In the lead up this week’s midterm elections, doc news has been in unusual abundance. On Thursday, the Sundance Institute announced that “Thirty-three nonfiction works from seventeen countries comprise the latest Sundance Institute Documentary Fund and Stories of Change Grantees, announced today. 81% of the supported projects have at least one woman producer or director; 48% originate from outside the US.” Grantees include Lucrecia Martel, Manuel Abramovich, Violeta Ayala, and Nanfu Wang. That same day, Kartemquin Films revealed the recipients of $150,000 in grants, as well as the fact “that in 2019, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation will support Kartemquin’s new Diverse Voices Accelerator Fund, pledging $50,000 annually in grants to fellows and alumni of their Diverse Voices in Docs (DVID) program, a professional mentorship and development program for documentary filmmakers of color.” Those awarded include Kartemquin co-founder Gordon Quinn, Bing Liu, and Laura Checkoway.
As awards season ramps up (and the Oscar eligible doc list continues to expand), it’s always interesting to see what organizations and festivals across the pond rally around. The newly announced British Independent Film Award nominees for Best Documentary are a prime example of how different the results might be from the US marketplace. The five nominees are Steve Sullivan’s BEING FRANK: THE CHRIS SIEVEY STORY, Orlando Von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara’s EVELYN, Steven Eastwood and Elhum Shakerifar’s ISLAND, Felip Bustos Sierra’s NAE PASARAN, and Chris Martin and Tom Brisley’s UNDER THE WIRE. Additionally, DocLisboa announced its 2018 award winners, with the City of Lisbon Award for Best International Competition film going to GREETINGS FROM FREE FORESTS by Ian Soroka and the Award for Best Portuguese Competition film going to TERRA by Hiroatsu Suzuki and Rossana Torres. The Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival also revealed that among its award winners Alexandra Kandy Longuet’s VACANCY won Best World Documentary, Nora Agapi’s TIMEBOX won Best Central and East European Documentary, and Karel Žalud’s ENCLOSED WORLD took home Best Czech Documentary.
On the domestic festival front, Dave McNary reported in Variety, “After 18 years under Film Independent, the Los Angeles Film Festival is no more. Film Independent announced Wednesday that it was ending the festival — which had been moved this year from June to September — and replace it with year-round events aimed at building community and broadening its support of visual storytellers.” Frederick Blichert of Realscreen caught up with documentary filmmakers Ashley York and Sally Rubin to respond to the news and discuss the lasting impact of the LA Film Festival on the indie documentary industry.
Susan Yin shared great news for filmmakers via the International Documentary Association that on October 26th, the US Copyright Office modified the the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which documentary filmmakers have been exempt from in order to “rip” imagery from DVD, Blu-rays and digitally transmitted video, “expanding current clearance for documentary films to include some types of fictional films. Now, both nonfiction and fictional filmmakers may use ripped images ‘where the clip is used for parody or its biographical or historically significant nature.'”
With the monumental news that Orson Welles’ long unfinished final film THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND has finally been finished and released via Netflix comes the additional benefit of a new Orson Welles documentary by Morgan Neville called THEY’LL LOVE ME WHEN I’M DEAD, which Manohla Dargis deemed, “Fast, funny and rather too eager to please”, in The New York Times. In his take at RogerEbert.com, Glenn Kenny was as enthusiastic, noting it was “Directed with toy-store-window-gazing enthusiasm”. “I particularly love how Neville’s documentary becomes more than just a chronicle of events, but a showcase of all the ways in which the moving image can be used to tell stories,” wrote Christopher Llewellyn Reed at Hammer To Nail. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw was less impressed: “Imitating the chaos that blighted the making of Welles’ ‘lost’ masterpiece, this misconceived Netflix oddity can’t compare to the anarchic real thing”. Neville himself was interviewed about the project by Josh Rottenberg in The Los Angeles Times. And while it’s not been well publicized, there is another 40 minute making-of doc titled A FINAL CUT FOR ORSON: 40 YEARS IN THE MAKING by Ryan Suffern that is also newly available on Netflix, even without a subscription (scroll to the film’s trailer and it is available next to the trailer).
Other notable doc coverage this past week included Sheila O’Malley‘s take on SEARCHING FOR INGMAR BERGMAN at RogerEbert.com, Vadim Rizov‘s interview with Shevaun Mizrahi on DISTANT CONSTELLATION for Filmmaker Magazine, Vivienne Chow‘s report on the increase in Chinese documentary productions via Variety, and a whole swath of pieces at IndieWire: Ben Travers in conversation with Steve James about AMERICA TO ME, Kate Erbland gets Joe Berlinger’s response to the passing of Whitey Bulger, Anne Thompson on Charles Ferguson’s WATERGATE, and Eric Kohn‘s feature on Alex Winter’s switch from acting to documentary filmmaking. Additionally, this week’s episode of the Criterion Cast centers around the doc classic GIMME SHELTER.
Those looking for new films to stream can celebrate the fact that Ed Perkins’ Hot Docs alum BLACK SHEEP is now available as the Short of the Week, Sophy Romvari’s True/False Film Fest alum PUMPKIN MOVIE was published by CBC Docs, and Field of Vision posted Monica Berra, Yoruba Richen and Jacqueline Olive’s CROOKED LINES, which bears witness to “two women fighting against race-based gerrymandering in North Carolina”. Angela Helm spoke with the trio of CROOKED LINES directors about how the project came together for The Root. Weirdest of all, someone decided to take the basic structural concept of Godfrey Reggio’s KOYAANISQATSI and have created something they’ve titled GIFAANISQATSI. The project statement reads, “I wondered how easy it would be to make an internet version using random Giphy ‘gifs’ which have been tagged as slow motion or time-lapse, playing them along with the Philip Glass soundtrack.” Reid McCarter has further details on the oddball project at AV Club.
I leave you this week with two bits of production news, one that makes sense, the other, not so much. Joey Thyne reports at Nonfics that Ava DuVernay has signed on to direct a documentary series centered around the late musician Prince, while at Vulture, Hunter Harris dropped the news that Terrence Malick is producing a documentary on another late musician, Lil Peep. I’m curious regardless. Until next week, if you have any tips or recommendations for the Memo, please contact me via email here, or on Twitter, @Rectangular_Eye.