Monday Memo: POV’s 30th Season Announced


After a week away to take care of unexpected life happenings, the memo is back! First up PBS’s announcement of the lineup for the 30th season of POV, featuring the likes of CAMERAPERSON, DO NOT RESIST, Oscar nominated shorts JOE’S VIOLIN and 4.1 MILES and more. The series begins on June 26th with Julia Meltzer’s DALYA’S OTHER COUNTRY. Curators looking to host a screening of any of the films can now book a handful of the films via the POV Lending Library.

The Cannes Film Festival also revealed their 2017 selections last Thursday, with few doc picks as has been traditionally the case. David Hudson dug through the selections for Fandor, noting Claude Lanzmann’s new doc on North Korea titled NAPALM, and Raymond Depardon‘s 12 DAYS, a documentary mysteriously about “where justice and psychiatry meet.”

Tomorrow at the IFC Center, our Spring Season will kick off with Bill Jersey’s 1967 landmark of the cinéma vérité movement, A TIME FOR BURNING. Director Jersey will be on hand for live Q&A. Tickets for the event and spring season passes are still available here.

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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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Monday Memo: PBS Decides to Keep Docs in Primetime, Doug Block’s D-Word Goes 3.0


This past week, doc filmmakers have been accorded quite lovely news on various fronts. After much public debate and industry outcry over whether or not INDEPENDENT LENS or POV would continue to feature in PBS’s primetime slots, the decision has been made to not only keep them, but to bolster their promotional support, according to reports from both Variety’s James Rainey and Kevin Ritchie at Realscreen. Just the day prior to the announcement, Ritchie had written a fortuitously timely, extensive feature at Realscreen on the incredible success of the non-fiction format on television, while the following day Esquire’s Nick Schager wrote at length on HBO’s primetime success this year – the breaking news seeming only to echo their claims.

Not only this, but Doug Block’s essential doc filmmaker’s online resource, The D-Word, has been given a major face-lift with its crowd funded 3.0 upgrade. Not only is it easier to keep track of all the topics pertinent to you, the site looks a lot cleaner and is now much easier to browse from mobile devices. A full list of new changes to the site can be found here. In addition, Indiewire’s Paula Bernstein caught up with Block to discuss The D-Word’s long gestating upgrade.

Tomorrow, Stranger Than Fiction continues with director Daisy Asquith’s immensely personal story of her mother’s conception after a dance in the 1940s on the remote west coast of Ireland in AFTER THE DANCE. The film screens at 8 pm at the IFC Center and will be followed by a Q&A with Asquith.

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Monday Memo: A Return – Lumière Exhibition, the Cinema of Evidence, Full Frame & Art of the Real


My wife, Valerie Rettberg-Smith, and I at the Lumière! Inventing Cinema Exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris

I hate to brag, but the last few weeks have been quite lovely, with getting married to my partner in life, Valerie Rettberg-Smith, and our subsequent honeymoon to Paris and Amsterdam and all. That said, I have returned, not quite rested, but full of hope, love, fresh perspectives and just now getting back into the swing of things. While I was away, Rachel Donadio of The New York Times wrote a piece on the Grand Palais’s Lumière! Inventing Cinema exhibition which opened March 27th, just in time for me to investigate. The exhibit, put together in partnership by the Grand Palais and the Institut Lumière, features an incredible history of film technology and the impact the Lumières continue to wield in artifacts and copious amounts of newly restored Lumière productions, some on film and others in various interactive displays. Celebrating over a hundred years since the Lumière brothers brought cinema as we know it into being, the exhibition runs now through June 14th.

Most of the Lumière films were in fact brief documentaries, running no more than a few minutes at most. The format continues to be more than relevant, as the stark cell-phone documentation of Walter Scott’s horrifically unjust murder by officer Michael T. Slager proves this past week. Writing for Time, Errol Morris commented on the necessity of documentation in terms of sorting out the truths in such a situation, while Ty Burr of The Boston Globe wrote at length on what he calls, “the cinema of evidence” and its essential pivot point in the battle against abuses of power in America. One would think such blatant injustices would have been curbed after this past year’s outrage in the wake of Michael Brown and Eric Garner’s murders by overzealous police, but alas, the preposterous bloodshed continues.

On a lighter note, tomorrow marks the start of the Spring ’15 season of Stranger Than Fiction with KING GEORGES, Erika Frankel’s documentary on the fiery French chef Georges Perrier and his crusade to keep his 40-year-old landmark restaurant, Le Bec-Fin in Philadelphia, relevant. Both director Erika Frankel and film subject Georges Perrier will be on hand for a post screening Q&A. Info on the film and tickets are available here.

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Monday Memo: WNET Gets Blowback From Filmmakers, Sundance Coverage Continues To Filter In


It seems that WNET’s plan to sweep documentary programming aside has been met with a litany of outrage from the filmmakers who’ve long enjoyed the support that PBS’s POV and Independent Lens have lent them over the years. Variety’s James Rainey has the story, in which “more than 2,000 documentarians” – the likes of Laura Poitras, Gordon Quinn and Tracy Droz Tragos among them – “have signed a petition saying they fear that the New York station’s action would lead to the shows being marginalized by PBS affiliates nationwide, slicing into their audiences and crippling efforts to raise money for often edgy, controversial films.”

In response to the criticism, the programmers at WNET have set up what they’ve called a “Listening Tour”, stopping in major cities and hosting public forums to discuss how they can better support filmmakers. At the POV Blog, you can find details on the New York City stop of the tour to be hosted on February 23rd at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. If you’d like to attend the free event, RSVP here.

Also in NYC, the Stranger Than Fiction Winter ’15 Season continues tomorrow at 8pm at the IFC Center with FREE: CRACK IN THE SYSTEM. Following the screening, there will be a Q&A session with director Marc Levin.

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