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 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.

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Monday Memo: Sundance 2017 Begins as Women Celebrated Worldwide

It’s that magical time of year when film lovers the world over descend upon Park City for the annual Sundance Film Festival. As you’d expect, there is a ton of coverage coming across the wire, so I’ll list some highlights rather than collecting everything here. Before things even really got rolling, the festival’s box office was hacked Saturday afternoon, shutting down ticket sales for a period of about an hour reports Variety. The busy bodies at IndieWire posted a page with every link to all the coverage they’re publishing throughout the festival, as did the folks over at Fandor’s Keyframe. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times and Jim Brunzell of Hammer to Nail both wrote previews of the festival, noting doc films throughout. At No Film School, Oakley Anderson-Moore reported on how and why documentary filmmakers at Sundance are using VR. And in the latest episode of Pure Nonfiction, Thom Powers interviewed veteran sales agent Josh Braun, who runs Submarine Entertainment, about what its like being right down in the thick of things at Sundance.

Christopher Campbell of Nonfics has already logged a trio of doc reviews: IN LOCO PARENTISTHE WORKERS CUP and TROPHY. Variety’s Dave McNary reports that Matthew Heineman’s CITY OF GHOSTS has won this year’s Candescent award, which is annually presented “to a powerful social-issue film that has been supported during production by the DFP and premieres at the Sundance Film Festival.” Bradley Warren warmly reviewed Jonathan Olshefski’s POV produced QUEST for The Playlist, while David Fear wrote an extensive feature on the follow up to Al Gore’s monumental climate change doc, AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER at Rolling Stone. Bryan Fogel’s doping doc ICARUS received a pair of glowing reviews from Matt Goldberg of Collider and Steven Zeitchik of the LA Times. Realscreen published a pair of pieces in Selina Chignall‘s review of RUMBLE: THE INDIANS WHO ROCKED THE WORLD and Daniele Alcinii‘s take on RISE. Lastly, Owen Gleiberman shared his analysis of OKLAHOMA CITY for Variety.

All in all, it was a solid week for female filmmakers. Much like the rest of the world, thousands of the good people in Park City took part in the Women’s March, with Chelsea Handler taking the lead, says Stephanie Merry of The Washington Post.. Eric Hynes, Dana Kendall and Jeremy Kinser reported on the happening for Sundance itself. The week began with The Center for Investigative Reporting announcing “the launch of Glassbreaker Films, a new film studio ‘intended to support and empower women in documentary filmmaking, reports Casey Cipriani of Women and Hollywood.’” Additionally, according to Laura Berger, also of Women and Hollywood, Chicken & Egg Pictures announced that “the recipients of this year’s Breakthrough Filmmaker Award are Geeta Gandbhir (PRISON DOGS), Kirsten Johnson (CAMERAPERSON), Penny Lane (NUTS!), Grace Lee (AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY: THE EVOLUTION OF GRACE LEE BOGGS), and Dawn Porter (TRAPPED).” Shortly thereafter, Kate Erbland of IndieWire reported that Seed&Spark “has announced its brand new #100DaysOfDiversity initiative, billed as ‘a movement joining creators, audiences, brands, festivals and organizations to actively increase representation in entertainment in 100 days.’” Plus, The New York Times wrote a brief feature for a Guardian doc short titled RADICAL BROWNIES, about “a youth group for activist girls of color,” which is now available to stream for free.

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Monday Memo: Cinema Eye Honors Turn Ten

Last Wednesday marked the end of a week of a celebratory filmmaker outings for those nominated for this year’s Cinema Eye Honors, which is now in its tenth year of existence. IndieWire’s Eric Kohn documented the pre-award show outings, which included a private visit to the Whitney, live band karaoke featuring the likes of Steve James, the Ross brothers and Robert Greene, and much more. At the Cinema Eye Honors awards ceremony, “Kirsten Johnson’s CAMERAPERSON took home three awards, Outstanding Cinematography for Johnson, Outstanding Editing for Nels Bangerter and Outstanding Nonfiction Feature for Johnson and producer Marilyn Ness,” while “O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA received two awards: Outstanding Direction for Ezra Edelman and Outstanding Production for Edelman and Caroline Waterlow.” This year’s Audience Award went to Clay Tweel’s GLEASON. The full list of honorees can be found here.

