Monday Memo: Sundance Institute & Kartemquin Announce Grantees


Still from Anna Fitch and Banker White's HEAVEN THROUGH THE BACKDOOR

In the lead up this week’s midterm elections, doc news has been in unusual abundance. On Thursday, the Sundance Institute announced that “Thirty-three nonfiction works from seventeen countries comprise the latest Sundance Institute Documentary Fund and Stories of Change Grantees, announced today. 81% of the supported projects have at least one woman producer or director; 48% originate from outside the US.” Grantees include Lucrecia Martel, Manuel Abramovich, Violeta Ayala, and Nanfu Wang. That same day, Kartemquin Films revealed the recipients of $150,000 in grants, as well as the fact “that in 2019, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation will support Kartemquin’s new Diverse Voices Accelerator Fund, pledging $50,000 annually in grants to fellows and alumni of their Diverse Voices in Docs (DVID) program, a professional mentorship and development program for documentary filmmakers of color.” Those awarded include Kartemquin co-founder Gordon Quinn, Bing Liu, and Laura Checkoway.

As awards season ramps up (and the Oscar eligible doc list continues to expand), it’s always interesting to see what organizations and festivals across the pond rally around. The newly announced British Independent Film Award nominees for Best Documentary are a prime example of how different the results might be from the US marketplace. The five nominees are Steve Sullivan’s BEING FRANK: THE CHRIS SIEVEY STORY, Orlando Von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara’s EVELYN, Steven Eastwood and Elhum Shakerifar’s ISLAND, Felip Bustos Sierra’s NAE PASARAN, and Chris Martin and Tom Brisley’s UNDER THE WIRE. Additionally, DocLisboa announced its 2018 award winners, with the City of Lisbon Award for Best International Competition film going to GREETINGS FROM FREE FORESTS by Ian Soroka and the Award for Best Portuguese Competition film going to TERRA by Hiroatsu Suzuki and Rossana Torres. The Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival also revealed that among its award winners Alexandra Kandy Longuet’s VACANCY won Best World Documentary, Nora Agapi’s TIMEBOX won Best Central and East European Documentary, and Karel Žalud’s ENCLOSED WORLD took home Best Czech Documentary.

On the domestic festival front, Dave McNary reported in Variety, “After 18 years under Film Independent, the Los Angeles Film Festival is no more. Film Independent announced Wednesday that it was ending the festival — which had been moved this year from June to September — and replace it with year-round events aimed at building community and broadening its support of visual storytellers.” Frederick Blichert of Realscreen caught up with documentary filmmakers Ashley York and Sally Rubin to respond to the news and discuss the lasting impact of the LA Film Festival on the indie documentary industry.

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Monday Memo: CAMERAPERSON Comes Out On Top (again) At Sheffield Doc/Fest


Being that this past week we wrapped up another successful season here at Stranger Than Fiction, there was much less doc news than last week’s jam packed agenda, and it just so happens to be my birthday, I’m going to attempt to keep this week’s memo brief. That said, the most reported on event this past week was the Sheffield Doc/Fest, which wrapped up Wednesday evening, unsurprisingly awarded Kirsten Johnson’s CAMERAPERSON with the Grand Jury Award, and gave HBO’s Sheila Nevins the Creative Leadership Award for making “an essential contribution to the international documentary industry.” Alongside Nick Fraser, commissioner for BBC’s Storyville, Nevins also took part in an ‘In Conversation’ event at the festival, which Realscreen’s Manori Ravindran dutifully covered. At IndieWire, Chris O’Falt spoke with six doc filmmakers who have successfully pitched projects at the Sheffield Doc/Fest MeetMarket in the past about what worked and what didn’t. Taking a broader look at the fest, Ros Cranston reflected on the formal and technical aspects of filmmaking that were on display in Sheffield for the BFI.

Just as Doc/Fest wrapped, Brooklyn’s BAMcinemaFest was gearing up. Touching on the festival’s offerings, including the various high profile docs lining the program, A.O. Scott wrote a preview feature of the fest in The New York Times, as did Calum Marsh in Village Voice, Matt Prigge for Metro, the staff at IndieWire and Basil Tsiokos at What (not) To Doc. Tsiokos also previewed the Edinburgh International Film Festival, which began the same day as BAMcinemaFest, and San Francisco’s Frameline, which concludes Sunday, June 26th.

A few weeks back, Robert S. Boynton of The New York Times reported that The Museum of Modern Art had “wrongly canceled the New York debut of UNDER THE SUN, a documentary about North Korea that has been criticized by that country and Russia,” which was previously scheduled to screen as part of the Doc Fortnight festival back in February. According to reports from Graham Winfrey at IndieWire and Artforum, in seemingly reactionary fashion MoMA has fired Assistant Film Curator Sally Berger, who has been with the museum for 30 years and made the decision to pull the film. In Filmmaker Magazine, Howard Feinstein has lionized Berger, lovingly stating that “nothing can take away from Berger’s record of nonconforming achievements, ahead of their time in an environment hardly known for its artistic courage, especially before MoMA’s acquisition of P.S. 1.,” while reminding that she was a driving force in the development of Doc Fortnight and the promotion of postmodern and avant-garde non-fiction.

