The week documentary news was dominated by the start of the Sundance Film Festival, which began Thursday, Jan. 17. On Sundance’s blog, Eric Hynes and other writers recapped Day Two of the festival, with a strong focus on docs. On the POV blog, Tom Roston interviewed two of the festival’s senior programmers, David Courier and Caroline Libresco. Roston also highlighted a few films screening at the festival, FIRE IN THE BLOOD by Dylan Mohan Gray; THE WORLD ACCORDING TO DICK CHENEY by R.J. Cutler; and WHICH WAY TO THE FRONT LINE FROM HERE? THE LIFE AND TIME OF TIM HETHERINGTON by Sebastian Junger. The Hetherington doc was also profiled by Stuart Hughes of the BBC.
Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan also provided his own overview of the docs set to screen at Sundance, while Karen Kemmerle of the Tribeca Future of Film blog highlighted some Twitter feeds worth following during the festival. Mark Olsen had coverage of the film AFTER TILLER by Martha Shane and Lana Wilson, while Eric Kohn wrote up BLACKFISH for Indiewire. At The Hollywood Reporter, John DeFore reviewed Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill’s film DIRTY WARS. Shiela Nevins of HBO spoke with Brooks Barnes of the New York Times about the film LIFE ACCORDING TO SAM.
There was also an abundance of interviews with Sundance filmmakers being churned out this week. The Filmmaker Magazine blog had one with CRASH REEL director Lucy Walker, while Jim Allen of the website talked with musician Dave Grohl, director of the doc SOUND CITY. At Realscreen, Adam Benzine had an interview with director R.J. Cutler, while Kelly Anderson chatted with Morgan Neville, director of TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM. And Slovej Schou spoke with STORIES WE TELL director Sarah Polley for Entertainment Weekly.
Sundance has already sparked a rash of distribution deals (in fact, at the rate docs are selling at the festival it’s likely that several more will have been inked by the time you read this). Adam Benzine of Realscreen reported that Ro*co Films had bought international rights for both AFTER TILLER and AMERICAN PROMISE, and then that Gravitas Ventures had purchased VOD rights for SOUND CITY. Daniel Miller and Tatiana Siegel of the Hollywood Reporter had details on The Weinstein Co.’s Radius Label purchase of North American rights for TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM, while at Deadline Dominic Patten reported on CNN’s purchase of the Steve James doc on film critic Roger Ebert, LIFE ITSELF. Julie Makinen and John Horn of the Los Angeles Times reported that North American rights for DIRTY WARS had been snagged by Sundance Selects. And Indiewire’s Jay A. Fernandez reported that HBO had won U.S. television rights for PUSSY RIOT–A PUNK PRAYER.
Here at the STF blog, Thom Powers has been turning out his own posts about the festival. The first examined nine docs poised to break out at Sundance, and was followed by one that featured interviews with directors with films in the U.S. competition section, and a third featuring talks with doc makers in the World competition section.
This week STF is hosting a screening of the film TRUMBO, about the best-known screenwriter of the Hollywood Ten that was blacklisted during McCarthyism, Dalton Trumbo. Director Peter Askin will be in attendance following the screening for an audience Q&A. You can find more information about the screening and purchase tickets here.
There were a host of non-Sundance related filmmaker interviews this week as well. At the Documentary Channel blog, Christopher Campbell interviewed Joe Berlinger on the PARADISE LOST trilogy and his response to the film WEST OF MEMPHIS. Joëlle Pouliot interviewed BALLROOM DANCER directors Christian Holten Bonke and Andreas Koefoed for the DocGeeks blog, and Billy Brennan of Filmmaker Magazine talked with OUR SCHOOLS director Mona Micoara. Thomas White of Documentary Magazine spoke with David France, director of HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE.
The Directors Guild announced the documentary nominees for its awards this week, with SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN and QUEEN OF VERSAILLES among those films vying for the honor. Nicole Sperling reported on the nominations for the Los Angeles Times, as did Rebecca Ford for The Hollywood Reporter. CBS rounded up trailers of all the nominated films, while Christopher Campbell also had a report for the Documentary Channel blog.
