Monday Memo: Tribeca & Full Frame Unveil 2018 Lineups


Sensible filmgoers might hope that with ICARUS and HEAVEN IS A TRAFFIC JAM ON THE 405 winning big last week at the Oscars (read Brian Newman‘s piece on breaking the “rules” to win an Oscar for Short Doc at Sub-Genre Media) and awards season coming to its logical conclusion, we could all take a collective sigh of relief and maybe a ever so short cinematic reprieve, but instead film festivals across the land have either just wrapped, are currently in motion, or are just gearing up. Just last week, Columbia, Missouri’s True/False Film Festival took over the modest college town for its 15th edition, garnering universal praise from Daniel Kasman at MUBI’s Notebook, Ben Godar at Nonfics, and Vikram Murthi of RogerEbert.com (my own coverage of the festival will soon be found over at Senses of Cinema). Looking further back, Dan Sullivan covered this year’s edition of the Berlinale for Film Comment, singling out Corneliu Porumboiu’s INFINITE FOOTBALL and Kristina Konrad’s epic ONE OR TWO QUESTIONS, as Eric Hynes dissected a pair of my favorites from this year’s Sundance in Bing Liu’s MINDING THE GAP and Sandi Tan’s SHIRKERS. As I write, four fests around the globe are taking place, each of which Basil Tsiokos wrote previews for at What (not) To Doc: Miami Film Festival, SXSWAmbulante, and Tempo Documentary Festival.

Meanwhile, both the Tribeca Film Festival and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festivals announced their full 2018 lineups. Tribeca is holding the world premieres of 12 new nonfiction films in its documentary competition, in addition to its closing night film, THE FOURTH ESTATE by Liz Garbus, about how the challenges of journalism in the age of Trump, while Full Frame has 14 world premieres on its docket, including David Schalliol’s THE AREA, Katie Galloway and Dawn Valadez’s THE PUSHOUTS, and Anne de Mare’s CAPTURING THE FLAG.

Tonight night, Stranger Than Fiction continues at IFC Center with a rare opportunity to preview the first two episodes of one of the most anticipated documentary series of the year – Maclain and Chapman Way’s WILD WILD COUNTRY, featuring a live Q&A with the directors and Executive Producer Mark Duplass. Tickets are still available here.

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Monday Memo: Oscar Week, Plus New Directors/New Films Lineup Announced


Following the BAFTAs last week, where I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO took home the prize for Best Documentary, it seems the every growing sprawl of awards season is finally about to reach its climactic conclusion with the 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. In The New York Times, Cara Buckley dished a wild yarn on how Russia has been leading a smear campaign against two doc Oscar nominees, noting LAST MEN IN ALEPPO as its major target, “In the Russian media, Mr. Fayyad has been accused of being a Western-funded propagandist whose film is a thinly disguised ‘Al-Qaeda promotional vehicle.’ And, in what might catch members of the academy’s documentary branch by surprise, the film’s Oscar nomination was, according to Russia Insider, clear evidence that ‘the Hollywood celebrity industry is now an integral part of the U.S. state’s propaganda machine.'” Not only is the film being smeared, but the US has officially rejected the visas of the film’s producer, Kareem Abeed, and one of its subjects, White Helmets co-founder Mahmoud Al-Hattar, making it impossible for them to attend the ceremony, reports Beatrice Verhoeven at The Wrap. Meanwhile, the International Documentary Association and the Academy itself have published statements in support of the team behind LAST MEN IN ALEPPO.

In the latest episode of a relatively new documentary podcast called The Fog of Truth, produced by Christopher Llewellyn Reed, Summre Garber and Bart Weiss, the trio discuss the Oscar nominees and a whole host of previous nominees. Other Oscar coverage came in the form of interviews by RogerEbert.com’s Matt Fagerholm with ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL director Steve James and EDITH+EDDIE director Laura Checkoway, another interview with Checkoway by IDA’s Akiva Gottlieb, a profile on James in The Los Angeles Times by Lewis Beale, an interview with STRONG ISLAND director Yance Ford with Cara Buckley in The New York Times, and a feature in The Guardian by Charlie Phillips on the fact that the “most innovative factual films are often under 40 minutes long – and the best of this growing genre are easy to find online” – including EDITH+EDDIE.

