Monday Memo: Nevins to Leave HBO After Nearly 40 Years

After a week off, I’ve returned to a short stack of doc news that packed quite a punch over the last few days. Most notably, Sheila Nevins, the 78-year-old president of HBO Documentary Films, has revealed that after 38 years of devout service she has decided to leave HBO, reflecting, “I have deprived my life of a life. All I did was work. I was, like, born at HBO and I don’t have to die there. If I stayed any longer, I probably would have died at my desk. I just regret that there’s so little time left.” In Maureen Dowd‘s revelatory feature in The New York Times, she notes, “With a storytelling style that grabs viewers by the throat, Ms. Nevins helped change the image of documentaries from stodgy to provocative. And she helped HBO amass such a pile of Emmys, Peabodys and Oscars that there’s a roomful of glittering laurels at headquarters that’s known as the Holy Shrine of Sheila. She received the first Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award given to a documentarian.” In a separate piece, Dowd played Confirm or Deny with Nevins.

Another sudden departure came as a surprise when filmmaker Morgan Spurlock published a confessional piece titled “I am Part of the Problem,” in which he reveals that in his past a women he had a one night stand with believed that she had been raped, and a former coworker was paid a settlement to keep silent about his history of verbal sexual harassment toward her. Christine Hauser reported the news in The New York Times, while at Realscreen, Daniele Alcinii followed the aftermath of the revelations, seeing Spurlock exit Warrior Poets, the New York-based studio he founded with producing partner Jeremy Chilnick, and NBA superstar LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s SpringHill Entertainment cutting ties with the filmmaker on a planned docuseries focusing on the opening of James’ “I Promise School” — a new public school dedicated to supporting at-risk children in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.

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Monday Memo: Holiday 2016 Edition

As tends to happen as the year draws to a close, doc news and general coverage has slowed to a crawl. The most talked about stories of the week were not necessarily news, but reflective think pieces looking back at this tumultuous year or forward to the era of President Trump and beyond. Kiva Reardon‘s rightful call for female film critics on TIFF’s blog lit up social media, while at IndieWire, Anthony Kaufman dropped a firebrand outline for the doc community titled “Stories of Trump’s America: How Documentary Filmmakers Plan to Escape the Liberal Bubble.” Treading similar territory, Filmmaker Magazine published NUTS! director Penny Lane‘s more personal take in “Notes on Truth (Or, Documentary in the Post-Truth Era).” Taking direct action, Laura Poitras and the fine folks behind Field of Vision and Firelight Media have revealed a new project titled OUR 100 DAYS, that “will produce and distribute 10 shorts that explore topics like the rise in hate crimes, immigration, gender equality and LGBTQ rights,” reports Ashley Lee in The Hollywood Reporter.

Looking much further back, the Library of Congress announced it’s 2016 additions to the National Film Registry, including “THE ATOMIC CAFE (1982), which documents the threat of nuclear war following World War II; PARIS IS BURNING, a 1990 film that explores the complex ballroom subculture among gay men, drag queens and transgender women in New York City; SUZANNE, SUZANNE, an insightful profile of a substance abuser who confronts the legacy of physical abuse; Penelope Spheeris’ controversial, landmark documentary about the hardcore punk-rock scene in Los Angeles,” THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION, and a handful of shorts by Solomon Sir Jones that document the “rich tapestry of everyday life” of African American communities in Oklahoma during the 1920s.

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Monday Memo: 2015 National Film Registry Selections Announced, MAKING A MURDERER Hits Netflix

The holiday season is upon us and with it comes a hail of award season Hollywood hold-offs that generally steal the thunder of non-fiction titles just making their way to theaters (here’s looking at you STAR WARS). Thus, it’s been a fairly quite week for docs, though one that deserves a bit of celebration with the Library of Congress announcing their 2015 National Film Registry titles which include eight works of non-fiction, as Daniel Walber noted at Nonfics. Shirley Clarke‘s PORTRAIT OF JASON, Thom Andersen’s EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE, ZOOPRAXOGRAPHER and Thomas Edison‘s EDISON KINETOSCOPE RECORD OF A SNEEZE (which can now be viewed here) are among this year’s additions deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”, reports Susan King for the Los Angeles Times.

There’s still a solid week and a half before the bell rings out 2015, but the best-of lists continue to roll in from all sides. The Playlist have named their Top 20 Docs of the Year, LA Weekly’s Amy Nicholson listed her Most Essential Docs of the Year, while at Nonfics, Landon Palmer gave an unpredictable rundown of her favorite music docs of 2015. Including a variety of non-fiction features in their general year end best-of lists, Sight & Sound and Film Comment, both of whom included THE LOOK OF SILENCE. Mixing things up a bit, Kevin B. Lee once again “attempted to account for the state of video essays” this year over at Fandor’s Keyframe, gathering a variety of best of lists from key video essayists and theorists, most of which link to the video pieces mentioned.

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