In the wake of SELMA’s incredible critical and popular success, director Ava DuVernay has taken up the fight for women and minority filmmakers with a podcast, keynote speeches, social media movements, and now a return to documentary filmmaking with THE 13TH, “about the United States’ sky-high incarceration rate,” according to Cara Buckley of The New York Times. DuVernay’s last nonfiction project was VENUS VS., the first episode of ESPN’s Nine for IX series which celebrated women in sports with female filmmakers at the helm of each episode. The Film Society of Lincoln Center broke the news that DuVernay’s film will be the first documentary to ever kick off the New York Film Festival and will then head to select theaters and Netflix, while Jen Chung of Gothamist and Vikram Murthi of IndieWire each reported the break. This week DuVernay appeared alongside Jamal Joseph on The Close-up to talk about her new film and more.
In other festival news, the Toronto International Film Festival released details about its annual Doc Conference, including a keynote by Steve James reports Kevin Ritchie of Realscreen. More notably at IndieWire, Anne Thompson broke the news that Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival has boldly programmed its entire competition with 32 films, every single one directed by, or co-directed by women, while male directors have been relegated to a small 5 film side bar titled “Men Make Movies —The Struggle Continues.” While Basil Tsiokos previewed the doc offerings at NYC’s Asian American International Film Festival over at What (not) To Doc, Michael Rosser reported that the Sarajevo Film Fest has revealed its documentary competition titles at Screen Daily. Meanwhile over at Sight & Sound, Nick James reflected on this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, singling out CHICAGO BOYS, LOST IN FRANCE and THE LOVERS AND THE DESPOT as intriguing highlights, as Alissa Simon listed her favorites from the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, noting Miroslav Janek’s NORMAL AUTISTIC FILM and DOOMED BEAUTY from Helena Třeštíková and Jakub Hejna as standouts. And at Little White Lies, Matt Turner celebrated “the young female directors leading Mexico’s cinema revolution” that made their appearance at Karlovy Vary.
It’s been a light week on the nonfiction front with the biggest news being that the 2016 Emmy nominations were released on Thursday. The Los Angeles Times’ Dave Lewis reported the nominees, as did The Hollywood Reporter and The New York Times, while IndieWire already has the predictions posted. Among the heavy hitters up for awards are MAKING A MURDERER, which is favored to take home Best Documentary or Non-Fiction Series, and WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?, which is up for Best Documentary or Nonfiction Special.
Even the festival circuit was fairly quiet this week, with the notable exception being that the upcoming Locarno Film Festival released it’s full lineup, including among its ranks a sprinkling of nonfiction films, including the first feature work of Yuri Ancarani, THE CHALLENGE, and more. Eric Kohn reported on the announcement for over at IndieWire. Looking back, Christopher Llewellyn Reed reported on this year’s AFI DOCS for Hammer to Nail, while Celluloid Liberation Front outlined the diverse nonfiction cinema that was on offer at Beldocs, the Belgrade International Documentary Film Festival for MUBI’s Notebook. Joseph Proimakis, on the other hand, reported on the future of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival and its inaugural competition section for Cineuropa.
This past week has put me, and likely many of you, through the emotional ringer. With multiple police shootings of unarmed black Americans (be sure to read Jude Dry‘s IndieWire piece on “How Black Lives Matter Created The Accidental Documentarians” and Sam Adams‘ follow-up “These Are the Documentaries We Need to See”), the atrocities of police assassinations, and Abbas Kiarostami’s untimely death at the uncaring hands of cancer, it’s been a pretty horrendous week. So, let’s begin with a lineup of therapeutic, moving memorial pieces to the Iranian master, beginning with a pair of remembrances at IndieWire from fellow filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Ramin Bahrani, as well as admiring Sight & Sound critics Geoff Andrews and Ehsan Khoshbakht. The New Yorker’s Richard Brody contributed to the chorus of praise and respect, as did Tina Hassannia at The Globe and Mail, and Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian.
Even outside the context of the greater cultural situation, race and sex surfaced as a hot topic this week, headlined by a piece that appeared in the Los Angeles Times by Rebecca Keegan on “Why the second movie is the biggest hurdle to becoming a filmmaker — especially for women and minorities.” On the brighter side of things, IndieWire’s Michael Nordine reported that London’s National Film and Television School has launched a series of new initiatives to foster female directors, while Screen Daily’s Michael Rosser broke the news that female directors sweep the East End Film Festival awards, including Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami who won the award for Best Documentary for SONITA.
