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.
My wife, Valerie Rettberg-Smith, and I at the Lumière! Inventing Cinema Exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris
I hate to brag, but the last few weeks have been quite lovely, with getting married to my partner in life, Valerie Rettberg-Smith, and our subsequent honeymoon to Paris and Amsterdam and all. That said, I have returned, not quite rested, but full of hope, love, fresh perspectives and just now getting back into the swing of things. While I was away, Rachel Donadio of The New York Times wrote a piece on the Grand Palais’s Lumière! Inventing Cinema exhibition which opened March 27th, just in time for me to investigate. The exhibit, put together in partnership by the Grand Palais and the Institut Lumière, features an incredible history of film technology and the impact the Lumières continue to wield in artifacts and copious amounts of newly restored Lumière productions, some on film and others in various interactive displays. Celebrating over a hundred years since the Lumière brothers brought cinema as we know it into being, the exhibition runs now through June 14th.
Most of the Lumière films were in fact brief documentaries, running no more than a few minutes at most. The format continues to be more than relevant, as the stark cell-phone documentation of Walter Scott’s horrifically unjust murder by officer Michael T. Slager proves this past week. Writing for Time, Errol Morris commented on the necessity of documentation in terms of sorting out the truths in such a situation, while Ty Burr of The Boston Globe wrote at length on what he calls, “the cinema of evidence” and its essential pivot point in the battle against abuses of power in America. One would think such blatant injustices would have been curbed after this past year’s outrage in the wake of Michael Brown and Eric Garner’s murders by overzealous police, but alas, the preposterous bloodshed continues.
On a lighter note, tomorrow marks the start of the Spring ’15 season of Stranger Than Fiction with KING GEORGES, Erika Frankel’s documentary on the fiery French chef Georges Perrier and his crusade to keep his 40-year-old landmark restaurant, Le Bec-Fin in Philadelphia, relevant. Both director Erika Frankel and film subject Georges Perrier will be on hand for a post screening Q&A. Info on the film and tickets are available here.
David Carr in 2008. Photo by Stephen Chernin of Associated Press.
With NBC news anchor Brian Williams losing the world’s trust over a pack of lies and the tragic death of 60 MINUTES correspondent Bob Simon in an automobile accident, this week has been rough for journalism, but the passing of beloved New York Times cultural commentator David Carr late Thursday evening may be the toughest to take for many in the documentary filmmaking community. His family at The Times have put together a loving tribute with various articles from co-workers like A.O. Scott and many links to video moments with Carr, while Andrew Rossi, the director of PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES, a film in which Carr came to the fore as the heart and soul of the newspaper, wrote his own memorial to the man who he inevitably became friends with following the film.
In the wake of the unfortunate news, Variety’s James Rainey wrote his own appreciative piece on Carr’s unlikely career in journalism and Realscreen’s Barry Walsh collected responses to the news from the documentary community. Just hours before Carr collapsed in the offices of The Times, he hosted a discussion with the team behind CITIZENFOUR – Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden – as part of the TimesTalks series hosted at The New School’s John L Tishman Auditorium in New York.
Looking up, Stranger Than Fiction continues tomorrow at the IFC Center with BEST OF EGG: THE ARTS SHOW (2000-’03), curating the cream of the crop from a show considered by many to be one of the best arts programs ever broadcast in America. The screening begins at 8pm with a post-screening Q&A featuring producers Jeff Folmsbee, Mark Mannucci and others to follow.
The film OUT OF MIND, OUT OF SIGHT from director John Kastner took home the award for best Canadian feature doc at this year's Hot Docs.
The Hot Docs festival finished out its 2014 incarnation on Sunday. At Indiewire, Paula Bernstein reported that OUT OF MIND, OUT OF SIGHT from John Kastner had won the award for best Canadian feature at the festival, and had details on other award winners. The Toronto Star’s Peter Howell wrote on the trend of festival docs that blurred the line between fact and fiction. In a piece for the Huffington Post, director Kevin McMahon wrote on the changes to the doc landscape currently being wrought. Writing for Realscreen, Manori Ravindran profiled the film MEET THE PATELS from directors Ravi and Geeta Patel. Paula Bernstein also had a piece for Indiewire that culled advice from Hot Docs filmmakers on finding a directorial voice. Back at Realscreen, Manori Ravindran profiled the film CASE AGAINST 8.
