The Toronto International Film Festival on Tuesday, July 31 officially announced its full doc lineup, after the festival’s gala and special screening were announced the previous week. At Realscreen, Adam Benzine spoke with our own Thom Powers—TIFF’s doc programmer—about this year’s selections, which are intended to highlight newer names to the doc world. Benzine also produced a pretty comprehensive rundown of some films to look out for at the festival. But the LA Times’ Nicole Sperling noted that the festival will feature new films from some heavy hitters as well, including the prolific Alex Gibney, PBS stalwart Ken Burns and Britain’s Julian Temple. Gibney’s new film, MEA MAXIMA CULPA, focuses on the Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, while Burns’ new work, THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE, examines the wrongful conviction of several boys charged with the rape of a Central Park jogger. At the Documentary Bog, Jay Cheel hunted down the trailers for several of the films bowing at TIFF.
The doc world this week lost one of its most enigmatic and inspiring heroes in Chris Marker, born Christian Francois Bouche-Villeneuve, the director of such films as SANS SOLEIL and LA JETEE. The range of tributes that hit the web after are a tribute to the wide-ranging impact and influence that Marker had on the filmmaking world. At the New York Times, Dennis Lim penned a great obit for Marker, noting his forward thinking approach to filmmaking in describing him as a “transmedia artist long before the term was coined.” Ronald Bergan of The Guardian also wrote an obit for Marker, describing him as the inventor of the cinematic essay. Realscreen’s Kevin Ritchie rounded up some tributes from other accomplished filmmakers that began to populate the web and social media as news of Marker’s passing spread. At the Documentary Channel blog, Christopher Campbell did the same. Zachary Wigon at Filmmaker Magazine also wrote a heartfelt encomium for Marker. For those interested in seeing at least some of Marker’s work, LA JETEE is available for viewing at the Short of the Week website.
Docuweeks kicked off its 16th year in New York City on August 3. The program will run until August 23 here, and from August 10-30 in Los Angeles. Ernest Hardy of The Village Voice provided an in-depth look at the film program, which is presented by the International Documentary Association. Christopher Campbell also has a nice overview, complete with trailers for several of the film. And Basil Tsiokos of the What Not to Doc blog noted a handful of films on his must-see list.
Documentary filmmaker and teacher Magnus Isacsson, whose tireless work often focused on social justice issues, also passed away this week. Isacsson had served as a chair of the Documentary Organization of Canada, as well as a university instructor. At Realscreen, Adam Benzine recounted Isacsson’s storied career and work.
Thom Powers today put out a call for help for filmmaker and STF alum John Maringouin, who is currently attempting to raise funds for a desperately needed lung cancer operation. For more information about John and the fundraising effort, please go here.
Documentaries made a good showing at Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival,nabbing a number of awards. Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi’s 5 BROKEN CAMERAS took home the best film award, while Nisha Pahuja’s THE WORLD BEFORE HER won best foreign film. And SEXY BABY, by Stranger Than Fiction season passholders Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus were awarded best film by a first time director honors.
The DOC NYC festival this week unveiled news, naming THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE by by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon as the closing night film of the festival in its third year. The festival also unveiled an ambitious program of panels, called the Doc-a-thon. “Doc-a-thon panels are carefully programmed with the top practitioners in the field to bring filmmakers vital information for keeping current,” said festival artistic director Thom Powers.
Britain’s The Grierson Trust this week released its shortlist for the British Documentary Awards, also referred to as the Grierson Awards. Alexandra Zeevalkink of DocGeeks took a look at the nominees, as did Kelly Anderson at Realscreen.
POV this week also announced the participants for its first-ever hackathon. The projects run the gamut from traditional linear docs to food ethnography projects to audio documentary pieces. Content creators will get paired with developers to try and shape the content in new ways for distribution on the web.
The Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship put out its call for applications on August 1. Interested editors can submit their applications until September 28. The fellowship was created to honor the memory of Schmeer, an editor who had worked with Errol Morris among other directors who was killed in a hit-and-run accident in January 2010.
