In a light week, the lights are shining back at the previous seventeen years. Following a string of fascinating lists naming the best films of the 21st century thus far, the IndieWire team has put together their choices for the Top 25 Best Documentaries of the 21st Century, which, while arguing for some surprising recent releases (ALL THESE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS, KEDI) and not so surprising choices (THE ACT OF KILLING, STORIES WE TELL), importantly notes how technology has shifted our perception of what is possible from the form. Astutely put, “On one hand, digital technology has infinitely expanded our range of vision, and some of the modern era’s most essential docs have been shot on consumer-grade equipment like iPhones and GoPro cameras. On the other hand, these tools haven’t just granted us new ways of seeing, they’ve also galvanized our desire to look, which in turn has stoked an unprecedented degree of interest in the documentary format on the whole.”
As far as festivals go, we are in the mid-summer doldrums, post-Karlovy Vary, pre-Locarno. That said, a bit of coverage of this year’s AFI Docs came in from Christopher Llewellyn Reed over at Hammer to Nail. Reed interviewed Stefan Avalos, the director of STRAD STYLE, a film about a man trying to replicate Giuseppe Guarneri’s “Il Cannone” violin, which had its debut earlier this year at Slamdance. He also reviewed Reuben Atlas and Samuel D. Pollard’s ACORN AND THE FIRESTORM, and Amanda Lipitz’s much loved STEP, which heads into wide release thanks to Fox Searchlight in the coming weeks.
A week has passed since the curtains closed on Hot Docs 2017, but coverage of the festival continues to roll in. Both Anthony Kaufman and Anne Thompson reported on the twenty projects that were proposed to funders and broadcasters at the Hot Docs Pitch Forum for IndieWire, noting their favorite projects of prior iterations (STRONG ISLAND, BILL NYE: SCIENCE GUY) and promising projects from this year’s edition (Elan and Jonathan Bogarín’s 306 HOLLYWOOD, Robert Greene’s BISBEE ’17), while Corey Atad‘s festival dispatch turned up at Vice and my report on the under-covered highlights of the festival was published over at Nonfics.
Tel Aviv’s19th annual Docaviv and Ecuador’s EDOC (Encuentros del Otro Cine) are both currently underway, as Basil Tsiokos reminds at What (not) To Doc, but stateside doc lovers have their attention focused on the fact that AFI DOCS (running June 14-18) and the LA Film Festival (June 14-22) have revealed their 2017 lineups. Meanwhile on the other side of the globe, the Sydney Film Festival (running June 7-18) also announced their 2017 program.
After taking home the Special Jury Prize for inspirational documentary filmmaking, Amanda Lipitz’s STEP is getting a sneak peak screening tomorrow at IFC Center as part of our spring season! Director Lipitz will be on hand for a live post-screening Q&A. Tickets for the event are on sale here.
Anyone without their head buried in the sand is well aware of the shocking news that the people of the United Kingdom have voted to leave the European Union, causing mass confusion and panic among the filmmaking community. In a shower of stories listing the potential consequences for the financing and development of future films (see European Documentary Network‘s recent survey on the “Current Cost of Making Documentaries in Today’s Audiovisual Market” for a look at that situation before the Brexit)
and the overall distribution processes currently in place, amongst others. Variety’s Leo Barraclough published the first, followed by similarly alarming pieces from The Guardian’s Andrew Pulver, The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Roxborough, The Verge’s Sam Byford, and the Los Angeles Times’ Rebecca Keegan and Ryan Faughnder. Essentially, it’s not looking pretty. Perfectly timed, Artsy posted a beautiful feature by Tess Thackara on the Ghana-born, British filmmaker John Akomfrah and his new doc-based, migrant focused show at the Lisson Gallery in Manhattan that directly comments on the current Brexit situation.
Days before all of that went down, the Cinema Eye Honors revealed their 2017 Television Nonfiction Shortlist, including obvious choices like Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos’ MAKING A MURDERER and some pleasant surprises such as Steven Okazaki’s HBO doc HEROIN, CAPE COD, USA and the Netflix release MY BEAUTIFUL BROKEN BRAIN by Lotje Sodderland and Sophie Robinson. Paula Bernstein reported on the announcement for Filmmaker Magazine.