The Tribeca Film Institute this week also named the recipients of its 2013 Documentary Fund, which included among them THE ARRIVALS by Heidi Ewing; PEACHES GOES BANANAS by Marie Losier; and WIND ON THE MOON by Seung-Jun Yi. Kelly Anderson of Realscreen had additional information on the grantees.
Cinereach also announced its grant recipients, which included 14 films receiving funds for the first time, and a number of others receiving renewed funds. Billy Brennan of Filmmaker Magazine had the details, as did Adam Benzine of Realscreen.
Writing for Indiewire, Jason Guerrasio wrote up a two-part series on the “dark underbelly” of self-proclaimed film festivals with little credentialing that charge filmmakers for the receipt of awards. You can find the first part here and the second here.
Roger Ebert released a list of some of the best documentaries from 2012, which included THE AMERICAN SCREAM by Michael Stephenson; EL VELADOR by Natalie Almada; and FAKE IT SO REAL by Robert Greene, among several others. And at The Movie Blog, Dan Schindel had his own list of best docs for 2012.
Ben Sachs of the Chicago Reader published the first part of one with Judy Hoffman and Gordon Quinn of Kartemquin films on the ongoing Jean Rouch series at Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center. In other Kartemquin news, Tim Horsburgh reported that the THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI by Bill Siegel snagged a $160,000 grant from the Ford Foundation this week.
At the New York Times, Jeanette Catsoulis reviewed Stephen Maing’s HIGH TECH LOW LIFE about Chinese journalist bloggers, which opened on Wednesday in New York City.
Eriq Gardner of The Hollywood Reporter had an update of the lawsuit filed by QUEEN OF VERSAILLES subject David Siegel against filmmaker Lauren Greenfield.
Writing for The Wrap, Steve Pond wrote about the different voting patterns Academy members displayed when voting for the best foreign-language film and best documentary.
This week’s the Op-Doc on the New York Times website featured THE LONG WAIT, a film by Jason DaSilva exploring the challenges faced by the disabled in navigating New York City’s public transportation system.
At the Shooting People blog, Mark Pizzey wrote about the future of bite-sized, serialized doc content as a viable distribution model.
POV turned out the results of its second Hackathon, presenting the eight storytelling prototypes that resulted from the weekend of coding. POV wasted no time in putting out a call for participants for Hackathon 3, set to take place in April. Hackathon participants Kel O’Neil and Eline Jongsma also recorded their two-day experience in a great post at The Creators Project.
POV also published a filmmaker’s guide to navigating social media–specifically Twitter and Facebook.
At the Independent Lens blog, Maria Goodavage profiled artist Wayne White, the subject of the film BEAUTY IS EMBARRASSING, directed by Neil Berkeley.
The STF Alum film STOLEN by Violeta Ayala and Daniel Fallshaw is premiering on Feb. 5 on the PBS WORLD AfroPop Series. You can watch a trailer for the film here.
Melena Ryzik of the New York Times reported this week that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) had instituted yet another change to the Oscar voting rules by sending out screeners for the first time and widening the pool of Academy members who were able to vote on the award.
Adam Benzine also had a profile of Josh and Dan Braun, the forces behind Submarine Entertainment, which has helped navigate some of the biggest theatrical doc deals in previous years.
Hot Docs announced that it was giving it’s 2013 Doc Mogul Award to Deborah Zimmerman, the executive director of nonprofit Women Make Movies.
The International Documentary Association (IDA) announced that it was making its video archive of Doc U events available online to dues paying members.
Elizabeth Jensen of The New York Times had a piece on the efforts of premium cable channel Showtime to bulk up its documentary programming.
And Johnny Bontemps had a nice write up of the Los Sures project turned out by collaborative members of UnionDocs. The Williamsburg-based microcinema and arts center also published a video introducing the latest members of its collaborative group.
That’s it for this week, please continue to e-mail tips and recommendations for the Memo here, or tweet them to @GuerrillaFace. Thanks, and have a great week everyone!