Monday Memo: Mid-Summer Festival Doldrums, Another List and BRITDOC Gets A New Name


In a light week, the lights are shining back at the previous seventeen years. Following a string of fascinating lists naming the best films of the 21st century thus far, the IndieWire team has put together their choices for the Top 25 Best Documentaries of the 21st Century, which, while arguing for some surprising recent releases (ALL THESE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS, KEDI) and not so surprising choices (THE ACT OF KILLING, STORIES WE TELL), importantly notes how technology has shifted our perception of what is possible from the form. Astutely put, “On one hand, digital technology has infinitely expanded our range of vision, and some of the modern era’s most essential docs have been shot on consumer-grade equipment like iPhones and GoPro cameras. On the other hand, these tools haven’t just granted us new ways of seeing, they’ve also galvanized our desire to look, which in turn has stoked an unprecedented degree of interest in the documentary format on the whole.”

As far as festivals go, we are in the mid-summer doldrums, post-Karlovy Vary, pre-Locarno. That said, a bit of coverage of this year’s AFI Docs came in from Christopher Llewellyn Reed over at Hammer to Nail. Reed interviewed Stefan Avalos, the director of STRAD STYLE, a film about a man trying to replicate Giuseppe Guarneri’s “Il Cannone” violin, which had its debut earlier this year at Slamdance. He also reviewed Reuben Atlas and Samuel D. Pollard’s ACORN AND THE FIRESTORM, and Amanda Lipitz’s much loved STEP, which heads into wide release thanks to Fox Searchlight in the coming weeks.

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Monday Memo: Emmy Noms Revealed as CHASING CORAL Hits Netflix


In a week in which scientists successfully actualized teleportation and Trump found himself mired in a Russian influenced campaign scandal, it may have been difficult to wade through the news stories to find the notable documentary related stories (light as they may be this week). Most noteworthy are the 2017 Emmy Awards nominations, which include AMANDA KNOX, THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS and 13TH among those in the running for Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction Special, and O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA, OKLAHOMA CITY and THE WHITE HELMETS up for an award for Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking.

Looking at the festival circuit, Basil Tsiokos noted that the 34th Jerusalem Film Festival is now in full swing (with a fascinating selection of docs in competition), while both the Melbourne International Film Festival and the Locarno Festival have announced their programs. More immediately relevant, today PBS is launching its 6th Annual PBS Online Film Festival where 25 films, including POV’s OUR VOICES ARE RARELY HEARD are available to stream through July 28th.

Though festival lineup announcements bring new feature length titles to the fore, PBS’s newly revealed fall lineup includes Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s 18-hour, 10-part series, THE VIETNAM WAR, which will have its world premiere on Sundays through Thursdays beginning September 17th. Other notable fall inclusions are Michael Collins’ ALMOST SUNRISE (which Glenn Kenny warmly wrote about at RogerEbert.com this week) and John Scheinfeld’s CHASING TRANE.

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Monday Memo: CITY OF GHOSTS & THE REAGAN SHOW Reach Audiences


You may have noticed the lack of last week’s holiday styled memo, but this week we’ve returned with plenty of nonfiction news to get you up to speed. Up top we’ve got IndieWire’s Anne Thompson making her early predictions for what docs will be in the running for the 2018 Oscar for Best Documentary. Unsurprisingly, Matthew Heineman’s CITY OF GHOSTS (see this week’s slew of coverage on the film below), Agnès Varda’s FACES, PLACES, and Laura Poitras’ RISK are among the forerunners thus far.

In festival happenings, Ben Nicholson reported for Sight & Sound on this year’s edition of the Sheffield Doc/Fest, the first under its new chief programmer Luke Moody. At What (not) To Doc, Basil Tsiokos put forth his usual thorough overview of new nonfiction for the 35th edition of LA’s Outfest, noting a pair of centerpiece selections in Lori Kaye’s KEVIN AUCOIN: BEAUTY & THE BEAST IN ME and Katherine Fairfax Wright’s BEHIND THE CURTAIN: TODRICK HALL. Doc filmmakers should also take note that this coming Friday is DOC NYC‘s Extended Deadline for submissions for its 2017 edition.

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Monday Memo: Independent Lens Announces 2017-2018 Lineup


Monday is upon us once again and as we look back at last week’s documentary happenings it seems that PBS’s announcement of its lineup for the 19th season of Independent Lens (via Variety’s Addie Morfoot) should take top billing in this week’s memo. The new season is set to kick of on November 6th, 2017 with John Scheinfeld’s CHASING TRANE and will run through February 26th, 2018, concluding with Peter Bratt’s DOLORES. Among the other selections are Nanfu Wang’s I AM ANOTHER YOU, Theo Anthony’s RAT FILM, Peter Nicks’s THE FORCE, and Jennifer Brea’s UNREST.

As Laura Poitras’s RISK, a complex, often unflattering film about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, has reached theaters throughout the United Kingdom, it appears that Wikileaks has sent Cease & Desist letters to various distributors of the film, according to Timothy Geigner at Tech Dirt. Despite Wikileaks’s stated mission of open information, the exact wording in the letters were as such, “We therefore demand that you immediately cease the use and distribution of all images of the Named Participants and that you desist from this or any other infringement of the rights of the Named Participants in the future.” The film was released regardless, gleaning a thorough and thoughtful review from Danny Leigh in Financial Times.

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Monday Memo: Sundance Institute Announces Documentary Edit and Story Lab Projects


It will be a busy week for film festival goers, with New York’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival, Sheffield Doc/Fest and the long running Sydney Film Festival all having begun late last week and running though the end of this weekend. Basil Tsiokos outlined the new non-fiction offerings for each festival over at his What (not) To Doc blog, just as Joshua Brunsting previewed the films at the 28th edition of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival and Tom Roston spoke with the festival’s senior programmer, Leah Sapin, about this year’s curatorial focus on empowerment for Salon. Writing for The Star, Graham Walker listed twenty things to see and do this year at Sheffield Doc/Fest, while Matt Turner looked at how a trio of docs are challenging the narrative around the Syria crisis for Little White Lies. Covering the Sydney Film Festival, the fine folks at 4:3 have already published Ivan Čerečina‘s review of AUSTERLITZ and Anders Furze‘s take on KING OF THE BELGIANS.

Last Thursday, the Sundance Institute “announced the eight projects selected for its annual Documentary Edit and Story Labs, taking place in two sessions at the Sundance Resort in Utah from June 23-July 1 and July 7-15.” Projects selected include IMPEACHMENT by Brazilian director Petra Costa and editor Jordana Berg, and PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF DESIRE by director Hao Wu and editor Nanfu Wang. IndieWire’s Kate Erbland dissected the announcement, noting that projects “explore such timely themes as modern day lynchings, the Dakota Access Pipeline, impeachment, immigration detention centers, and more.” Looking back at the Sundance Documentary Film Program and the Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship’s 3rd annual Contemplating the Cut series, which took place back at the beginning of April, Colin Nusbaum outlined his tips and takeaways for doc editors over at the POV Blog.

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