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: Oscar Winner Kirk Simon Passes at 63


Before we get into the nitty gritty of festival news and theatrical releases, it is with a heavy heart that I share Daniel E. Slotnik‘s report in The New York Times that “Kirk Simon, a documentary filmmaker who turned luminaries in the arts into teachers and brought cameras into the classroom, memorably in an Academy Award-winning film about a multinational school in Israel, died on April 14 in Manhattan. He was 63. His brother, Ron, said Mr. Simon suffered cardiac arrest and was declared dead after he was taken to a hospital. Mr. Simon directed and produced documentaries for PBS, National Geographic and HBO, tackling a wide range of topics. But he often returned to education, as he and his creative partner, Karen Goodman, his first wife, did in 2010 with STRANGERS NO MORE, which won the Oscar for best short documentary.”

Last week, the Peabody Awards Board of Jurors revealed their 19 nominees for its Documentary category and just days later they whittled down that list to 9 winners: AMERICA REFRAMED: DEEJ, AMERICAN MASTERS: MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE, CHASING CORAL, INDEPENDENT LENS: NEWTOWN, INDIVISIBLE, LAST MEN IN ALEPPO, OKLAHOMA CITY, THE ISLAND AND THE WHALES, and TIME: THE KALIEF BROWDER STORY.

Our 2018 Spring Season of Stranger Than Fiction continues tomorrow evening at IFC Center with Sam Green’s Oscar nominated portrait of troubled and revolutionary times THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND. Director Sam Green and producer Carrie Lozano will be on hand for a live post-screening Q&A. Tickets are still available here.

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Monday Memo: POV Unveils 31st Season


Whenever PBS’s long running documentary series POV announces its annual lineup, just about everything has to take a back seat (even Cannes). Its 31st season kicks off this Wednesday with a special Earth Day showing of David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg’s BILL NYE: SCIENCE GUY and continues with its official opening on June 18th with Jonathan Olshefski’s QUEST. The season continues with Viktor Jakovleski’s BRIMESTONE & GLORY, Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis’s WHOSE STREETS? and more.

The Cannes Film Festival also revealed its own prestigious lineup, though as usual the nonfiction offerings are limited at best. Those due to make their debut alongside the glitz and glam (and Netflix controversy) include DEAD SOULS, the latest epic from Wang Bing, Wim Wenders’s high profile POPE FRANCIS – A MAN OF HIS WORD, Romain Goupil’s mosaic of France in LA TRAVERSÉE, and Michel Toesca’s refugee tale TO THE FOUR WINDS, all programmed out-of-competition as Special Screenings.

Our own 2018 Spring Season is set to begin tomorrow night at IFC Center with a very special sneak preview screening of BOOM FOR REAL: THE TEENAGE YEARS OF JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT with director Sara Driver on hand for a live post-screening Q&A. Tickets for the event are still available here.

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Monday Memo: Full Frame, Belgrade & Cinéma du Réel Wrap


After a week away, we return with a rather sparse memo, with most of the action happening on the festival circuit. The 21st annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival ran over the weekend, and Tom Roston spoke with the festival’s artistic director Sadie Tillery about why the festival has succeeded at being a filmmaker’s festival as well as an audience favorite over at Doc Soup. Outlining the festival’s program, Basil Tsiokos noted that Hugo Berkeley’s THE JAZZ AMBASSADORS, Anne de Mare’s CAPTURING THE FLAG, Katie Galloway and Dawn Valadez’s THE PUSHOUTS, and Heather Courtney and Anayansi Prado’s THE UNAFRAID would all be making their world premiere, along with a handful of others. RaMell Ross’ HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING won the Reva and David Logan Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary, while Bing Liu’s MINDING THE GAP nabbed the Audience Award. The full list of award winners can be found here. The week prior saw the 65th annual Belgrade Documentary and Short Film Festival conclude, with Andrijana Stojković’s WONGAR winning Best Feature Documentary and THE OTHER SIDE OF EVERYTHING taking home the awards for Best Editing and Sound Design, reports Vladan Petkovic at Cineuropa. The Parisian Cinéma du Réel also finished up last week, with a wealth of film reviews and interviews from the festival coming in from the fine folks at DesistFilm.

