Monday Memo: Sundance in Full Swing, Scorsese’s Clinton Doc on Rocks, Realscreen Summit Near Start

Sundance Film Festival 2015

Now that Sundance is in full swing, it is near impossible to keep up with every single relevant publication of the week. That said, here we go none-the-less, but before I get to all the news coming out of Park City, there were a few interesting stories that came out this week that looked back, including a great piece at The Talk House by Jeff Reichert, director of REMOTE AREA MEDICAL, on the most overlooked docs of 2014, while, writing for NonFics, Christopher Campbell reflected on what he considers the top ten best Sundance documentaries of all time. For The Guardian, Guy Lodge considered the possibilities of what docs could take home an Oscar next month, while David Bloom over at Deadline reported that the recently Oscar nominated LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM would be available to stream for free at PBS from Feb. 5 to Feb. 7. Bridging the gap between last year and the here and now, Tom Roston wrote a piece for the POV Blog that highlighted a few overlooked films of 2014, as well as a handful of docs making their premiere at Sundance this week.

Among the many other thorough previews of the many films making their way into the world via a Park City premiere were David Fear and Phoebe Reilly‘s top 25 most anticipated Sundance films for Rolling Stone, Kate Aurthur & Adam B. Vary‘s comparable piece for Buzzfeed, and a list of the 15 best black films at Sundance by Julie Walker for The Root – each touching on the fact that docs are making an ever-increasing imprint on the visibility of the massive American fest. At Variety, Addie Morfoot previewed the many docs profiling a variety of famous folks, while at What (not) To Doc, Basil Tsiokos concluded his massive profiling of every non-fiction film at Sundance, as well as a quick preview of others making their debut at the parallel running Slamdance. Our own Thom Powers also listed his personal docs not to be missed right here at Stranger Than Fiction.

One of the things that sets Sundance apart from other domestic fests is its feroscious sink or swim massive market place, as evidenced by a variety of reports on the issue this week, such as Gregg Goldstein‘s look at documentary distro prospects for Variety or Brian Stelter‘s article on how digital distribution is shaking up the Sundance marketplace at CNN Money. Also, let’s not forget Anya Jaremko-Greenwold‘s filmmakers’ guide to the distributors at Sundance at Indiewire, nor in the same vein (though not directly Sundance related), Meredith Miller‘s filmmakers’ guide to non-theatrical and educational rights, also at Indiewire, and Cynthia Close‘s write-up of the new edition of the doc-makers’ resource, ‘Clearance & Copyright’, at IDA. Writing new distro deals for Realscreen, Michael Speier reports that Vimeo and Indiegogo have entered a distribution partnership, while CNN is launching its own short form documentary strand.

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Docs Not to Miss at Sundance 2015

BEST OF ENEMIES directed by Morgan Neville

BEST OF ENEMIES directed by Morgan Neville

The Sundance Film Festival serves up a rich array of non-fiction films. But how do you prioritize from over 40 docs? I’ve gained an early look at roughly half and picked some of my favorites.

Further down, I highlight several films featured in the Doc Club panels that I’ll be moderating.

Here’s my tip-sheet:


CITY OF GOLD tracks food critic Jonathan Gold and his passion for exploring the ethnic cuisines of Los Angeles. This charming portrait will strongly appeal to the legions of Eater and Chowhound readers. With cameos by fellow food scribes such as Calvin Trillin and Robert Sietsema, the film makes the case that the best food writing goes beyond what’s on the plate. Filmmaker Laura Gabbert previously directed No Impact Man and Sunset Story.

520x317Hot Girls

HOT GIRLS WANTED (pictured) gives an intimate view of young women as they experience the highs and lows of amateur porn. For many teenage girls today, porn carries fewer taboos than it did for their parents’ generation. Filmmakers Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus (Sexy Baby) explore the complicated reality behind this fantasy world. Also on board are Rashida Jones (producer) and Abigail Disney (executive producer).

(T)ERROR gains unprecedented access to an FBI informant tasked to spy on American muslims. The film is a fascinating character study and look into an area of surveillance that’s metastasized since 9/11/01. I’ve tracked the project closely since directors Lyric Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe participated in the 2013 Garrett Scott Development Grant. The project has attracted many esteemed supporters including executive producer Eugene Jarecki and consultant Laura Poitras. Continue reading…

STF Winter ’15 Season Announced


Join us this season for an eclectic mix of sneak previews and retrospectives, including appearances by filmmakers Marc Levin, Ian Olds, Liz Garbus and film subject Seymour Bernstein.

