The end of award season is on the horizon! This week the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed their nominations for the 2018 Academy Awards, which will take place March 4th. The nominees for Best Documentary Feature are ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL by Steve James, FACES PLACES by Agnès Varda and JR, ICARUS by Bryan Fogel, LAST MEN IN ALEPPO by Firas Fayyad, and STRONG ISLAND by Yance Ford, while the nominees for Best Documentary Short are EDITH+EDDIE by Laura Checkoway, HEAVEN IS A TRAFFIC JAM ON THE 405 by Frank Stiefel (currently streaming via Short of the Week), HEROIN(E) by Elaine Mcmillion, KNIFE SKILLS by Thomas Lennon, and TRAFFIC STOP by Kate Davis.
Meanwhile, the festival fervor in Park City has subsided, with the 2018 Sundance Awards ceremony having taken place Saturday evening. Derek Doneen’s KAILASH, which Daniel Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter called “an exciting and inspirational look at the fight against child slavery,” was honored with the U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize, while Alexandria Bombach’s ON HER SHOULDERS, having received substantial praise from Bilge Ebiri in The Village Voice, Jay Weissberg of Variety, and David Ehrlich of IndieWire, received the Directing Award. Bing Liu, who received the Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Filmmaking, spoke with Tom White of the International Documentary Association about his debut MINDING THE GAP, which John Fink of The Film Stage writes is “a tour de force of documentary filmmaking…a lively, often beautifully shot film about a pit of hopelessness–from dead end jobs to drunken arguments to bad decisions. This is modern day John Cassavetes with tattoos and punk music.” Rudy Valdez’s THE SENTENCE, which was picked up by HBO for distribution later this year, received the Audience Award.
In the World Cinema Documentary competition, Talal Derki’s IDFA debuted feature OF FATHERS AND SONS, dubbed “a vital addition to the cultural picture of the Syrian conflict” by Daniel Schindel of The Film Stage, took home the Grand Jury Prize. The Directing Award went to Sandi Tan for her debut feature SHIRKERS, which Richard Brody called “gloriously, gleefully idiosyncratic, a blend of punk energy and local documentation” in The New Yorker (along with love for Robert Greene’s BISBEE ’17). Though Variety’s Guy Lodge called Stephen Loveridge’s MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A. “pretty standard-issue on the aesthetic front,” the film received a Special Jury Award, while Alexandra Shiva’s THIS IS HOME was honored with the Audience Award.
Fall festival season marches on with IDFA gearing up across the pond as DOC NYC came to a close here at home late last week. Despite being eyes deep in DOC NYC duties as the festival’s director of programming, Basil Tsiokos took the time to plot out a two part introduction at What (not) To Doc to the new nonfiction offerings set to have make their debut in Amsterdam this week. He began by noting that “The world’s largest nonfiction event bids farewell to founder and longtime director Ally Derks with its 30th edition, which showcases over 180 new and recent documentary features.” Writing at First Showing, Alex Billington gives his introductory thoughts on his first visit to IDFA. Variety also published a pair of pieces on the festival, including Stewart Clarke on “Young Directors at Forefront of HBO Europe’s Documentary Slate” and Damon Wise reporting on “The Visual Voice, a 16-film sidebar celebrating documentary’s greatest films, chosen by its biggest names.”
Those that couldn’t attended DOC NYC or its professional conference DOC NYC PRO this year would do well to head over to its YouTube channel where plenty of screening intros, Q&As, and conference sessions can be viewed in whole. DOC NYC’s trio of juries announced their award winners on Thursday, with Nicole N. Horanyi’s THE STRANGER receiving the Grand Jury Prize in the Viewfinders competition, James Crump’s ANTONIO LOPEZ 1970: SEX FASHION & DISCO winning the Grand Jury Prize in the Metropolis competition, and Kate Davis’s TRAFFIC STOP taking home the Grand Jury Prize in the Shorts competition. Daniele Alcinii reported on the awards ceremony for Realscreen, noting, “TRAFFIC STOP now qualifies for consideration in the Documentary Short Subject category of the annual Academy Awards without the standard theatrical run, provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules.”
