Still from MACHINES, directed by Rahul Jain. Courtesy of Autlook Films.
“In these times of fake news and alternative facts, we need the voices of documentarians more than ever to hold the powerful to account and explore the nuance of the world that cable news squawkers deny. And, just perhaps, to help us make our world a little more compassionate.” On a day like today, in times likes these, it is heartening to read such words of fervent inspiration. Writing an impassioned, must-read guest column last week in The Hollywood Reporter, Simon Kilmurry, executive director of the International Documentary Association, wrote a spirited call to arms for the documentary filmmaking community in which he, and all of us, seek hope, inspiration and truth in non-fiction cinematic storytelling.
Tomorrow at the IFC Center, our winter season continues with a special screening of the truly stranger than fiction tale of TICKLED, co-presented by HBO Documentary Films. The film’s co-director David Farrier and film lawyer Cam Stracher will both be on hand for a live Q&A following the film. Tickets are still available here.
I’ve returned after a week away from the cold, movies, the internet and headlines feeling mentally rejuvenated and ready to get back into the swing of things. A bit of ocean air seems to have done me well. And being that next month I’ll be heading to Columbia, Missouri once again for this year’s edition of the True/False Film Festival, it is exciting to find that they’ve revealed not only their 2017 lineup and schedule, but that they will be launching a new bi-weekly podcast – the True/False Podcast – on which “True/False programmers will sit down with filmmakers and tackle a new topic each episode.” The first episode is scheduled to go live two weeks before the festival begins, on February 23.
Speaking of podcasts, last week’s episode of Pure Nonfiction featured a conversation between our own Thom Powers and John Heilemann, co-creator of TRUMPED: INSIDE THE GREATEST POLITICAL UPSET OF ALL TIME, which aired on Showtime last week after its Sundance premiere.
Tomorrow, we here at Stranger Than Fiction are celebrating Valentine’s Day with a very special screening of THE LOVING STORY, which tells the dramatic story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple living in Virginia in the 1950s, and their landmark Supreme Court Case, Loving v. Virginia, that changed history. Director Nancy Buirski will be on hand for a live post-screening Q&A. Tickets and season passes are still available here.
Oscar Class of '16 (Photo credit: Image Group LA / ©A.M.P.A.S.)
In a week relatively quiet on the doc front, the topic of diversity and gender inequality within the filmmaking community as a whole once again reared its head. A pair of pieces found in Filmmaker Magazine via Esther B. Robinson (The Data Says, “We Have a Problem”) and doc filmmaker Katy Chevigny (Can She Pull It Off?) led the charge. Chevingny writes, “Just last month, in January, 2016, the Center for the Study of Women in Film and Television at San Diego State University released a new study that showed women made up a mere 9% of directors of films in 2015. Seeing that statistic — 9% — made me wonder anew: why haven’t women become more prominent among the ranks of directors? And more puzzling still, even if the numbers are low, why are they not growing? The numbers are staying put, hovering between 7% and 11% each year since 1998, according to the Center’s review of the top 250 top-grossing films.”
Adding fuel to the conversation, Variety publishd a piece by Addie Morfoot examining gender bias in the documentary world, while Anne Thompson celebrated the female-centric activism that took place at this year’s Sundance Film Festival at indieWIRE. In the same vein, Kate Erbland posted a piece titled 7 Films to Catch Up On at This Year’s Female-Powered Athena Film Festival, naming STF alum TRAPPED among the listed. And on a related note, indieWIRE is also currently a news editor for its regular Women and Hollywood column.
This coming week is somewhat special for us here at Stranger Than Fiction, as we have two screenings on our docket. Tomorrow we host directors Jon Nealon and Jenny Raskin, along with video artist Skip Blumberg for a screening of their film HERE COME THE VIDEOFREEX, which charts the path of the titular underground video collective from their assignment on the counterculture beat for CBS News to their rupture with the network and creation of a radical pirate television station in upstate New York. Tickets for this screening are stil available here. On Thursday evening, Thom Powers will play host to the already sold out event, THE MAKING OF “MAKING A MURDERER”, a special 90-minute interview with MAKING A MURDERER directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, accompanied by clips, on how the project came into being. They’ll discuss the ten year process of reporting, editing and releasing the series.
It was a busy weekend, with the ’16 Berlinale kicking off with Gianfranco Rosi’s FIRE AT SEA, the True/False Film Fest announcing this year’s lineup along with their ’16 True Vision Award Recipient, Mehrdad Oskouei, and the British Academy Film Award for Best Documentary being awarded to Asif Kapadia’s AMY! Looking further back in the week, writing at What (not) To Doc, Basil Tsiokos gave an overview of the non-fiction offerings in Berlin, as well as the latest additions to this year’s SXSW lineup, which included a handful of features and the whole of the doc shorts program. Daniele Alcinii also reported on the SXSW announcements at Realscreen, while the full lineup can be found here.
Tomorrow, Dawn Porter, the award-winning filmmaker of GIDEON’S ARMY, will make her first appearance at Stranger Than Fiction with her new film TRAPPED, fresh from winning a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. She’ll be joined at this screening by David Brown, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, who is one of the lead litigators in the Supreme Court case on abortion access. We here at Stranger Than Fiction also announced that we’ve added a special one night event, THE MAKING OF ‘MAKING A MURDERER’, to our 2016 Winter Season, a live 90-minute conversation between Thom Powers and MAKING A MURDERER directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, accompanied by clips, focusing on how the project came into being. On Thursday, February 25th, they’ll discuss the ten year process of reporting, editing and releasing the series. Tickets for this event are now on sale and going quick!