Shooting of MEETING GORBACHEV. Photo: Lena Herzog
If last week seemed unusually spare, this past week’s abundance of doc news surely makes up for it. Kicking things off with an enthusiastic bang, The Ringer’s Sean Fennessey makes the case in his must read of the week that the recent financial success of various theatrical doc releases “represent, if not a major moment, then at least a meaningful boomlet for theatrical documentary filmmaking, perhaps the culmination of almost 50 years of evolution and exposure for the form, stretching back to the Maysles brothers’ SALESMAN. It has been 40 years since Martin Scorsese’s THE LAST WALTZ, about 30 years since Errol Morris’s THE THIN BLUE LINE and Michael Moore’s ROGER & ME, nearly 25 years since Steve James’s HOOP DREAMS, 20 years since Spike Lee’s FOUR LITTLE GIRLS, and 10 years since James Marsh’s MAN ON WIRE. That half a century of meaningful work with increasing mass exposure has slowly redefined the form, turning what had been considered by some moviegoers a starchy, stiff form of storytelling into some of the most vital, sought-out films in the country.”
Meanwhile, as the Toronto International Film Festival and the New York Film Festival began to roll out their big name fiction features, DOK Leipzig revealed that its 61st edition will open with Werner Herzog and André Singer’s MEETING GORBECHEV, which sees “Herzog and Gorbachev sit together in the former’s Moscow office, engaging in intense conversations about the past and the winding path of history.” Bragging of an A-List of docs out-of-competition alongside its much-touted fiction competition, the Venice Film Festival is slated to premiere new work by Errol Morris, Frederick Wiseman, Victor Kossakovsky, Tsai Ming-liang, Sergei Loznitsa and Mark Cousins, just to name a few.
Award season rolls on! Thursday evening saw the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association announce the winners of the second annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards with Brett Morgen’s JANE being named Best Documentary, while Evgeny Afineevsky and Frederick Wiseman were co-honored with Best Director for CRIES FOR SYRIA and EX LIBRIS: THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY, respectively. Ceyda Torun’s debut feature KEDI won Best First Documentary, as Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s THE VIETNAM WAR took home Best Documentary Series.
In tandem with the Critics’ Choice Doc Awards, the International Documentary Association named its nominations for the 2017 IDA Awards, with Matthew Heineman’s CITY OF GHOSTS, Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles’s DINA, Agnès Varda and JR’s FACES PLACES, Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin’s LA 92, and Yance Ford’s STRONG ISLAND all up for Best Documentary. The British Independent Film Awards also unveiled their own nominations this past week. Those up for Best Documentary include Aaron Brookner’s UNCLE HOWARD, Carol Salter’s ALMOST HEAVEN, Lucy Cohen’s KINGDOM OF US, Morgan Matthews’s WILLAMS, and Daisy-May Hudson’s HALF WAY.
DOC NYC is nearing, and to celebrate they’ve been running flash sales on tickets at 5 for $5 for select films. The current sale runs through noon today. On Wednesday, the festival announced its 2017 jury members, featuring the likes of filmmakers Doug Block and Andrew Rossi, as well as Vox film critic Alissa Wilkinson, Women Make Movies’s Debra Zimmerman and more.
Those working in the field of nonfiction filmmaking have much to look forward in this year’s newly announced lineup for the 2017 DOC NYC PRO conference, which announced features “100+ speakers including acclaimed filmmakers and industry leaders across eight days of panels, case studies, master classes and happy hours.” The conference runs November 9-16 at Cinepolis Chelsea concurrent with the festival’s public film screenings. Passes for this must attend industry event can be purchased here.
Last Wednesday, DOK Leipzig revealed that David Spaeth’s BETRAYAL will open the festival, which runs October 30 through November 5. The festival is also honoring the doc filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt with a special program titled “Visual Electrics. The Cinema of Jay Rosenblatt” and a master class in which Jay Rosenblatt will give insights into his working methods. Meanwhile at What (not) To Doc, Basil Tsiokos previewed of new nonfiction offerings at both the Hamptons International Film Festival, which concludes today, and the BFI London Film Festival, noting that “among the more than 200 new feature offerings of the respected UK event are nearly 60 documentaries.”
There’s no denying it now: Awards season is in full swing. This week the International Documentary Association announced the nominees for the 31st Annual IDA Documentary Awards, as well as their honorees who include Gordon Quinn, Ted Sarandos, Lyric R. Cabral, David Felix Sutcliffe, Matthew Heineman, Tony Tabatznik and the Bertha Foundation. At indieWIRE, Anne Thompson mulled on the selections, contemplating how they’re beginning to shape the Oscars. Additionally, Variety’s Kristopher Tapley, Deadline’s Amanda N’Duka, The Hollywood Reporter’s Hilary Lewis and Realscreen’s Kevin Ritchie each reported on the nominations.
In addition to the IDA Awards nominations, both the British Independent Film Award nominations and the European Film Awards nominations were announced. The BFI and Cineuropa’s Naman Ramachandran reported on the British Independent Film Award nominations, while Guy Lodge of Variety and David González published the nominees for the European Film Awards, also at Cineuropa. James Gay-Rees’ PALIO, which is among the British Independent Film Award nominees, was reviewed by Joe Leydon at Variety.
Tomorrow, Stranger Than Fiction continues with Jeff Malmberg’s modern doc classic, MARWENCOL. Following the screening, film subject Mark Hogancamp and co-author/film producer Chris Shellen will be doing a post-screening Q&A and signing of the new book “Welcome to Marwencol.” Tickets to the screening are still available and can be purchased here.