Monday Memo: Art of the Real In Full Swing


Still of Laura Poitras' RISK, Art of the Real's Closing Night Film.

While Richard Brody and Basil Tsiokos reminded us that both the Tribeca Film Festival and the Brazilian doc festival It’s All True began last Thursday, both of which are hosting a handful of doc world premieres and festival favorites, it seems that the large majority of journalistic eyes were focused on the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual Art of the Real festival this past week. Writing in MUBI’s Notebook, Jaime Grijalba Gómez works through how the program reveals “what is at the core of what we call documentary or non-fiction cinema,” just as Daniel Walber looked at “what critics can learn from [the festival’s] great programming” for Nonfics. Michael Sicinski highlighted his favorites from the festival thus far in Village Voice, including Patric Chiha’s “docudrama about Bulgarian Roma hustlers in Vienna” BROTHERS OF THE NIGHT, which Tanner Tafelski gushed about over at Kinoscope. Additionally, Neil Young spoke with director Austin Lynch for Little White Lies about his directorial debut GRAY HOUSE, as Em Cominotti and Jeffrey Dunn Rovinelli, the co-directors of EMPATHY, interviewed each other for Brooklyn Magazine.

Tuesday saw The Peabody Awards Board of Jurors reveal its 12 winners in its Documentary category for programs released in 2016. Laura Berger covered the announcement for Women and Hollywood, noting that seven of the twelve films are women-directed or co-directed, including Dawn Porter’s Stranger Than Fiction alum TRAPPED.

Speaking of Stranger Than Fiction, our spring season continues tomorrow with Kyoko Miyake’s Sundance hit TOKYO IDOLS, which gets at the heart of a Japanese cultural phenomenon driven by an obsession with young female sexuality and internet popularity. Director Miyake will take part in a live post-screening Q&A. Tickets are still available for this event here.

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Monday Memo: Hot Docs & Art of the Real Reveal 2017 Lineups


After last week’s politically charged dispatch of stories on Trump’s proposed budget cuts and the controversy over Jason Pollock’s STRANGER FRUIT, this week, thankfully, seems a bit subdued. The most notable news of the week is the dual lineup announcements of Toronto’s massive Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s more focused Art of the Real. At Realscreen, Daniele Alcinii spoke with Hot Docs’ Director of Programming Shane Smith and several filmmakers about this year’s lineup. The complete Hot Docs program and schedule can be found in PDF form here.

Now in its second year, Chicago’s DOC10 film festival kicks off later this week. Leading up to the proceedings, the festival has been posting brief interviews with the filmmakers behind each of the ten films programmed on their website, while over at RogerEbert.com, Matt Fagerholm has given a thorough overview of the festival’s offerings, highlighting RAT FILM, WHOSE STREETS? and THE CINEMA TRAVELERS, among others. Also in motion this week is the Paris based doc fest Cinéma du Réel, which Basil Tsiokos previewed at What (not) To Doc.

Here at Stranger Than Fiction, we’re closing out our winter season tomorrow at the IFC Center with Amanda Micheli’s VEGAS BABY, with Micheli herself in attendance for a live post-screening Q&A. Tickets are still available.

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Monday Memo: Art of the Real Begins, Full Frame Finishes, VR-focused Scenic Launches


As more new outlets, tech companies and film festivals become interested in cinematic VR projects, filmmakers are doing the same. Co.Design’s Mark Wilson extensive report announces that HELVETICA director Gary Hustwit has launched an ambitious new VR production company called Scenic. “Scenic’s focus is producing short, documentary content in 360 degrees for virtual reality headsets. A lot of it, fast. In its first year, Scenic will release 40 different projects, which is the sort of pace only made possible by the collective of documentarian all-stars he’s assembled to take part: Amir Bar-Lev (THE TILLMAN STORY), Marshall Curry (STREET FIGHT), Jessica Edwards (MAVIS!), Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (JESUS CAMP), Liz Garbus (WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?), Sam Green (THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND), Dawn Porter (TRAPPED), and Lucy Raven (CHINA TOWN).” With a lineup like that, how could one not be intrigued?

Now, onto festival news, beginning with Tom Roston‘s report on the “urgent, enriching, and harrowing” docs at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, which started last Thursday and wrapped up yesterday. Chris O’Falt, writing for indieWIRE, highlighted the many female filmmakers who had films at this year’s edition of the festival, while, incredibly, Polygraph published the largest analysis of dialogue in fiction film by gender ever attempted. Realscreen’s Kevin Ritchie also posted a list of eight highlights from the fest, seven of which happen to have been making their world premieres. At What (not) To Doc, Basil Tsiokos previewed the new films on offer at the fest, as well as Brazil’s It’s All True International Documentary Film Festival and the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s nonfiction and hybrid showcase, Art of the Real.

