Last week the AT&T Inc.-owned film and television giant WarnerMedia stunned the film community when it announced that it will be shutting the beloved cinephilic streaming service FilmStruck down at the end of November. In response, over 55,000 fans have signed a Change.org petition in an effort to save the service from disappearing into the void, while a whole host of A-list filmmakers also wrote an open letter “to Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich asking for WarnerMedia to reconsider the decision to pull the plug on FilmStruck on November 29,” reports IndieWire’s Zack Sharf. Writing in The Los Angeles Times, Ryan Faughnder suggests that the shuttering of FilmStruck demonstrates the fragility of film history in the face of our reliance on streaming services: “Streaming companies including Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are spending billions of dollars to create the kinds of next-big-thing TV dramas that draw subscribers, and aren’t so interested in hosting vast catalogs of oldies. Compounding the problem, video stores that once facilitated the discovery of esoteric films have mostly vanished, and younger viewers aren’t subscribing to cable bundles, let alone watching Turner Classic Movies. Another constraint is that it’s costly to convert old movies into streaming-friendly formats.”
Responding to the public outcry, The Criterion Collection announced, “If you loved the curated programming we’ve been doing with our friends at FilmStruck, we have good news for you. The Criterion Collection team is going to be carrying on with that mission, launching the Criterion Channel as a freestanding service in spring 2019…The new service will be wholly owned and controlled by the Criterion Collection. We hope to be available in U.S. and Canada at launch, rolling out additional territories over time. Our library will also be available through WarnerMedia’s new consumer platform when it launches late next year, so once both services are live, Criterion fans will have even more ways to find the films they love.”
Right on the heels of Sundance, the 2018 SXSW Film Festival has revealed its first wave of titles, including the Documentary Feature Competition, Documentary Spotlight, Visions, 24 Beats Per Second, Global programs. Gabriel Silverman’s TRANSMILITARY, Abby Epstein’s WEED THE PEOPLE, Nick Budabin’s CHI-TOWN, Tiller Russell’s OPERATION ODESSA, and Thom Zimny’s ELVIS PRESLEY THE SEARCHER are among the many nonfiction films slated for world premieres.
Docpoint 2018, the Helsinki Documentary Film Festival wraps up today. Basil Tsiokos, in his overview of the new doc offerings at the festival at What (not) To Doc, noted, “Over 75 new and recent nonfiction features, in addition to retrospective programming and sorts, screen at this Finnish event.” Also across the pond, IDFA announced that Syrian filmmaker Orwa Nyrabia has been appointed its new artistic director, succeeding interim director Barbara Visser, who oversaw the 2017 edition after IDFA founder Ally Derks stepped down.
Now that this year’s edition of Sundance has come and gone, Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson has had some time to mull her favorite non-star driven docs of the festival, just as Josefina Buschmann shared her thoughts at IndieWire on the VR doc experiences that were on offer. A pair of notable post-fest reviews also came in on KUSAMA – INFINITY via Stephen Zacks at Hyperallergic, and HAL via J.R. Kinnard of Nonfics.
Let’s not forget that we at Stranger Than Fiction return to the IFC Center tomorrow for our Winter Season kickoff with Roberta Grossman and Sophie Sartain’s SEEING ALLRED with a very special guest in Gloria Allred, the film’s subject. If you’re quick, it’s not to late to pick up a season pass over here.
Last Wednesday, IDFA announced the winners of its various 2017 competition programs, with Mila Turajlic’s TIFF alum THE OTHER SIDE OF EVERYTHING winning Best Feature-Length Documentary, Simon Lereng Wilmont won the IDFA Award for Best First Appearance for THE DISTANT BARKING OF DOGS, Best Mid-Length Documentary was awarded to Martin Benchimol and Pablo Aparo for THE DREAD, and Marcin Sauter took home Best Short Documentary for ZHALANASH – EMPTY SHORE. Running tandem the main festival, the IDFA Forum saw 58 projects from 23 countries pitched to potential funders and distributors reports Damon Wise for Variety. Covering the Forum for Realscreen, Selina Chignall put forth a trio of reports on the pitch highlights.
Earlier in the week, RIDM also revealed their 2017 award winners. The Grand Prize for Best International Feature went to ROOM FOR A MAN by Anthony Chidiac, TAMING THE HORSE by Tao Gu was named Best Canadian Feature, and OUVRIR LA VOIX by Amandine Gay won the People’s Choice Award.
