Monday Memo: Burns & Novick’s VIETNAM Escalates as Nicks’s FORCE Rolls Out


While TIFF 2017 has now come and gone, this past week saw plenty of wrap ups and reviews still filing in, including my own wrap-up of the best docs I saw this year in Toronto over at Nonfics. Included amidst these films is Frederick Wiseman’s EX LIBRIS – THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY, which also appears in the Top Picks of MUBI’s Notebook and The Film Stage‘s list of the best films at TIFF (see also: Wiseman on the latest episode of The Close-Up podcast). According to the 36 critics who voted in IndieWire‘s annual TIFF survey, Brett Morgen’s JANE was the best doc of the fest, while Rolling Stone shortlisted Jason Kohn’s LOVE MEANS ZERO and the folks at Vox name dropped Greg Barker’s THE FINAL YEAR and Agnès Varda and JR’s FACES, PLACES as their favorites. Meanwhile at Filmmaker Magazine, Tiffany Pritchard reported on TIFF’s Doc Conference, “an entire day of panels and talks were presented.” Probably the most thorough coverage of docs at TIFF this year can be found over at POV Magazine’s TIFF Hub, where tons of reviews can be found, as well as a handful of interviews, including this new one with Wavelength’s programmer Andréa Picard.

The Camden International Film Festival takes place during TIFF, and thus generally gets a bit overshadowed, but at Film School Rejects, Christopher Campbell argues that the festival “allows nonfiction fans to feel like most movie fans,” noting that “many documentary film festivals hold special pitching events for filmmakers, but they tend to be behind closed doors. Camden opens theirs up to the public, and this year’s took place before a sold out crowd at the Camden Opera House.” At CIFF proper, Ziad Kalthoum’s TASTE OF CEMENT and Jonathan Olshefski‘s QUEST took home Best Documentary Feature and the Audience Award, respectively, reports Daniele Alcinii at Realscreen. Looking internationally, Basil Tsiokos previewed the new nonfiction films to have their debuts at this past weekend at South Korea’s DMZ Docs, as well as the domestic, NYC based Urbanworld Film Festival.

In the hustle and bustle of festival happenings, I failed to mention last week that on September 14th the Cinema Eye Honors announced their 2018 Shorts List, including Laura Checkoway’s EDITH + EDDIE (which Cher boarded as executive producer this week, reports Chris Gardner at The Hollywood Reporter), Elaine McMillion Sheldon’s HEROIN(E), and Laura Poitras and Henrik Moltke’s PROJECT X. Apparently I wasn’t the only one late on the uptake, as Kate Erbland reported the news nearly a week later at IndieWire.

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Monday Memo: Cinema Eye Honors Turn Ten


Last Wednesday marked the end of a week of a celebratory filmmaker outings for those nominated for this year’s Cinema Eye Honors, which is now in its tenth year of existence. IndieWire’s Eric Kohn documented the pre-award show outings, which included a private visit to the Whitney, live band karaoke featuring the likes of Steve James, the Ross brothers and Robert Greene, and much more. At the Cinema Eye Honors awards ceremony, “Kirsten Johnson’s CAMERAPERSON took home three awards, Outstanding Cinematography for Johnson, Outstanding Editing for Nels Bangerter and Outstanding Nonfiction Feature for Johnson and producer Marilyn Ness,” while “O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA received two awards: Outstanding Direction for Ezra Edelman and Outstanding Production for Edelman and Caroline Waterlow.” This year’s Audience Award went to Clay Tweel’s GLEASON. The full list of honorees can be found here.

In other awards news, the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs) revealed their nominees this past week, putting 13TH, THE EAGLE HUNTRESS, WEINER, NOTES ON BLINDNESS and THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS up for Best Documentary. And while Cara Buckley debated whether O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA was a mini-series or a just a really long feature film in The New York Times, Glenn Whipp wondered aloud in The Los Angeles Times whether the film will be upset at this year’s Oscars. A pair of must read end of year rundowns also appeared this week, one from Robert Greene in Sight & Sound and a whole host of cinephilic lists over at Senses of Cinema’s World Poll 2016.

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Monday Memo: Holiday 2016 Edition


As tends to happen as the year draws to a close, doc news and general coverage has slowed to a crawl. The most talked about stories of the week were not necessarily news, but reflective think pieces looking back at this tumultuous year or forward to the era of President Trump and beyond. Kiva Reardon‘s rightful call for female film critics on TIFF’s blog lit up social media, while at IndieWire, Anthony Kaufman dropped a firebrand outline for the doc community titled “Stories of Trump’s America: How Documentary Filmmakers Plan to Escape the Liberal Bubble.” Treading similar territory, Filmmaker Magazine published NUTS! director Penny Lane‘s more personal take in “Notes on Truth (Or, Documentary in the Post-Truth Era).” Taking direct action, Laura Poitras and the fine folks behind Field of Vision and Firelight Media have revealed a new project titled OUR 100 DAYS, that “will produce and distribute 10 shorts that explore topics like the rise in hate crimes, immigration, gender equality and LGBTQ rights,” reports Ashley Lee in The Hollywood Reporter.

