FOCAL Awards 2018 host Hardeep Singh Kohli
Every year the London based FOCAL Awards celebrate the best use and preservation of archival material in cinema. Last Tuesday, the 2018 FOCAL International Award winners were announced – Bill Morrison’s DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME won Best Use of Footage in an Arts Production, Raoul Peck’s I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO won Best Use of Footage in a Cinematic Feature, Peter Bratt’s DOLORES took home Best Use of Footage in a Factual Production, and Daniel Lindsay and T. J. Martin’s LA 92 was honored with Best Use of Footage in a History Feature.
On that award season wavelength, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed that it is “extending invitations to join the organization to 928 artists and executives who have distinguished themselves by their contributions to theatrical motion pictures.” Of those invited, 49% are female, bringing the overall Academy membership of women to 31%, and 38% of new members are 38%, bringing the overall membership of people of color to 16%, and 85 of those invited work in the documentary field. Those invited include doc filmmakers such as Bill and Turner Ross, Evgeny Afineevsky, Nanfu Wang, Yance Ford, Petra Costa and Katy Chevigny.
While the Academy is tinkering with its very makeup, Ben Travers at IndieWire is already debating what films might win big at the Emmys. He notes, “HBO has a slew of contenders, all of which have caused a stir in and outside the industry. ANDRE THE GIANT has big-name subjects supporting the doc on the famous wrestler-turned-actor, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robin Wright, Billy Crystal, and David Letterman. THE ZEN DIARIES OF GARRY SHANDLING is a personal passion project from Judd Apatow, and his intimate understanding of the late comedian combined with his influential friends should help set the doc apart. Meanwhile, ELVIS PRESLEY: THE SEARCHER has the pull of The King himself.”
Many of this past week’s highlights are not necessarily exclusively doc related, but they are worth your attention none-the-less. In The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz reported that “On Wednesday, Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson announced at the Women in Film Los Angeles Crystal + Lucy Awards that both TIFF and the Sundance Film Festival in Utah will allocate 20 per cent of their respective press credentials to underrepresented writers.” IndieWire’s Eric Kohn notes, “The announcement came just days after a report by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative revealed that women wrote only 22.2 percent of 19,559 reviews of the 100 top-grossing films posted to Rotten Tomatoes.” Jenna Marotta further detailed the release, “The report found that 63.9 percent of those reviews were written by white men, versus white women (18.1 percent), underrepresented men (13.8 percent), and underrepresented women (4.1 percent).” Meanwhile at Mel Magazine, Jessica Ritchey took on this issue from a different angle with her incisive piece, “You’re Doing Women No Favors With Your Mocking ‘Ugh, Only Straight White Men Like This’ Takes.”
Maybe the most read pieces of the week came from Eric Allen Hatch, former programmer of the Maryland Film Festival, in which drops a weighty manifesto via Filmmaker Magazine on the future of arthouse programming a-la Steven Soderbergh’s 2013 “State of Cinema” address. “MOONLIGHT, GET OUT, and I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO were not ‘surprise hits,’ they were the triumphant first blast of what the next 25 years of moviegoing will look like. As the successes of these and other films cohere in the marketplace, tone-deaf gatekeepers’ stale assumptions of what art house films and audiences look like will no longer fly—not artistically, and not financially. The reactionary people who, over the past two decades, have tripped up visionary cinema’s path to the big screen with their own lack of vision are on their way out.”
It doesn’t seem possible, but this week’s memo is my 150th, so much thanks to Raphaela and Thom for giving me a venue to share each week’s best in documentary news. It a source of info I deeply appreciated before it was passed on to me by Rahul Chadha, and I continue to cherish now that I’m the one sifting through the news each week. I hope you find these weekly roundups as helpful and enlightening as I. And with that, on to the news!
Last Tuesday, the Czech Republic’s Karlovy Vary Film Festival announced its documentary competition lineup for its 53rd edition, which runs June 29-July 7. Of the twelve films in competition, eight are world premieres, notably Vitaly Mansky’s PUTIN’S WITNESSES, Audrius Stonys and Kristīne Briede’s BRIDGES OF TIME. Meanwhile, Basil Tsiokos geared up for San Fransisco’s SF DocFest (May 31-June 14) and Cape Town and Johannesburg’s Encounters Documentary Festival (May 31-June 10) by delving into the new nonfiction offerings making their debut at each festival over at What (not) To Doc.
Tomorrow, our 2018 Spring Season concludes with one of my favorite films of the last year in Jason Kohn’s hilarious and heartbreaking portrait of famed tennis coach Nick Bollettieri in LOVE MEANS ZERO with a live Q&A with the director himself. Tickets for our closing night event can still be had here.
Still from ATOMIC CAFE
Following the grand ball that is the Cannes Film Festival and a double header week for us here at Stranger Than Fiction, it feels like just about everyone was in need of a breather. The long holiday weekend likely contributed to this unusually light week for documentary news. It’s almost unheard of to go a week without some kind of festival announcement, grants are awarded, or some prize is being given to someone. Outside Charlie Phillips‘s preview of the Sheffield Doc/Fest in The Guardian, there has been nothing of the sort for the past seven days.
Tomorrow, we continue our 2018 Spring Season of Stranger Than Fiction at the IFC Center with a special screening of Pierce Rafferty & Kevin Rafferty’s doc classic ATOMIC CAFE in a new, beautiful 4K restoration. Both of the directors will be on hand for a live Q&A following the screening. Tickets are still available here.
Still from Stefano Savona's SAMOUNI ROAD
The curtains have closed on this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and though no mention of the festival’s premiere documentary prize is not mentioned anywhere on its official awards page, according to Pat Mullen at POV Magazine, the jury awarded Stefano Savona’s SAMOUNI ROAD this year’s L‘Œil d’or for best documentary. Mullen continues, “SAMOUNI ROAD offers a story of celebration in a rural community in the outskirts of Gaza City as a family prepares for a wedding and finds a moment to heal and move forward after the war. The film won out of 17 documentaries in competition. Honourable mentions went to Mark Cousins’ THE EYES OF ORSON WELLES and Michel Toesca’s LIBRE.”
Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Savona’s film “is devastating and yet oddly distanced, leaving the viewer with sorrow, indignation but also space for reflection on the cruelty and injustice of Israel’s tactics in its war against Palestine”, while Jay Weissberg of Variety said it is “destined to become a touchstone in the cinematic representation of the [Gaza] Strip”. Meanwhile, Peter Bradshaw relayed in The Guardian that THE EYES OF ORSON WELLES is a “whimsical but heartfelt love letter to Welles”, as Damon Wise spoke with Mark Cousin about the film for Deadline. And back at The Hollywood Reporter, Jordan Mintzer put forth a lukewarm take on Michel Toesca’s doc on farmer-turned-activist Cedric Herrou.
This week at the IFC Center, our 2018 Spring Season of Stranger Than Fiction continues with a pair of screenings in Liz Garbus’s THE FOURTH ESTATE tomorrow night and Parvez Sharma’s A JIHAD FOR LOVE on Thursday evening, both featuring live Q&As with their respective filmmakers. Tickets for each are still available here.