Last Wednesday marked the end of a week of a celebratory filmmaker outings for those nominated for this year’s Cinema Eye Honors, which is now in its tenth year of existence. IndieWire’s Eric Kohn documented the pre-award show outings, which included a private visit to the Whitney, live band karaoke featuring the likes of Steve James, the Ross brothers and Robert Greene, and much more. At the Cinema Eye Honors awards ceremony, “Kirsten Johnson’s CAMERAPERSON took home three awards, Outstanding Cinematography for Johnson, Outstanding Editing for Nels Bangerter and Outstanding Nonfiction Feature for Johnson and producer Marilyn Ness,” while “O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA received two awards: Outstanding Direction for Ezra Edelman and Outstanding Production for Edelman and Caroline Waterlow.” This year’s Audience Award went to Clay Tweel’s GLEASON. The full list of honorees can be found here.
In other awards news, the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs) revealed their nominees this past week, putting 13TH, THE EAGLE HUNTRESS, WEINER, NOTES ON BLINDNESS and THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS up for Best Documentary. And while Cara Buckley debated whether O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA was a mini-series or a just a really long feature film in The New York Times, Glenn Whipp wondered aloud in The Los Angeles Times whether the film will be upset at this year’s Oscars. A pair of must read end of year rundowns also appeared this week, one from Robert Greene in Sight & Sound and a whole host of cinephilic lists over at Senses of Cinema’s World Poll 2016.
Holiday season is upon, hence why last week’s memo never materialized (that and it was a surprisingly slow doc news week). This past week however has been bustling with award season breaks, winter festival announcements and a whole host of new films available for streaming online. First off, as has become tradition following the gorging of Thanksgiving weekend, the Sundance Film Festival announced its full 2017 competition lineup, including the US Documentary Competition with new work by Brian Knappenberger, Yance Ford, Matthew Heineman and Shaul Schwarz, as well as the World Cinema Documentary Competition, featuring films by Ramona Diaz, Rahul Jain, Jiu-liang Wang and more. As we move closer to the Trump administration, both Mark Olsen of The Los Angeles Times and Brooks Barnes of The New York Times predict a politically volatile Park City program, each highlighting some obvious hot spots like Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis’s WHOSE STREETS?, which explores the violence in Ferguson, Missouri that went down in the summer of 2014. More titles will be announced shortly. And while Sundance will always overshadow its rebellious younger Park City rival, the Slamdance Film Festival also listed their lineup of eight doc features, five of which are world premieres.
Now that we are officially knee deep in December, film critics around the world are getting antsy to proclaim their picks for the best films of the year. Both the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review named Ezra Edelman’s mammoth O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA the Best Documentary of the Year, while at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Raoul Peck’s I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO pulled an upset over Edelman’s film, which was the runner-up for Best Documentary and received a nod for Best Editing. (Side note: Edelman and Peck turned up in conversation with Bryan Stevenson and Thom Powers on race, Trump and doc making in the latest episode of Pure Nonfiction.) Sight & Sound Magazine also polled a 163 critics for their year end lists, whom collectively included FIRE AT SEA, CAMERAPERSON and O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA amongst their top 26.
It’s not just critics that are naming their favorites of the year already though. The Gotham Independent Film Awards took place early last week, with O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA once again coming out on top, while across the pond the British Independent Film Awards gave their top doc prize to James Spinney and Peter Middleton’s NOTES ON BLINDNESS. Looking towards this year’s Oscars, The Hollywood Reporter’s Gregg Kilday considered whether or not this might be the year to see a non-fiction film take home the Oscar for Best Picture. Being that an abundance of similar talk fruitlessly centered around CITIZENFOUR last year, I seriously doubt it.
This past week, the folks over at The Guardian joined the growing chorus of critics proclaiming that we are currently in a golden age of documentaries with a solid list of examples to argue the point and filmmakers like Laura Poitras and Dawn Porter admitting that some of their favorites are fairly new films themselves. Even doc director Adam Curtis contributed his own spin on the conversation, though claiming that he believes SOUTH PARK to be the best ongoing documentary series. Though not directly, Gregg Kilday and Stephen Galloway‘s gathering of Ezra Edelman, Werner Herzog, Kirsten Johnson, Josh Kriegman, Raoul Peck and Roger Ross Williams for an extensive Hollywood Reporter round-table discussion seems to only help prove the point. Portions of this discussion can be read and partially watched at the link, but the full conversation is set to air on SundanceTV on February 19, 2017. Likewise, Chris O’Falt‘s piece at IndieWire on how recent docs like 13TH, TOWER, I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO and more re-purpose archival footage for artistic means and Diane Haithman‘s short take on a trio of recent docs that take aim at the gun debate at Hollywood Reporter both continue to add fuel to this raging golden age fire.
Legendary doc helmer Frederick Wiseman was one of four diverse recipients of an Honorary Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Governers Awards last week. As noted by Josh Rottenberg in The Los Angeles Times, “Wiseman was honored for his work illuminating various social, cultural and government institutions in renowned documentary films like TITICUT FOLLIES, HIGH SCHOOL, LAW AND ORDER, PUBLIC HOUSING and LA DANSE.” In Wiseman’s acceptance speech, which can be viewed in its entirety here, along with Rory Kennedy, Ben Kingsley and Don Cheadle‘s loving introductions, he stated matter of factly, “I think it’s as important to document kindness, civility and generosity of spirit as it is to show cruelty, banality and indifference.”