Monday Memo: True/False Announces 2017 Lineup & Podcast


I’ve returned after a week away from the cold, movies, the internet and headlines feeling mentally rejuvenated and ready to get back into the swing of things. A bit of ocean air seems to have done me well. And being that next month I’ll be heading to Columbia, Missouri once again for this year’s edition of the True/False Film Festival, it is exciting to find that they’ve revealed not only their 2017 lineup and schedule, but that they will be launching a new bi-weekly podcast – the True/False Podcast – on which “True/False programmers will sit down with filmmakers and tackle a new topic each episode.” The first episode is scheduled to go live two weeks before the festival begins, on February 23.

Speaking of podcasts, last week’s episode of Pure Nonfiction featured a conversation between our own Thom Powers and John Heilemann, co-creator of TRUMPED: INSIDE THE GREATEST POLITICAL UPSET OF ALL TIME, which aired on Showtime last week after its Sundance premiere.

Tomorrow, we here at Stranger Than Fiction are celebrating Valentine’s Day with a very special screening of THE LOVING STORY, which tells the dramatic story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple living in Virginia in the 1950s, and their landmark Supreme Court Case, Loving v. Virginia, that changed history. Director Nancy Buirski will be on hand for a live post-screening Q&A. Tickets and season passes are still available here.

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Monday Memo: Oscar Noms, PGA Awards & Sundance Overshadowed By Trump


It’s been an incredibly difficult week to keep up with documentary news, as my normal means of news gathering have been swamped with story after story of Trump’s growing list of executive actions, and understandably so. It’s times like these that make us reconsider the importance of the arts and the industries that grease their wheels. I mean, why read about award shows and film festivals while journalists are being charged with felonies for covering the protests during the inauguration, Stephen Bannon has publicly stated that media should “keep its mouth shut” and the president himself has issued a an order on immigration that severely restricts immigration from seven Muslim countries and more? Because cinema, and more specifically, documentaries, epitomize the human condition, inspire empathy, and more often than not advocate for social change in times of political unrest – now more than ever.

In response to Trump’s immigration restrictions, Field of Vision currently has a callout for footage from inside airports pertaining to the Muslim Ban. Anyone with footage can reach out to contact@fieldofvision.org or share it anoymously in their secure drop. Reporting from Sundance, IndieWire’s Anthony Kaufman, Realscreen’s Valentina Valentini and Vulture’s Jada Yuan each parsed how the festival’s documentary selections worked in relief to the Trump administration thus far. Even this week’s episode of Pure Nonfiction, featuring Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives, who was profiled in the 2011 documentary THE ISLAND PRESIDENT, deals directly with the political impact of documentary films and the current political climate we’ve found ourselves in.

Right here at home, we announced last Friday that Stranger Than Fiction will be returning to the IFC Center for our 2017 Winter Season, which begins Tuesday, February 7th with the NYC premiere of Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon’s THE WAR SHOW, about “a Syrian radio DJ who documents the experiences of herself and her friends as their dreams of hope and liberation in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring give way to the grim realities of repression, forced emigration and extremism.” Alaa Hassan, the film’s producer, will be on hand for a live post-screening Q&A. Tickets to our opening night event, as well as season passes, can be purchased here.

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Monday Memo: Sundance Approaches and Phones in Theaters?


The first full week of 2017 has already flashed before our eyes, but not a whole lot happened in terms of documentary news. Most excitingly, Sundance approaches and giddy critics are chomping at the bit to see what will be the most remarkable finds this year in Park City. While the festival’s Documentary Programming Associate Basil Tsiokos continues to roll out his previews of each film over at What (not) To Doc, while at Doc Soup, Tom Roston has composed a list of docs to watch out, not just at Sundance, but also Slamdance and in theaters later in the year. In other festival news, the Rotterdam International Film Festival revealed their lineup, which included the lengthily titled duo Rong Guang Rong’s CHILDREN ARE NOT AFRAID OF DEATH, CHILDREN ARE AFRAID OF GHOSTS and Jung Yoonsuk’s BAMSEOM PIRATES SEOUL INFERNO. Doc filmmakers should also take note that today is Hot Docs’ Late Deadline for submissions – you can do so here.

In a rare role reversal, our own Thom Powers was at the receiving end of questioning by Daniel Clarkson Fisher for Nonfics about “what he looks for, what trends he’s seeing, and how he continues to champion a greater appreciation for nonfiction cinema”. A highlight — “Fisher: The New York Times has used the phrase “kingmaker” to describe your place in the world of documentary — Powers: Mind you, this is the same newspaper that told you Iraq had weapons of mass destruction”.

