Monday Memo: Awards Season is Officially Upon Us


With nominations from various organizations being announced this week, we can no longer deny that we are now in the midst of award season. The IDA Documentary Awards revealed their initial nominations for its 33rd edition, including those up for the ABC News VideoSource Award for best use of news footage in a documentary: BLOOD ON THE MOUNTAIN, ICARUS, OBIT., ELIÁN and LA 92. Those wishing to attend the award ceremony on December 9th at the Paramount Theatre in LA can still purchase tickets here through October 27th. IDA also announced this year’s Enterprise Documentary Fund Grantees who received $850,000 in funding across 11 projects.

Last Tuesday, Cinema Eye announced their annual list of Unforgettables, “which annually celebrates the exciting and sometimes tricky collaborations between filmmaker and subjects by noting those indelible individuals who helped define documentary cinema in 2017.” Among the 30 individuals from 15 different films named were Daje Shelton from FOR AHKEEM, Ola Kaczanowska of COMMUNION, Yance Ford from STRONG ISLAND, and Christine’a Rainey, Christopher “Quest” Rainey, PJ Rainey and William Withers from QUEST. Anne Thompson broke the story over at IndieWire.

Following shortly thereafter, the IFP Gotham Awards unveiled their own nominations, including for a quintet of films up for Best Documentary, including EX-LIBRIS – THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY, RAT FILM, STRONG ISLAND, WHOSE STREETS?, and THE WORK. Tickets for the award ceremony to take place on November 27th at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City can be purchased here.

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Monday Memo: Critics Groups Name Top Docs of 2016 While Sundance Drops 2017 Lineup


Holiday season is upon, hence why last week’s memo never materialized (that and it was a surprisingly slow doc news week). This past week however has been bustling with award season breaks, winter festival announcements and a whole host of new films available for streaming online. First off, as has become tradition following the gorging of Thanksgiving weekend, the Sundance Film Festival announced its full 2017 competition lineup, including the US Documentary Competition with new work by Brian Knappenberger, Yance Ford, Matthew Heineman and Shaul Schwarz, as well as the World Cinema Documentary Competition, featuring films by Ramona Diaz, Rahul Jain, Jiu-liang Wang and more. As we move closer to the Trump administration, both Mark Olsen of The Los Angeles Times and Brooks Barnes of The New York Times predict a politically volatile Park City program, each highlighting some obvious hot spots like Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis’s WHOSE STREETS?, which explores the violence in Ferguson, Missouri that went down in the summer of 2014. More titles will be announced shortly. And while Sundance will always overshadow its rebellious younger Park City rival, the Slamdance Film Festival also listed their lineup of eight doc features, five of which are world premieres.

Now that we are officially knee deep in December, film critics around the world are getting antsy to proclaim their picks for the best films of the year. Both the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review named Ezra Edelman’s mammoth O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA the Best Documentary of the Year, while at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Raoul Peck’s I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO pulled an upset over Edelman’s film, which was the runner-up for Best Documentary and received a nod for Best Editing. (Side note: Edelman and Peck turned up in conversation with Bryan Stevenson and Thom Powers on race, Trump and doc making in the latest episode of Pure Nonfiction.) Sight & Sound Magazine also polled a 163 critics for their year end lists, whom collectively included FIRE AT SEA, CAMERAPERSON and O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA amongst their top 26.

It’s not just critics that are naming their favorites of the year already though. The Gotham Independent Film Awards took place early last week, with O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA once again coming out on top, while across the pond the British Independent Film Awards gave their top doc prize to James Spinney and Peter Middleton’s NOTES ON BLINDNESS. Looking towards this year’s Oscars, The Hollywood Reporter’s Gregg Kilday considered whether or not this might be the year to see a non-fiction film take home the Oscar for Best Picture. Being that an abundance of similar talk fruitlessly centered around CITIZENFOUR last year, I seriously doubt it.

