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.
DOC NYC, the largest documentary film festival in the United States, has returned to New York for its 8th edition, having kicked off on Thursday evening with a rousing opening night speech by Thom Powers. Giving insight into the immense spread of films on offer, Jason Bailey writes his is festival recommendations at Village Voice, “the options are unsurprisingly diverse: explorations of global issues, intimate character portraits, science explainers, true-crime investigations, celebrity profiles, snapshots of New York City.” Chris Barsanti of Film Journal International and Joshua Brunsting of Criterion Cast both surveyed the festival program, while at Doc Soup, Tom Roston spoke with Basil Tsiokos, the festival’s Director of Programming, about how the current state of politics influenced this year’s program. The IndieWire crew listed their 13 most anticipated films of the fest, while the folks at Women and Hollywood have been interviewing many of the female filmmakers in the lead up to the festival’s kickoff and Soheil Rezayazdi spoke with Barbara Kopple about her new film A MURDER IN MANSFIELD for Filmmaker Magazine. If you’re hoping to keep with the flood of coverage coming out of DOC NYC, you might do well to follow David Hudson at The Daily via Criterion over the next week.
Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal, better known to most as RIDM, also began Thursday evening, kicking off its 20th edition with a screening of Céline Baril’s 24 DAVIDS. The film was among the handful of hardy recommendations put forth by Ismaël Houdassine in his overview of the fest at Huffington Post (though you may need help from Google Translate – it’s in French). “The festival has a double mandate. It’s about showing the best or most interesting international films of the year; and it’s a great platform for local artists,” said programming director Bruno Dequen, with executive director Mara Gourd-Mercado in T’Cha Dunlevy‘s feature on the fest in Montréal Gazette in which he goes on to list 10 must-sees, including Travis Wilkerson’s DID YOU WONDER WHO FIRED THE GUN? and Ziad Kalthoum’s TASTE OF CEMENT.
And while TIFF and NYFF may have come and gone, Eric Hynes‘s rundown of the festivals’ best celebrity offerings via Film Comment is a must read.
Awards season rolls on this week with the 45th annual British Documentary Awards, where the Grierson Award for Best Single Documentary – International was given to Rahul Jain for MACHINES, Best Historical Documentary went to Ava DuVernay for 13TH, Best Documentary Short to Charlie Lyne for FISH STORY, and Best Cinema Documentary to Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg for WEINER.
Just two weeks after the Television Academy revealed its nominations for the 69th Emmy Awards, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) announced the nominees for the 38th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards. Films up for Best Documentary include Marcel Mettelsiefen’s CHILDREN OF SYRIA, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s A GIRL IN THE RIVER: THE PRICE OF FORGIVENESS, Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker’s WELCOME TO LEITH, David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall’s THANK YOU FOR PLAYING, and Joshua Oppenheimer’s THE LOOK OF SILENCE.
The always comprehensive Grierson Trust Awards also revealed their 2017 Shortlist. Covering the announcement for Realscreen, Daniele Alcinii noted that Raoul Peck’s I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO is up for two awards in the Best Historical and Best Cinema categories.
Fall festival season is nearing and with the first lineup announcements of both the Toronto and Venice Film Festivals, my anticipation is quickly mounting. Among the first of many titles to premiere at TIFF is a pair of concert docs in Jonathan Demme’s Justin Timberlake-centered JT + THE TENNESSEE KIDS and Paul Dugdale’s THE ROLLING STONES OLÉ OLÉ OLÉ!: A TRIP ACROSS LATIN AMERICA says the Realscreen staff, while headlining the world premiering doc offerings in Venice is Terrence Malick’s first long in-the-works doc effort VOYAGE OF TIME, as well as Massimo D’Anolfi and Martina Parenti’s SPIRA MIRABILIS notes Manori Ravindran. Looking at a pair of fests currently in progress, Basil Tsiokos previewed the nonfiction works screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival and Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival.
This past week, The Grierson Trust released it’s extensive shortlist of docs up for this year’s Grierson Awards, naming heavy hitters like AMY, THE LOOK OF SILENCE and CARTEL LAND in contention for the Bertha DocHouse Best Cinema Documentary award. BBC noted the record breaking amount of female directors named on the shortlist this year, with 53 women listed, completely “dominating in the best documentary series and best constructed documentary series categories,” while Realscreen’s Daniele Alcinii singled out SHERPA director Jennifer Peedom and MY BEAUTIFUL BROKEN BRAIN helmers Lotje Sodderland and Sophie Robinson “among the record number of female directors to be shortlisted for the Grierson Trust’s 2016 British Documentary Awards.”
Though the Primetime Emmy nominees were announced a couple weeks back and the News & Documentary Emmy nominees the following week, Thursday saw the announcement that director Stanley Nelson, known for his highly regarded work on black history and activism with films like his recent THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION, will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 37th Anual News & Documentary Emmy Awards. Manori Ravindran reported on the news for Realscreen.