Monday Memo: Stefano Savona’s SAMOUNI ROAD Wins L’Œil d’or at Cannes


Still from Stefano Savona's SAMOUNI ROAD

The curtains have closed on this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and though no mention of the festival’s premiere documentary prize is not mentioned anywhere on its official awards page, according to Pat Mullen at POV Magazine, the jury awarded Stefano Savona’s SAMOUNI ROAD this year’s L‘Œil d’or for best documentary. Mullen continues, “SAMOUNI ROAD offers a story of celebration in a rural community in the outskirts of Gaza City as a family prepares for a wedding and finds a moment to heal and move forward after the war. The film won out of 17 documentaries in competition. Honourable mentions went to Mark Cousins’ THE EYES OF ORSON WELLES and Michel Toesca’s LIBRE.”

Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Savona’s film “is devastating and yet oddly distanced, leaving the viewer with sorrow, indignation but also space for reflection on the cruelty and injustice of Israel’s tactics in its war against Palestine”, while Jay Weissberg of Variety said it is “destined to become a touchstone in the cinematic representation of the [Gaza] Strip”. Meanwhile, Peter Bradshaw relayed in The Guardian that THE EYES OF ORSON WELLES is a “whimsical but heartfelt love letter to Welles”, as Damon Wise spoke with Mark Cousin about the film for Deadline. And back at The Hollywood Reporter, Jordan Mintzer put forth a lukewarm take on Michel Toesca’s doc on farmer-turned-activist Cedric Herrou.

This week at the IFC Center, our 2018 Spring Season of Stranger Than Fiction continues with a pair of screenings in Liz Garbus’s THE FOURTH ESTATE tomorrow night and Parvez Sharma’s A JIHAD FOR LOVE on Thursday evening, both featuring live Q&As with their respective filmmakers. Tickets for each are still available here.

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Monday Memo: 5050×2020 Takes on Cannes, Kim Yutani is New Sundance Director of Programming


We’ve been without a Monday Memo for the past couple weeks as I was out of town scoping out this year’s edition of Hot Docs (see my festival wrap-up over at Nonfics) and the 4th annual Nitrate Picture Show in Rochester, where a 100 year old print of an obscure silent short doc called OUR NAVY was screened and this year’s closing night ‘Blind Date with Nitrate’ was none other than Robert Flaherty’s astonishing 1934 doc, MAN OF ARAN. Suffice to say, I’ve had a lovely, though immensely busy couple weeks away. Now, on to the news!

Though Hot Docs has now come and gone, last week they revealed their award winners in Hind Bensari’s WE COULD BE HEROES, which won Best International Feature, and Yuqi Kang’s A LITTLE WISDOM, which took home the Best Canadian Feature Doc Award, while Alan Bogarin and Jonathan Bogarin was awarded the Emerging International Filmmaker Award for 306 HOLLYWOOD. Meanwhile, Michael Del Monte’s TRANSFORMER won the Audience Award, just nosing out Matthew Shoychet’s THE ACCOUNT OF AUSCHWITZ and Morgan Neville’s WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?.

Currently, Cannes is in progress and the biggest news coming out of the most prestigious film event of the year is the 5050×2020 campaign, which saw 82 actresses, directors, agents, and other film industry women gathered on the red carpet to bring attention to gender inequality in the film industry. “Since the launch of the Cannes Film Festival, only 82 films directed by women have been honored by an official selection in competition, compared to 1,645 films directed by men, a ratio of less than five percent”, reported Rebecca Keegan in Vanity Fair. In that same vein, it seems a perfect moment to share that a new feminist film journal called MAI has published their first issue online.

Tomorrow night at IFC Center, our 2018 Spring Season of Stranger Than Fiction continues with Kate Novack’s intimate fashion portrait THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRÉ, with Novack and her producer Andrew Rossi on hand for a live post-screening Q&A! Tickets are still available for purchase here.

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Monday Memo: Oscar Winner Kirk Simon Passes at 63


Before we get into the nitty gritty of festival news and theatrical releases, it is with a heavy heart that I share Daniel E. Slotnik‘s report in The New York Times that “Kirk Simon, a documentary filmmaker who turned luminaries in the arts into teachers and brought cameras into the classroom, memorably in an Academy Award-winning film about a multinational school in Israel, died on April 14 in Manhattan. He was 63. His brother, Ron, said Mr. Simon suffered cardiac arrest and was declared dead after he was taken to a hospital. Mr. Simon directed and produced documentaries for PBS, National Geographic and HBO, tackling a wide range of topics. But he often returned to education, as he and his creative partner, Karen Goodman, his first wife, did in 2010 with STRANGERS NO MORE, which won the Oscar for best short documentary.”