David Ehrlich and Eric Kohn wrote a piece on five must-watch docs at Art of the Real, while the Film Comment staff made the hybrid series the focus of conversation in their latest podcast. Looking at the upcoming Tribeca film festival and beyond, Mekado Murphy listed the upcoming NYC festivals in The New York Times, while Melena Ryzik‘s post-VAXXED controversy piece on the responsibilities involved in programming major film festivals sees our own Thom Powers admitting, “I feel that pressure more and more each year. Because documentaries are getting more ambitious, I think that there is a healthy anxiety for any film festival programmer to be worrying over the works that they’re presenting. If I didn’t feel anxious, it would be a sign that I’m really playing it safe with the films I show.” Meanwhile, Variety’s Martin Dale reported on the programming at this year’s edition of IFF Panama and the four day work shop with Patricio Guzmán, whose own film NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT was featured by Ross McDonnell in MUBI’s Notebook. And finally, the Stephen Follows Film Data and Education published a substantial overview of shifting trends in how film festival submission processes.

Tomorrow, we host EP/Director/Writer Rhys Thomas and EP/Director Alex Buono for a screening of two of their favorite episodes of DOCUMENTARY NOW! along with clips from the films that inspired the episodes. DOCUMENTARY NOW! DECONSTRUCTED is available only to STF spring season pass holders; no individual tickets will be sold to this event. Visit here to purchase a season pass.

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Monday Memo: True/False Wraps While a Slew of Fests Announce Line-ups


Photo by Shane Epping of Mizzou News

As you may have noticed, there was no Monday Memo last week thanks to the remarkable celebration of non-fiction cinema that is True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri, which I had the pleasure of attending for the second year in a row. My thoughts on this year’s edition can be found over at IONCINEMA, as well as a trio of interviews that will follow shortly. Despite the festival’s rather small line-up, with each passing year it seems to garner more international attention thanks to its intelligent curation, community focused outlook and baseline fun factor. Steven Zeitchik of The Los Angeles Times wrote no less than four dispatches from the fest, outlining what sets it apart from other festivals, noting formal trends and thematic through-lines, as well as the game-shows and other carnivalesque happenings that only happen at True/False.

A whole host of other True/False round-ups were logged by indieWIRE’s Sam Adams, Hammer to Nail’s Jim Brunzell, AV Club’s Noel MurrayAlissa Wilkinson at RogerEbert.com, and Vadim Rizov, who posted a pair of dispatches at Filmmaker Magazine that focus “on the thorny subject of what happens when documentaries do — or antagonistically don’t — try to serve as compassionate ambassadors to the world on behalf of their subjects.” More specifically, indieWIRE’s Chris O’Falt reported on the emotionally charged premiere of CONCERNED STUDENT 1950, as well as exactly why a handful of filmmakers choose to have their films shown as a one of True/False’s fabled secret screenings before their world premiere at a festival geared more toward sales and distribution deals.

Here at Stranger Than Fiction, our winter season continues this week with a pair of screenings in Gabriel London’s THE MIND OF MARK DEFRIEST, about the legendary escape artist on Tuesday, and on Thursday, a special 10 Year Anniversary screening of the cult-hit documentary DARKON, by Luke Meyer & Andrew Neel, about American LARPers. The filmmakers of both films will be present for post-screening Q&As at each of their respective screenings. Tickets to both screenings are still available and can be purchased here.

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Monday Memo: SEVEN UP Director Paul Almond Passes, Tribeca Film Festival Kicks Off


Paul Almond in 1971 (Photo by Norma James, Toronto Star via Getty Images)

With so much attention being paid to Richard Linklater’s twelve year project BOYHOOD last year while other (possibly more deserving) long term doc equivalents like Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson’s AMERICAN PROMISE fly confidently under the radar, it’s important to remember where the seed for these projects was originally planted: Michael Apted and Paul Almond’s half-century spanning UP series. Sadly, this passed week Paul Almond died of complications of a recent heart attack at the age of 83. Margalit Fox of the New York Times wrote a profile of the man’s life and work, as did David Colker of the LA Times and Mike Barnes of The Hollywood Reporter. The Guardian’s Ben Beaumont-Thomas and Realscreen’s Kevin Ritchie also reflected on Almond’s filmmaking career.

We at Stranger Than Fiction are playing host to a pair of film screenings this week in Tuesday’s work-in-progress showing of director Howard Weinberg’s NAM JUNE PAIK & TV LAB: LICENSE TO CREATE, which explores the collaborative collisions of the TV LAB through the prism of one of the giants of 20th century video art, and Thursday’s showing of director Nick Broomfield’s AILEEN: LIFE AND DEATH OF A SERIAL KILLER, the follow-up work to his clear-eyed profile of America’s first female serial killer and the greed and paranoia that surrounded her case in AILEEN WUORNOS: THE SELLING OF A SERIAL KILLER. Both filmmakers will be on hand for Q&As at the IFC Center for their respective screenings.

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