Monday Memo: Mid-Summer Festival Doldrums, Another List and BRITDOC Gets A New Name

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.

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Monday Memo: Sundance 2017 Begins as Women Celebrated Worldwide

It’s that magical time of year when film lovers the world over descend upon Park City for the annual Sundance Film Festival. As you’d expect, there is a ton of coverage coming across the wire, so I’ll list some highlights rather than collecting everything here. Before things even really got rolling, the festival’s box office was hacked Saturday afternoon, shutting down ticket sales for a period of about an hour reports Variety. The busy bodies at IndieWire posted a page with every link to all the coverage they’re publishing throughout the festival, as did the folks over at Fandor’s Keyframe. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times and Jim Brunzell of Hammer to Nail both wrote previews of the festival, noting doc films throughout. At No Film School, Oakley Anderson-Moore reported on how and why documentary filmmakers at Sundance are using VR. And in the latest episode of Pure Nonfiction, Thom Powers interviewed veteran sales agent Josh Braun, who runs Submarine Entertainment, about what its like being right down in the thick of things at Sundance.

Christopher Campbell of Nonfics has already logged a trio of doc reviews: IN LOCO PARENTISTHE WORKERS CUP and TROPHY. Variety’s Dave McNary reports that Matthew Heineman’s CITY OF GHOSTS has won this year’s Candescent award, which is annually presented “to a powerful social-issue film that has been supported during production by the DFP and premieres at the Sundance Film Festival.” Bradley Warren warmly reviewed Jonathan Olshefski’s POV produced QUEST for The Playlist, while David Fear wrote an extensive feature on the follow up to Al Gore’s monumental climate change doc, AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER at Rolling Stone. Bryan Fogel’s doping doc ICARUS received a pair of glowing reviews from Matt Goldberg of Collider and Steven Zeitchik of the LA Times. Realscreen published a pair of pieces in Selina Chignall‘s review of RUMBLE: THE INDIANS WHO ROCKED THE WORLD and Daniele Alcinii‘s take on RISE. Lastly, Owen Gleiberman shared his analysis of OKLAHOMA CITY for Variety.

All in all, it was a solid week for female filmmakers. Much like the rest of the world, thousands of the good people in Park City took part in the Women’s March, with Chelsea Handler taking the lead, says Stephanie Merry of The Washington Post.. Eric Hynes, Dana Kendall and Jeremy Kinser reported on the happening for Sundance itself. The week began with The Center for Investigative Reporting announcing “the launch of Glassbreaker Films, a new film studio ‘intended to support and empower women in documentary filmmaking, reports Casey Cipriani of Women and Hollywood.’” Additionally, according to Laura Berger, also of Women and Hollywood, Chicken & Egg Pictures announced that “the recipients of this year’s Breakthrough Filmmaker Award are Geeta Gandbhir (PRISON DOGS), Kirsten Johnson (CAMERAPERSON), Penny Lane (NUTS!), Grace Lee (AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY: THE EVOLUTION OF GRACE LEE BOGGS), and Dawn Porter (TRAPPED).” Shortly thereafter, Kate Erbland of IndieWire reported that Seed&Spark “has announced its brand new #100DaysOfDiversity initiative, billed as ‘a movement joining creators, audiences, brands, festivals and organizations to actively increase representation in entertainment in 100 days.’” Plus, The New York Times wrote a brief feature for a Guardian doc short titled RADICAL BROWNIES, about “a youth group for activist girls of color,” which is now available to stream for free.

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Monday Memo: Cannes Kicks Off While Reverse Shot Launches New Non-fiction Symposium

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.

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Monday Memo: Fourth Annual DOC NYC Festival Begins

Director Errol Morris speaks at the DOC NYC screening of his new film, The Unknown Known.

This week the DOC NYC Festival officially kicked off its fourth year in New York City with a screening of Errol Morris’ new Donald Rumsfeld film THE UNKNOWN KNOWN. Writing for the POV blog, Tom Roston recapped the screening. At his Docutopia post for the SundanceNOW, Anthony Kaufman wrote on some of the films screening at DOC NYC, including THE PUNK SINGER and PATROLMAN P. Director Jeremy Xido penned a guest post on his film DEATH METAL ANGOLA, which screened at DOC NYC, for Filmmaker Magazine. Also at Filmmaker Magazine, Scott Macaulay named his 10 favorite picks for the festival, as did Lauren Wissot at the same publication. The folks at Indiewire also shared 10 of their top choices. And Daniel Walber reviewed DOC NYC film THE FINAL MEMBER for

The Women and Hollywood blog on Indiewire played host to a series of interviews with female filmmakers screening work at the DOC NYC. Inkoo Kang spoke with Dori Berinstein, Sarah McCarthy and Ky Dickens. Melissa Silverstein chatted up Sini Anderson, Suzan Beraza, Samantha Grant, Gitte Peng, Dawn Porter, Therese Shechter, Linda Hoaglund, Lucy Kostelanetz, Merete Mueller, Beth B, Sierra Pettengill and Jamila Wignot. And at Filmmaker Magazine, Randy Astle spoke with WEB director Michael Kleiman.

Earlier this morning, Canadian documentary filmmaker Peter Wintonick passed away from a rare form of liver cancer. Adam Benzine had the details in a piece at Realscreen, while Peter Knegt reported the news for Indiewire. Wintonick was in the midst of making the film BE HERE NOW when he passed. For those interested in helping the film reach its completion, please go here.

BRITDOC named THE ACT OF KILLING the winner of this year’s PUMA Impact Award, handed out to the film determined to have had the most substantial positive impact over the past year. Sarah Salovaara covered the event for Filmmaker Magazine, while Christopher Campbell did the same for Bryce J. Renninger looked at some of the metrics turned out b BRITDOC on the award nominees.

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