Though the week of Thanksgiving is typically slow going for doc news, it is traditionally the week that filmmakers receive the good news that their films have been accepted to the forthcoming edition of the Sundance Film Festival, which means that this past week the rest of us were graced with the 2019 lineup of feature films. “For the 2019 Festival, 112 feature-length films have been selected, representing 33 countries and 45 first-time filmmakers…44% of the directors in this year’s U.S. Documentary Competition are women; 22% are people of color; 5% identify as LGBTQIA+…These films were selected from a record high of 14,259 submissions including 4,018 feature-length films.” Notable new docs to have their world premiere include Penny Lane’s HAIL SATAN, Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang’s ONE CHILD NATION, and Matt Tyrnauer’s WHERE’S MY ROY COHN?.
As is usual, the Slamdance Film Festival revealed its 2019 program in correlation with Sundance’s announcement. Nine documentary features will be shown in competition during the 25th annual edition of the festival.
With the euphoria of Sundance announcements lingering in the air, the dams of the 2018 awards season are beginning to break. This past week we saw the 28th Annual IFP Gotham Awards winners announced, with RaMell Ross’s HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THE EVENING awarded Best Documentary, the National Board of Review revealing its annual awards, with Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s RGB dubbed Best Documentary and Alexandria Bombach’s ON HER SHOULDERS given the NBR Freedom of Expression Award, and at the British Independent Film Awards, Orlando von Einsiedel’s EVELYN was named Best Documentary. Notably, EVELYN kicks off IndieWire‘s 10 Best Undistributed Movies of 2018, which also features Errol Morris’s controversial (yet fascinating) AMERICAN DHARMA, the newly DOC NYC premiered AMAZING GRACE, and Khalik Allah’s visionary BLACK MOTHER.
As if to taunt those who loved the now defunct streaming service Filmstruck, on the day of its final closure The Hollywood Reporter’s Etan Vlessing broke the news that WarnerMedia revealed that it will launch a new direct-to-consumer streaming service in beta form in the fourth quarter of 2019, with three tiers of service.
Though the news seems to be flying under-the-radar on Kartemquin’s own website, Frederick Blichert reported via Realscreen that “Betsy Steinberg is stepping down as executive director of Kartemquin Films, and the collaborative center for documentary filmmakers is now searching for her replacement. Steinberg will exit the role on Dec. 31, after three years as ED.”
New release coverage this week included Glenn Kenny‘s NYT Critics’ Pick, RAMS by Gary Hustwit, who spoke with Elizabeth Stinson about the project for Wired, Rachel Lipstein‘s take on T Cooper’s MAN MADE for The New Yorker, and Zach Vasquez‘s feature on Maxim Pozdorovkin’s THE TRUTH ABOUT KILLER ROBOTS in The Guardian. Additionally, Lizzie Manno covered COLDPLAY: A HEAD FULL OF DREAMS for Paste, Matt Thrift reviewed DEAD SOULS for Little White Lies, Matt Zoller Seitz gave his take on HILLBILLY at RogerEbert.com, Alex Arabian interviewed SHIRKERS director Sandi Tan at The Playlist, and Teo Bugbee dubbed UNITED SKATES a NYT Critics’ Pick in The New York Times.
And if you are like me and have found yourself unsuspectingly digging the new Ariara Grande record, YouTube is has rolled out the first of four episodes of their DANGEROUS WOMAN DIARIES documentary series. Until next week, if you have any tips or recommendations for the Memo, please contact me via email here, or on Twitter, @Rectangular_Eye.