After an extensive festival run that garnered a unanimous flood of exultant praise, Joshua Oppenheimer’s THE LOOK OF SILENCE is just finally reaching domestic theaters. The New York Times ran a trio of stories on the film this week – a review by A.O. Scott in which he compares Oppenheimer’s work to Claude Lanzmann’s monumental holocaust doc, SHOAH, a piece by Cara Buckley in which she reports on the uncertain futures of the Indonesians who helped in the production of the film, and an interview by Adam Shatz in which Oppenheimer, reflecting on ever going back to Indonesia states, “I could probably get into Indonesia without incident. I’m just not sure I would get out alive again.”
Our own Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen selected the film as WNYC’s Documentary of the Week, while, at indieWIRE, Anthony Kaufman wrote a piece that questioned whether or not The LOOK OF SILENCE has already claimed the title of Best Documentary of the Year. Adding critical depth to the conversations surrounding Oppenheimer’s latest, Flavorwire’s Jason Bailey, LA Times’ Janet Kinosian, and Movie Mezzanine’s Jake Cole each wrote lengthy reflections on the film. Eric Hynes also composed some astute thoughts on the film at Reverse Shot, as did Tony Pipolo at Artforum and Dana Stevens for Slate. Writing at Doc Soup, Tom Roston recommended some things to watch before seeing Oppenheimer’s new film, while Joshua Brunsting reviewed the film for Criterion Cast and Glenn Kenny did the same for RogerEbert.com. Oppenheimer himself has been on the press tour, speaking with everyone under the sun including indieWIRE’s Ryan Lattanzio, The L Magazine’s Elise Nakhnikian, Jamie Maleszka for Nonfics, and even me, for IONCINEMA. Rounding out the film’s coverage, Sight & Sound published a piece by Robert Greene comparing the politically motivated filmmaking techniques of Joshua Oppenheimer and Adam Curtis.
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.
Here at Stranger Than Fiction, the big news of the past week happened to be that we’ve announced our Winter Season series line-up! Running from February 3 to March 24, the IFC Center will be playing host to screenings of THE HAND THAT FEEDS, BEST OF EGG THE ARTS SHOW, SEYMOUR: AN INTRODUCTION and many other great documentaries and the filmmakers who saw brought them to the screen. Season passes, which include a variety of perks including free popcorn at all STF shows and a free DVD courtesy of Docurama, can be purchased here.
Surely the most talked about story elsewhere was that on Thursday the Academy finally announced their official nominations, including CITIZENFOUR, FINDING VIVIAN MAIER, LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM, THE SALT OF THE EARTH, and VIRUNGA for best documentary feature, as well as CRISIS HOTLINE: VETERANS PRESS 1, JOANNA, OUR CURSE, THE REAPER (LA PARKA), and WHITE EARTH for best documentary short. Writing for NonFics, Christopher Campbell covered the announcements, as did Basil Tsiokos at What (not) To Doc and Adam Benzine for Realscreen.
Peter Knegt and Ben Beaumont-Thomas, writing for Indiewire and The Guardian respectively, took a moment to reflect on the nominations, while at the POV Blog, Tom Roston reached out to filmmakers Orlando von Einsiedel and Charlie Siskel to get their reactions to the news. Eric Kohn on the other hand took time to call attention to the fact that LIFE ITSELF is sorely missing from the list over at Indiewire. As both Laura Poitras and Rory Kennedy expressed concern about in Mark Olsen‘s report of the nominations in the LA Times, I’m personally still a bit shocked that Jesse Moss’ THE OVERNIGHTERS didn’t make the list.