At Ion Cinema, Jordan M. Smith reviewed FED UP. Smith also reviewed EVERYTHING WILL BE and JOY OF MAN’S DESIRING. Back at Indiewire, Peter Knegt spoke with LOVE HOTEL directors Philip Cox and Hikaru Toda. Indiewire colleague Paula Bernstein wrote a piece on the keys to a successful doc pitch. Bernstein also had a piece that rounded up tips on how to make your first documentary film. Writing for the POV blog, Tom Roston shone a light on the film PINE RIDGE from director Anna Eborn. Canada’s POV Magazine thoughtfully put all of their festival coverage on one page for easy access.
In Tribeca Film Festival coverage, Daniel Walber of Nonfics.com issued a piece naming the festival’s seven best docs. Kevin Ritchie of Realscreen reported that KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON from director Alan Hicks had won the documentary audience award. Writing for the International Documentary Association (IDA), Patricia Aufderheide recapped the festival’s docs. In a separate post at the CMSi blog, Aufderheide wrote about cinema verite at Tribeca and South by Southwest. At Indiewire, John Anderson recapped a work-in-progress screening of the latest Alex Gibney doc, this one about James Brown. In a post at the POV blog, Liz Nord interviewed CLOUDS creators Jonathan Minard and James George. Patricia Aufderheide recapped the interactive exhibits at Tribeca this year in a post at the CMSi site. And in a separate post, Aufderheide considered the way work was represented in Tribeca films.
Stranger Than Fiction (STF) kicks off its Spring Season on Tuesday, May 6 at 8 p.m. at the IFC Center in Manhattan with a screening of Chris Marker’s seminal cinematic essay SANS SOLEIL. Filmmaker Jem Cohen (INSTRUMENT, MUSEUM HOURS) will be in attendance following the screening for a discussion about the film. STF’s Spring Season features a stellar lineup, including Joe Berlinger’s WHITEY: THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA V. JAMES J. BULGER (May 13); Doug Block’s 112 WEDDINGS (June 3), and Marina Zenovich’s ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED (June 17). Tickets are available for individual shows, and season passes that include a free Docurama DVD, free popcorn and guaranteed admission are available for $99.
The film ANNA from directors Alberto Grifi and Massimo Sarchielli is among the films screening at this year's Art of the Real program at Lincoln Center.
This week the first Art of the Real program at Lincoln Center kicked off. Writing for Artforum, Nick Pinkerton profiled the program, as did Jillian Steinhauer at Hyperallergic. The Brooklyn Rail republished a piece from Colin Beckett on Thom Andersen’s non-fiction films, and Fernando F. Croce previewed the Art of the Real at Mubi.com. Writing for Film Comment, Max Nelson did the same, as did Paul Dallas of Indiewire. Daniel Walber of Nonfics.com had a write-up on the series, and Basil Tsiokos recapped the lineup in a post at his What (Not) to Doc blog. In a piece for Slant Magazine, Ela Bittencourt reviewed a handful of the films screening at Lincoln Center. In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, Steve Dollar profiled the film ACTRESS from director Robert Greene, which closes out the film series.
The PBS documentary show POV announced that it had expanded its digital documentary initiatives with a new co-producing funding mechanism as well as a call for short web-native docs. In a post for the Knight Foundation, POV Digital Director Adnaan Wasey explained the impetus behind the push for digital content. Paula Bernstein covered the development for Indiewire, while Kevin Ritchie pulled similar duties at Realscreen.
POV this week also opened up its call for entries for the 2015 season.
Writing for Indiewire, Anthony Kaufman wrote on why the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival remained relevant in a crowded festival marketplace. In a piece for Nonfics.com, Jesse Paddock named his top five films from this year’s Full Frame. Over at the International Documentary Association (IDA) website, Angelica Das also submitted coverage of this year’s fest.