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Monday Memo: IDA Documentary Awards, Oscar Shortlist, Sundance Premieres & More


Early in December there is always an avalanche of awards and lists and festival announcements and more, so it’s no surprise that at the top of this week’s news is that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has released it’s shortlist of the 15 films still in the running for the Oscar for Best Documentary. Cara Buckley highlighted the racially and politically driven focus of this year’s shortlisters for The New York Times, while Christopher Campbell outlined where can find all 15 films over at Nonfics. The 32nd annual IDA Documentary Awards also took place this past week, with Ezra Edelman’s O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA winning Best Feature, Orlando von Einsiedel’s THE WHITE HELMETS winning Best Short, and Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi’s MAKING A MURDERER taking home Best Limited Series. Additionally, IDA published a lengthy interview with its Amicus Award Honorees, Norman and Lyn Lear. Other award news included the European Film Academy naming Gianfranco Rosi’s FIRE AT SEA as the Best European Documentary at the European Film Awards over the weekend, and Cinema Eye Honors naming their immensely diverse 2017 Heterodox Award nominees in ALL THESE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS, THE FITS, KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE, MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART, and NEON BULL.

Adding to the chorus of praise that is awards season, a whole host of best of lists turned up over the last week, each with their own nonfiction infusion. The staffers over at The New York Times, Vulture, Slant and IndieWire, each published their’s. Included between the lists was NO HOME MOVIE, WEINER, CAMERAPERSON, HOMELAND: IRAQ YEAR ZERO, and of course, O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA, amongst others.

Just a week after Sundance dropped its competition linup, its Premieres section has been revealed and features new work from Lucy Walker, Barbara Kopple, Stanley Nelson, Rory Kennedy and more. Shortly thereafter, the Documentary Shorts were also announced. On the opposite coast, the Tribeca Film Festival hired former SVP of acquisitions and productions at Alchemy, Jeff Deutchman as its new Programmer at Large, according to Graham Winfrey of IndieWire. And Basil Tsiokos looked at the new nonfiction offerings of this year’s Dubai International Film Festival, while Leo Goldsmith looked back at his experience at Doclisboa for Film Comment.

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Monday Memo: THE LOOK OF SILENCE Wins Best Doc At Spirit Awards, Snubbed at Oscars


Finally, the glitz and glam of award season has settled and despite the avalanche of awards thrown at the feet of Joshua Oppenheimer for his second monolithic work of non-fiction in two years – Cinema Eye Awards, IDA Awards, Gotham Awards, and a long list of other awards from just about every major festival on the circuit – not to mention Best Documentary at the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday afternoon, the Academy predictably cast their vote for Asif Kapadia’s AMY, which managed to beat out THE LOOK OF SILENCE to win the Oscar for Best Documentary.

Though Oppenheimer lost, he appeared at the center of Eric Kohn‘s post-Oscar rundown at indieWIRE and in the media quite a lot leading up to Oscar night, having spoken with Errol Morris about the recent interest in true crime docs, also at indieWIRE, while his friend and subject Adi Rukun spoke out for the first time about why he risked his own life for the good of the film. Tom Roston wrote about Adi’s involvement and collaboration with Oppenheimer at Doc Soup, while both indieWIRE’s Chris O’Falt and the Washington Post’s Adam Taylor outlined how the film has brought social change abroad and right here in the US.

Just a few days prior to Oscar night, the Doc Impact Awards named CHASING ICE, CITIZENFOUR, FOOD CHAINS, MINERS SHOT DOWN, and VIRUNGA as the 2016 winners, having made the biggest social impact on the world since their release. But as we know, awards aren’t everything. A whole host of critics meditated this past week on their experiences at this year’s Berlinale and the non-fiction films they found on offer, from Artforum’s Travis Jeppesen, BFI’s Geoff Andrew, and The Guardian’s Andrew Pulver, to Ruben Demasure in MUBI’s Notebook and Kevin B. Lee at Fandor’s Keyframe. Also at Notebook, Locarno’s Artistic Director Carlo Chatrian praised Werner Herzog and his latest doc Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World, while Samuel Wigley of the BFI listed 10 films to see at this year’s Borderlines Film Festival at 25 venues across Herefordshire, Shropshire and the Marches in the UK, including a handful of docs. And speaking of the UK,

A new three day documentary film festival named DOC10, presented by the Chicago Media Project and headed by Paula Froehle, Steve Cohen, Sarah Nobles, and programmed by Anthony Kaufman, will have its inaugural edition at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago from April 1st through the 3rd. Featuring just 10 films over 3 days, the festival aims to “present the full spectrum of current nonfiction filmmaking, from important social issue films and captivating music docs to engaging vérité and experimental work.”

After our successful Stranger Than Fiction dual screenings of last week, we return to our normal schedule tomorrow with a special 15th Anniversary screening of Kate Davis’ 2001 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winner SOUTHERN COMFORT at the IFC Center. Tickets for this screening are still available here.

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