Monday Memo: TIFF and Sundance to Spotlight Diversity in Film Criticism as Sheffield Doc/Fest Announces Award Winners


Many of this past week’s highlights are not necessarily exclusively doc related, but they are worth your attention none-the-less. In The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz reported that “On Wednesday, Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson announced at the Women in Film Los Angeles Crystal + Lucy Awards that both TIFF and the Sundance Film Festival in Utah will allocate 20 per cent of their respective press credentials to underrepresented writers.” IndieWire’s Eric Kohn notes, “The announcement came just days after a report by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative revealed that women wrote only 22.2 percent of 19,559 reviews of the 100 top-grossing films posted to Rotten Tomatoes.” Jenna Marotta further detailed the release, “The report found that 63.9 percent of those reviews were written by white men, versus white women (18.1 percent), underrepresented men (13.8 percent), and underrepresented women (4.1 percent).” Meanwhile at Mel Magazine, Jessica Ritchey took on this issue from a different angle with her incisive piece, “You’re Doing Women No Favors With Your Mocking ‘Ugh, Only Straight White Men Like This’ Takes.”

Maybe the most read pieces of the week came from Eric Allen Hatch, former programmer of the Maryland Film Festival, in which drops a weighty manifesto via Filmmaker Magazine on the future of arthouse programming a-la Steven Soderbergh’s 2013 “State of Cinema” address. “MOONLIGHT, GET OUT, and I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO were not ‘surprise hits,’ they were the triumphant first blast of what the next 25 years of moviegoing will look like. As the successes of these and other films cohere in the marketplace, tone-deaf gatekeepers’ stale assumptions of what art house films and audiences look like will no longer fly—not artistically, and not financially. The reactionary people who, over the past two decades, have tripped up visionary cinema’s path to the big screen with their own lack of vision are on their way out.”

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Monday Memo: Doc Making Gender Equality In Question, MAKING A MURDERER Continues Cultural Ascent


Still from indieWIRE's Twitter Link to Reality Checks

Entertainment attorney Victoria Cook stirred up much conversation around the perception of gender equality within the non-fiction filmmaking community with a lively Facebook post that was subsequently republished at The Female Gaze as an opinion piece titled “In Reality, We Must Demand Equal Representation for Women Documentarians, Too.” As an outpouring of opinions from within the doc making community hit the net, Cook expanded her thoughts in a follow-up piece for indieWIRE’s Women and Hollywood Blog, “Gender Parity in Documentary Filmmaking Is A Fiction.” indieWIRE’s own Anthony Kaufman responded via a Reality Check’s piece asking if the documentary industry is indeed unfair to women. Cook hopes to continue the conversation in person at a meet up at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival in Park City.

Speaking of Sundance, Basil Tsiokos has been spending quite a lot of time previewing each of the docs hoping to make a splash with their Park City world premieres at What (not) To Doc. In addition, Variety has learned that the originally anonymous filmmaker responsible for the religious cult doc HOLY HELL due to premiere at Sundance is Will Allen. The report from Dave McNary reveals that “his name was kept secret so that he could finish the film while minimizing the possibility of interference by the some of the subjects of the film.”

While Tsiokos, McNary and so many others are looking forward to what 2016 holds, the British Academy Film Awards have just announced their nominations, including nods to AMY, LISTEN TO ME MARLON, CARTEL LAND, SHERPA and HE NAMED ME MALALA, and the National Society of Film Critics named AMY the Best Documentary of 2015. Dan Epstein of Rolling Stone also wrote at length about the resurgence of the music doc in 2015. Looking toward the Oscars and back at last year’s releases, Cara Buckley outlined what it takes for a non-fiction feature to embark on the Oscar race for The New York Times. And, while not exactly dealing with docs, Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes, also of The New York Times, reviewed the supposed truths on which the fiction features in the Oscar race were built upon and how far each film strayed.

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Monday Memo: 2015 Winds Down, Best of Lists Stack Up


While this past week we saw the Dubai International Film Festival kick off with Basil Tsiokos writing a preview of the doc offerings screening both in competition and out at his What (not) To Doc blog and Porto/Post/Doc wrap up and award their top prize to Zhao Liang’s BEHEMOTH, the Sundance Film Festival continues to hog headlines with its latest wave of title announcements. Included in the festival’s newly announced 2016 Documentary Premieres program is a slew of exciting new works by the likes of Werner Herzog, Spike Lee, Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady, Stephanie Soechtig, Liz Garbus, Chris Hegedus, and D.A. Pennebaker, according to reports by Kate Erbland at indieWIRE and Justin Chang at Variety. Additionally, the make up of the festival’s doc shorts program, including new work from Jason Reitman and AJ Schnack, was also released this week. In related festival news, the 66th annual Berlin International Film Festival also announced their first five competition titles and amongst them is the ever prolific Alex Gibney with his new film ZERO DAYS.

