Anyone with an interest in cinema and an internet connection surely is aware that the Cannes Film Festival is currently in full swing with a full week of auteurist-driven cinephelia left to go. Swirling around in that first wave whirlwind of festival news is word that SENNA filmmaker Asif Kapadia’s latest archival driven docu-portrait AMY is apparently quite the masterwork. In his review for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw calls the film “a tragic masterpiece”, meanwhile Variety’s Guy Lodge writes that it is a “reserved yet profoundly felt film”. Stephen Dalton of The Hollywood Reporter, The Independent’s Geoffrey Macnab, Indiewire’s Kaleem Aftab and The Wrap’s Steve Pond all gushed about Kapadia’s raw portrait of the late singer Amy Winehouse. Only Sophie Monks Kaufman of Little White Lies, who called the film “melodramatic” and “opportunistic”, and the singer’s much blamed father Mitch Winehouse, who spoke with Emine Saner at The Guardian about his disdain for the film, had anything truly negative to report.
Nancy Buirski’s autobiographical BY SIDNEY LUMET, which grew out of a never-before-seen interview shot in 2008 produced by the late filmmaker Daniel Anker, also premiered at Cannes over the weekend, alongside Gabriel Clarke and John McKenna’s STEVE MCQUEEN: THE MAN AND LE MANS, which ruminates on McQueen’s involvement with the troubled Lee H. Katzin picture from 1971. At RogerEbert.com, Ben Kenigsberg concludes that Buirski’s film is a bit loose, but remains insightful. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter also favored the film, dubbing it “illuminating”. On Clarke and McKenna’s film, Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter thought their picture “fascinating”, but lacked the punchiness of its decisive star. An in-depth preview of the film was also published at The Independent prior to its premiere.
Most interestingly for the doc community, for the first time in the festival’s history, a new documentary prize dubbed the Oeil d’Or (Golden Eye) that comes with a prize of 5,000 euro will be handed out at the festival’s closing ceremony. The prize will be awarded by a jury presided over by Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh, whose own THE MISSING PICTURE premiered at the festival two years ago. Richard Mowe detailed the prize over at Eye For Film. At the same time, Daniel Walber speculated on the inaugural prize winner, debating the potential of the 14 features eligible for the award at Nonfics.
While the cinematic deluge abroad continues, here at Stranger Than Fiction we will be forging ahead with our Spring Season tomorrow with director Marah Strauch’s spectacular debut SUNSHINE SUPERMAN. Rich with stunning 16mm archive footage, well-crafted re-enactments and state-of-the-art aerial photography, the TIFF premiered film tells the story of BASE jumping pioneer Carl Boenish. Both Strauch and producer Eric Bruggeman will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A at tomorrow’s showing at the IFC Center.
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.
Among the films making it to this year's Sundance Film Festival are (T)ERROR from directors Lyric Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe.
This week the Sundance Film Festival continued its announcements of films that made the cut for 2015. Adam Benzine of Realscreen wrote on the docs premiering at the festival, as did Filmmaker Magazine and Daniel Fienberg of HitFix Magazine, along with Casey Cipriani of Indiewire. Christopher Cambpell of Nonfics.com had a guide to Sundance documentary titles, while Realscreen’s Kevin Ritchie took a look at the festival’s short docs. Alexandra Zeevalkink of DocGeeks also had a round-up of Sundance doc selections.
A slew of “Best of 2014” lists came out this week. Paste Magazine’s staff named the best 12 docs of 2014, while Susan Gerhard listed the top 10 docs of the year at Fandor. At Indiewire, Anthony Kaufman named the best 12 docs of the 2014. Gregg Kilday of The Hollywood Reporter had a list of 15 docs from the year that must be seen.
Indiewire’s Paula Bernstein made a useful meta-post rounding up their coverage of documentary filmmaking advice from the past year.
THE ACT OF KILLING distributor Drafthouse Films released a promotional bundle for the film via BitTorrent this week.
The New Year holiday has left us with another light news week. Perhaps the most interesting news was that distributor Drafthouse Films released a “bundle” of content related to THE ACT OF KILLING via BitTorrent, a medium most closely associated with pirating. The bundle dropped at the same time the film was being released on iTunes. Realscreen’s Adam Benzine covered the development, as did Paula Bernstein of Indiewire. And Anthony Ha of TechCrunch also had the news.
Indiewire rounded up all of their doc advice from last year in one incredibly helpful post that you can check out here.
Melena Ryzik of the New York Times took note of the fact that both PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER and THE SQUARE had been banned in the respective countries in which they had been shot, while also landing on the Oscar shortlist for docs. Vanessa Thorpe of The Guardian mentioned PUSSY RIOT in a piece noting the political nature of those getting on the shortlist. Jezebel’s Rebecca Rose had details on a screening of PUSSY RIOT intended to take place in Russia that was scuttled by the government there.