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.”
Just two days prior to our THE GLEANERS AND I screening at IFC Center in celebration of Agnès Varda’s 89th birthday (tomorrow – featuring a live Q&A with Varda fan and fellow filmmaker Kirsten Johnson), the tireless film essayist, along with her newfound friend in French street artist J.R., has won the third L’Œil d’or (Golden Eye Award) for best documentary for VISAGES, VILLAGES. The film has garnered quite a critical response thus far, with Owen Gleiberman proclaiming this week that “she’s the world’s most ageless filmmaker,” raising the bar from her previous thrift-shop docs THE GLEANERS AND I and THE BEACHES OF AGNÈS, At Film Comment, Amy Taubin concurred, “In her magnificent, groundbreaking, nearly 60-year career, this is one of her most profoundly personal and exuberantly populist works.”
As Cannes wrapped up, the IndieWire staff listed their top 10 films of the festival and included VISAGES, VILLAGES among them. Two other docs made the cut – Eugene Jarecki’s THE PROMISED LAND, and Emmanuel Gras’ MAKALA, which received a L’Œil d’or special mention and won the Critics’ Week Nespresso Grand Prize. Sarah Ward of Screen Daily admired Jarecki’s film, noting that “It’s an engaging, informative and impassioned journey,” while both Boyd van Hoeij of The Hollywood Reporter and IndieWire’s Michael Nordine felt a bit lukewarm on Gras’. Meanwhile, Wendy Mitchell covered “a Cannes Doc Day panel of documentary experts discussing the challenges and opportunities of making non-fiction films in the ‘post-truth’ era” for Screen Daily.
As with most holiday weekends, Monday has come too soon, but hopefully you’ve stuffed yourself silly, enjoyed the company of family and friends and maybe even watched a doc or two (possibly the final film of our fall season, DANNY SAYS?)! Over at the POV Blog, Tom Roston gave thanks for a variety of doc film related goodness, while I gave thanks to The Criterion Collection for releasing D.A. Pennebaker’s doc classic DON’T LOOK BACK by hitting up their bi-annual half sale at Barnes & Noble which wraps up today. Celebrating the release, Criterion posted a series of outtakes from the film, an interview with Patti Smith about the film’s influence on her life, and an in depth essay on the film by Robert Polito. How could one not be thankful for that?
DOC NYC concluded this year’s edition over a week ago now and coverage of the festival’s riches continue to hit the net, including Daniel Walber‘s top five festival favorites found at Nonfics and a pair of indieWIRE articles from Aubrey Page and Ryan Anielski covering DOC NYC PRO’s Pitch Day and Show Me The Money sessions, respectively. Similarly, on behalf of the New York Film Festival, Alex Hunter posted a video this week of a live conversation with Laura Poitras, AJ Schnack and Charlotte Cook about their ongoing journalistic doc short development and distro project, Field of Vision. And following the conclusion of this year’s edition of CPH:DOX, the festival announced that the 2017 edition of the fest would be permanently shifting to March.
Having concluded yesterday, IDFA announced its award winners, honoring Jerzy Sladkowski’s DON JUAN with the VPRO IDFA Award for best feature-length documentary and Roman Bondarchuk’s UKRAINIAN SHERIFFS with the Special Jury Award, reports Barry Walsh for Realscreen and Damon Wise for Variety. Also at Variety, Damon Wise has published a piece on how IDFA’s DOK Incubator helps doc filmmakers raise their game. Meanwhile, Realscreen’s Manori Ravindran covered the project pitches at the IDFA Forum in painstaking detail in a pair of posts, with another forthcoming.
Anyone with an interest in cinema and an internet connection surely is aware that the Cannes Film Festival is currently in full swing with a full week of auteurist-driven cinephelia left to go. Swirling around in that first wave whirlwind of festival news is word that SENNA filmmaker Asif Kapadia’s latest archival driven docu-portrait AMY is apparently quite the masterwork. In his review for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw calls the film “a tragic masterpiece”, meanwhile Variety’s Guy Lodge writes that it is a “reserved yet profoundly felt film”. Stephen Dalton of The Hollywood Reporter, The Independent’s Geoffrey Macnab, Indiewire’s Kaleem Aftab and The Wrap’s Steve Pond all gushed about Kapadia’s raw portrait of the late singer Amy Winehouse. Only Sophie Monks Kaufman of Little White Lies, who called the film “melodramatic” and “opportunistic”, and the singer’s much blamed father Mitch Winehouse, who spoke with Emine Saner at The Guardian about his disdain for the film, had anything truly negative to report.
Nancy Buirski’s autobiographical BY SIDNEY LUMET, which grew out of a never-before-seen interview shot in 2008 produced by the late filmmaker Daniel Anker, also premiered at Cannes over the weekend, alongside Gabriel Clarke and John McKenna’s STEVE MCQUEEN: THE MAN AND LE MANS, which ruminates on McQueen’s involvement with the troubled Lee H. Katzin picture from 1971. At RogerEbert.com, Ben Kenigsberg concludes that Buirski’s film is a bit loose, but remains insightful. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter also favored the film, dubbing it “illuminating”. On Clarke and McKenna’s film, Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter thought their picture “fascinating”, but lacked the punchiness of its decisive star. An in-depth preview of the film was also published at The Independent prior to its premiere.
Most interestingly for the doc community, for the first time in the festival’s history, a new documentary prize dubbed the Oeil d’Or (Golden Eye) that comes with a prize of 5,000 euro will be handed out at the festival’s closing ceremony. The prize will be awarded by a jury presided over by Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh, whose own THE MISSING PICTURE premiered at the festival two years ago. Richard Mowe detailed the prize over at Eye For Film. At the same time, Daniel Walber speculated on the inaugural prize winner, debating the potential of the 14 features eligible for the award at Nonfics.
While the cinematic deluge abroad continues, here at Stranger Than Fiction we will be forging ahead with our Spring Season tomorrow with director Marah Strauch’s spectacular debut SUNSHINE SUPERMAN. Rich with stunning 16mm archive footage, well-crafted re-enactments and state-of-the-art aerial photography, the TIFF premiered film tells the story of BASE jumping pioneer Carl Boenish. Both Strauch and producer Eric Bruggeman will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A at tomorrow’s showing at the IFC Center.
This year's Sheffield Doc/Fest featured PULP: A FILM ABOUT LIFE, DEATH, AND SUPERMARKETS as its opening film.
This week the Sheffield Doc/Fest kicked off in England. At Nonfics.com, Christopher Campbell shared a recap of his first day at the festival. Writing at his What (Not) to Doc blog, Basil Tsiokos provided an overview of the festival, while Tim Isaac took a look at the festivals Queer Screen strand for The Big Gay Picture show. And Alexandra Zeevalkink provided a guide to navigating the festival in a post for The Knowledge.
Writing for the POV blog, Tom Roston reviewed the documentary series from director Agnes Varda FROM HERE TO THERE. In a piece for Film Comment, Fernando F. Croce did the same.
Back at Nonfics.com, Christopher Campbell published a well-researched list of the top 100 docs available for streaming on Netflix.
This week Stranger Than Fiction is hosting a screening of the film THE LAST MOGUL: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF LEW WASSERMAN from director Barry Avrich on Tuesday, June 10 at 8 p.m. at the IFC Center in Manhattan. The film takes a look at the life of Hollywood agent Lew Wasserman. Following the screening, Avrich will be in attendance for a Q&A. For more information, or to purchase tickets, please go here.