With more TIFF wrap ups, a bunch of theatrical releases, award show news and more, it’s been a bustling week for documentary lovers. At the top of the heap was the announcement that the Cinema Eye Honors is turning 10 this year, and to celebrate, the organization polled 110 key members of the documentary community and selected 10 filmmakers and 20 films that helped define Cinema Eye’s first decade. In partnership with the Museum of the Moving Image, Cinema Eye will be hosting a 10-week screening series of films from its first decade, beginning with four-time Cinema Eye Honoree and Academy Award winner Laura Poitras presenting her post-9/11 trilogy: MY COUNTRY, MY COUNTRY, THE OATH and CITIZENFOUR. A full schedule of the series will be announced at a later date.
Following the news that Poitras would be kicking off the Cinema Eye screening series, she made the major announcement that she’d be stepping down from The Intercept to focus on the expansion of Field of Vision at its new location, fieldofvision.org. Along with her co-founders AJ Schnack and Charlotte Cook, the trio released a simultaneous statement in which they revealed “our new website, announce a slate of international films, expanded collaborations, and a SecureDrop platform for sources to leak newsworthy video.” New films from Yung Chang, Emily Pederson, Mila Aung-Thwin and Van Royko, Braden King, Elizabeth Lo, Laura Poitras and Henrik Moltke and Hito Steyerl, among others are in the pipeline, so keep your eyes peeled.
Tomorrow, the fall season of Stranger Than Fiction, which will celebrate the documentary work of Jonathan Demme with a 6-film retrospective, kicks off with his miraculous 1984 Talking Heads concert doc STOP MAKING SENSE! Demme himself will be on hand for a live post-screening Q&A. Season passes are still available here. As a primer to our upcoming retrospective, Demme appeared again on the latest episode of Thom Powers’ Pure Nonfiction podcast to talk about his concert films with Talking Heads, Neil Young and Justin Timberlake.
Now that TIFF has come and gone (read Michael Koresky‘s roundup of the fest at Film Comment and my Top 5 new docs found at TIFF at IONCINEMA), awards season has arrived. Following the news that the 2013 Sundance favorite CUTIE AND THE BOXER had taken home the Emmy for Best Documentary at the 37th Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards Wednesday night, Christopher Campbell wrote an excellent piece that examines the strange overlap between the Oscars and the Emmys at Film School Rejects. On the same wavelength over at IndieWire, Anne Thompson and Matt Brennan looked at how TV and streaming Emmy contenders are effecting the Oscar documentary race.
Looking to the small screen, our own Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen selected Nanette Burstein’s GRINGO: THE DANGEROUS LIFE OF JOHN MCAFEE, which had its premiere on Showtime on Saturday evening, as WNYC’s Documentary of the Week. Slate’s Jacob Brogan seemed to agree, writing warmly at length about the film. Last week, JOE’S VIOLIN, a project that Neihausen produced and Kahane Cooperman directed, turned up on The New Yorker’s Culture Desk via Andrea DenHoed, who said “the film examines how a beloved object can come to carry meaning, memory, and love by showing how this particular violin brings together two people who are from very different walks of life but who find a similar comfort and “light,” as Brianna puts in, in music.” You can watch the entire film here.
Other films that found their way on the net this week included a pair of Netflix productions in Orlando von Einsiedel’s THE WHITE HELMETS and Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk’s AUDRIE & DAISY. Director Orlando von Einsiedel and producer Joanna Natasegara had a guest column at IndieWire about “How the Stars Of Netflix’s Doc Are Making A Difference in Syria’s Civil War,” while The Guardian’s Julia Raeside who called the film “a 40-minute glimpse into a dark world, lit up by the tireless efforts of an incredible group…of volunteer rescue workers with branches all over the country, who risk their own safety to pull fellow citizens from bomb wreckage.” Cohen and Shenk’s film was well regarded by Robert Abele of The Los Angeles Times and Sarah Thomas of The Sydney Morning Herald, while the directors themselves turned up on NPR’s All Things Considered in conversation with Kelly McEvers.
The most talked about film released in theaters this past week was undoubtedly Ross Adam and Robert Cannan’s THE LOVERS AND THE DESPOT, which we previewed here at Stranger Than Fiction last season! Manohla Dargis of The New York Times, Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times, Wendy Ide of The Guardian, Mallory Andrews of Movie Mezzanine and Matthew Eng of Little White Lies each published reviews, varying in favorability. Sara Fishko’s THE JAZZ LOFT ACCORDING TO W. EUGENE SMITH and Jake Paltrow and Noah Baumbach’s DE PALMA on the other hand both received glowing praise from Glenn Kenny in The New York Times and David Jenkins in Little White Lies, respectively. And over at Reverse Shot, a new symposium of pieces on the work of Agnès Varda has gone live, with pieces spanning her career to be published over the coming days.
On the production side of things, Esther B. Robinson has posted a piece at Filmmaker Magazine discussing the concept of sustainability in filmmaking, while Sophia Harvey published an essay at No Film School on utilizing alternative methods of distribution to find audiences in the digital age. Meanwhile at Nieman Storyboard, film editor Joe Bini turned up at the Camden International Film Festival to discuss the poetics of documentary. That’s it for this week! If you have any tips or recommendations for the Memo in the meantime, please contact me via email here, or on Twitter, @Rectangular_Eye.