Before last night’s best picture debacle cemented the 2017 Oscars as one of the wildest on record, Ezra Edelman’s eight hour American epic O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA made history as the longest film to ever win an Oscar, regardless of category, just after taking Best Documentary Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards the night before.. Shortly thereafter, Orlando von Einsiedel took home the award for Best Doc Short Subject for THE WHITE HELMETS. The full list of Oscar winners can be found here. Leading up to the ceremony, Joel Bocko made a video essay for Fandor on the many merits of Edelman’s film, titled NOT JUST O.J., Mandalit Del Barco looked at the trio of docs up for Oscars that dealt directly with Syria’s civil war at NPR, while at ABC News, Taylor Maple outlined in detail how the Student Academy Awards may open doors to the film industry for its young honorees. And over at IDA’s blog, Caty Borum Chattoo shared a telling study of race and gender in Oscar-shortlisted documentaries from 2008-2017.
Tomorrow night at the IFC Center, we will be hosting a very special 25th anniversary screening of Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s landmark documentary BROTHER’S KEEPER. To help mark the occasion, Berlinger will be on hand for a live Q&A moderated by Morgan Spurlock! This show is now sold out.
Still from MACHINES, directed by Rahul Jain. Courtesy of Autlook Films.
“In these times of fake news and alternative facts, we need the voices of documentarians more than ever to hold the powerful to account and explore the nuance of the world that cable news squawkers deny. And, just perhaps, to help us make our world a little more compassionate.” On a day like today, in times likes these, it is heartening to read such words of fervent inspiration. Writing an impassioned, must-read guest column last week in The Hollywood Reporter, Simon Kilmurry, executive director of the International Documentary Association, wrote a spirited call to arms for the documentary filmmaking community in which he, and all of us, seek hope, inspiration and truth in non-fiction cinematic storytelling.
Tomorrow at the IFC Center, our winter season continues with a special screening of the truly stranger than fiction tale of TICKLED, co-presented by HBO Documentary Films. The film’s co-director David Farrier and film lawyer Cam Stracher will both be on hand for a live Q&A following the film. Tickets are still available here.
Oscar Class of '16 (Photo credit: Image Group LA / ©A.M.P.A.S.)
In a week relatively quiet on the doc front, the topic of diversity and gender inequality within the filmmaking community as a whole once again reared its head. A pair of pieces found in Filmmaker Magazine via Esther B. Robinson (The Data Says, “We Have a Problem”) and doc filmmaker Katy Chevigny (Can She Pull It Off?) led the charge. Chevingny writes, “Just last month, in January, 2016, the Center for the Study of Women in Film and Television at San Diego State University released a new study that showed women made up a mere 9% of directors of films in 2015. Seeing that statistic — 9% — made me wonder anew: why haven’t women become more prominent among the ranks of directors? And more puzzling still, even if the numbers are low, why are they not growing? The numbers are staying put, hovering between 7% and 11% each year since 1998, according to the Center’s review of the top 250 top-grossing films.”
Adding fuel to the conversation, Variety publishd a piece by Addie Morfoot examining gender bias in the documentary world, while Anne Thompson celebrated the female-centric activism that took place at this year’s Sundance Film Festival at indieWIRE. In the same vein, Kate Erbland posted a piece titled 7 Films to Catch Up On at This Year’s Female-Powered Athena Film Festival, naming STF alum TRAPPED among the listed. And on a related note, indieWIRE is also currently a news editor for its regular Women and Hollywood column.
This coming week is somewhat special for us here at Stranger Than Fiction, as we have two screenings on our docket. Tomorrow we host directors Jon Nealon and Jenny Raskin, along with video artist Skip Blumberg for a screening of their film HERE COME THE VIDEOFREEX, which charts the path of the titular underground video collective from their assignment on the counterculture beat for CBS News to their rupture with the network and creation of a radical pirate television station in upstate New York. Tickets for this screening are stil available here. On Thursday evening, Thom Powers will play host to the already sold out event, THE MAKING OF “MAKING A MURDERER”, a special 90-minute interview with MAKING A MURDERER directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, accompanied by clips, on how the project came into being. They’ll discuss the ten year process of reporting, editing and releasing the series.
David Carr in 2008. Photo by Stephen Chernin of Associated Press.
With NBC news anchor Brian Williams losing the world’s trust over a pack of lies and the tragic death of 60 MINUTES correspondent Bob Simon in an automobile accident, this week has been rough for journalism, but the passing of beloved New York Times cultural commentator David Carr late Thursday evening may be the toughest to take for many in the documentary filmmaking community. His family at The Times have put together a loving tribute with various articles from co-workers like A.O. Scott and many links to video moments with Carr, while Andrew Rossi, the director of PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES, a film in which Carr came to the fore as the heart and soul of the newspaper, wrote his own memorial to the man who he inevitably became friends with following the film.
In the wake of the unfortunate news, Variety’s James Rainey wrote his own appreciative piece on Carr’s unlikely career in journalism and Realscreen’s Barry Walsh collected responses to the news from the documentary community. Just hours before Carr collapsed in the offices of The Times, he hosted a discussion with the team behind CITIZENFOUR – Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden – as part of the TimesTalks series hosted at The New School’s John L Tishman Auditorium in New York.
Looking up, Stranger Than Fiction continues tomorrow at the IFC Center with BEST OF EGG: THE ARTS SHOW (2000-’03), curating the cream of the crop from a show considered by many to be one of the best arts programs ever broadcast in America. The screening begins at 8pm with a post-screening Q&A featuring producers Jeff Folmsbee, Mark Mannucci and others to follow.