic will release 40 different projects, which is the sort of pace only made possible by the collective of documentarian all-stars he’s assembled to take part: Amir Bar-Lev (THE TILLMAN STORY), Marshall Curry (STREET FIGHT), Jessica Edwards (MAVIS!), Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (JESUS CAMP), Liz Garbus (WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?), Sam Green (THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND), Dawn Porter (TRAPPED), and Lucy Raven (CHINA TOWN).” With a lineup like that, how could one not be intrigued?

Now, onto festival news, beginning with Tom Roston‘s report on the “urgent, enriching, and harrowing” docs at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, which started last Thursday and wrapped up yesterday. Chris O’Falt, writing for indieWIRE, highlighted the many female filmmakers who had films at this year’s edition of the festival, while, incredibly, Polygraph published the largest analysis of dialogue in fiction film by gender ever attempted. Realscreen’s Kevin Ritchie also posted a list of eight highlights from the fest, seven of which happen to have been making their world premieres. At What (not) To Doc, Basil Tsiokos previewed the new films on offer at the fest, as well as Brazil’s It’s All True International Documentary Film Festival and the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s nonfiction and hybrid showcase, Art of the Real.

David Ehrlich and Eric Kohn wrote a piece on five must-watch docs at Art of the Real, while the Film Comment staff made the hybrid series the focus of conversation in their latest podcast. Looking at the upcoming Tribeca film festival and beyond, Mekado Murphy listed the upcoming NYC festivals in The New York Times, while Melena Ryzik‘s post-VAXXED controversy piece on the responsibilities involved in programming major film festivals sees our own Thom Powers admitting, “I feel that pressure more and more each year. Because documentaries are getting more ambitious, I think that there is a healthy anxiety for any film festival programmer to be worrying over the works that they’re presenting. If I didn’t feel anxious, it would be a sign that I’m really playing it safe with the films I show.” Meanwhile, Variety’s Martin Dale reported on the programming at this year’s edition of IFF Panama and the four day work shop with Patricio Guzmán, whose own film NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT was featured by Ross McDonnell in MUBI’s Notebook. And finally, the Stephen Follows Film Data and Education published a substantial overview of shifting trends in how film festival submission processes.

Tomorrow, we host EP/Director/Writer Rhys Thomas and EP/Director Alex Buono for a screening of two of their favorite episodes of DOCUMENTARY NOW! along with clips from the films that inspired the episodes. DOCUMENTARY NOW! DECONSTRUCTED is available only to STF spring season pass holders; no individual tickets will be sold to this event. Visit here to purchase a season pass.

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Monday Memo: Dust Settles After VAXXED Pulled From Tribeca, NO HOME MOVIE Reminds Of Loss


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A week after the Tribeca Film Festival decided to pull the discredited physician Andrew Wakefield’s documentary VAXXED: FROM COVER-UP TO CATASTROPHE from their line-up following outcry from the medical and film communities, indieWIRE’s Eric Kohn and The Guardian’s Ed Pilkington published a pair of postmordems outlining why the film was programmed in the first place and how pressure from various groups finally forced Tribeca to pull it. Chris Barsanti praised Tribeca for their decision to cancel its world premiere of VAXXED in Little White Lies, noting that “Tribeca’s decision not to show VAXXED does not constitute censorship, as some critics and commentators have suggested. The idea that one relatively high-profile film festival could stop the world from seeing a film is, in an age of instantly available streaming video, fairly quaint.” Unsurprisingly, despite its unscientific hogwash, the film was instantly scooped up by Cinema Libre for distribution and opened appropriately on April Fool’s Day at New York’s Angelika Film Center.

At Variety, Paul Gaita reflected on the fifth annual American Documentary Film Festival, which has its final screenings this evening, and the growth of interest in non-fiction cinema. Likewise, Chicago’s new DOC10 Film Festival wrapped up yesterday, Michael Phillips gave an overview of the offerings at the inaugural edition in the Chicago Tribune. Featuring approximately 70 documentaries among its nearly 200 film lineup, the 40th anniversary of the Cleveland International Film Festival kicked off last Wednesday. Basil Tsiokos previewed the non-fiction offerings over at What (not) To Doc. And in a surprise announcement, Charlotte Cook, former director of programming of Hot Docs and co-founder of Field of Vision, has joined the CPH:DOX programming team. The announcement comes in the wake of its recent scheduling change, from November to March, with its next edition scheduled to take place in 2017. Also on the topic of festivals, DOC NYC’s regular submissions deadline is this coming Friday, April 8th – filmmakers, get on that!

Co-presented along with the New York Film Academy, our Spring Season kicks off tomorrow with Victoria Campbell’s MONSIEUR LE PRESIDENT, which “traces the ascent and downfall of Gaston Jean Edy, a charming and much-loved voodoo priest in the Christ-roi section of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.” The director, as well as Amy Wilentz, author of the National Book Critics Circle Award winner for Autobiography, Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti, will be in attendance for a post screening Q&A session. Tickets for our Spring Season kick off can be purchased here. Additionally, our home, the IFC Center, is gearing up for a major expansion, but they need a show a public support to convince city officials that this expansion is fully supported by the community. Show your support today by going here.

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AMONG THE BELIEVERS: Ideological conflict in Pakistan


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With the daily headlines that terrorist groups like ISIS make, AMONG THE BELIEVERS provides a timely look into the ideological battles shaping modern society in the Greater Middle East. The film mirrors a kind of case study, tracing the links between poverty, education and the radicalization of our future generations, as displayed by Pakistan’s Red Mosque network of Islamic seminaries. With unfettered access, the documentary shines light at the heart of militancy in the heart of Pakistan’s capital.

During Tuesday’s closing night of the Stranger than Fiction series, director Hemal Trivedi and producer Jonathan Goodman Levitt took the stage to explain the genesis of their illuminating film, which charts the mission of the Red Mosque’s chief cleric, Maulana Abdul Aziz Ghazi, alongside the stories of two of his young students.

“They’re really malleable at this age,” says Aziz in a particularly arresting scene highlighting the vulnerability of children sucked into the well-financed madrassa system.

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