Tomorrow, we here at Stranger Than Fiction have the rare opportunity to preview two episodes of FLINT TOWN on the big screen, followed by a conversation with the filmmakers (Zackary Canepari, Drea Cooper and Jessica Dimmock), a few days before the series launches on Netflix. Tickets for this special event are still available here.

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THIS IS CONGO at Stranger Than Fiction


Writing by Lacey Beattie. Lacey is a graduate student at the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, pursuing a Masters of Cinema Studies. She is also a publicity intern at entertainment public relations firm ID PR and previously interned at Picture Motion, the leading marketing and advocacy firm for issue-driven films. Lacey was on the judging committee for the documentary category of the 2018 Peabody Awards, and is a volunteer at DOC NYC, New York Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival and Rooftop Films. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @lacey_bead.

From the frontlines of one of the world’s longest wars, the documentary This Is Congo captures the region’s tumultuous history spanning through decades of corruption that has left the Congolese living in poverty and desperately trying to survive. Right from the opening scene, beautiful panoramic shots of the mountain ranges and idyllic farms are quickly disrupted by shots of gunfire as a voiceover lays out the simple truth that growing up in the Congo equals misery. From there, director Daniel McCabe, who initially started the film as a look at the ongoing problem of mineral smuggling across the border, takes the audience on a journey throughout a complex political and economic history and reveals the struggles and fears within the daily lives of the people who call the Congo home.

The documentary covers the ongoing turbulence in the region and unveils a lot of historical context, including background on the colonial past and an overview of the conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi resulting in the Rwandan Civil War. In turn, viewers are given the whole picture of how this present came to be. Today, we’re witnessing the power struggle between the national army and the rebel group M23 over the control of Goma, the capital city of the Northern Kivu. This conflict stems from the rebel forces’ fight against President Joseph Kabila’s corrupt government, and the fact that though the country is full of rich minerals and resources the people are condemned to live in poverty and displacement camps.

New York-based photographer turned Director McCabe and Producer and Editor Alyse Ardell Spiegel joined the audience for a post-screening Q&A that delved deeper into the ongoing problems affecting the region and the Congolese people and how they were able to make such an in-depth film. McCabe gained access to the national army from a chance encounter where he and his crew were arrested by one of the film’s central subjects, Colonel Mamadou. The two struck up a bargain that McCabe would be allowed to film the army if he produced some propaganda films for the government. This seems like a small price to pay for the over 500 hours of film that McCabe walked away with after three and half years and the level of proximity and intimacy he gained. Between deaths and explosions, McCabe and his team were on the ground to capture an unfiltered look at the brutality of war.

The subjects hail from all walks of life, and the documentary weaves their storylines into the complex nature of the Congo. McCabe takes time to focus on each individual story; how their lives have been forever altered by the conditions of the Congo and how they are working to make a change for the country. Mama Romance, the only female perspective to the film, has turned to the illegal practice of mineral smuggling in order to feed her starving children. Often relying on truck drivers to transport the stones across borders, Mama Romance is often unsure if her cargo will make the journey or be confiscated or stolen while in transit. Colonel Mamadou is also featured heavily throughout the film and emerges as a hero for the people after leading the Congolese national army in the fight against M23 rebels. Dutifully dedicated to both his troops and his country, one scene shows Mamadou proudly displaying the numerous bullet wounds spread across his body as seemingly badges of honor.

The film succeeds in teaching us that the Congo is full of contradictions; the wealth of resources and prosperity that is constantly hindered by ongoing strife and poverty. The people are both united by faith yet divided as a society. However, despite all he’s witnessed, McCabe admits that he sees a silver lining that leads back to where the film first started: the minerals. While their high value is essentially part of the problem, they can also be a part of the solution. Only time will tell whether the spirit of the Congolese people can help make this solution a reality and build the road to peace or if the combat and struggles witnessed in the film have become just too much to overcome.

 

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.

