Monday Memo: Tribeca & Full Frame Unveil 2018 Lineups

Sensible filmgoers might hope that with ICARUS and HEAVEN IS A TRAFFIC JAM ON THE 405 winning big last week at the Oscars (read Brian Newman‘s piece on breaking the “rules” to win an Oscar for Short Doc at Sub-Genre Media) and awards season coming to its logical conclusion, we could all take a collective sigh of relief and maybe a ever so short cinematic reprieve, but instead film festivals across the land have either just wrapped, are currently in motion, or are just gearing up. Just last week, Columbia, Missouri’s True/False Film Festival took over the modest college town for its 15th edition, garnering universal praise from Daniel Kasman at MUBI’s Notebook, Ben Godar at Nonfics, and Vikram Murthi of (my own coverage of the festival will soon be found over at Senses of Cinema). Looking further back, Dan Sullivan covered this year’s edition of the Berlinale for Film Comment, singling out Corneliu Porumboiu’s INFINITE FOOTBALL and Kristina Konrad’s epic ONE OR TWO QUESTIONS, as Eric Hynes dissected a pair of my favorites from this year’s Sundance in Bing Liu’s MINDING THE GAP and Sandi Tan’s SHIRKERS. As I write, four fests around the globe are taking place, each of which Basil Tsiokos wrote previews for at What (not) To Doc: Miami Film Festival, SXSWAmbulante, and Tempo Documentary Festival.

Meanwhile, both the Tribeca Film Festival and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festivals announced their full 2018 lineups. Tribeca is holding the world premieres of 12 new nonfiction films in its documentary competition, in addition to its closing night film, THE FOURTH ESTATE by Liz Garbus, about how the challenges of journalism in the age of Trump, while Full Frame has 14 world premieres on its docket, including David Schalliol’s THE AREA, Katie Galloway and Dawn Valadez’s THE PUSHOUTS, and Anne de Mare’s CAPTURING THE FLAG.

Tonight night, Stranger Than Fiction continues at IFC Center with a rare opportunity to preview the first two episodes of one of the most anticipated documentary series of the year – Maclain and Chapman Way’s WILD WILD COUNTRY, featuring a live Q&A with the directors and Executive Producer Mark Duplass. Tickets are still available here.

Continue reading…

Monday Memo: Art of the Real Begins, Full Frame Finishes, VR-focused Scenic Launches

As more new outlets, tech companies and film festivals become interested in cinematic VR projects, filmmakers are doing the same. Co.Design’s Mark Wilson extensive report announces that HELVETICA director Gary Hustwit has launched an ambitious new VR production company called Scenic. “Scenic’s focus is producing short, documentary content in 360 degrees for virtual reality headsets. A lot of it, fast. In its first year, Scenic will release 40 different projects, which is the sort of pace only made possible by the collective of documentarian all-stars he’s assembled to take part: Amir Bar-Lev (THE TILLMAN STORY), Marshall Curry (STREET FIGHT), Jessica Edwards (MAVIS!), Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (JESUS CAMP), Liz Garbus (WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?), Sam Green (THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND), Dawn Porter (TRAPPED), and Lucy Raven (CHINA TOWN).” With a lineup like that, how could one not be intrigued?

Now, onto festival news, beginning with Tom Roston‘s report on the “urgent, enriching, and harrowing” docs at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, which started last Thursday and wrapped up yesterday. Chris O’Falt, writing for indieWIRE, highlighted the many female filmmakers who had films at this year’s edition of the festival, while, incredibly, Polygraph published the largest analysis of dialogue in fiction film by gender ever attempted. Realscreen’s Kevin Ritchie also posted a list of eight highlights from the fest, seven of which happen to have been making their world premieres. At What (not) To Doc, Basil Tsiokos previewed the new films on offer at the fest, as well as Brazil’s It’s All True International Documentary Film Festival and the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s nonfiction and hybrid showcase, Art of the Real.

David Ehrlich and Eric Kohn wrote a piece on five must-watch docs at Art of the Real, while the Film Comment staff made the hybrid series the focus of conversation in their latest podcast. Looking at the upcoming Tribeca film festival and beyond, Mekado Murphy listed the upcoming NYC festivals in The New York Times, while Melena Ryzik‘s post-VAXXED controversy piece on the responsibilities involved in programming major film festivals sees our own Thom Powers admitting, “I feel that pressure more and more each year. Because documentaries are getting more ambitious, I think that there is a healthy anxiety for any film festival programmer to be worrying over the works that they’re presenting. If I didn’t feel anxious, it would be a sign that I’m really playing it safe with the films I show.” Meanwhile, Variety’s Martin Dale reported on the programming at this year’s edition of IFF Panama and the four day work shop with Patricio Guzmán, whose own film NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT was featured by Ross McDonnell in MUBI’s Notebook. And finally, the Stephen Follows Film Data and Education published a substantial overview of shifting trends in how film festival submission processes.

Tomorrow, we host EP/Director/Writer Rhys Thomas and EP/Director Alex Buono for a screening of two of their favorite episodes of DOCUMENTARY NOW! along with clips from the films that inspired the episodes. DOCUMENTARY NOW! DECONSTRUCTED is available only to STF spring season pass holders; no individual tickets will be sold to this event. Visit here to purchase a season pass.

Continue reading…

Monday Memo: A Return – Lumière Exhibition, the Cinema of Evidence, Full Frame & Art of the Real

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.

Continue reading…

Monday Memo: Inaugural Art of the Real Program Launched

The film ANNA from directors Alberto Grifi and Massimo Sarchielli is among the films screening at this year's Art of the Real program at Lincoln Center.

This week the first Art of the Real program at Lincoln Center kicked off. Writing for Artforum, Nick Pinkerton profiled the program, as did Jillian Steinhauer at Hyperallergic. The Brooklyn Rail republished a piece from Colin Beckett on Thom Andersen’s non-fiction films, and Fernando F. Croce previewed the Art of the Real at Writing for Film Comment, Max Nelson did the same, as did Paul Dallas of Indiewire. Daniel Walber of had a write-up on the series, and Basil Tsiokos recapped the lineup in a post at his What (Not) to Doc blog. In a piece for Slant Magazine, Ela Bittencourt reviewed a handful of the films screening at Lincoln Center. In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, Steve Dollar profiled the film ACTRESS from director Robert Greene, which closes out the film series.

The PBS documentary show POV announced that it had expanded its digital documentary initiatives with a new co-producing funding mechanism as well as a call for short web-native docs. In a post for the Knight Foundation, POV Digital Director Adnaan Wasey explained the impetus behind the push for digital content. Paula Bernstein covered the development for Indiewire, while Kevin Ritchie pulled similar duties at Realscreen.

POV this week also opened up its call for entries for the 2015 season.

Writing for Indiewire, Anthony Kaufman wrote on why the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival remained relevant in a crowded festival marketplace. In a piece for, Jesse Paddock named his top five films from this year’s Full Frame. Over at the International Documentary Association (IDA) website, Angelica Das also submitted coverage of this year’s fest.

Continue reading…