Monday Memo: Agnès Varda & J.R.’s VISAGES, VILLAGES Wins L’Œil d’or at Cannes


Just two days prior to our THE GLEANERS AND I screening at IFC Center in celebration of Agnès Varda’s 89th birthday (tomorrow – featuring a live Q&A with Varda fan and fellow filmmaker Kirsten Johnson), the tireless film essayist, along with her newfound friend in French street artist J.R., has won the third L’Œil d’or (Golden Eye Award) for best documentary for VISAGES, VILLAGES. The film has garnered quite a critical response thus far, with Owen Gleiberman proclaiming this week that “she’s the world’s most ageless filmmaker,” raising the bar from her previous thrift-shop docs THE GLEANERS AND I and THE BEACHES OF AGNÈS, At Film Comment, Amy Taubin concurred, “In her magnificent, groundbreaking, nearly 60-year career, this is one of her most profoundly personal and exuberantly populist works.”

As Cannes wrapped up, the IndieWire staff listed their top 10 films of the festival and included VISAGES, VILLAGES among them. Two other docs made the cut – Eugene Jarecki’s THE PROMISED LAND, and Emmanuel Gras’ MAKALA, which received a L’Œil d’or special mention and won the Critics’ Week Nespresso Grand Prize. Sarah Ward of Screen Daily admired Jarecki’s film, noting that “It’s an engaging, informative and impassioned journey,” while both Boyd van Hoeij of The Hollywood Reporter and IndieWire’s Michael Nordine felt a bit lukewarm on Gras’. Meanwhile, Wendy Mitchell covered “a Cannes Doc Day panel of documentary experts discussing the challenges and opportunities of making non-fiction films in the ‘post-truth’ era” for Screen Daily.

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Monday Memo: POV’s 30th Season Announced


After a week away to take care of unexpected life happenings, the memo is back! First up PBS’s announcement of the lineup for the 30th season of POV, featuring the likes of CAMERAPERSON, DO NOT RESIST, Oscar nominated shorts JOE’S VIOLIN and 4.1 MILES and more. The series begins on June 26th with Julia Meltzer’s DALYA’S OTHER COUNTRY. Curators looking to host a screening of any of the films can now book a handful of the films via the POV Lending Library.

The Cannes Film Festival also revealed their 2017 selections last Thursday, with few doc picks as has been traditionally the case. David Hudson dug through the selections for Fandor, noting Claude Lanzmann’s new doc on North Korea titled NAPALM, and Raymond Depardon‘s 12 DAYS, a documentary mysteriously about “where justice and psychiatry meet.”

Tomorrow at the IFC Center, our Spring Season will kick off with Bill Jersey’s 1967 landmark of the cinéma vérité movement, A TIME FOR BURNING. Director Jersey will be on hand for live Q&A. Tickets for the event and spring season passes are still available here.

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Monday Memo: RISK Calls For Assange Release At Cannes, WEINER Hits Theaters


As is sadly the norm for the Cannes Film Festival, this year’s doc lineup was slim, but much anticipated. Following her Oscar winning CITIZENFOUR, Laura Poitras debuted her long in the works profile of Julian Assange in RISK (formally titled ASYLUM) as part of the Director’s Fortnight. Variety’s Peter Debruge, The Wrap’s Steve Pond, The Guardian’s Catherine Shoard and indieWIRE’s Graham Winfrey each logged their (mostly) positive initial reactions, while Wendy Mitchell and Alex Ritman both spoke with Poitras about her new film for Screen Daily and The Hollywood Reporter, respectively. Jim Jarmusch also brought a new doc to the Croisette alongside his new fiction feature PATERSON in GIMME DANGER, a cinematic look at his longtime friend and collaborator Iggy Pop & The Stooges. David Rooney illustrated the film’s impact most excitingly in The Hollywood Reporter, writing, “Two seminal Stooges album titles — ‘Fun House’ and ‘Raw Power’ — sum up this film’s appeal.” Owen Gleiberman of Variety on the other hand wanted more danger from the film.

In her report for Screen Daily on this year’s Cannes Doc Day event, Wendy Mitchell began by noting that this month marks the 10th anniversary of the world premiere of Davis Guggenheim’s climate change focused, Al Gore starred AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH. As it turns out, Grist published an in-depth oral history of the film’s production and release with interviews by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, Amelia Urry, Eve Andrews, and Melissa Cronin with Gore and Guggenheim themselves, as well as producers Laurie David, Lawrence Bender, and many more key behind the scenes players. Other festival highlights this week included Daniele Alcinii‘s report at Realscreen that Kirsten Johnson’s CAMERAPERSON and Brett Story’s THE PRISON IN TWELVE LANDSCAPES were awarded feature doc and Canadian doc prizes, respectively, at the 2016 DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Vancouver, as well as Basil Tsiokos’ previews of the non-fiction offerings at both this past weekend’s Seattle International Film Festival and Encuentros del Otro Cine (EDOC), Ecuador’s largest doc festival, which runs through this week.

It is timely that, following the Cannes premiere of RISK, we’ll be screening a sneak peak selection of shorts from FIELD OF VISION, which Poitras co-founded with Charlotte Cook and AJ Schnack and serves as executive producer for, as the next installment of our Spring Season here at Stranger Than Fiction! Both Cook and Schnack will be present for the screening and participating in a Q&A. Tickets available for this special event taking place tomorrow at IFC Center can be purchased here.

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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: Tribeca Announces Award Winners, Sundance Introduces Climate Change Lab


Still from Craig Atkinson's DO NOT RESIST, winner of Tribeca Film Festival Best Documentary

Outside of Tribeca’s wrap-up and award announcements over the weekend, this week has been rather uneventful in the realm of nonfiction cinema. That said, the 15th Tribeca Film Festival concluded by giving Craig Atkinson’s DO NOT RESIST the $20,000 cash prize for Best Documentary and the Ross Brothers’ CONTEMPORARY COLOR was awarded with prizes for both Best Cinematography and Best Editing. Reflecting on the top prize winner, indieWIRE’s Eric Kohn reviewed DO NOT RESIST, while Joe Peeler of Hammer To Nail spoke with Bill Ross about his award winning color guard film,  Realscreen’s Daniele Alcinii reported on the festival’s complete awards list.

In other festival news as reported by Kevin Ritchie at Realscreen, Cannes announced that Laura Poitras’ feature length Julian Assange doc RISK (formally billed as a web series and titled ASYLUM) will have its world premiere as part of Director’s Fortnight, joining Jim Jarmusch’s Iggy Pop doc GIMME DANGER, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s HISSEIN HABRÉ: A CHADIAN TRAGEDY, and Rithy Panh’s EXIL as part of the festival’s nonfiction offerings. Meanwhile, Basil Tsiokos previewed the doc offerings at this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival at What (not) To Doc, noting the world premieres of Moby Longinotto’s THE JONESES and Michael Almereyda’s ESCAPES. Realscreen’s Kevin Ritchie reports that Sundance has announced a new development lab aiming to develop projects “that focus on climate change, conservation and the environment, and inspire viewers to take action.” And at indieWIRE, Eric Kohn, Kate Erbland, David Ehrlich and Liz Shannon Miller debated the future of film festivals, discussing current trends and cultural ruts.

Here at Stranger Than Fiction, our spring season continues tomorrow with special 15th Anniversary screening of Sandi DuBowski’s TREMBLING BEFORE G-D, featuring a post-screening Q&A with the director and film subjects David, Rabbi Steve Greenberg, Michelle, Naomi and Mark. Tickets for the event can be purchased here.

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