“Four documentary projects screened at the AFI DOCS 2017 Film Festival, with presenting sponsor AT&T, will receive funding from the AFI DOCS/NBCUniversal Impact Grants,” announced the American Film Institute on Monday. The grants support outreach and social action campaigns for projects that participated in the AFI DOCS Impact Lab, including Laura Checkoway’s EDITH+EDDIE, Jeremy S. Levine and Landon Van Soest’s FOR AHKEEM, Peter Nicks’s THE FORCE, and Trish Adlesic and Geeta Gandbhir’s I AM EVIDENCE.
Fall festival season marches on with IDFA gearing up across the pond as DOC NYC came to a close here at home late last week. Despite being eyes deep in DOC NYC duties as the festival’s director of programming, Basil Tsiokos took the time to plot out a two part introduction at What (not) To Doc to the new nonfiction offerings set to have make their debut in Amsterdam this week. He began by noting that “The world’s largest nonfiction event bids farewell to founder and longtime director Ally Derks with its 30th edition, which showcases over 180 new and recent documentary features.” Writing at First Showing, Alex Billington gives his introductory thoughts on his first visit to IDFA. Variety also published a pair of pieces on the festival, including Stewart Clarke on “Young Directors at Forefront of HBO Europe’s Documentary Slate” and Damon Wise reporting on “The Visual Voice, a 16-film sidebar celebrating documentary’s greatest films, chosen by its biggest names.”
Those that couldn’t attended DOC NYC or its professional conference DOC NYC PRO this year would do well to head over to its YouTube channel where plenty of screening intros, Q&As, and conference sessions can be viewed in whole. DOC NYC’s trio of juries announced their award winners on Thursday, with Nicole N. Horanyi’s THE STRANGER receiving the Grand Jury Prize in the Viewfinders competition, James Crump’s ANTONIO LOPEZ 1970: SEX FASHION & DISCO winning the Grand Jury Prize in the Metropolis competition, and Kate Davis’s TRAFFIC STOP taking home the Grand Jury Prize in the Shorts competition. Daniele Alcinii reported on the awards ceremony for Realscreen, noting, “TRAFFIC STOP now qualifies for consideration in the Documentary Short Subject category of the annual Academy Awards without the standard theatrical run, provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules.”
Speaking of Oscars, last week at the Governors’ Awards Agnès Varda received an honorary Oscar. IndieWire’s Jenna Marotta recounted the morning after from the La Résidence de France in Beverly Hills where Varda was celebrated over brunch with French peers, as Sam Adams reflected at Slate on how Varda has continuously proven how documentary filmmakers can in fact be movie stars. Meanwhile at Deadline, Antonia Blyth took an early stab at the Oscar race for Best Documentary Feature. Notably absent from that list is Errol Morris’s WORMWOOD. Anne Thompson reports at IndieWire that “The documentary branch executive committee deemed WORMWOOD ineligible for Best Documentary Feature, based on post-O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA rules designed to weed out episodic documentary series. Yet WORMWOOD qualifies in all other AMPAS categories covered by the general submission form: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, and all the crafts.”
As it happens, I am currently in Stockholm visiting my doc loving co-workers at Influence Film Club, but I would be remiss to share a mini memo that spreads the good word that DOC NYC has announced its complete 2017 lineup! Among the 111 feature length documentaries on offer this year, Guy Fiorita’s MOLE MAN and Julia Bacha’s NAILA AND THE UPRISING will have their world premieres as part of this year’s Viewfinders competition, while David Wexler’s VIGILANTE: THE INCREDIBLE TRUE STORY OF CURTIS SLIWA AND THE GUARDIAN ANGELS and Prudence Katze and William Lehman’s THE IRON TRIANGLE will world premiere in the Metropolis competition. Jessica Mach reported on the announcement for Realscreen, noting, “Over 350 filmmakers and special guests are scheduled to participate in panels or present their films.” Festival passes and individual screening tickets are now available for purchase.
Last week also saw the unveiling of IDFA‘s 2017 lineup, containing a mind-boggling “312 titles (from 3,886 submissions), of which 90 documentaries will have their world premieres during the festival.” The 30th edition of the festival will take place in Amsterdam from November 15 to 26. A boat load of brand new doc trailers are available at the festival’s YouTube page.