In other awards news, the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs) revealed their nominees this past week, putting 13TH, THE EAGLE HUNTRESS, WEINER, NOTES ON BLINDNESS and THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS up for Best Documentary. And while Cara Buckley debated whether O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA was a mini-series or a just a really long feature film in The New York Times, Glenn Whipp wondered aloud in The Los Angeles Times whether the film will be upset at this year’s Oscars. A pair of must read end of year rundowns also appeared this week, one from Robert Greene in Sight & Sound and a whole host of cinephilic lists over at Senses of Cinema’s World Poll 2016.

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Monday Memo: Sundance Approaches and Phones in Theaters?

The first full week of 2017 has already flashed before our eyes, but not a whole lot happened in terms of documentary news. Most excitingly, Sundance approaches and giddy critics are chomping at the bit to see what will be the most remarkable finds this year in Park City. While the festival’s Documentary Programming Associate Basil Tsiokos continues to roll out his previews of each film over at What (not) To Doc, while at Doc Soup, Tom Roston has composed a list of docs to watch out, not just at Sundance, but also Slamdance and in theaters later in the year. In other festival news, the Rotterdam International Film Festival revealed their lineup, which included the lengthily titled duo Rong Guang Rong’s CHILDREN ARE NOT AFRAID OF DEATH, CHILDREN ARE AFRAID OF GHOSTS and Jung Yoonsuk’s BAMSEOM PIRATES SEOUL INFERNO. Doc filmmakers should also take note that today is Hot Docs’ Late Deadline for submissions – you can do so here.

In a rare role reversal, our own Thom Powers was at the receiving end of questioning by Daniel Clarkson Fisher for Nonfics about “what he looks for, what trends he’s seeing, and how he continues to champion a greater appreciation for nonfiction cinema”. A highlight — “Fisher: The New York Times has used the phrase “kingmaker” to describe your place in the world of documentary — Powers: Mind you, this is the same newspaper that told you Iraq had weapons of mass destruction”.

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Monday Memo: 2017 Eases In By Looking Back

While the holidays have now come and gone and we’ve already cracked into the new calendar, for the last two weeks much of the movie blogosphere has been on holiday itself, resulting in a rather brief Monday Memo this week. The majority of folks who did publish new work were mostly looking back at 2016, with rundowns of the year’s best docs coming from Katie Walsh and the staff at The Playlist and Daniel Walber of Nonfics, whom importantly noted, “The list of great, undistributed docs of 2016 is long, and includes such dramatically different films as INAATE/SE/ and ALL THIS PANIC. And three beautifully crafted documentaries, all directed by Mexican women, are an especially frustrating omission of 2016’s commercial release schedule: Betzabé García’s KINGS OF NOWHERE, Maya Goded’s PLAZA DE LA SOLEDAD and Tatiana Huezo’s TEMPESTAD.”

At IndieWire, Chris O’Falt published the favorites of 2016 of 35 different directors, including Jonathan Demme, Ezra Edelman, Alma Har’el, Kirsten Johnson and more. For Fandor’s Keyframe, Kevin B. Lee and whole host of critical colleagues recounted their favorite video essays composed in 2016. The only people seeming to have the gumption to look forward is Gregory Ellwood, whose posted his Oscar predictions at The Playlist, Christopher Campbell, who listed his top 100 recommendations for doc watching via Netflix this January via Nonfics, and Basil Tsiokos, whose insightful previews of the doc to debut at Sundance later this month were the centerpiece over at What (not) To Doc last month.

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