Monday Memo: Thanksgiving Edition


As with most holiday weekends, Monday has come too soon, but hopefully you’ve stuffed yourself silly, enjoyed the company of family and friends and maybe even watched a doc or two (possibly the final film of our fall season, DANNY SAYS?)! Over at the POV Blog, Tom Roston gave thanks for a variety of doc film related goodness, while I gave thanks to The Criterion Collection for releasing D.A. Pennebaker’s doc classic DON’T LOOK BACK by hitting up their bi-annual half sale at Barnes & Noble which wraps up today. Celebrating the release, Criterion posted a series of outtakes from the film, an interview with Patti Smith about the film’s influence on her life, and an in depth essay on the film by Robert Polito. How could one not be thankful for that?

DOC NYC concluded this year’s edition over a week ago now and coverage of the festival’s riches continue to hit the net, including Daniel Walber‘s top five festival favorites found at Nonfics and a pair of indieWIRE articles from Aubrey Page and Ryan Anielski covering DOC NYC PRO’s Pitch Day and Show Me The Money sessions, respectively. Similarly, on behalf of the New York Film Festival, Alex Hunter posted a video this week of a live conversation with Laura Poitras, AJ Schnack and Charlotte Cook about their ongoing journalistic doc short development and distro project, Field of Vision. And following the conclusion of this year’s edition of CPH:DOX, the festival announced that the 2017 edition of the fest would be permanently shifting to March.

Having concluded yesterday, IDFA announced its award winners, honoring Jerzy Sladkowski’s DON JUAN with the VPRO IDFA Award for best feature-length documentary and Roman Bondarchuk’s UKRAINIAN SHERIFFS with the Special Jury Award, reports Barry Walsh for Realscreen and Damon Wise for Variety. Also at Variety, Damon Wise has published a piece on how IDFA’s DOK Incubator helps doc filmmakers raise their game. Meanwhile, Realscreen’s Manori Ravindran covered the project pitches at the IDFA Forum in painstaking detail in a pair of posts, with another forthcoming.

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Monday Memo: DOC NYC Concludes, IDFA Gears Up & Sundance Awards Grants


After a week of social media madness as part of the DOC NYC team, I’ve returned to Stranger Than Fiction feeling invigorated and up to date, ready to report the latest in non-fiction goodness. And speaking of DOC NYC, the festival wrapped up last Thursday after 8 days of documentary celebration, from the Visionaries Tribute at which Frederick Wiseman, Jon Alpert and Barbara Kopple each received Lifetime Achievement Awards, to the final awards ceremony at which MOTLEY’S LAW by director Nicole Horanyi and CLASS DIVIDE by director Marc Levin took home the Grand Jury Prizes. Jeremy Gerard of Deadline and Zack Sharf of indieWIRE both reported on the awards. The festival’s week long industry conference DOC NYC PRO popped up on and off throughout the week via Aubrey Page‘s indieWIRE report of the opening Morning Manifesto featuring all 15 of the DOC NYC Short List filmmakers, Kevin Ritchie‘s coverage of Reaching Your Audience Day and Michele Stephenson’s Morning Manifesto at Realscreen, as well as Ryan Anielski‘s outline of Abigail Disney’s keynote on doc funding at indieWIRE. A full list of additional DOC NYC coverage can be found here.

Wrapping up just prior to DOC NYC, Copenhagen’s CPH:DOX awarded the DOX:Award to Robert Machoian and Rodridgo Ojeda-Beck’s GOD BLESS THE CHILD, the NORDIC:DOX to Mika Taanila and Jussi Eerola’s RETURN OF THE ATOM, the FACT:AWARD to Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi’s AMONG THE BELIEVERS, and the NEW:VISION Award to Rosa Barba’s BENDING TO EARTH and Ali Cherri’s THE DIGGER. Demetrios Matheou wrote up an overview of the festival’s winners and disappoints over at indieWIRE. Looking forward, the world’s largest non-fiction festival kicked off in Amsterdam on Wednesday. Variety’s Jennie Punter wrote up a preview of this year’s IDFA, while Basil Tsiokos broke the massive line-up into a pair of posts at What (not) To Doc. But, IDFA is not the only doc festival left on this year’s docket. Portugal’s still fresh-faced Porto/Post/Doc announced the lineup for the festival’s second edition. Cineuropa’s Vitor Pinto reported on the announcement.

After the DOC NYC takeover of the IFC Center last week, Stranger Than Fiction returns for its final screening of the Fall Season tomorrow with DANNY SAYS. Director Brendan Toller and producer Pamela Lubell will both be on hand for a post-screening Q&A. Tickets are still available here.