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Monday Memo: WNET Pulls Doc Showcases from Monday Nights


This week WNET Thirteen announced that it was removing the doc showcases Independent Lens and POV from Monday nights.

This week Dru Sefton at Current.org reported that New York’s PBS station, WNET, planned to pull both POV and Independent Lens from its lineup in January. At Realscreen, Manori Ravindran also covered the development. At the Kartemquin Films website, the Indie Caucus–a group of independent filmmakers–issued a statement criticizing the move. The Indie Caucus posted a FAQ on WNET’s decision on its blog, asking concerned parties to sign a petition at Change.org.

The International Documentary Association (IDA) site set up a poll for documentary filmmakers regarding Fair Use issues. You can go here to complete it.

Writing for the IDA Jack Lerner wrote on the legal implications of the film THE INNOCENCE OF MUSLIMS.

At Realscreen, Julianna Cummins reported on the development of a new diversity doc training program from Hot Docs and Shaw Media. Also at Realscreen, Manori Ravindran covered the winners of the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards.

Dave McNary of Variety reported that PARIS IS BURNING from director Jennie Livingston would receive the Legacy Award from the Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking. Kevin Ritchie of Realscreen also covered the news.

Writing for Canada’s POV Magazine, Christina Clarke interviewed director Thom Andersen.

At Nonfics.com, Christopher Campbell shared a list of docs available on home viewing platforms like VOD this week. Also at Nonfics.com, Landon Palmer had a list of six docs from the year that had to be seen.

In a piece for Indiewire, Melissa Silverstein shared a list of the best woman-directed docs of 2014.

Back at Realscreen, Charlie Phillips of The Guardian responded to a year-end doc quiz presented by Manori Ravindran.

At Filmmaker Magazine, Esther B. Robinson gathered some pitching advice gleaned from the forum at this year’s CPH:DOX. Also at Filmmaker Magazine, Eli Brown had a piece on 10 tips and observations on pitching docs at this year’s International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA).

At his Kino-Eye site, David Tames interviewed HOLLOW director Elaine McMillion. Tames also had a separate post on the updates to Final Cut Pro X, and its viability as a go-to NLE platform.

Writing for the POV blog, Tom Roston had a piece making the case for Steve James to win an Oscar for his film LIFE ITSELF.

Back at the IDA site, Ron Deutsch had a piece on the effects that two Montreal-based festivals have had on the documentary form.

At the POV blog, Pamela Yates wrote about an ethical complication she encountered after completing the film WHEN THE MOUNTAINS TREMBLE.

Also at the POV blog, Brian Chirls penned a post on the use of a virtual reality map.

Please send any tips or recommendations for the Memo via email here, or by Twitter to @GuerrillaFace. Thanks and have a great week.


Monday Memo: 35th Annual Emmy Nominations Set


The film HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE from director David France was among those nominated for an Emmy for best documentary.

This week the nominees for the 35th Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards were announced. Kevin Ritchie of Realscreen provided coverage of the news, as did Christopher Campbell of Nonfics.com. The ITVS blog made note of its nominated films, as did the POV blog.

Also this week, the Sundance Institute named the recipients of grants from its documentary film program. Writing for Realscreen, Manori Ravinran had some details on the topic.

In a series of posts at The Collaborative, Orly Ravid and Sheri Candler wrote a series of posts on preparing for independent distribution: you can find part one here, part two here and part three here.

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Monday Memo: Life Itself Reaches Theaters


This week the Steve James-helmed film LIFE ITSELF about the late film critic Roger Ebert reached theaters.

This week the Steve James-directed doc LIFE ITSELF about the late film critic Roger Ebert hit theaters. In a post for the Chicago Reader, Ben Sachs interviewed Steve James; Eric Kohn of Indiewire did the same. At the Chicago Sun-Times, Mike Thomas also spoke with James. Adam Schartoff dedicated an entire episode of his Filmwax Radio podcast to speaking with James. Writing for Nonfics.com, Christopher Campbell gave the film five stars and called it “a perfect biography of Roger Ebert.” Back at Indiewire, Sam Adams rounded up some highlights from a Reddit AMA held by James and Ebert’s partner Chaz Ebert. At RogerEbert.com, Odie Henderson had another interview with James, as did Brandon Harris of Filmmaker Magazine. At the Sundance Institute’s website, James spoke with Nate von Zumwalt about the importance of film preservation. And at Ascap.com, Etan Rosenbloom spoke with LIFE ITSELF composer Joshua Abrams.

Premium cable network HBO announced that it would set aside Monday nights for doc airings. At Realscreen, Kevin Ritchie covered the news, as did Jessica Rawden of CinemaBlend. Rick Kissel at Variety also covered the development.

For Indiewire, Paula Bernstein spoke with documentary filmmaker Doug Block about why he was not as insistent on theatrical distribution for his latest film 112 WEDDINGS. Block also sat down for an interview with Jordan M. Smith of Ion Cinema.

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