Looking much further back, the Library of Congress announced it’s 2016 additions to the National Film Registry, including “THE ATOMIC CAFE (1982), which documents the threat of nuclear war following World War II; PARIS IS BURNING, a 1990 film that explores the complex ballroom subculture among gay men, drag queens and transgender women in New York City; SUZANNE, SUZANNE, an insightful profile of a substance abuser who confronts the legacy of physical abuse; Penelope Spheeris’ controversial, landmark documentary about the hardcore punk-rock scene in Los Angeles,” THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION, and a handful of shorts by Solomon Sir Jones that document the “rich tapestry of everyday life” of African American communities in Oklahoma during the 1920s.

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Monday Memo: IDA Documentary Awards, Oscar Shortlist, Sundance Premieres & More


Early in December there is always an avalanche of awards and lists and festival announcements and more, so it’s no surprise that at the top of this week’s news is that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has released it’s shortlist of the 15 films still in the running for the Oscar for Best Documentary. Cara Buckley highlighted the racially and politically driven focus of this year’s shortlisters for The New York Times, while Christopher Campbell outlined where can find all 15 films over at Nonfics. The 32nd annual IDA Documentary Awards also took place this past week, with Ezra Edelman’s O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA winning Best Feature, Orlando von Einsiedel’s THE WHITE HELMETS winning Best Short, and Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi’s MAKING A MURDERER taking home Best Limited Series. Additionally, IDA published a lengthy interview with its Amicus Award Honorees, Norman and Lyn Lear. Other award news included the European Film Academy naming Gianfranco Rosi’s FIRE AT SEA as the Best European Documentary at the European Film Awards over the weekend, and Cinema Eye Honors naming their immensely diverse 2017 Heterodox Award nominees in ALL THESE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS, THE FITS, KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE, MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART, and NEON BULL.

Adding to the chorus of praise that is awards season, a whole host of best of lists turned up over the last week, each with their own nonfiction infusion. The staffers over at The New York Times, Vulture, Slant and IndieWire, each published their’s. Included between the lists was NO HOME MOVIE, WEINER, CAMERAPERSON, HOMELAND: IRAQ YEAR ZERO, and of course, O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA, amongst others.

Just a week after Sundance dropped its competition linup, its Premieres section has been revealed and features new work from Lucy Walker, Barbara Kopple, Stanley Nelson, Rory Kennedy and more. Shortly thereafter, the Documentary Shorts were also announced. On the opposite coast, the Tribeca Film Festival hired former SVP of acquisitions and productions at Alchemy, Jeff Deutchman as its new Programmer at Large, according to Graham Winfrey of IndieWire. And Basil Tsiokos looked at the new nonfiction offerings of this year’s Dubai International Film Festival, while Leo Goldsmith looked back at his experience at Doclisboa for Film Comment.

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Monday Memo: An Avalanche of Award Show Announcements


Light on general doc commentary and festival news, this week was instead overflowing with awards season announcements. First, the IDA Documentary Awards named their long list of nominees, with 13TH, FIRE AT SEA, O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA, CAMERAPERSON, I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO and WEINER listed in the running for Best Feature. The following day, the Cinema Eye Honors, now in their 10th year, released their own list of nominees, with the same films up for Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking, minus 13TH. On Thursday evening, Ezra Edelman and Ava DuVerney came away the big winners at the inaugural Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, as O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA came away with 4 awards, including Best Documentary (Theatrical Feature) and Best Director (Theatrical Feature), and 13TH with 3 awards, including Best Documentary (TV/Streaming) and Best Director (TV/Streaming).

Across the pond, the British Independent Film Awards listed a completely different set of films with their 2016 nominees for Best Documentary – THE CONFESSION: LIVING THE WAR ON TERROR, DANCER, THE HARD STOP, NOTES ON BLINDNESS and VERSUS: THE LIFE AND FILMS OF KEN LOACH. The European Film Awards followed suit with another diverse list of nominees for Best European Documentary in 21 X NEW YORK, A FAMILY AFFAIR, MR. GAGA, S IS FOR STANLEY, THE LAND OF THE ENLIGHTENED and of course, FIRE AT SEA.

With DOC NYC on the verge of its inception, its director of programming, Basil Tsiokos, continues to preview the festival’s copious offerings at What (not) To Doc. David Morgan of CBS News also began to sift through the immense lineup, noting that “145 documentary features — nearly a record — have qualified for submission for this year’s Academy Awards. Audiences at this year’s DOC NYC Festival will find no shortage, either, with more than 250 films and events scheduled, including 110 feature-length documentaries, nearly half of which were directed or co-directed by women.” Riding that same wave of excitement, the folks over at Cinema Tropical listed the Latino films scheduled to screen at the festival.

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