Monday Memo: Sundance ’16 Wraps, Stranger Than Fiction Winter Season Starts Tomorrow


sundance2016

Like everyone else, we’ve got Sundance on our minds, but this week we are most excited to kick off the 2016 Winter Season of Stranger Than Fiction tomorrow at the IFC CENTER with a screening Craig Lowy’s high-flying acrobatic doc, OXD: ONE EXTRAORDINARY DAY! Both Lowy himself and the central subject of the film, choreographer Elizabeth Streb, will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A. Tickets are still available and can be found for purchase here.

As the most prestigious launch pad for non-fiction cinema in the world (both Realscreen’s Kevin Ritchie and Brooks Barnes of The New York Times reported on this year’s distribution deals), the Sundance Film Festival continued to dominate nearly all media conversation this week. At the festival’s award ceremony on Saturday night, Josh Kriegman’s WEINER was given the U.S. Grand Jury Prize and Roger Ross Williams received the Directing Award for LIFE, ANIMATED, while Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami’s IDFA premiered SONITA took home the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize and Michal Marczak won the Directing Award for ALL THESE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS.

At indieWIRE, Anthony Kaufman wrote a roundup of the non-fiction offerings this year in Park City, noting the prevalence of funding from old-guard broadcasters, while acknowledging an increase in acceptance of formal experimentalism within both the U.S. and World Doc competitions with films like KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE, NUTS!, ALL THESE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS and THE LAND OF THE ENLIGHTENED. Kaufman also took notice of Sundance’s announcement of a new initiative called “Art of Nonfiction,” which “will support innovative documentary filmmaking,” reports Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker Magazine. indieWIRE’s Chris O’Falt also looked at four Sundance films funded via Kickstarter, including Dawn Porter’s TRAPPED and Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack’s MAYA ANGELOU AND STILL I RISE.

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Monday Memo: Sundance Takes On Gun Control Issue


Still from AJ Schnack's SPEAKING IS DIFFICULT

Still from AJ Schnack's SPEAKING IS DIFFICULT

Despite the outrage over racial exclusion in this year’s Oscar nominations and the Academy’s announcement that they will be swiftly enacting a whole host of changes to ensure greater diversity in the make-up of future votes, in the doc world, all eyes have been fixated on this year’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. While Anthony Kaufman looked back at the films that had a lasting impact from last year’s fest in Filmmaker Magazine, everyone from Tom Roston to Christopher Campbell, through Kenneth Turan, Amy TaubinTrevor Groth and Brooks Barnes have been listing their most anticipated films of the fest, each noting a variety of exciting docs on the horizon. At indieWIRE, Eric Kohn outlined why Sundance continues to be such an important beacon of cinema in a sea of international film festivals, while our own Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen spoke on WNYC this about why New Yorkers should care about the happenings in Park City this week.

Looking at the festival’s lineup as a whole, one will soon notice that this year’s hot button issue weaving throughout a whole host of films is that of domestic gun violence, and not the gratuitous action film type. Leading the conversation are non-fiction films like AJ Schnack’s SPEAKING IS DIFFICULT, Kim Snyder’s NEWTOWN, Stephanie Soechtig’s UNDER THE GUN and less directly, Robert Greene’s KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE. Writing for The Los Angeles Times, Steven Zeitchik explores the depths of this topical programming decision, noting, “When the Sundance Film Festival begins Thursday, it will do so with a rare accumulation of movies about the subject of gun safety. All of them hope to raise questions, if not provide solutions, in a place that has long been a ground zero for cultural movements.” Brooks Barnes of The New York Times awknowledged that “This year Sundance programmers, with deep commitment to freedom of expression, and their selected filmmakers seem to be taking a position that real guns, not the movie kind, ought to be more tightly policed.” Likewise at Nonfics, Christopher Campbell also took notice of the program, stating that “This time it’s about the issue of real gun violence in America — the problem with constant mass shootings and the debate over gun control and the 2nd Amendment.”