Our season opens on Feb 3 with THE HAND THAT FEEDS, winner of the DOC NYC Audience Award, focusing on a labor battle at a Hot & Crusty restaurant on the Upper East Side. The STF line-up features four other sneak previews: Marc Levin’s FREEWAY: A CRACK IN THE SYSTEM (Feb 10) about drug dealer “Freeway” Rick Ross; Ethan Hawke’s SEYMOUR: AN INTRODUCTION (Mar 10) about piano teacher Seymour Bernstein; Anthony Baxter’s A DANGEROUS GAME (Mar 12); about protestors fighting Donald Trump; and, for the season’s closing night, THE MUSES OF ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER (Mar 24), directed by Shaul Betser & Asaf Galay, about the Nobel prize winning author and his harem of translators. The season also features four retrospective screenings: THE BEST OF EGG THE ARTS SHOW (Feb 17) celebrating the WNET arts program that was ahead of its time; OCCUPATION: DREAMLAND (Feb 24), the 2005 Iraq war doc by Ian Olds & the late Garrett Scott for its 10th anniversary; THE FARM: ANGOLA, USA (Mar 3), the 1998 Oscar-nominated prison doc by Liz Garbus & Jonathan Stack; and TO TELL THE TRUTH: A HISTORY OF DOCUMENTARY 1928-46 (Mar 17) Cal Skaggs & David Van Taylor’s profiles of non-fiction film pioneers. The STF winter season takes place at the IFC Center every Tuesday night at 8:00 pm for eight weeks, plus special screenings on Jan 19 and Mar 12. Each event includes a discussion with the filmmakers, followed by a gathering at a nearby bar.

“Sharing great documentaries with an audience is a great way to beat the winter blues,” said Artistic Director Thom Powers, who also programs for the Toronto International Film Festival, DOC NYC and SundanceNOW Doc Club. “This selection of films will entertain, inspire, anger and illuminate.”

Tickets for Stranger Than Fiction screenings are $16 for the general public and $13 for IFC Center members. Click here to purchase tickets and watch trailers. A Season Pass, available for $99 ($80 for IFC Center members), covers admission to all 9 evenings, plus additional perks including free popcorn at each STF screening and a free DVD courtesy of Docurama. Click here to order a season pass.

Monday Memo: Oscar Noms/Snubs, Sundance Primers and Early Pick-Ups


Here at Stranger Than Fiction, the big news of the past week happened to be that we’ve announced our Winter Season series line-up! Running from February 3 to March 24, the IFC Center will be playing host to screenings of THE HAND THAT FEEDS, BEST OF EGG THE ARTS SHOW, SEYMOUR: AN INTRODUCTION and many other great documentaries and the filmmakers who saw brought them to the screen. Season passes, which include a variety of perks including free popcorn at all STF shows and a free DVD courtesy of Docurama, can be purchased here.

Surely the most talked about story elsewhere was that on Thursday the Academy finally announced their official nominations, including CITIZENFOUR, FINDING VIVIAN MAIER, LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM, THE SALT OF THE EARTH, and VIRUNGA for best documentary feature, as well as CRISIS HOTLINE: VETERANS PRESS 1, JOANNA, OUR CURSE, THE REAPER (LA PARKA), and WHITE EARTH for best documentary short. Writing for NonFics, Christopher Campbell covered the announcements, as did Basil Tsiokos at What (not) To Doc and Adam Benzine for Realscreen.

Peter Knegt and Ben Beaumont-Thomas, writing for Indiewire and The Guardian respectively, took a moment to reflect on the nominations, while at the POV Blog, Tom Roston reached out to filmmakers Orlando von Einsiedel and Charlie Siskel to get their reactions to the news. Eric Kohn on the other hand took time to call attention to the fact that LIFE ITSELF is sorely missing from the list over at Indiewire. As both Laura Poitras and Rory Kennedy expressed concern about in Mark Olsen‘s report of the nominations in the LA Times, I’m personally still a bit shocked that Jesse Moss’ THE OVERNIGHTERS didn’t make the list.

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STF Season Passholder Perks


We’ve just announced the STF Winter ’15 Season! The season will showcase an eclectic mix of sneak previews and retrospectives, including appearances by filmmakers Mark Levin, Ian Olds, Liz Garbus and film subjects such as Seymour Bernstein.

Save money with a winter season pass that gains you admission on Jan 19 and all STF winter screenings, a total of 10 films for $99 (or $80 for IFC Center members). Additional perks include:

  • Free popcorn at all STF shows
  • a free DVD courtesy of Docurama
  • AND if you can’t attend, you can transfer your pass to a friend.


Tickets and season passes now available! Click here to purchase a season pass, or to buy individual tickets.