Speaking of Oscars, last week at the Governors’ Awards Agnès Varda received an honorary Oscar. IndieWire’s Jenna Marotta recounted the morning after from the La Résidence de France in Beverly Hills where Varda was celebrated over brunch with French peers, as Sam Adams reflected at Slate on how Varda has continuously proven how documentary filmmakers can in fact be movie stars. Meanwhile at Deadline, Antonia Blyth took an early stab at the Oscar race for Best Documentary Feature. Notably absent from that list is Errol Morris’s WORMWOOD. Anne Thompson reports at IndieWire that “The documentary branch executive committee deemed WORMWOOD ineligible for Best Documentary Feature, based on post-O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA rules designed to weed out episodic documentary series. Yet WORMWOOD qualifies in all other AMPAS categories covered by the general submission form: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, and all the crafts.”
DOC NYC, the largest documentary film festival in the United States, has returned to New York for its 8th edition, having kicked off on Thursday evening with a rousing opening night speech by Thom Powers. Giving insight into the immense spread of films on offer, Jason Bailey writes his is festival recommendations at Village Voice, “the options are unsurprisingly diverse: explorations of global issues, intimate character portraits, science explainers, true-crime investigations, celebrity profiles, snapshots of New York City.” Chris Barsanti of Film Journal International and Joshua Brunsting of Criterion Cast both surveyed the festival program, while at Doc Soup, Tom Roston spoke with Basil Tsiokos, the festival’s Director of Programming, about how the current state of politics influenced this year’s program. The IndieWire crew listed their 13 most anticipated films of the fest, while the folks at Women and Hollywood have been interviewing many of the female filmmakers in the lead up to the festival’s kickoff and Soheil Rezayazdi spoke with Barbara Kopple about her new film A MURDER IN MANSFIELD for Filmmaker Magazine. If you’re hoping to keep with the flood of coverage coming out of DOC NYC, you might do well to follow David Hudson at The Daily via Criterion over the next week.
Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal, better known to most as RIDM, also began Thursday evening, kicking off its 20th edition with a screening of Céline Baril’s 24 DAVIDS. The film was among the handful of hardy recommendations put forth by Ismaël Houdassine in his overview of the fest at Huffington Post (though you may need help from Google Translate – it’s in French). “The festival has a double mandate. It’s about showing the best or most interesting international films of the year; and it’s a great platform for local artists,” said programming director Bruno Dequen, with executive director Mara Gourd-Mercado in T’Cha Dunlevy‘s feature on the fest in Montréal Gazette in which he goes on to list 10 must-sees, including Travis Wilkerson’s DID YOU WONDER WHO FIRED THE GUN? and Ziad Kalthoum’s TASTE OF CEMENT.
And while TIFF and NYFF may have come and gone, Eric Hynes‘s rundown of the festivals’ best celebrity offerings via Film Comment is a must read.
Awards season rolls on this week with the 45th annual British Documentary Awards, where the Grierson Award for Best Single Documentary – International was given to Rahul Jain for MACHINES, Best Historical Documentary went to Ava DuVernay for 13TH, Best Documentary Short to Charlie Lyne for FISH STORY, and Best Cinema Documentary to Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg for WEINER.
This year’s Halloween memo might not as spooky as one might hope, and surprisingly brief, considering the season. That said, award season marches on: Variety’s Kristopher Tapley reported, “The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced on Friday that 170 films have been submitted for documentary feature Oscar consideration.” Of the many submitted, just 15 will make the shortlist and only 5 will receive official nominations or Best Documentary. Within surprising accuracy, DOC NYC’s Shortlist program has done an incredible job of estimating what films will receive Oscar nods, and the festival’s Director of Programming, Basil Tsiokos, has already begun to preview the festival’s various programs at What (not) To Doc, while he, along with Executive Director Raphaela Neihausen, also appeared on Pure Nonfiction to discuss this year’s edition of the festival.
Tsiokos also gave an overview of the 21st Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, which takes place in the Czech Republic each year, while at IDA’s page, Patricia Aufderheide gave a rundown of the Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival, a “newbie DC festival is a project of an investigative nonprofit, 100Reporters, which publishes and offers to other publishers investigative journalism about government corruption.”
Following the unveiling of the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards nominations, on Tuesday the organization announced “Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris will receive the lifetime achievement award,” reported Taryn Nobil of Variety. With perfect timing, Morris turned up in conversation with Nicolas Rapold in Film Comment to discuss WORMWOOD, “a four-hour, six-part series that will stream on Netflix starting December 15 and, in a just-announced “non-episodic” form with an intermission, will screen theatrically in qualification for Academy Award consideration at the same time.”
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.