Monday Memo: 5050×2020 Takes on Cannes, Kim Yutani is New Sundance Director of Programming


We’ve been without a Monday Memo for the past couple weeks as I was out of town scoping out this year’s edition of Hot Docs (see my festival wrap-up over at Nonfics) and the 4th annual Nitrate Picture Show in Rochester, where a 100 year old print of an obscure silent short doc called OUR NAVY was screened and this year’s closing night ‘Blind Date with Nitrate’ was none other than Robert Flaherty’s astonishing 1934 doc, MAN OF ARAN. Suffice to say, I’ve had a lovely, though immensely busy couple weeks away. Now, on to the news!

Though Hot Docs has now come and gone, last week they revealed their award winners in Hind Bensari’s WE COULD BE HEROES, which won Best International Feature, and Yuqi Kang’s A LITTLE WISDOM, which took home the Best Canadian Feature Doc Award, while Alan Bogarin and Jonathan Bogarin was awarded the Emerging International Filmmaker Award for 306 HOLLYWOOD. Meanwhile, Michael Del Monte’s TRANSFORMER won the Audience Award, just nosing out Matthew Shoychet’s THE ACCOUNT OF AUSCHWITZ and Morgan Neville’s WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?.

Currently, Cannes is in progress and the biggest news coming out of the most prestigious film event of the year is the 5050×2020 campaign, which saw 82 actresses, directors, agents, and other film industry women gathered on the red carpet to bring attention to gender inequality in the film industry. “Since the launch of the Cannes Film Festival, only 82 films directed by women have been honored by an official selection in competition, compared to 1,645 films directed by men, a ratio of less than five percent”, reported Rebecca Keegan in Vanity Fair. In that same vein, it seems a perfect moment to share that a new feminist film journal called MAI has published their first issue online.

Tomorrow night at IFC Center, our 2018 Spring Season of Stranger Than Fiction continues with Kate Novack’s intimate fashion portrait THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRÉ, with Novack and her producer Andrew Rossi on hand for a live post-screening Q&A! Tickets are still available for purchase here.

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Monday Memo: Sundance Institute Announces Documentary Edit and Story Lab Projects


It will be a busy week for film festival goers, with New York’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival, Sheffield Doc/Fest and the long running Sydney Film Festival all having begun late last week and running though the end of this weekend. Basil Tsiokos outlined the new non-fiction offerings for each festival over at his What (not) To Doc blog, just as Joshua Brunsting previewed the films at the 28th edition of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival and Tom Roston spoke with the festival’s senior programmer, Leah Sapin, about this year’s curatorial focus on empowerment for Salon. Writing for The Star, Graham Walker listed twenty things to see and do this year at Sheffield Doc/Fest, while Matt Turner looked at how a trio of docs are challenging the narrative around the Syria crisis for Little White Lies. Covering the Sydney Film Festival, the fine folks at 4:3 have already published Ivan Čerečina‘s review of AUSTERLITZ and Anders Furze‘s take on KING OF THE BELGIANS.

Last Thursday, the Sundance Institute “announced the eight projects selected for its annual Documentary Edit and Story Labs, taking place in two sessions at the Sundance Resort in Utah from June 23-July 1 and July 7-15.” Projects selected include IMPEACHMENT by Brazilian director Petra Costa and editor Jordana Berg, and PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF DESIRE by director Hao Wu and editor Nanfu Wang. IndieWire’s Kate Erbland dissected the announcement, noting that projects “explore such timely themes as modern day lynchings, the Dakota Access Pipeline, impeachment, immigration detention centers, and more.” Looking back at the Sundance Documentary Film Program and the Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship’s 3rd annual Contemplating the Cut series, which took place back at the beginning of April, Colin Nusbaum outlined his tips and takeaways for doc editors over at the POV Blog.

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Monday Memo: UNDER THE GUN Defamation Charges Dismissed as LETTERS FROM BAGHDAD Hit Theaters


It seems that the industry is still recouping from its Cannes getaway, as this week was unsettlingly quiet on the news front. New York’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival is set to begin this Friday, as Andy Webster noted in his preview of the programming on offer in The New York Times. Meanwhile, two other enticing documentary film festivals are currently in motion. At What (not) To Doc, Basil Tsiokos looked at the new nonfiction on offer in Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa at the Encounters Documentary Festival, as well as those being screened at SF DocFest in San Francisco, both of which run through mid-June.

It is with great pride that tomorrow we close out our 2017 Spring Season at the IFC Center with Jeff Orlowski’s breathtaking CHASING CORAL with the director himself in attendance to present the film. The screening is sold out, but a limited number of tickets may be released to the rush-line, 15 minutes before showtime.