Back here at Stranger Than Fiction, we are ramping up for our 2016 Winter Season, which begins next Tuesday at the IFC Center with Craig Lowy’s high flying OXD: ONE EXTRAORDINARY DAY, about Elizabeth Streb’s Extreme Action Company and their attempt to perform on some of London’s most beloved landmarks. Season tickets, as well as individual tickets, are currently on sale. As an aside, I’d also like to point out that this week Thom Powers launched the online home of his soon to be released new documentary focused podcast, Pure Nonfiction.

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Monday Memo: Cinema Eye Honors Awarded, Oscar Noms Named


cinema-eye-honors

I’m in agreement with indieWIRE’s Eric Kohn who proclaimed that the best awards event this week wasn’t the Oscar nominations. Last Wednesday night, the 9th annual Cinema Eye Honors celebrated the best non-fiction filmmaking of this past year, awarding three of its top honors to THE LOOK OF SILENCE “for Outstanding Nonfiction Feature, Outstanding Direction for Joshua Oppenheimer and Outstanding Production for Signe Byrge Sørensen.” Dave McNary reported the full list of winners at Variety, while Daniel Walber at Nonfics and Daniele Alcinii of Realscreen had their own takes on the awards.

Following the its trio of honors, THE LOOK OF SILENCE was named the following day as one of this year’s Oscar nominees in an announcement by The Academy, alongside Asif Kapadia’s AMY, Matthew Heineman’s CARTEL LAND, Liz Garbus’ WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE? and Evgeny Afineevsky’s WINTER ON FIRE: UKRAINE’S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM. Brooks Barnes and Michael Cieply of The New York Times and Stephanie Merry of The Washington Post each reflected on the nominations, taking special note of the absence of Alex Gibney’s GOING CLEAR and Kirby Dick’s THE HUNTING GROUND, both of which were early favorites in the race. Our own Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen also discussed the nominees on WNYC’s Documentary of the Week segment. And while the nomination announcements bring flashes of the glitz and glam of the Oscars to ones mind, indieWIRE’s Bryan Glick dared to ask a very serious question regarding the expenses necessary to pursue a serious chance at awards season success – “Is the Academy hurting most documentary filmmakers?” The Directors Guild of America also released their nominations for Best Directorial Achievement in Documentary, naming Liz Garbus, Alex Gibney, Matthew Heineman, Asif Kapadia, and Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi for MERU.

This week’s major doc news may have been filled with award season buzz, for us here at Stranger Than Fiction it was the announcement of our 2016 Winter Season that has us most excited! Our latest season is set to kick off February 2nd with OXD: ONE EXTRAORDINARY DAY, with special guests director Craig Lowy and choreographer Elizabeth Streb in attendance for a post-screening Q&A. Season tickets are now available for purchase here.

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Stranger Than Fiction Announces Winter Season at IFC Center


stfwinter

The winter season of Stranger Than Fiction, our weekly documentary film series hosted by Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen and presented by IFC Center, has been announced! Each screening features a conversation with the filmmaker or other special guests, followed by a gathering at a nearby bar. The winter slate opens with OXD: ONE EXTRAORDINARY DAY, focusing on Elizabeth Streb’s Extreme Action Company with director Craig Lowy and Streb in person. Other highlights include a sneak preview of Dawn Porter’s TRAPPED, about abortion providers struggling to stay in business, soon after its Sundance Film Festival premiere; and the 15th anniversary screening of Kate Davis’ SOUTHERN COMFORT, about a transgender couple in the American south, that’s being staged this winter as a new musical at the Public Theater.

“This season’s stories are truly stranger than fiction with death-defying acrobats, mysterious disappearances, and utopian inventors,” said Artistic Director Thom Powers. “We invite newcomers to join our community of documentary lovers for special guests, lively conversations and receptions.” The eclectic range of characters on screen include a visionary battling the government in NEWMAN; a prisoner determined to escape in THE MIND OF MARK DEFRIEST; media pioneers in HERE COMES THE VIDEOFREEX; and Pakistani madrasa students in AMONG THE BELIEVERS. Two screenings honor films on their 10th anniversaries: ABDUCTION: THE MEGUMI YOKOTA STORY about North Korea’s kidnapping program and DARKON about live action role-players.

