Following the BAFTAs last week, where I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO took home the prize for Best Documentary, it seems the every growing sprawl of awards season is finally about to reach its climactic conclusion with the 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. In The New York Times, Cara Buckley dished a wild yarn on how Russia has been leading a smear campaign against two doc Oscar nominees, noting LAST MEN IN ALEPPO as its major target, “In the Russian media, Mr. Fayyad has been accused of being a Western-funded propagandist whose film is a thinly disguised ‘Al-Qaeda promotional vehicle.’ And, in what might catch members of the academy’s documentary branch by surprise, the film’s Oscar nomination was, according to Russia Insider, clear evidence that ‘the Hollywood celebrity industry is now an integral part of the U.S. state’s propaganda machine.'” Not only is the film being smeared, but the US has officially rejected the visas of the film’s producer, Kareem Abeed, and one of its subjects, White Helmets co-founder Mahmoud Al-Hattar, making it impossible for them to attend the ceremony, reports Beatrice Verhoeven at The Wrap. Meanwhile, the International Documentary Association and the Academy itself have published statements in support of the team behind LAST MEN IN ALEPPO.
In the latest episode of a relatively new documentary podcast called The Fog of Truth, produced by Christopher Llewellyn Reed, Summre Garber and Bart Weiss, the trio discuss the Oscar nominees and a whole host of previous nominees. Other Oscar coverage came in the form of interviews by RogerEbert.com’s Matt Fagerholm with ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL director Steve James and EDITH+EDDIE director Laura Checkoway, another interview with Checkoway by IDA’s Akiva Gottlieb, a profile on James in The Los Angeles Times by Lewis Beale, an interview with STRONG ISLAND director Yance Ford with Cara Buckley in The New York Times, and a feature in The Guardian by Charlie Phillips on the fact that the “most innovative factual films are often under 40 minutes long – and the best of this growing genre are easy to find online” – including EDITH+EDDIE.
Tomorrow, we here at Stranger Than Fiction have the rare opportunity to preview two episodes of FLINT TOWN on the big screen, followed by a conversation with the filmmakers (Zackary Canepari, Drea Cooper and Jessica Dimmock), a few days before the series launches on Netflix. Tickets for this special event are still available here.
Last week the 2018 Berlinale wrapped with the Glashütte Original – Documentary Prize being awarded to Ruth Beckermann for her film THE WALDHEIM WALTZ, which Jay Weissberg of Variety astutely noted, “With Austria currently the only West European nation since World War II governed by the far right, it’s time (heck, it’s long past time) that someone of Ruth Beckermann’s intelligence made a film investigating the country’s odious collective whitewashing of its Nazi-era past.” Variety’s Jessica Kiang also covered Sergei Loznitsa VICTORY DAY, which sees the filmmaker training “his thoughtful, formally rigorous eye on the 2017 Victory Day celebrations at Berlin’s Soviet War Memorial.” She concludes, “This is Loznitsa, with the gentlest of hands on your elbow, directing your attention one way or another, making subtle commentary not on what is being commemorated, but in how we commemorate, and why…VICTORY DAY seems so simple, but it is properly complex: a conflicted memorial to a conflicted memorial.”
Right on the heels of its Art of the Real series, MoMA and its partner the Film Society at Lincoln Center has announced the lineup of this year’s New Directors/New Films, which runs March 28-April 8, opening with Stephen Loveridge’s MATANGI/MAYA/M.I.A. and closes with RaMell Ross’s HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING – both notable Sundance debuted docs which will make their way to True/False this coming weekend. Speaking of which, last year True/False gave its True Vision Award to the Iranian filmmaker Mehrdad Oskouei. This year, a retrospective of his work is starting to make the rounds on the festival circuit, beginning with Anthology Film Archives’ series “Documentary, Iranian Style: The Films of Mehrdad Oskouei,” which was written about by Bilge Ebiri in The Village Voice and Tanner Tafelski at MUBI’s Notebook.
Other notable news and doc coverage that cropped up in the past week includes Christopher Llewellyn Reed‘s interview with director Jonathan Olshefski and his friend and film subject Christopher Rainey of QUEST at Hammer to Nail, news that AmDoc will launch a news shorts initiative this year, beginning with the hiring of Chloe Gbai as the POV shorts and streaming producer, Daniel Glassman‘s thorough look at the history of conceptual documentaries for POV Magazine, and Simran Hans‘s feature in The Guardian on the current popularity of music docs.
I’ll leave you this week with The Atlantic’s new short DEPORTATION NATION, which “goes behind the scenes of America’s sprawling network of detention centers, where 179 people have died awaiting deportation since 2003,” as well as the fact that I’m heading to True/False, so if you’d like to meet up or just want to say hey, please hit me up. Until next time, if you have any tips or recommendations for the Memo, please contact me via email here, or on Twitter, @Rectangular_Eye.