You may have noticed the lack of last week’s holiday styled memo, but this week we’ve returned with plenty of nonfiction news to get you up to speed. Up top we’ve got IndieWire’s Anne Thompson making her early predictions for what docs will be in the running for the 2018 Oscar for Best Documentary. Unsurprisingly, Matthew Heineman’s CITY OF GHOSTS (see this week’s slew of coverage on the film below), Agnès Varda’s FACES, PLACES, and Laura Poitras’ RISK are among the forerunners thus far.
In festival happenings, Ben Nicholson reported for Sight & Sound on this year’s edition of the Sheffield Doc/Fest, the first under its new chief programmer Luke Moody. At What (not) To Doc, Basil Tsiokos put forth his usual thorough overview of new nonfiction for the 35th edition of LA’s Outfest, noting a pair of centerpiece selections in Lori Kaye’s KEVIN AUCOIN: BEAUTY & THE BEAST IN ME and Katherine Fairfax Wright’s BEHIND THE CURTAIN: TODRICK HALL. Doc filmmakers should also take note that this coming Friday is DOC NYC‘s Extended Deadline for submissions for its 2017 edition.
Monday is upon us once again and as we look back at last week’s documentary happenings it seems that PBS’s announcement of its lineup for the 19th season of Independent Lens (via Variety’s Addie Morfoot) should take top billing in this week’s memo. The new season is set to kick of on November 6th, 2017 with John Scheinfeld’s CHASING TRANE and will run through February 26th, 2018, concluding with Peter Bratt’s DOLORES. Among the other selections are Nanfu Wang’s I AM ANOTHER YOU, Theo Anthony’s RAT FILM, Peter Nicks’s THE FORCE, and Jennifer Brea’s UNREST.
As Laura Poitras’s RISK, a complex, often unflattering film about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, has reached theaters throughout the United Kingdom, it appears that Wikileaks has sent Cease & Desist letters to various distributors of the film, according to Timothy Geigner at Tech Dirt. Despite Wikileaks’s stated mission of open information, the exact wording in the letters were as such, “We therefore demand that you immediately cease the use and distribution of all images of the Named Participants and that you desist from this or any other infringement of the rights of the Named Participants in the future.” The film was released regardless, gleaning a thorough and thoughtful review from Danny Leigh in Financial Times.
Writing by Megan Scanlon. Megan works at the American University of Beirut. She is a frequent contributor to the DOC NYC and Stranger Than Fiction blogs; program coordinator at the Bronx Documentary Center; and teacher at Yoga to the People. She has written for the Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @meganscanlon5
New York City.
A fist of a city that could punch your lights out and then afterwards unfold its fingers and extend a strong grip to pick you up off your feet. Bowels of a city that are an affront to the olfactory senses. A lap of a city that needs no invitation to rest in its green spaces, offering respite from the hardness of the urban concrete-scape. Two hands of a city that will surprise you mid-conversation as it cradles your face, catches and holds your gaze, and kisses your forehead.
Though in some ways it may sound like a container for an abusive relationship, it’s really that New York City is the embodiment of every-thing and no-thing. It defines, cultivates, creates, resists, defies, and flows with change. This push and pull, this ebb and flow, this contraction and expansion is fluidly expressed in the time capsule that is One October. Inspired by Chris Marker’s Le Joli Mai (a portrait of Paris in 1962), director Rachel Shuman created a film that locates New York City in October 2008. For the NYC premiere, Shuman took the Stranger Than Fiction audience on a tour of a landscape on the brink of…well…change.
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.
Stranger Than Fiction closed its 2017 Spring Season with Jeff Orlowski’s latest film, Chasing Coral, a powerful reminder of humanity’s connection to each other and our ecosystem. Orlowski grew up in Staten Island and attended Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, which is just over a mile from STF’s home, the IFC Center. The atmosphere was very much a “family screening,” as Orlowski noted in his opening remarks before the film.
This family spirit couldn’t have been more appropriate for Chasing Coral, which depicts the bleaching of coral reefs in magnificently stunning detail around the world, reminding us that humanity needs to work together to solve the problems presented by climate change. The film’s opening shot features a dive into the ocean, immediately introducing the audience to the majesty just below the surface. Richard Vevers, an advertising executive turned underwater photographer, shares that once he sets his eyes upon the reef, “everything slows down.” We soon learn, through Vevers and his team, that many of corals around the world are dying at alarming rates. He reveals that in the last 30 years, we’ve lost 50% of the world’s corals.
It will be a busy week for film festival goers, with New York’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival, Sheffield Doc/Fest and the long running Sydney Film Festival all having begun late last week and running though the end of this weekend. Basil Tsiokos outlined the new non-fiction offerings for each festival over at his What (not) To Doc blog, just as Joshua Brunsting previewed the films at the 28th edition of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival and Tom Roston spoke with the festival’s senior programmer, Leah Sapin, about this year’s curatorial focus on empowerment for Salon. Writing for The Star, Graham Walker listed twenty things to see and do this year at Sheffield Doc/Fest, while Matt Turner looked at how a trio of docs are challenging the narrative around the Syria crisis for Little White Lies. Covering the Sydney Film Festival, the fine folks at 4:3 have already published Ivan Čerečina‘s review of AUSTERLITZ and Anders Furze‘s take on KING OF THE BELGIANS.
Last Thursday, the Sundance Institute “announced the eight projects selected for its annual Documentary Edit and Story Labs, taking place in two sessions at the Sundance Resort in Utah from June 23-July 1 and July 7-15.” Projects selected include IMPEACHMENT by Brazilian director Petra Costa and editor Jordana Berg, and PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF DESIRE by director Hao Wu and editor Nanfu Wang. IndieWire’s Kate Erbland dissected the announcement, noting that projects “explore such timely themes as modern day lynchings, the Dakota Access Pipeline, impeachment, immigration detention centers, and more.” Looking back at the Sundance Documentary Film Program and the Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship’s 3rd annual Contemplating the Cut series, which took place back at the beginning of April, Colin Nusbaum outlined his tips and takeaways for doc editors over at the POV Blog.