Interview Magazine’s Rachel Horovitz got a chance to sit down with Albert Maysles for a meal in Harlem and pick the legendary documentarian’s brain on growing up in Boston and his topically wide body of work.
Reddit this week hosted an AMA (that’s “ask me anything” for the non-redditors) Q&A session with director Steve James and author Raj Patel, the creative forces behind the new film/multimedia project GENERATION FOOD. Evidently some of the questions were accidentally deleted during the Q&A, but most of them can be guessed at from the answers.
The Blog Talk Radio show Tomorrow Will Be Televised on Monday hosted POV Executive Producer Simon Kilmurry this week. To skip right to the beginning of the interview you can jump to the 2:30 mark.
In yet more POV news, Tom Roston writing for the show’s blog asked if docs could do better at the box office if wider theatrical distribution was easier to come by. Roston noted that several films with relatively limited distribution had yielded pretty decent revenues when released in only a handful of theaters.
Anthony Kaufman, writing his Docutopia blog for SundanceNOW, asked a somewhat related rhetorical question, wondering whether docs would always take a backseat to fictional narrative when it comes to theatrical release. Kaufman based his argument in favor of docs largely on the strength of positive critical reviews that a number of them have garnered in recent months.
The True/False festival blog nabbed Jodi Willie co-director of THE SOURCE, about a group of people known as the Source Family described as a New Age communal family (and which some less charitable people might call a cult), for an interview. Also along for the sit down was Isis Aquarian, the Source Family’s historian and archive keeper.
The International Documentary Association posted a recap of its latest Doc U, this one dealing with the research of archival footage, along with attending copyright complications arising from its use in documentaries.
Morgan Spurlock phoned in an interview with Indiewire from Italy, talking about his success with a VOD distribution model with both COMIC CON IV: A FAN’S HOPE and now with MANSOME.
And Christopher Campbell got a chance to speak with PLANET OF SNAIL director Yi Seung-Jun, talking about his approach to his subjects, and the differences between this film and his previous one, CHILDREN OF GOD.
Carol Morely, the director of DREAMS OF A LIFE was also given the interview treatment, this time by Filmmaker Magazine. Morely spoke on her film, which examines the story of the discovery of a badly decomposed 38-year-old in a London flat, an astounding three years after she died.
DocGeeks got into sales talk this week, releasing an analysis of British Film Institute data which revealed that Asif Kapadia’s SENNA broke the U.K. box office record for a doc in 2011, bringing in £3.2 million. The BFI also reported that docs had brought in a total of £11.1million last year, a figure equal to 1% of total box office receipts.
Director Judith Helfand, one of the co-founders of Chicken & Egg Pictures, reminisced about her teacher and mentor George Stoney for the POV blog, touching on how Stoney’s southern origins served to inform his work and attitude.
Nate von Zumwalt of the Sundance Institute interviewed INDIE GAME: THE MOVIE directors James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot, teasing out of them an answer to a great question about their guilty food pleasure while in the midst of production.
Annisa Kau of ITVS’s Beyond the Box blog spoke with filmmakers Ruthie Shatz and Adi Barash, directors of THE COLLABORATOR AND HIS FAMILY, about the ramifications of a Palestinian’s collaboration with Israel.
One of the more interesting documentary collaborations came to light when it was announced that musician Bjork would be working with nature documentary legend David Attenborough for a television doc about the evolution of music. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film will examine music originating in the natural world as well.
In other news about the intersection of the doc and music worlds, Beyonce, also sometimes known as Sasha Fierce, is looking to direct a documentary about, uh, herself, according to press reports. (I, for one, would like to lobby filmmakers to make a doc about that kid who remade Beyonce’s “Countdown” video in a snuggie. Pure genius.)
As always, Christopher Campbell has this week’s theatrical releases, which include DREAMS OF A LIFE and STF alum YOU’VE BEEN TRUMPED.