While the midterm elections, another mass shooting, and word that RBG fell and fractured three ribs were all making headline news this last week, plenty of notable documentary happenings were taking place in the background. On Saturday night in Brooklyn, the third annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards took place, at which “WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? took home the evening’s most prestigious award for Best Documentary as well as Best Director for Morgan Neville and the award for Best Editing. FREE SOLO took home the award for Best Sports Documentary, the award for Best Innovative Documentary and was honored for Best Cinematography…the Best Political Documentary winner was RBG. QUINCY took home the award for Best Music Documentary. There was a tie for Best First Time Director between Bing Liu for MINDING THE GAP and Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster for SCIENCE FAIR.”
Two days prior, the Cinema Eye Honors announced the nominees for its 12th edition, with MINDING THE GAP leading the pack with a total of 7 nominations, tying the record for most nominations in Cinema Eye history. The six films up for the top prize of Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking are BISBEE ’17, HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING, MINDING THE GAP, OF FATHERS AND SONS, THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS, WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?.
Many of the nominees and award winners thus far turned up in conversation with one another for The Hollywood Reporter‘s annual Documentary Roundtable. Meanwhile, Anne Thompson noted at IndieWire that “Last year, the Academy documentary branch had to grapple with a record 170 documentary feature submissions for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar. This year, it’s not so bad: only 166 were entered. The short list of 15 will be announced, along with eight others for the first time on a single date this year: December 17.”
Last Wednesday, IDFA announced the winners of its various 2017 competition programs, with Mila Turajlic’s TIFF alum THE OTHER SIDE OF EVERYTHING winning Best Feature-Length Documentary, Simon Lereng Wilmont won the IDFA Award for Best First Appearance for THE DISTANT BARKING OF DOGS, Best Mid-Length Documentary was awarded to Martin Benchimol and Pablo Aparo for THE DREAD, and Marcin Sauter took home Best Short Documentary for ZHALANASH – EMPTY SHORE. Running tandem the main festival, the IDFA Forum saw 58 projects from 23 countries pitched to potential funders and distributors reports Damon Wise for Variety. Covering the Forum for Realscreen, Selina Chignall put forth a trio of reports on the pitch highlights.
Earlier in the week, RIDM also revealed their 2017 award winners. The Grand Prize for Best International Feature went to ROOM FOR A MAN by Anthony Chidiac, TAMING THE HORSE by Tao Gu was named Best Canadian Feature, and OUVRIR LA VOIX by Amandine Gay won the People’s Choice Award.
“Four documentary projects screened at the AFI DOCS 2017 Film Festival, with presenting sponsor AT&T, will receive funding from the AFI DOCS/NBCUniversal Impact Grants,” announced the American Film Institute on Monday. The grants support outreach and social action campaigns for projects that participated in the AFI DOCS Impact Lab, including Laura Checkoway’s EDITH+EDDIE, Jeremy S. Levine and Landon Van Soest’s FOR AHKEEM, Peter Nicks’s THE FORCE, and Trish Adlesic and Geeta Gandbhir’s I AM EVIDENCE.
DOC NYC, the largest documentary film festival in the United States, has returned to New York for its 8th edition, having kicked off on Thursday evening with a rousing opening night speech by Thom Powers. Giving insight into the immense spread of films on offer, Jason Bailey writes his is festival recommendations at Village Voice, “the options are unsurprisingly diverse: explorations of global issues, intimate character portraits, science explainers, true-crime investigations, celebrity profiles, snapshots of New York City.” Chris Barsanti of Film Journal International and Joshua Brunsting of Criterion Cast both surveyed the festival program, while at Doc Soup, Tom Roston spoke with Basil Tsiokos, the festival’s Director of Programming, about how the current state of politics influenced this year’s program. The IndieWire crew listed their 13 most anticipated films of the fest, while the folks at Women and Hollywood have been interviewing many of the female filmmakers in the lead up to the festival’s kickoff and Soheil Rezayazdi spoke with Barbara Kopple about her new film A MURDER IN MANSFIELD for Filmmaker Magazine. If you’re hoping to keep with the flood of coverage coming out of DOC NYC, you might do well to follow David Hudson at The Daily via Criterion over the next week.
Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal, better known to most as RIDM, also began Thursday evening, kicking off its 20th edition with a screening of Céline Baril’s 24 DAVIDS. The film was among the handful of hardy recommendations put forth by Ismaël Houdassine in his overview of the fest at Huffington Post (though you may need help from Google Translate – it’s in French). “The festival has a double mandate. It’s about showing the best or most interesting international films of the year; and it’s a great platform for local artists,” said programming director Bruno Dequen, with executive director Mara Gourd-Mercado in T’Cha Dunlevy‘s feature on the fest in Montréal Gazette in which he goes on to list 10 must-sees, including Travis Wilkerson’s DID YOU WONDER WHO FIRED THE GUN? and Ziad Kalthoum’s TASTE OF CEMENT.
And while TIFF and NYFF may have come and gone, Eric Hynes‘s rundown of the festivals’ best celebrity offerings via Film Comment is a must read.
Awards season rolls on this week with the 45th annual British Documentary Awards, where the Grierson Award for Best Single Documentary – International was given to Rahul Jain for MACHINES, Best Historical Documentary went to Ava DuVernay for 13TH, Best Documentary Short to Charlie Lyne for FISH STORY, and Best Cinema Documentary to Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg for WEINER.
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.”
In a week in which the US presidency was ceded to Donald Trump, little concern for anything but the future well being of the United States has rightly been put forth by news outlets this week. Yet, in her recent piece at Vox, Genevieve Koski recalled Roger Ebert’s belief that movies are “a machine that generates empathy” while reminding us that “In times like these, it can feel like entertainment doesn’t matter. It does.” Similarly, Dan Schoenbrun wrote a declaration of intent for Filmmaker Magazine, stating that “For the next four years (and long afterwards), every time someone leaves a movie theater feeling contented, feeling set in their values, feeling numbed and entertained and nothing else, that’s a problem.” On election day itself, Graham Winfrey reported at IndieWire on the massive election day doc production 11/8/16, which will serve as a follow-up to Jeff Deutchman’s 11/4/08 and feature contributions by 40 different filmmakers, including Alma Har’el, David Lowery, Eugene Jarecki and Yung Chang.
For most of us in the doc world, our light at the end of the tunnel this past week was DOC NYC, which kicked off Thursday night with a celebration of political righteousness in CITIZEN JANE: BATTLE FOR THE CITY and where “filmmakers expressed their commitment to shine a light on important truths and use the power of storytelling during Trump’s presidency” during the festival’s Visionaries Tribute luncheon, according to Winfrey. Tim Teeman wrote at length about CITIZEN JANE for The Daily Beast, while Daniel Eagan included it in his piece on the cream of the crop of DOC NYC for Film Journal International. A whole host of other curtain openers came in from the likes of Tom Roston at Doc Soup, Joshua Brunsting at Criterion Cast, and Daniel Walber of Nonfics. Likewise, Film Forward featured the festival’s many films centered around transgendered characters thanks to Phil Guie. And of the many, many press breaks coming through the wire from the fest, the seemingly countless interviews with female directors being published over at Women and Hollywood might be most worth your while. I could go on and on with additional links from the fest, but I suggest you head over to Keyframe where David Hudson has already done just that. If you aren’t able to make it to DOC NYC this year, you can at least head over to their YouTube channel where they are posting not only a ton of live Q&As, but many sessions taking place at DOC NYC PRO.
Montreal’s premiere doc festival RIDM (Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montreal) also began on Thursday evening. Despite being in the midst of DOC NYC, Basil Tsiokos previewed the festival’s new offerings, while Robert Everett-Green of The Globe and Mail wrote an overview of the 128 entries selected for this year’s festival.