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SHERPA: Revering and Respecting Everest

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In a special appearance in the IFC Center’s Stranger Than Fiction documentary series, high-altitude director Jennifer Peedom was in town for a screening of SHERPA, a film that follows Phurba Tashi Sherpa as he embarks on his world-record-setting 22nd ascent of Mount Everest.

Known in the Himalayas as Chomolungma, Sherpas, the guides to the highest mountain on earth, revere what Westerners call Mount Everest, as the mother god of earth. Rituals are performed before each summit to pray that nothing bad will happen, essentially asking the mountain permission to climb. In the film, writer Ed Douglas says of the Sherpas’ perception of Westerners, “They may not understand what compels us to climb mountains but they are fantastically good at delivering the experience.”

In an economy of yaks, potatoes, and mountaineering, summiting THE mountain is how Sherpas make their money. Expeditions can cost up to $100,000, and on average companies pay Sherpas $5,000 for a two month trek—treks that have become more and more dangerous particularly by way of the Khumbu icefall, where bus-sized ice boulders crash unannounced, and increasingly so due to warmer climates. Clients pass through the icefall twice, while Sherpas navigate the unpredictable glacier up to thirty times a season, and always at night when temperatures are colder and thus safer.

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Monday Memo: IDA Awards Announce Nominees In Tandem With Euro Awards


There’s no denying it now: Awards season is in full swing. This week the International Documentary Association announced the nominees for the 31st Annual IDA Documentary Awards, as well as their honorees who include Gordon Quinn, Ted Sarandos, Lyric R. Cabral, David Felix Sutcliffe, Matthew Heineman, Tony Tabatznik and the Bertha Foundation. At indieWIRE, Anne Thompson mulled on the selections, contemplating how they’re beginning to shape the Oscars. Additionally, Variety’s Kristopher Tapley, Deadline’s Amanda N’Duka, The Hollywood Reporter’s Hilary Lewis and Realscreen’s Kevin Ritchie each reported on the nominations.

In addition to the IDA Awards nominations, both the British Independent Film Award nominations and the European Film Awards nominations were announced. The BFI and Cineuropa’s Naman Ramachandran reported on the British Independent Film Award nominations, while Guy Lodge of Variety and David González published the nominees for the European Film Awards, also at Cineuropa. James Gay-Rees’ PALIO, which is among the British Independent Film Award nominees, was reviewed by Joe Leydon at Variety.

Tomorrow, Stranger Than Fiction continues with Jeff Malmberg’s modern doc classic, MARWENCOL. Following the screening, film subject Mark Hogancamp and co-author/film producer Chris Shellen will be doing a post-screening Q&A and signing of the new book “Welcome to Marwencol.” Tickets to the screening are still available and can be purchased here.

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Monday Memo: ESPN Pulls Plug On Grantland, Cinema Eye Honors Lists Unforgettables


Just months after The Dissolve, a gleaming example of online film criticism, shuttered its digital doors, ESPN has pulled the plug on Grantland, its own well respected outlet for cultural commentary that has been a great supporter of documentary film, going so far as to sponsor a series of shorts by Errol Morris and beyond. In a statement released Friday, ESPN wrote, “Effective immediately we are suspending the publication of Grantland. After careful consideration, we have decided to direct our time and energy going forward to projects that we believe will have a broader and more significant impact across our enterprise.” Both the public and the media has responded in a fit of critical outrage, with The Huffington Post going so far as to run a piece by Justin Block that leads with the headline, “ESPN Closing Grantland Is The Dumbest ‘Smart’ Business Decision.”

Reacting to the news, Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post wrote on why Grantland mattered to journalism, while Laura Wagner collected the backlash from social media for NPR. Writing for New Republic, Alex Shephard and Mark Krotov wrote an in-depth eulogy for the beloved outlet, complimenting a similar autopsy Jack Dickey at Time that looks at “Why Grantland Couldn’t Outlast Bill Simmons’ Exit From ESPN.” Richard Sandomir of The New York Times, David Sims of The Atlantic and Julia Greenberg for Wired each reflected on Grantland’s sudden closure as well.

On the bright side of things, Stranger Than Fiction continues tomorrow at the IFC Center with Johanna Hamilton’s illegal surveillance doc, 1971. Hamilton, along with the film’s subject, Betty Medsger, and special guest, filmmaker Laura Poitras will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A! Details on the film and tickets can be found here.

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