The STF winter season takes place at the IFC Center every Tuesday night at 7:30 for eight weeks (plus an added special screening on Thurs, Mar 17). The winter season closes on March 22. The full season schedule appears below. For more information, visit ifccenter.com.

Stranger Than Fiction: Winter 2016 Season 7:30pm Tuesdays at IFC Center, Feb 2 – Mar 22
Each show features a Q&A with the director or other special guests

Feb 2: Opening Night – OXD: ONE EXTRAORDINARY DAY (2015,Q&A w/ dir Craig Lowy & choreographer Elizabeth Streb)

Feb 9: ABDUCTION: THE MEGUMI YOKOTA STORY (2006, Q&A w/ Robert Boynton, author of “The Invitation-Only Zone”)

Feb 16: TRAPPED (2016, Q&A TBA)

Feb 23: HERE COME THE VIDEOFREEX (2015, Q&A w/ dirs. Jon Nealon & Jenny Raskin)

Mar 1: SOUTHERN COMFORT (2001, Q&A w/ dir Kate Davis)

Mar 8: NEWMAN (2015, Q&A w/ dir Jon Fox)

Mar 15:  THE MIND OF MARK DEFRIEST (2014, Q&A w/ dir Gabriel London)

Mar 17: Thursday Special – DARKON (2006, Q&A w/ dirs Luke Meyer & Andrew Neel)

Mar 22: Closing Night – AMONG THE BELIEVERS (2015, Q&A w/ dirs. Hemal Trivedi, Mohammed Ali Naqvi, & writer Jonathan Goodman Levitt)

Tickets for Stranger Than Fiction screenings are $16 for the general public and $13 for IFC Center members. A Season Pass, good for admission to all 9 evenings in the winter season, is available for $99 ($80 for IFC members).


Monday Memo: Doc Making Gender Equality In Question, MAKING A MURDERER Continues Cultural Ascent


Still from indieWIRE's Twitter Link to Reality Checks

Still from indieWIRE's Twitter Link to Reality Checks

Entertainment attorney Victoria Cook stirred up much conversation around the perception of gender equality within the non-fiction filmmaking community with a lively Facebook post that was subsequently republished at The Female Gaze as an opinion piece titled “In Reality, We Must Demand Equal Representation for Women Documentarians, Too.” As an outpouring of opinions from within the doc making community hit the net, Cook expanded her thoughts in a follow-up piece for indieWIRE’s Women and Hollywood Blog, “Gender Parity in Documentary Filmmaking Is A Fiction.” indieWIRE’s own Anthony Kaufman responded via a Reality Check’s piece asking if the documentary industry is indeed unfair to women. Cook hopes to continue the conversation in person at a meet up at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival in Park City.

Speaking of Sundance, Basil Tsiokos has been spending quite a lot of time previewing each of the docs hoping to make a splash with their Park City world premieres at What (not) To Doc. In addition, Variety has learned that the originally anonymous filmmaker responsible for the religious cult doc HOLY HELL due to premiere at Sundance is Will Allen. The report from Dave McNary reveals that “his name was kept secret so that he could finish the film while minimizing the possibility of interference by the some of the subjects of the film.”

While Tsiokos, McNary and so many others are looking forward to what 2016 holds, the British Academy Film Awards have just announced their nominations, including nods to AMY, LISTEN TO ME MARLON, CARTEL LAND, SHERPA and HE NAMED ME MALALA, and the National Society of Film Critics named AMY the Best Documentary of 2015. Dan Epstein of Rolling Stone also wrote at length about the resurgence of the music doc in 2015. Looking toward the Oscars and back at last year’s releases, Cara Buckley outlined what it takes for a non-fiction feature to embark on the Oscar race for The New York Times. And, while not exactly dealing with docs, Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes, also of The New York Times, reviewed the supposed truths on which the fiction features in the Oscar race were built upon and how far each film strayed.

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