Following the BAFTAs last week, where I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO took home the prize for Best Documentary, it seems the every growing sprawl of awards season is finally about to reach its climactic conclusion with the 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. In The New York Times, Cara Buckley dished a wild yarn on how Russia has been leading a smear campaign against two doc Oscar nominees, noting LAST MEN IN ALEPPO as its major target, “In the Russian media, Mr. Fayyad has been accused of being a Western-funded propagandist whose film is a thinly disguised ‘Al-Qaeda promotional vehicle.’ And, in what might catch members of the academy’s documentary branch by surprise, the film’s Oscar nomination was, according to Russia Insider, clear evidence that ‘the Hollywood celebrity industry is now an integral part of the U.S. state’s propaganda machine.'” Not only is the film being smeared, but the US has officially rejected the visas of the film’s producer, Kareem Abeed, and one of its subjects, White Helmets co-founder Mahmoud Al-Hattar, making it impossible for them to attend the ceremony, reports Beatrice Verhoeven at The Wrap. Meanwhile, the International Documentary Association and the Academy itself have published statements in support of the team behind LAST MEN IN ALEPPO.
In the latest episode of a relatively new documentary podcast called The Fog of Truth, produced by Christopher Llewellyn Reed, Summre Garber and Bart Weiss, the trio discuss the Oscar nominees and a whole host of previous nominees. Other Oscar coverage came in the form of interviews by RogerEbert.com’s Matt Fagerholm with ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL director Steve James and EDITH+EDDIE director Laura Checkoway, another interview with Checkoway by IDA’s Akiva Gottlieb, a profile on James in The Los Angeles Times by Lewis Beale, an interview with STRONG ISLAND director Yance Ford with Cara Buckley in The New York Times, and a feature in The Guardian by Charlie Phillips on the fact that the “most innovative factual films are often under 40 minutes long – and the best of this growing genre are easy to find online” – including EDITH+EDDIE.
Tomorrow, we here at Stranger Than Fiction have the rare opportunity to preview two episodes of FLINT TOWN on the big screen, followed by a conversation with the filmmakers (Zackary Canepari, Drea Cooper and Jessica Dimmock), a few days before the series launches on Netflix. Tickets for this special event are still available here.
As I will soon be heading back to Columbia, MO for the True/False Film Festival, I would be lying if I didn’t share my excitement about this week’s unveiling of the festival’s 2018 lineup, with highlights ranging from a selection of films by this year’s True Vision Award winner Dieudo Hamadi, through hints about their hush-hush secret screenings and complete details about the return of their Neither/Nor series. The festival is set to run March 1st through the 4th. Riding that same wavelength, the Tribeca Film Festival announced that its 17th edition will open on April 18th with the world premiere of Lisa D’Apolito’s LOVE, GILDA, “which opens a window into the world of celebrated Emmy and Grammy award-winning comedian Gilda Radner, who became a cultural icon the moment audiences first laughed with her on the debut episode of Saturday Night Live.”
Back in 2016, we hosted the fine folks of Field of Vision for a special screening of their online series THE JOURNEY. This past week, Field of Vision announced a new fellowship, featuring a quartet of filmmakers in Garrett Bradley, Michelle Latimer, Charlie Lyne and Lyric Cabral, and its first-ever artist-in-residence, Josh Begley. The announcement continues, “The first year of fellows were selected from filmmakers who had worked with Field of Vision over the last three years. In addition to creating a framework for idea development, creative support, and a grant, Field of Vision will conduct workshops throughout the year in the areas of digital security, research, and legal issues. Fellows will also be invited to participate in Field of Vision’s editorial process, from identifying urgent stories to offering filmmaker feedback and guidance.”
Here at Stranger Than Fiction, our Winter 2018 season continues as we meditate on the 15th anniversary of America going to war in Iraq with a special screening of Oscar-nominated director Jehane Noujaim’s terrific CONTROL ROOM, with both film subject Josh Rushing and producer Rosadel Varela in attendance for a live Q&A. Tickets to the event are available here.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.