Uncovering a Tickling Empire…(Yes, You Read That Right)


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

People are weird. How weird, is a subjective question inextricably linked with social and cultural norms, personal preference, and whether one has questioned if some of those norms happen to be a razor thin veneer masking the charade of civilization. (The jury is still out). It is reasonable to claim though, and will likely remain uncontested, that TICKLED, STF’s third film of its winter season, is phenomenally weird in scope. Directed by David Farrier and Dylan Reeve, the inception of the film motors on innocuously enough as New Zealand journalist Farrier, the film’s narrator, explains, “I’ve made a career out of covering the strange and bizarre side of life.” Left turn here, right turn there, Farrier comes across an advertisement for a tickling competition, and in the name of career and curiosity, opens the door to a house of mirrors that curves beyond a mere tickling fetish and into a distorted maze of power, harassment, and money.

Continue reading…


The Show That Had a Place For Everyone But The People


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

“I’m not demonstrating to be suffocated I’m doing it to breathe.”

-Young girl during a 2011 demonstration in Syria

Suppress. Oppress. Restrict. Obstruct. Deprive. Block. Shackle. Lie.Torture. Murder. Devastate.

These verbs are the chains and the choices of the Assad regime that sank Syria.


Stranger Than Fiction unleashed its winter season with the THE WAR SHOW, a sobering, up close encounter that chronicles the beginning of the end of Syria. Directed and narrated by Syrian radio host Obaidah Zytoon, the film is framed through the eyes of young filmmakers, photographers, artists, musicians, revolutionaries, and most of all, friends who were inspired to action during the Arab Spring in 2011. THE WAR SHOW provides a desperately needed narrative, a throbbing pulse of personal truth that brings the audience to the front lines of the conflict, reminding us that war, grief, and destruction cannot be sanitized. Produced by Alaa Hassan and co-written by Spencer Osberg, the two spoke with STF host Thom Powers and the STF audience for a riveting and relevant post-screening conversation.

Continue reading…


Monday Memo: Berlin Wraps While MoMa’s Doc Fortnight Kicks Off


Still from MACHINES, directed by Rahul Jain. Courtesy of Autlook Films.

“In these times of fake news and alternative facts, we need the voices of documentarians more than ever to hold the powerful to account and explore the nuance of the world that cable news squawkers deny. And, just perhaps, to help us make our world a little more compassionate.” On a day like today, in times likes these, it is heartening to read such words of fervent inspiration. Writing an impassioned, must-read guest column last week in The Hollywood Reporter, Simon Kilmurry, executive director of the International Documentary Association, wrote a spirited call to arms for the documentary filmmaking community in which he, and all of us, seek hope, inspiration and truth in non-fiction cinematic storytelling.

Tomorrow at the IFC Center, our winter season continues with a special screening of the truly stranger than fiction tale of TICKLED, co-presented by HBO Documentary Films. The film’s co-director David Farrier and film lawyer Cam Stracher will both be on hand for a live Q&A following the film. Tickets are still available here.

Continue reading…


Monday Memo: True/False Announces 2017 Lineup & Podcast


I’ve returned after a week away from the cold, movies, the internet and headlines feeling mentally rejuvenated and ready to get back into the swing of things. A bit of ocean air seems to have done me well. And being that next month I’ll be heading to Columbia, Missouri once again for this year’s edition of the True/False Film Festival, it is exciting to find that they’ve revealed not only their 2017 lineup and schedule, but that they will be launching a new bi-weekly podcast – the True/False Podcast – on which “True/False programmers will sit down with filmmakers and tackle a new topic each episode.” The first episode is scheduled to go live two weeks before the festival begins, on February 23.

Speaking of podcasts, last week’s episode of Pure Nonfiction featured a conversation between our own Thom Powers and John Heilemann, co-creator of TRUMPED: INSIDE THE GREATEST POLITICAL UPSET OF ALL TIME, which aired on Showtime last week after its Sundance premiere.

Tomorrow, we here at Stranger Than Fiction are celebrating Valentine’s Day with a very special screening of THE LOVING STORY, which tells the dramatic story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple living in Virginia in the 1950s, and their landmark Supreme Court Case, Loving v. Virginia, that changed history. Director Nancy Buirski will be on hand for a live post-screening Q&A. Tickets and season passes are still available here.

Continue reading…


Monday Memo: Oscar Noms, PGA Awards & Sundance Overshadowed By Trump


It’s been an incredibly difficult week to keep up with documentary news, as my normal means of news gathering have been swamped with story after story of Trump’s growing list of executive actions, and understandably so. It’s times like these that make us reconsider the importance of the arts and the industries that grease their wheels. I mean, why read about award shows and film festivals while journalists are being charged with felonies for covering the protests during the inauguration, Stephen Bannon has publicly stated that media should “keep its mouth shut” and the president himself has issued a an order on immigration that severely restricts immigration from seven Muslim countries and more? Because cinema, and more specifically, documentaries, epitomize the human condition, inspire empathy, and more often than not advocate for social change in times of political unrest – now more than ever.

In response to Trump’s immigration restrictions, Field of Vision currently has a callout for footage from inside airports pertaining to the Muslim Ban. Anyone with footage can reach out to contact@fieldofvision.org or share it anoymously in their secure drop. Reporting from Sundance, IndieWire’s Anthony Kaufman, Realscreen’s Valentina Valentini and Vulture’s Jada Yuan each parsed how the festival’s documentary selections worked in relief to the Trump administration thus far. Even this week’s episode of Pure Nonfiction, featuring Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives, who was profiled in the 2011 documentary THE ISLAND PRESIDENT, deals directly with the political impact of documentary films and the current political climate we’ve found ourselves in.

Right here at home, we announced last Friday that Stranger Than Fiction will be returning to the IFC Center for our 2017 Winter Season, which begins Tuesday, February 7th with the NYC premiere of Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon’s THE WAR SHOW, about “a Syrian radio DJ who documents the experiences of herself and her friends as their dreams of hope and liberation in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring give way to the grim realities of repression, forced emigration and extremism.” Alaa Hassan, the film’s producer, will be on hand for a live post-screening Q&A. Tickets to our opening night event, as well as season passes, can be purchased here.

Continue reading…