Looking back at 2015, the awards continue to stack up. At the 28th European Film Awards, Asif Kapadia won Best Documentary for AMY, while the Online Film Critics Association (whom I am admittedly a proud member of) has named Joshua Oppenheimer’s THE LOOK OF SILENCE the Best Doc of 2015. Though it’s been decades since the Golden Globes acknowledged non-fiction features, at Nonfics, Christopher Campbell imagined what this week’s nominations might have looked like had they decided to reinstate the Best Documentary category, noting that under seen crowd-pleasers like Ethan Hawke’s SEYMOUR: AN INTRODUCTION would most likely make the cut. This week Cara Buckley debated the potential final five Oscar nominations in The New York Times, while at indieWIRE, Anthony Kaufman pulled back the curtain on the ugly wheeling, dealing and dining that makes up the Oscar race. And while not specifically dealing with a 2015 release, the Cinema Eye Honors announced that their 2016 Legacy Award would “be presented to Chris Smith’s beloved 1999 documentary, AMERICAN MOVIE, the unforgettable story of a filmmaker pursuing his passion project.”

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Monday Memo: Sundance! Oscar! IDA Awards & More!


Barely a week into December and the holiday/award season goodies are already being handed out in mass! While both the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Board of Review named AMY the best doc of the year, the New York Film Critics Circle begged to differ by giving the title to a film close to their hearts (and zip codes), IN JACKSON HEIGHTS. As reported by Andrew Pulver of The Guardian, Ross A. Lincoln of Deadline, and various Hollywood Reporter staffers, Joshua Oppenheimer’s heavily favored THE LOOK OF SILENCE took home the prize for best doc early in the week at this year’s Gotham Independent Film Awards. And to continue the diverging chorus of opinions, Judith Dawson and Louise Osmond’s crowd pleasing DARK HORSE was named best doc at this year’s British Independent Film Awards.

Amidst this hail of honors, the International Documentary Association Awards also celebrated their 31st edition, naming THE LOOK OF SILENCE as the best doc feature, alongside a lengthy list of deserving honorees. In the wake of the announcements, a flurry of discussion as taken place in pieces from Rebecca Keegan in The Los Angeles Times, Nigel M. Smith of The Guardian, Variety’s Kristopher TapleyScott Feinberg in The Hollywood Reporter and Realscreen’s Manori Ravindran. In tandem with the IDA Awards, IDA executive director Simon Kilmurry briefly appeared on KCRW to discuss the state of documentaries. Meanwhile, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released their 15 film Oscar shortlist for documentary feature, including most of the expected contenders, including 11 films previously programmed as part of DOC NYC’s Shortlist sectionStephanie Goodman singled out AMY and THE HUNTING GROUND as forerunners in her report of the announcement in The New York Times, while at the POV Blog, Tom Roston aptly commented on the inclusion of 3 1/2 MINUTES, 10 BULLETS and WE COME AS FRIENDS, and the blatant snubbing of MONTAGE OF HECK and THE WOLFPACK. At indieWIRE, Anne Thompson and Peter Knegt revealed their predictions for the final 2016 Oscar contenders.

With eight films on this year’s Oscar shortlist having had their world premieres at Sundance earlier this year, it’s no secret that Park City has become a major springboard for non-fiction fare. So, despite all the excitement about awards, it was the Sundance Film Festival‘s revealing of their 2016 competition titles that sparked the most interest this week from critics and doc lovers alike. In his piece in The New York Times on the annoucement, Brooks Barnes riffs on this idea, noting that “Sundance, coming up on its 32nd installment, has long served as a launching pad for documentaries. TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM, which went on to win the 2014 documentary Oscar, was first seen in competition.” Sandy Cohen of The Washington Post and Realscreen’s Kevin Ritchie reflected on the festival’s lineup, while indieWIRE’s Eric Kohn and Kate Erbland listed “9 Hidden Gems from the 2016 Sundance Lineup,” singling out a pair of docs, including the anonymously directed HOLY HELL and Robert Greene’s KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE.

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Monday Memo: More Sundance Films Announced


Among the films making it to this year's Sundance Film Festival are (T)ERROR from directors Lyric Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe.

This week the Sundance Film Festival continued its announcements of films that made the cut for 2015. Adam Benzine of Realscreen wrote on the docs premiering at the festival, as did Filmmaker Magazine and Daniel Fienberg of HitFix Magazine, along with Casey Cipriani of Indiewire. Christopher Cambpell of Nonfics.com had a guide to Sundance documentary titles, while Realscreen’s Kevin Ritchie took a look at the festival’s short docs. Alexandra Zeevalkink of DocGeeks also had a round-up of Sundance doc selections.

A slew of “Best of 2014” lists came out this week. Paste Magazine’s staff named the best 12 docs of 2014, while Susan Gerhard listed the top 10 docs of the year at Fandor. At Indiewire, Anthony Kaufman named the best 12 docs of the 2014. Gregg Kilday of The Hollywood Reporter had a list of 15 docs from the year that must be seen.

Indiewire’s Paula Bernstein made a useful meta-post rounding up their coverage of documentary filmmaking advice from the past year.

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