Overseas a pair of major doc pitching events took place. Filmmaker Magazine’s Pamela Cohn wrote an extensive outline of this year’s CPH:FORUM, “which was exceptionally well-produced and organized by Daniella Eversby, Kartrine Kiilgaard, and their team in a beautiful, comfortable, convivial setting with good coffee, tea and glorious pastries because: Denmark.” Meanwhile at Realscreen, Daniele Alcinii covered this year’s MIPDoc International Pitch in Cannes, where “director Mina Keshavarz’s feature-length documentary SOORA: BREAKING THE SILENCE impressed the judges…with its story following the efforts of four women battling to outlaw domestic violence in Iran,” winning the pitch prize and receiving editorial coverage in MIPTV’s Daily News, on the MIPDoc website and MIPBlog; entrance to MIPDoc 2019; and one free project registration in the MIPDoc Screening Library in 2019.

Here at Stranger Than Fiction, you may have noticed that we’ve announced our 2018 Spring Season which is set to kick off on April 17th with Sara Driver’s BOOM FOR REAL: THE TEENAGE YEARS OF JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT and run through June 5th at IFC Center. Season tickets are now on sale here.

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Monday Memo: Hot Docs Lineup Reaches Gender Parity


At this point, there is no doubt about the incredible range of nonfiction productions that are available through all sorts of distribution channels, from the festival circuit to the countless streaming services accessible form your very own couch, yet folks like Mark Kennedy are here to remind us that we are in a golden age of documentaries in his latest piece outlining just a sliver of the quality content that is currently available in The Washington Post. Meanwhile, Guy Lodge, writing at The Guardian, attempted to unpack why documentary sequels like MARCH OF THE PENGUINS 2 are on the rise, summerizing “…it’s only the latest in a recent run of tardy sequels to culture-defining documentaries of the previous decade and beyond – evidence, perhaps, that even the documentary realm has fallen prey to the industry’s risk-averse devotion to existing properties and proven formulae, though few have fully made the case for returning to the well.”

Thankfully, the festival circuit, with new lineups announced this week for Toronto’s Hot Docs and the Film Society at Lincoln Center’s Art of the Real, generally offers a reprieve from such contrivances. Most excitingly, the Hot Docs programmers were keen to reveal this year’s edition of the festival has reached gender parity with fifty percent of the films on offer made by women filmmakers, reports The Globe and Mail’s Barry Hertz. Looking a bit deeper at the Hot Docs program, Selina Chignall of Realscreen spoke with the filmmakers behind THE HEAT: A KITCHEN REVOLUTION, UNITED WE FAN, and THE ACCOUNTANT OF AUSCHWITZ, each of which is due to have their world premieres in Toronto next month.

Last weekend saw the conclusion of this year’s edition of CPH:DOX, where Marcus Lindeen’s THE RAFT won the Dox:Award, Elizabeth and Gulistan Mirzaei’s LAILA AT THE BRIDGE took home the F:ACT Award, and Jumana Manna’s WILD RELATIVES was honored with the New:Vision Award for its “groundbreaking experiments in the area between documentary and artistic reflection.” The staff at Desist Film have posted a wealth of reviews from the festival for those interested in delving further. Just as CPH:DOX wound down, the Parisian doc fest Cinéma du Reél kicked off, with Basil Tsiokos writing up an overview of the new docs on offer over at What (not) To Doc. Looking back a few weeks, Tayler Montague of Reverse Shot and Irina Trocan writing at Sight & Sound both posted thorough festival reviews of this year’s True/False, while Film Comment published an interview by Rooney Elmi with Khalik Allah, whose incredible new film BLACK MOTHER had its world premiere in Columbia.

Tomorrow night at IFC Center, our 2018 Winter Season concludes with THE CHINA HUSTLE, with director Jed Rothstein in attendance for a live post-screening Q&A. Tickets are still available here.

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