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Monday Memo: Gotham Nominees Announced, Oscar Qualifiers Listed


Bright and early Thursday morning Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro, Variety’s Gordon Cox and The Hollywood Reporter’s Hilary Lewis each broke the news that the Gotham Independent Film Awards had named their 2015 nominees, including APPROACHING THE ELEPHANT, CARTEL LAND, HEART OF A DOG, LISTEN TO ME MARLON and THE LOOK OF SILENCE. The following day, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the full list of 124 contenders in the Oscar race for Best Documentary Feature, as reported by Steve Pond at The Wrap, indieWIRE’s Zack Sharf and Dave McNary for Variety. And while we’re still quite a ways away from the event scheduled on June 9th, Realscreen reports that submissions for the 2016 Realscreen Awards are now open.

With the 13th edition of DocLisboa having begun late last week, Cineuropa’s Vitor Pinto previewed the Portuguese productions on offer, as Basil Tsiokos wrote up an overview of the fest at What (not) To Doc. Tsiokos also previewed the docs on offer at The American Museum of Natural History’s Margaret Mead Film Festival and NYC’s NewFest. At MUBI’s Notebook, Boris Nelepo reflected on the career of the Serbian filmmaker Želimir Žilnik, who is receiving first complete international retrospective as part of DocLisboa. As IDFA draws near, indieWIRE’s Tambay A. Obenson took the time to highlight a trio of films of African diaspora, while Jorn Rossing Jensen reported on the many Norwegian productions that will be making their way to Amsterdam for Cineuropa.

The Montreal International Documentary Festival revealed the programming schedule for their annual industry conference, Doc Circuit Montréal (DCM) reports Daniele Alcinii of Realscreen. Likewise, Cineuropa’s Vladan Petkovic covered the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival’s announcement of the program for its Inspiration Forum, “a platform intended to facilitate the search for new themes and their interpretations.” Scheduled speakers include Julian Assange (via Skype) and Maria Alyokhina (Masha) of Pussy Riot.

This week Stranger Than Fiction continues with a special screening of AN OMAR BROADWAY FILM, showing prison life through the eyes of the prisoners – the violence, the boredom, what everyone inside the prison, both inmates and guards, do to survive. The film’s director, Douglas Tirola, will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A. Tickets are still available here.

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Monday Memo: Gotham Independent Film Award Nominees Announced


The nominees for the Gotham Independent Film Awards were announced this week. At Realscreen, Adam Benzine covered the nominated docs, while Peter Knegt covered both fictional and documentary nominees for Indiewire. Craig Phillips noted the Independent Lens films that snagged noms in a post at the show’s blog, and Christopher Campbell covered the announcement for Nonfics.com. Jennifer Merin also had the news at About.com.

Directer Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s film BLACKFISH aired on CNN last week. At The Wrap, Tim Kenneally reported that the film captured a key news demographic, as did Gregory Crofton of Channel Nonfiction. Writing for Nonfics.com, Christopher Campbell covered a response to the film released by Seaworld prior to the CNN airing. Alison Willmore of Indiewire interviewed Cowperthwaite, and Cowperthwaite herself held a Reddit AMA.

Writing for RogerEbert.com, Christopher Campbell posted a piece detailing the evolution of Jehane Noujaim’s film THE SQUARE on Egypt’s revolution. At Indiewire, Bryce J. Renninger explained the differences in versions of the film that played at Sundance and the Toronto International Film Festival. A.O. Scott reviewed the film at The New York Times, and Anthony Kaufman examined it in his weekly Docutopia post at the SundanceNOW blog. In his Filmwax podcast, Adam Schartoff spoke with Noujaim and producer Kamir Amer, along with WHEN I WALK director Jason DaSilva and STRONGMAN director Zachary Levy. And Christopher Campbell and Daniel Walber discussed THE SQUARE and the Robert Drew classic CRISIS: BEHIND A PRESIDENTIAL COMMITMENT in their latest The Realness podcast.

This week Stranger Than Fiction plays host to BORN INTO BROTHELS from directors Ross Kaufman and Zana Briski on Oct. 29 at 8pm at the IFC Center. Following the screening, Kaufman will be in attendance for a Q&A. For more information or to purchase tickets please go here.

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