This past weekend saw the conclusion both NYC’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival and AFI Docs kicked off and finished in a matter of four short days. Daniel Walber listed his top five favorites seen at Human Rights Watch over at Nonfics, while Basil Tsiokos previewed the AFI Docs offerings and the Washingtonian staff recommended 14 films to see at the festival, including Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer’s LGBT-gang doc CHECK IT and the BEST IN SHOW-flavored film CHICKEN PEOPLE by Nicole Lucas Haimes.
One day, I intend to walk the Croisette in Cannes in a euphoric haze of cinema heaven, but until that day, I’ll admire from afar, eagerly awaiting the release of each of the honored selections. Giving an overview of this year’s meager selection of non-fiction fare at the festival at What (not) To Doc, Basil Tsiokos noted the complete lack of documentaries in the most publicized sections, writing, “None of the 21 feature films in the Official Selection’s Competition or of the 18 features in Un Certain Regard is a documentary. One appears screening in the Out of Competition strand: Jim Jarmusch’s exploration of The Stooges, GIMME DANGER.” As one of the first docs to screen this year, Fisher Stevens and Alexis Bloom’s BRIGHT LIGHTS: STARRING CARRIE FISHER AND DEBBIE REYNOLDS received a warm welcome from indieWIRE’s David Ehrlich, The Wrap’s Steve Pond and Screen Daily’s Fionnuala Halligan, while a positive review of Rithy Panh’s EXILE turned up at MUBI’s Notebook thanks to Daniel Kasman and Frederick Wiseman’s newly restored HOSPITAL was written about at length by Matt Morrison at Film Comment.
In other festival news, the Film Society of Lincoln Center announced the lineup for the upcoming Human Rights Watch Film Festival, schedule to run June 10-19. Following directly in its wake, AFI Docs begins June 22 with Alex Gibney’s ZERO DAYS. The full lineup was announced on Tuesday. Before both, the 2016 Docaviv International Documentary Film Festival will take place May 19-28 in Tel Aviv and screen 110 films. At indieWIRE, Sydney Levine previewed the festival’s films and themes, noting that “the program does not only include documentaries about terror and refugees, but also about a fragmented society which is losing its solidarity. Both in Israel and elsewhere the gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening, and so are the frustrations and the unrest. Israeli and international titles correlating to these themes can be found throughout the entire festival program.” And some of us are still processing Hot Docs, including Jason Gorber, who published a lengthy interview with D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus on UNLOCKING THE CAGE at POV Magazine, and I, having posted reviews of THE ISLANDS AND THE WHALES and HOW TO LET GO OF THE WORLD… at IONCINEMA.
Here at Stranger Than Fiction, our Spring Season continues tomorrow with a screening of Holly Morris and Anne Bogart’s THE BABUSHKAS OF CHERNOBYL at IFC Center, co-presented New York Film Academy. Co-director Holly Morris will be present to take part in a post-screening Q&A. Tickets for the event can be purchased here.
This week news broke that the documentary world had lost filmmaker Robert Gardner.
This week news broke that filmmaker Robert Gardner had passed away on June 21 at the age of 88. At the New York Times, Bruce Weber penned an obit of Gardner. The Documentary Educational Resources website also posted a note about Gardner.
Writing for the Washington Post, Anne Hornaday recapped some of the highlights from this year’s AFI Docs festival. At Realscreen, Manori Ravindran reported that HONEST LIAR from filmmakers Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom had won the festival’s audience award. The Week’s Scott Meslow shared a list of five docs screening at AFI Docs that could not be missed. And Patricia Aufderheide provided thoughts on the social issue docs that shined in Silver Spring at the Center for Media & Social Impact (CMSI) website.
The Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences (AMPAS) announced its new invitees; at Realscreen Adam Benzine reported on the documentary filmmakers among the group. Jonathan Sullivan did the same for Nonfics.com.