Last week, the Peabody Awards Board of Jurors revealed their 19 nominees for its Documentary category and just days later they whittled down that list to 9 winners: AMERICA REFRAMED: DEEJ, AMERICAN MASTERS: MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE, CHASING CORAL, INDEPENDENT LENS: NEWTOWN, INDIVISIBLE, LAST MEN IN ALEPPO, OKLAHOMA CITY, THE ISLAND AND THE WHALES, and TIME: THE KALIEF BROWDER STORY.

Our 2018 Spring Season of Stranger Than Fiction continues tomorrow evening at IFC Center with Sam Green’s Oscar nominated portrait of troubled and revolutionary times THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND. Director Sam Green and producer Carrie Lozano will be on hand for a live post-screening Q&A. Tickets are still available here.

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Monday Memo: POV Unveils 31st Season


Whenever PBS’s long running documentary series POV announces its annual lineup, just about everything has to take a back seat (even Cannes). Its 31st season kicks off this Wednesday with a special Earth Day showing of David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg’s BILL NYE: SCIENCE GUY and continues with its official opening on June 18th with Jonathan Olshefski’s QUEST. The season continues with Viktor Jakovleski’s BRIMESTONE & GLORY, Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis’s WHOSE STREETS? and more.

The Cannes Film Festival also revealed its own prestigious lineup, though as usual the nonfiction offerings are limited at best. Those due to make their debut alongside the glitz and glam (and Netflix controversy) include DEAD SOULS, the latest epic from Wang Bing, Wim Wenders’s high profile POPE FRANCIS – A MAN OF HIS WORD, Romain Goupil’s mosaic of France in LA TRAVERSÉE, and Michel Toesca’s refugee tale TO THE FOUR WINDS, all programmed out-of-competition as Special Screenings.

Our own 2018 Spring Season is set to begin tomorrow night at IFC Center with a very special sneak preview screening of BOOM FOR REAL: THE TEENAGE YEARS OF JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT with director Sara Driver on hand for a live post-screening Q&A. Tickets for the event are still available here.

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Monday Memo: Full Frame, Belgrade & Cinéma du Réel Wrap


After a week away, we return with a rather sparse memo, with most of the action happening on the festival circuit. The 21st annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival ran over the weekend, and Tom Roston spoke with the festival’s artistic director Sadie Tillery about why the festival has succeeded at being a filmmaker’s festival as well as an audience favorite over at Doc Soup. Outlining the festival’s program, Basil Tsiokos noted that Hugo Berkeley’s THE JAZZ AMBASSADORS, Anne de Mare’s CAPTURING THE FLAG, Katie Galloway and Dawn Valadez’s THE PUSHOUTS, and Heather Courtney and Anayansi Prado’s THE UNAFRAID would all be making their world premiere, along with a handful of others. RaMell Ross’ HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING won the Reva and David Logan Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary, while Bing Liu’s MINDING THE GAP nabbed the Audience Award. The full list of award winners can be found here. The week prior saw the 65th annual Belgrade Documentary and Short Film Festival conclude, with Andrijana Stojković’s WONGAR winning Best Feature Documentary and THE OTHER SIDE OF EVERYTHING taking home the awards for Best Editing and Sound Design, reports Vladan Petkovic at Cineuropa. The Parisian Cinéma du Réel also finished up last week, with a wealth of film reviews and interviews from the festival coming in from the fine folks at DesistFilm.

Overseas a pair of major doc pitching events took place. Filmmaker Magazine’s Pamela Cohn wrote an extensive outline of this year’s CPH:FORUM, “which was exceptionally well-produced and organized by Daniella Eversby, Kartrine Kiilgaard, and their team in a beautiful, comfortable, convivial setting with good coffee, tea and glorious pastries because: Denmark.” Meanwhile at Realscreen, Daniele Alcinii covered this year’s MIPDoc International Pitch in Cannes, where “director Mina Keshavarz’s feature-length documentary SOORA: BREAKING THE SILENCE impressed the judges…with its story following the efforts of four women battling to outlaw domestic violence in Iran,” winning the pitch prize and receiving editorial coverage in MIPTV’s Daily News, on the MIPDoc website and MIPBlog; entrance to MIPDoc 2019; and one free project registration in the MIPDoc Screening Library in 2019.

Here at Stranger Than Fiction, you may have noticed that we’ve announced our 2018 Spring Season which is set to kick off on April 17th with Sara Driver’s BOOM FOR REAL: THE TEENAGE YEARS OF JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT and run through June 5th at IFC Center. Season tickets are now on sale here.

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