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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Monday Memo: SXSW Award Winners in a WILD WILD COUNTRY


It doesn’t seem possible, yet SXSW has swiftly come and gone, with the festival’s award winners having been announced on Tuesday of last week. Hao Wu’s PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF DESIRE won the Grand Jury prize for in the documentary feature competition, while Charlie Tyrell’s MY DEAD DAD’S PORNO TAPES took home the Jury Award in Documentary Shorts, and TRANSMILITARY by Gabriel Silverman and Fiona Dawson took home the Audience Award. Meanwhile in Denmark, CPH:DOX is just getting started, and unsurprisingly, Basil Tsiokos whipped up a rundown of all the new docs making their debut at the festival over at What (not) To Doc, including those in its international competition for the Dox:Award and its regional competition for the Nordic:Dox Award.

Looking forward, Hot Docs has revealed another wave of titles in its Special Presentations program, bringing the total up to 32 films “showcasing high-profile premieres, award winners, and works by masters or featuring star subjects.” The festival, which runs April 26 through May 6, also revealed the 20 projects set to compete at this year’s Hot Docs Forum. Those that made that cut include new work by Brett Story, Nanfu Wang, Liz Marshall, and Lyric R. Cabral, reports Pat Mullen of POV Magazine. Additionally, the San Francisco International Film Festival unveiled its generous documentary program for this year’s edition, featuring lots of imports from Sundance, TIFF and SXSW.

Tomorrow at IFC Center, our 2018 Winter Season rolls on with Ian Olds and Garrett Scott’s 2005 Falluja doc classic, OCCUPATION: DREAMLAND. Co-director Ian Olds will be in attendance for a live Q&A following the screening. Tickets are still available here.

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Monday Memo: Tribeca & Full Frame Unveil 2018 Lineups


Sensible filmgoers might hope that with ICARUS and HEAVEN IS A TRAFFIC JAM ON THE 405 winning big last week at the Oscars (read Brian Newman‘s piece on breaking the “rules” to win an Oscar for Short Doc at Sub-Genre Media) and awards season coming to its logical conclusion, we could all take a collective sigh of relief and maybe a ever so short cinematic reprieve, but instead film festivals across the land have either just wrapped, are currently in motion, or are just gearing up. Just last week, Columbia, Missouri’s True/False Film Festival took over the modest college town for its 15th edition, garnering universal praise from Daniel Kasman at MUBI’s Notebook, Ben Godar at Nonfics, and Vikram Murthi of RogerEbert.com (my own coverage of the festival will soon be found over at Senses of Cinema). Looking further back, Dan Sullivan covered this year’s edition of the Berlinale for Film Comment, singling out Corneliu Porumboiu’s INFINITE FOOTBALL and Kristina Konrad’s epic ONE OR TWO QUESTIONS, as Eric Hynes dissected a pair of my favorites from this year’s Sundance in Bing Liu’s MINDING THE GAP and Sandi Tan’s SHIRKERS. As I write, four fests around the globe are taking place, each of which Basil Tsiokos wrote previews for at What (not) To Doc: Miami Film Festival, SXSWAmbulante, and Tempo Documentary Festival.

Meanwhile, both the Tribeca Film Festival and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festivals announced their full 2018 lineups. Tribeca is holding the world premieres of 12 new nonfiction films in its documentary competition, in addition to its closing night film, THE FOURTH ESTATE by Liz Garbus, about how the challenges of journalism in the age of Trump, while Full Frame has 14 world premieres on its docket, including David Schalliol’s THE AREA, Katie Galloway and Dawn Valadez’s THE PUSHOUTS, and Anne de Mare’s CAPTURING THE FLAG.

Tonight night, Stranger Than Fiction continues at IFC Center with a rare opportunity to preview the first two episodes of one of the most anticipated documentary series of the year – Maclain and Chapman Way’s WILD WILD COUNTRY, featuring a live Q&A with the directors and Executive Producer Mark Duplass. Tickets are still available here.

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Monday Memo: Oscar Week, Plus New Directors/New Films Lineup Announced


Following the BAFTAs last week, where I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO took home the prize for Best Documentary, it seems the every growing sprawl of awards season is finally about to reach its climactic conclusion with the 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. In The New York Times, Cara Buckley dished a wild yarn on how Russia has been leading a smear campaign against two doc Oscar nominees, noting LAST MEN IN ALEPPO as its major target, “In the Russian media, Mr. Fayyad has been accused of being a Western-funded propagandist whose film is a thinly disguised ‘Al-Qaeda promotional vehicle.’ And, in what might catch members of the academy’s documentary branch by surprise, the film’s Oscar nomination was, according to Russia Insider, clear evidence that ‘the Hollywood celebrity industry is now an integral part of the U.S. state’s propaganda machine.'” Not only is the film being smeared, but the US has officially rejected the visas of the film’s producer, Kareem Abeed, and one of its subjects, White Helmets co-founder Mahmoud Al-Hattar, making it impossible for them to attend the ceremony, reports Beatrice Verhoeven at The Wrap. Meanwhile, the International Documentary Association and the Academy itself have published statements in support of the team behind LAST MEN IN ALEPPO.

In the latest episode of a relatively new documentary podcast called The Fog of Truth, produced by Christopher Llewellyn Reed, Summre Garber and Bart Weiss, the trio discuss the Oscar nominees and a whole host of previous nominees. Other Oscar coverage came in the form of interviews by RogerEbert.com’s Matt Fagerholm with ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL director Steve James and EDITH+EDDIE director Laura Checkoway, another interview with Checkoway by IDA’s Akiva Gottlieb, a profile on James in The Los Angeles Times by Lewis Beale, an interview with STRONG ISLAND director Yance Ford with Cara Buckley in The New York Times, and a feature in The Guardian by Charlie Phillips on the fact that the “most innovative factual films are often under 40 minutes long – and the best of this growing genre are easy to find online” – including EDITH+EDDIE.

Tomorrow, we here at Stranger Than Fiction have the rare opportunity to preview two episodes of FLINT TOWN on the big screen, followed by a conversation with the filmmakers (Zackary Canepari, Drea Cooper and Jessica Dimmock), a few days before the series launches on Netflix. Tickets for this special event are still available here.

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Monday Memo: 2018 SXSW Film Festival Lineup Announced


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.

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