 


Monday Memo: Doc Fortnight in Motion, CPH:DOX Announces 2018 Program


MoMA’s Doc Fortnight “has played host to an annual collection of non-fiction films that push boundaries both aesthetically and narratively. Be it groundbreaking works from groundbreaking filmmakers, or like much of the list we are about to dive into, profoundly moving efforts from names many may not be familiar with,” writes Joshua Brunsting in his Criterion Cast preview of the festival’s 17th edition which kicked off on Thursday evening. Singling out highlights in Jeffrey Perkins’s GEORGE, Jackie Ochs and Susanna Styron’s OUT OF MY HEAD, Stephen Organ’s HABANEROS and a restrospective on the documentary films of the late Jonathan Demme, Daniel Eagan notes in Film Journal, “For many years, Doc Fortnight was curated by MoMA’s Film Department. Recently, guest curator Kathy Brew has programmed the series, this year with Gianna Collier-Pitts.” Basil Tsiokos also gave an overview of the new non-fiction offerings at Doc Fortnight, as well as at the Berlin International Film Festival and the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival at What (not) To Doc.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Copenhagen’s CPH:DOX has announced the full 200+ film program of its 15th edition. Of the 12 features in competition for the DOX:Award, Nasib Farah and Søren Steen Jespersen’s LOST WARRIOR, Christian Krönes and Florian Weigensamer’s WELCOME TO SODOM, Marcus Lindeen’s THE RAFT, Salomé Lamas and Stanislav Danylyshyn’s EXTINCTION, Andreas Dalsgaard’s THE GREAT GAME, and Alexander Rynéus, Malla Grapengiesser and Per Bifrost’s GIANTS AND THE MORNING AFTER are all world premieres.

Meanwhile back stateside, the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival revealed “that renowned filmmaker Joe Berlinger will curate the 2018 Thematic Program, and the festival will honor Jehane Noujaim’s illustrious body of work with the 2018 Tribute.” And at IndieWire, Eric Kohn reports that while “few major festivals are run by women, or by people of color; several key positions held by white men have now been vacated, creating tremendous prospects for injecting a more complex identity into the festival ecosystem.” He continues, “For many, the answer comes down to one easy solution: Hire a woman. Four major international festivals — Sundance, Berlin, Cannes’ Directors Fortnight and the Toronto International Film Festival — are currently hiring top programming roles. The people who fill those slots could have a radical impact on the kinds of movies resonating on the festival circuit, and eventually, those with the potential to reach wider audiences.”

Stranger Than Fiction’s 2018 Winter Season continues this week at the IFC Center with Daniel McCabe’s THIS IS CONGO, a a highly-immersive, unfiltered look into the conflicts at the heart of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Tickets for tomorrow’s screening are still available here.

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Monday Memo: Field of Vision Launch Fellowship & Artist-In-Residence Program as True/False Announces 2018 Lineup


As I will soon be heading back to Columbia, MO for the True/False Film Festival, I would be lying if I didn’t share my excitement about this week’s unveiling of the festival’s 2018 lineup, with highlights ranging from a selection of films by this year’s True Vision Award winner Dieudo Hamadi, through hints about their hush-hush secret screenings and complete details about the return of their Neither/Nor series. The festival is set to run March 1st through the 4th. Riding that same wavelength, the Tribeca Film Festival announced that its 17th edition will open on April 18th with the world premiere of Lisa D’Apolito’s LOVE, GILDA, “which opens a window into the world of celebrated Emmy and Grammy award-winning comedian Gilda Radner, who became a cultural icon the moment audiences first laughed with her on the debut episode of Saturday Night Live.”

Back in 2016, we hosted the fine folks of Field of Vision for a special screening of their online series THE JOURNEY. This past week, Field of Vision announced a new fellowship, featuring a quartet of filmmakers in Garrett Bradley, Michelle Latimer, Charlie Lyne and Lyric Cabral, and its first-ever artist-in-residence, Josh Begley. The announcement continues, “The first year of fellows were selected from filmmakers who had worked with Field of Vision over the last three years. In addition to creating a framework for idea development, creative support, and a grant, Field of Vision will conduct workshops throughout the year in the areas of digital security, research, and legal issues. Fellows will also be invited to participate in Field of Vision’s editorial process, from identifying urgent stories to offering filmmaker feedback and guidance.”

Here at Stranger Than Fiction, our Winter 2018 season continues as we meditate on the 15th anniversary of America going to war in Iraq with a special screening of Oscar-nominated director Jehane Noujaim’s terrific CONTROL ROOM, with both film subject Josh Rushing and producer Rosadel Varela in attendance for a live Q&A. Tickets to the event are available here.

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