“In these times of fake news and alternative facts, we need the voices of documentarians more than ever to hold the powerful to account and explore the nuance of the world that cable news squawkers deny. And, just perhaps, to help us make our world a little more compassionate.” On a day like today, in times likes these, it is heartening to read such words of fervent inspiration. Writing an impassioned, must-read guest column last week in The Hollywood Reporter, Simon Kilmurry, executive director of the International Documentary Association, wrote a spirited call to arms for the documentary filmmaking community in which he, and all of us, seek hope, inspiration and truth in non-fiction cinematic storytelling.
Tomorrow at the IFC Center, our winter season continues with a special screening of the truly stranger than fiction tale of TICKLED, co-presented by HBO Documentary Films. The film’s co-director David Farrier and film lawyer Cam Stracher will both be on hand for a live Q&A following the film. Tickets are still available here.
The 67th Berlinale wrapped up yesterday with the inaugural Glashütte Original Documentary Award for best doc went to Raed Andoni’s GHOST HUNTING and the Teddy Award for Best Documentary/Essay Film, “given to films and people, that communicate queer themes and content on a large scale and contribute with this to more tolerance, acceptance, solidarity and equality in society,” was given to Hui-chen Huang’s SMALL TALK. For MUBI, Giovanni Marchini Camia reported on the documentary spontaneity of Michael Glawogger and Monika Willi’s UNTITLED.
Friday saw the start of MoMa’s annual non-fiction series, Documentary Fortnight, which runs from February 16th through 26th. Numerous previews of the series were published around net this past week, including pieces from Benjamin Sutton at Hyperallergic, Tom Roston at Doc Soup, and Chris O’Falt and Graham Winfrey of IndieWire. At Nonfics, Daniel Walber listed his top five recommendations of there series, while Basil Tsiokos outlined the series’ genuinely new non-fiction offerings at What (not) To Doc, as well as the films featuring at other currently running festivals, the 14th annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival and the 17th annual Film Comment Selects series. The Film Society of Lincoln Center also announced the complete lineup for its 46th Annual New Directors/New Films series, featuring docs like Yuri Ancarani’s THE CHALLENGE and Jonathan Olshefski’s QUEST.
Looking at the Oscar race, IndieWire’s Anne Thompson predicts that O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA will win Best Documentary, despite the critical and financial success of I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO, as reported by Brent Lang of Variety, who believes that, based on its $2 million box office thus far, by the end of its theatrical run it will become “the highest-grossing non-fiction release in Magnolia’s history.” Meanwhile, Hilton Als of The New Yorker and Chris Hedges writing at Truth Dig both had nothing but praise for Raoul Peck’s searing new film. Back at Doc Soup, Tom Roston worked his way through this year’s doc short nominees, dubbing them “Short on Length, Big on Vision.” Examining the questionable travel situation for the Syrian stars of Oscar-nominated THE WHITE HELMETS and WATANI: MY HOMELAND, Kate Erbland of IndieWire reports they will attend the awards ceremony after all, while Christopher Campbell obtained a statement that confirms that Hala Kamil of WATANI has obtained a visa to attend as well, respectively.
It was a notably quiet week theatrically, with a few more warm reviews of KEDI coming in via Pete Hammond of Deadline, Kristen Yoonsoo Kim of Vulture and Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times. At 4:3, Keva York spoke with Werner Herzog about LO AND BEHOLD, REVERIES OF THE CONNECTED WORLD, while Ela Bittencourt interviewed ALL THE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS director Michal Marczak for Film Comment. Looking back at the first documentary Palme D’Or winner, Jacques Cousteau’s 1956 underwater exploration THE SILENT WORLD, A.A. Dowd examined how well the film has held up in his latest Palme Thursday column for A.V. Club.
Doc filmmakers may want to take a peak at Slavik Boyechko‘s guest tech column at the POV Blog, plainly titled “Camera, Lens, Drone! The Documentary Gear to Keep, Add or Remove From Your Kit.”
Those looking for newly streamable films should head over to the Independent Lens page where Keith Maitland’s TOWER is newly available.
I’ll leave you think week with Ashley Clark‘s must read piece at BFI, “A Short History of Black US Indie Cinema,” which dabbles in docs, and makes notable mention of William Greaves’ SYMBIOPSYCHOTAXIPLASM: TAKE ONE, which also turned up via David Blakeslee at Criterion Cast this past week. As always, if you have any tips or recommendations for the Memo, please contact me via email here, or on Twitter, @Rectangular_Eye.