In other festival news, Basil Tsiokos laid out the doc offerings of both LA’s Outfest and the 33rd Jerusalem Film Festival at What (not) To Doc, while Stephen A. Russell selected his top picks of the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival at SBS. Looking back at the Sheffield Doc/Fest, Ben Nicholson wrote at length in Sight & Sound about the wide variety of films to be found this year. And also in Sight & Sound, filmmakers Penny Woolcock and Ross McElwee discussed their distaste for film festival going. And for doc filmmakers, this week is the final week DOC NYC is accepting submissions for this year’s edition – due date is Friday, July 15th.
In the same week that Rebecca Sun reported the disheartening news that Slated’s new “analysis of nearly 1,600 features reveals a ‘trust gap’ when it comes to movies made by women”, The Academy of Motion Pictures released its complete Class of 2016, inviting a record “683 new members: 46 Percent Female and 41 Percent People of Color” according to Gregg Kilday of The Hollywood Reporter. Meanwhile, POV and The New York Times disclosed that they would be collaborating on a new interactive documentary project about race and are currently “seeking pitches from potential mediamakers, with applications due by Monday, July 25,” reports IndieWire’s Michael Nordine.
Though, The Hollywood Reporter’s Gregg Kilday, the Palm Springs International ShortFest‘s jury named Maxim Pozdorovkin’s CLINICA DE MIGRANTES: LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS the best documentary of the festival, while the audience declared Annie O’Neil and Jessica Lewis’ PHIL’S CAMINO to be their favorite, festival circuit happenings were a bit low-key this past week. Always looking ahead, Basil Tsiokos surveyed the doc offerings at the upcoming Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic, noting Manuel Abramovich’s SOLAR, Leire Apellaniz’s THE LAST SUMMER and Alice Diop’s ON CALL among others. Looking back a couple weeks, Christopher Llewellyn Reed reviewed a quartet of films from this year’s edition of AFI Docs for Hammer To Nail, including Werner Herzog’s LO AND BEHOLD, REVERIES OF THE CONNECTED WORLD, Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk’s AUDRIE & DAISY, Nicole Lucas Haimes’ CHICKEN PEOPLE, and Alex Gibney’s ZERO DAYS. Gibney and his production company was also the topic of much discussion by Boris Kachka over at Vulture. The piece convincingly argues that the filmmaker’s studio-like Jigsaw Productions is steadily shifting how investigative documentaries are made and marketed. Continue reading…
Anyone without their head buried in the sand is well aware of the shocking news that the people of the United Kingdom have voted to leave the European Union, causing mass confusion and panic among the filmmaking community. In a shower of stories listing the potential consequences for the financing and development of future films (see European Documentary Network‘s recent survey on the “Current Cost of Making Documentaries in Today’s Audiovisual Market” for a look at that situation before the Brexit)
and the overall distribution processes currently in place, amongst others. Variety’s Leo Barraclough published the first, followed by similarly alarming pieces from The Guardian’s Andrew Pulver, The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Roxborough, The Verge’s Sam Byford, and the Los Angeles Times’ Rebecca Keegan and Ryan Faughnder. Essentially, it’s not looking pretty. Perfectly timed, Artsy posted a beautiful feature by Tess Thackara on the Ghana-born, British filmmaker John Akomfrah and his new doc-based, migrant focused show at the Lisson Gallery in Manhattan that directly comments on the current Brexit situation.
Days before all of that went down, the Cinema Eye Honors revealed their 2017 Television Nonfiction Shortlist, including obvious choices like Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos’ MAKING A MURDERER and some pleasant surprises such as Steven Okazaki’s HBO doc HEROIN, CAPE COD, USA and the Netflix release MY BEAUTIFUL BROKEN BRAIN by Lotje Sodderland and Sophie Robinson. Paula Bernstein reported on the announcement for Filmmaker Magazine.
This past weekend saw the conclusion both NYC’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival and AFI Docs kicked off and finished in a matter of four short days. Daniel Walber listed his top five favorites seen at Human Rights Watch over at Nonfics, while Basil Tsiokos previewed the AFI Docs offerings and the Washingtonian staff recommended 14 films to see at the festival, including Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer’s LGBT-gang doc CHECK IT and the BEST IN SHOW-flavored film CHICKEN PEOPLE by Nicole Lucas Haimes.