The inaugural Montclair Film Festival, programmed by the STF team of Raphaela Neihausen and Thom Powers, announced its line-up today with 45+ films and 50+ guests. Scheduled to attend are: Kathleen Turner, Oliver Platt, Michael Moore, Olympia Dukakis, among others. Naturally, the festival has a strong documentary line-up including BROOKLYN CASTLE; PREP SCHOOL NEGRO; a tribute to Montclair resident Bruce Sinofsky with a screening of METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER; and a special screening of UNDEFEATED with Oscar-winning directors Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin in person.
BULLY distributor The Weinstein Co. (TWC) on Thursday, April 5 said they had gotten a PG-13 rating from the MPAA, after submitting a revised cut of the film that had eliminated several curse words. The Lee Hirsch-directed doc has gained a lot of attention from its battle with the MPAA over the R rating it initially received from the association. TWC and Hirsch had argued that the R rating would make it difficult for the teenagers who would benefit the most from seeing the film from being able to view it in a movie theater without their parents’ permission. The new rating was issued just in time for BULLY’s expanded release to 55 markets on April 13, leading some to wonder if the whole ratings campaign was an effort to drum up media attention for the film.
If it was a marketing plan, it looks like the ploy worked. Indiewire reported on Sunday, April 1 that BULLY had scored the best opening weekend for a non-fiction film thus far in 2012, in terms of per-theater-average. (The film had initially opened in five theaters in New York City and Los Angeles.) At a minimum, the controversy over the BULLY rating has led to a critical reexamination of the MPAA’s ratings system. The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips noted that BULLY’s inclusion of f-bomb heavily dialogue had earned it the same rating as the torture-porn flicks SAW and HOSTEL.
Salon’s Glen Greenwald on Sunday, April 8 issued a report detailing the harassment director Laura Poitras (THE OATH and MY COUNTRY, MY COUNTRY) faces from Department of Homeland Security officials every time she returns from traveling overseas. Greenwald writes: “She has had her laptop, camera and cellphone seized, and not returned for weeks, with the contents presumably copied. On several occasions, her reporter’s notebooks were seized and their contents copied, even as she objected that doing so would invade her journalist-source relationship. Her credit cards and receipts have been copied on numerous occasions.” Greenwald added that Poitras has refrained from speaking out on her problems for fear it might subject her to more difficulties from the authorities.
Chicago doc production house Kartemquin Films on Monday, April 2 posted an announcement on its website that a steering committee for the formerly ad hoc PBS Needs Indies movement had been formed, in response to PBS’s scheduling changes of doc shows Independent Lens and POV. The Independent Documentary Association (IDA) also announced its support for the steering committee, which was populated by a number of filmmakers and other documentary professionals. The committee said its first step was to “begin planning for public events that can showcase the critical importance of public-purpose programming to public television and to the nation’s media ecology.”
The University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication on Wednesday, April 4 announced the winners of the prestigious George Foster Peabody Awards in electronic media. Among the winners were Stanley Nelson’s FREEDOM RIDERS, Jamila Wignot’s TRIANGLE FIRE, and Kate Davis and David Heilbroner’s STONEWALL UPRISING, all of which were produced in coordination with WGBH’s American Experience. Also receiving awards were ITVS films MY PERESTROIKA, by Robin Hessman; BHUTTO, by Johnny O’Hara; and WHO KILLED CHEA VICHEA, by Bradley Cox.
The New York Times on Monday, April 2 reported that Robert Redford was producing a two-hour television documentary, ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN REVISITED, for the Discovery Channel. Redford followed up that news by announcing the next day that he had launched a new company, Sundance Productions, that would create both fiction and non-fiction projects, largely focusing on television and multimedia platforms.
At the What (Not) to Doc blog, Basil Tsiokos has an overview of the Full Frame Documentary Festival, set to take place April 12-15. The festival also listed a number of panel discussions it was hosting.
At POV’s blog, Tom Roston took aim at the notion that documentary filmmakers could not also be entertainers, relying on a transcript of a panel discussion held on the subject prior to the True/False Film Festival.
Also at POV, Adam Schartoff of Filmwax fame had a conversation with director Jay Bulger, whose BEWARE OF MR. BAKER took home the Grand Jury prize for best documentary at South by Southwest this year.
The New York Times’ John Anderson this week provided a breakdown of Kevin Macdonald’s research process in the making of MARLEY, the biographical documentary of reggae superstar Bob Marley.
Fans of Stanley Kubrick will be rewarded by a trip to the Open Culture blog, which took a look at the auteur’s earliest films, which just happen to be docs. The post makes clear that, while his filmmaking talents were innate, his sense for business was not.
At the ITVS Beyond the Box blog, filmmaker Musa Syeed (A SON’S SACRIFICE, BRONX PRINCESS) shared his experiences playing with non-linear storytelling techniques, efforts that culminated in the project 30 MOSQUES.
This weekend, David Gelb’s JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI surpassed the $1 million mark, after being in release for five weeks.
Christopher Campbell of The Documentary Channel Blog has this week’s theatrical releases, which include Morgan Spurlock’s COMIC-CON EPISODE IV.
This week, Stranger Than Fiction kicks off the Spring Season with a screening of WE’RE NOT BROKE, a film by Karin Hayes and Victoria Bruce that examines the techniques that corporations use to avoid paying their taxes. Hayes and Bruce will be in attendance for a Q&A following the film. For more info or to buy tickets, go here.
As always, please e-mail any tips or recommendations for the Memo here. Have a great week!