Before last night’s best picture debacle cemented the 2017 Oscars as one of the wildest on record, Ezra Edelman’s eight hour American epic O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA made history as the longest film to ever win an Oscar, regardless of category, just after taking Best Documentary Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards the night before.. Shortly thereafter, Orlando von Einsiedel took home the award for Best Doc Short Subject for THE WHITE HELMETS. The full list of Oscar winners can be found here. Leading up to the ceremony, Joel Bocko made a video essay for Fandor on the many merits of Edelman’s film, titled NOT JUST O.J., Mandalit Del Barco looked at the trio of docs up for Oscars that dealt directly with Syria’s civil war at NPR, while at ABC News, Taylor Maple outlined in detail how the Student Academy Awards may open doors to the film industry for its young honorees. And over at IDA’s blog, Caty Borum Chattoo shared a telling study of race and gender in Oscar-shortlisted documentaries from 2008-2017.
Tomorrow night at the IFC Center, we will be hosting a very special 25th anniversary screening of Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s landmark documentary BROTHER’S KEEPER. To help mark the occasion, Berlinger will be on hand for a live Q&A moderated by Morgan Spurlock! This show is now sold out.
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.
Bruce Sinofsky - Photo by Jamie McCarthy of WireImage
In a week where Oscar pervaded our minds and the Independent Spirit Awards remind us that Hollywood and what the industry considers the indie film scene no longer seems to have an accurate dividing line, we’re left ruminating on the tragic loss of another beloved member of the documentary film community in Bruce Sinofsky. Known for co-directing the PARADISE LOST trilogy, BROTHER’S KEEPER, and METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER, among others, Sinofsky passed away in his sleep early Saturday morning at age 58 due to complications stemming from diabetes. The news came directly from his friend and collaborator Joe Berlinger via a post on Twitter. Brent Lang of Variety reported the news, as did Tim Kenneally for The Wrap, various staff at Indiewire, Sam Barsanti for A.V. Club, and Fandor’s David Hudson. At Loudwire, Chad Childers relayed a statement from Metallica on the loss of their “family member”.
As you’ve certainly heard by now, last night the Oscars proceeded without a hitch and the Film Independent Spirit Awards transpired the day prior, both of which saw Laura Poitras, and her documentation of the watershed moments in which Edward Snowden revealed the ongoing secret espionage campaigns of the US government in CITIZENFOUR, continue their historic sweep of critical acclaim by taking home the awards for Best Documentary. Snowden himself reacted to the news of CITIZENFOUR winning an Oscar via Lauren Duca of The Huffington Post. Andrew Pulver of The Guardian, Dave McNary at Variety and Daniel D’Addario of Time reported on the Oscar news, while, writing for The Atlantic and The New Yorker respectively, Conor Friedersdorf and Amy Davidson ruminate on why CITIZENFOUR’s win matters and remains much deserved. As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, director Ellen Goosenberg Kent and producer Dana Perry won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short with their film CRISIS HOTLINE: VETERANS PRESS 1. News of the Independent Spirit Awards win came in via Fandor’s Keyframe , Variety, IONCINEMA’s Eric Lavallee, as well as Indiewire thanks to Katie Walsh.
Tomorrow, the Winter ’15 season of Stranger Than Fiction continues with directors Ian Olds and Garrett Scott’s 2006 Independent Spirit Truer than Fiction Award winner, OCCUPATION: DREAMLAND. Ian Olds will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A.