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Monday Memo: Brexit Causes Confusion and Panic Among Filmmaking Community


Anyone without their head buried in the sand is well aware of the shocking news that the people of the United Kingdom have voted to leave the European Union, causing mass confusion and panic among the filmmaking community. In a shower of stories listing the potential consequences for the financing and development of future films (see European Documentary Network‘s recent survey on the “Current Cost of Making Documentaries in Today’s Audiovisual Market” for a look at that situation before the Brexit)
and the overall distribution processes currently in place, amongst others. Variety’s Leo Barraclough published the first, followed by similarly alarming pieces from The Guardian’s Andrew Pulver, The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Roxborough, The Verge’s Sam Byford, and the Los Angeles Times’ Rebecca Keegan and Ryan Faughnder. Essentially, it’s not looking pretty. Perfectly timed, Artsy posted a beautiful feature by Tess Thackara on the Ghana-born, British filmmaker John Akomfrah and his new doc-based, migrant focused show at the Lisson Gallery in Manhattan that directly comments on the current Brexit situation.

Days before all of that went down, the Cinema Eye Honors revealed their 2017 Television Nonfiction Shortlist, including obvious choices like Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos’ MAKING A MURDERER and some pleasant surprises such as Steven Okazaki’s HBO doc HEROIN, CAPE COD, USA and the Netflix release MY BEAUTIFUL BROKEN BRAIN by Lotje Sodderland and Sophie Robinson. Paula Bernstein reported on the announcement for Filmmaker Magazine.

This past weekend saw the conclusion both NYC’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival and AFI Docs kicked off and finished in a matter of four short days. Daniel Walber listed his top five favorites seen at Human Rights Watch over at Nonfics, while Basil Tsiokos previewed the AFI Docs offerings and the Washingtonian staff recommended 14 films to see at the festival, including Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer’s LGBT-gang doc CHECK IT and the BEST IN SHOW-flavored film CHICKEN PEOPLE by Nicole Lucas Haimes.

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Monday Memo: Cannes Kicks Off While Reverse Shot Launches New Non-fiction Symposium


One day, I intend to walk the Croisette in Cannes in a euphoric haze of cinema heaven, but until that day, I’ll admire from afar, eagerly awaiting the release of each of the honored selections. Giving an overview of this year’s meager selection of non-fiction fare at the festival at What (not) To Doc, Basil Tsiokos noted the complete lack of documentaries in the most publicized sections, writing, “None of the 21 feature films in the Official Selection’s Competition or of the 18 features in Un Certain Regard is a documentary. One appears screening in the Out of Competition strand: Jim Jarmusch’s exploration of The Stooges, GIMME DANGER.” As one of the first docs to screen this year, Fisher Stevens and Alexis Bloom’s BRIGHT LIGHTS: STARRING CARRIE FISHER AND DEBBIE REYNOLDS received a warm welcome from indieWIRE’s David Ehrlich, The Wrap’s Steve Pond and Screen Daily’s Fionnuala Halligan, while a positive review of Rithy Panh’s EXILE turned up at MUBI’s Notebook thanks to Daniel Kasman and Frederick Wiseman’s newly restored HOSPITAL was written about at length by Matt Morrison at Film Comment.

In other festival news, the Film Society of Lincoln Center announced the lineup for the upcoming Human Rights Watch Film Festival, schedule to run June 10-19. Following directly in its wake, AFI Docs begins June 22 with Alex Gibney’s ZERO DAYS. The full lineup was announced on Tuesday. Before both, the 2016 Docaviv International Documentary Film Festival will take place May 19-28 in Tel Aviv and screen 110 films. At indieWIRE, Sydney Levine previewed the festival’s films and themes, noting that “the program does not only include documentaries about terror and refugees, but also about a fragmented society which is losing its solidarity. Both in Israel and elsewhere the gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening, and so are the frustrations and the unrest. Israeli and international titles correlating to these themes can be found throughout the entire festival program.” And some of us are still processing Hot Docs, including Jason Gorber, who published a lengthy interview with D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus on UNLOCKING THE CAGE at POV Magazine, and I, having posted reviews of THE ISLANDS AND THE WHALES and HOW TO LET GO OF THE WORLD… at IONCINEMA.

Here at Stranger Than Fiction, our Spring Season continues tomorrow with a screening of Holly Morris and Anne Bogart’s THE BABUSHKAS OF CHERNOBYL at IFC Center, co-presented New York Film Academy. Co-director Holly Morris will be present to take part in a post-screening Q&A. Tickets for the event can be purchased here.

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