Monday Memo: Hot Docs & Art of the Real Reveal 2017 Lineups


After last week’s politically charged dispatch of stories on Trump’s proposed budget cuts and the controversy over Jason Pollock’s STRANGER FRUIT, this week, thankfully, seems a bit subdued. The most notable news of the week is the dual lineup announcements of Toronto’s massive Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s more focused Art of the Real. At Realscreen, Daniele Alcinii spoke with Hot Docs’ Director of Programming Shane Smith and several filmmakers about this year’s lineup. The complete Hot Docs program and schedule can be found in PDF form here.

Now in its second year, Chicago’s DOC10 film festival kicks off later this week. Leading up to the proceedings, the festival has been posting brief interviews with the filmmakers behind each of the ten films programmed on their website, while over at RogerEbert.com, Matt Fagerholm has given a thorough overview of the festival’s offerings, highlighting RAT FILM, WHOSE STREETS? and THE CINEMA TRAVELERS, among others. Also in motion this week is the Paris based doc fest Cinéma du Réel, which Basil Tsiokos previewed at What (not) To Doc.

Here at Stranger Than Fiction, we’re closing out our winter season tomorrow at the IFC Center with Amanda Micheli’s VEGAS BABY, with Micheli herself in attendance for a live post-screening Q&A. Tickets are still available.

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Monday Memo: US Budget Proposal Cuts Humanities, Full Frame Announces Lineup


Following the release of Trump’s proposed federal budget on Wednesday, which lays out plans to eliminate funding for the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Responding to the news, Sophie Gilbert outlined the real cost of abolishing the National Endowment for the Arts for The Atlantic, while the International Documentary Association released a public statement about the future funding for the NEA, NEH and CPB. The Public Broadcasting Service also published its own advocacy site (Value) in the wake of the budget proposal. Turning to Ken Burns’s 1990 CIVIL WAR documentary as proof, Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson also made a strong case for preserving public humanities funding. Those looking to show their support of the National Endowment for the Arts should head over to the Americans for the Arts Action Center, where citizens are guided through the process of contacting your local U.S. representatives about this issue.

After news broke last week of Jason Pollock’s SXSW debuted doc STRANGER FRUIT containing new footage of Michael Brown just before his murder by police in Ferguson, MO, Mitch Smith of The New York Times reported “a lawyer for the convenience store at the center of the accusations released additional video on Monday that he said disproved the documentary’s assertions,” adding further confusion to the case. The video was published by the Washington Post, along with an additional news break by Wesley Lowery.

Here at Stranger Than Fiction, we are nearing the end of our winter season. Tomorrow at the IFC Center, we host very special 20th Anniversary screening of Monte Bramer’s 1997 Sundance Audience Award winner PAUL MONETTE: THE BRINK OF SUMMER’S END. The film’s producer, Lesli Klainberg, will be on hand for a live Q&A following the film. Tickets for the event are still available for purchase here.

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Jazz, Murder, Contrition and Forgiveness


Writing and videography by Joseph Schroeder, who has managed the production of highly acclaimed educational and informational programming for networks such as PBS, A&E and National Geographic for over a decade. Currently the Vice President of Production and Operations of The Independent Production Fund. Follow him on Twitter and see more of his work on his website.

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” It’s a traditional narrative, often used today in tawdry soap operas and reality shows. However, the fifth entry in the Winter 2017 STF season, I Called Him Morgan, presented a twist on this tired narrative. The film focuses on the rise and fall of jazz legend Lee Morgan and his common-law wife Helen Morgan, presenting them as complete individuals who lived difficult and compelling lives. Cycles of collapse and redemption are major themes throughout, reinforced by one of the film’s musicians stating early on that “Lee went as far down as he could go… and then he met Helen.”

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Another True/False in the Books as SXSW Kicks Off


As you might have noticed, there was no memo last week due to the fact that I was away attending this year’s edition of Missouri’s hybrid focused True/False Film Festival. As Richard Brody summed it up so deftly in The New Yorker, it’s a festival “governed by an idea, the essence of which is documentary filmmakers thinking about what they’re doing and making that thinking integral to their films.” Maybe more than any year prior, there was a lengthy list of press folk in town to cover the fest, including Vikram Murthi for RogerEbert.com, Steven Zeitchik of the LA Times, Alissa Wilkinson writing for Vox, Jim Brunzell at Hammer To Nail, Vadim Rizov of Filmmaker Magazine and Glenn Heath Jr. for MUBI’s Notebook. I, myself, let my impressions loose over at Nonfics.

While I was away, Chicago’s DOC10 revealed their 2017 lineup. Programmed by Anthony Kaufman, the schedule includes DOC NYC Grand Jury Prize winner THE ISLAND AND THE WHALES, one of my favorites from True/False, RAT FILM and other gems like the Sundance highlights CASTING JONBENET and STEP, which will serve as the opening night picture.

Here at Stranger Than Fiction, our winter season continues tomorrow night at IFC Center with Sara Taksler’s TICKLING GIANTS, which sees “Bassem Youssef make a decision that’s every mother’s worst nightmare… He leaves his job as a heart surgeon to become a full-time comedian.” The screening will be followed by a live Q&A with director Taksler. Tickets are still available here.

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Monday Memo: O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA Wins Best Doc at Oscars & Independent Spirits


Before last night’s best picture debacle cemented the 2017 Oscars as one of the wildest on record, Ezra Edelman’s eight hour American epic O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA made history as the longest film to ever win an Oscar, regardless of category, just after taking Best Documentary Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards the night before.. Shortly thereafter, Orlando von Einsiedel took home the award for Best Doc Short Subject for THE WHITE HELMETS. The full list of Oscar winners can be found here. Leading up to the ceremony, Joel Bocko made a video essay for Fandor on the many merits of Edelman’s film, titled NOT JUST O.J., Mandalit Del Barco looked at the trio of docs up for Oscars that dealt directly with Syria’s civil war at NPR, while at ABC News, Taylor Maple outlined in detail how the Student Academy Awards may open doors to the film industry for its young honorees. And over at IDA’s blog, Caty Borum Chattoo shared a telling study of race and gender in Oscar-shortlisted documentaries from 2008-2017.

Tomorrow night at the IFC Center, we will be hosting a very special 25th anniversary screening of Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s landmark documentary BROTHER’S KEEPER. To help mark the occasion, Berlinger will be on hand for a live Q&A moderated by Morgan Spurlock! This show is now sold out.

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