Monday Memo: NYFF & TIFF Add Docs, IDA Gives Filmmaking Advice


With no major theatrical releases and a slew of major festivals on the verge of kicking off, it’s a rather quiet on the nonfiction front. That said, the New York Film Festival did reveal its Spotlight on Documentary lineup, which includes Travis Wilkerson’s True/False alum DID YOU WONDER WHO FIRED THE GUN?, TIFF selections JANE, A SKIN SO SOFT, and BOOM FOR REAL, as well as world premieres of Alison McAlpine’s CIELO, Ena Talakic and Ines Talakic’s HALL OF MIRRORS, and Alex Gibney’s NO STONE UNTURNED, which was previously slated to screen at Tribeca and Hot Docs before it was pulled for undisclosed legal reasons.

After revealing its full program schedule on Tuesday, the Toronto International Film Festival added a handful of last minute special events, including the world premiere of GAGA: FIVE FOOT TWO by Emmy-nominated filmmaker Chris Moukarbel, “a rare snapshot of the raucously public music icon Lady Gaga and the offstage woman that is Stefani Joanne Germanotta,” as well as the world premiere of Brandon and Skyler Gross’ ON MY WAY OUT: THE SECRET LIFE OF NANI AND POPI – the program notes read, “Roman (Popi) and Ruth (Nani) Blank have been married for 65 years, but at age 95, Roman reveals a secret that tests their seemingly invincible union, in Brandon and Skyler Gross’ touching portrait of their grandparents.”

Though the Locarno International Film Festival wrapped up a couple weeks back, at the fest IndieWire’s Irina Trocan discovered a handful of films that represent modern domestic life in new ways, including a trio of films to soon screen at TIFF – Xu Bing’s DRAGONFLY EYES, Ben Russell’s GOOD LUCK, and Wang Bing’s MRS. FANG. On a similar wavelength, Cara Buckley thoroughly examined the many current docs that are exploring the pain of racism for The New York Times, noting “A burst of new films, many of them documentaries, are taking a deep look beyond the headlines at the lasting impact that racial schisms and racism have on Americans’ everyday lives.”

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Monday Memo: TIFF Docs Announced as New Report Questions Sustainability of Doc Industry


Last Tuesday saw the Toronto International Film Festival reveal its 2017 TIFF Docs lineup, programmed by our very own Thom Powers. The 22-film program centers around world premieres of new works by Brett Morgan, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, Morgan Spurlock, Sam Pollard, Sophie Fiennes, Matt Tyrnauer and “goes deep into the lives of boundary-pushing characters — Grace Jones, Jim Carrey, Jane Goodall, and Eric Clapton, to name only a few of the most famous.” In his overview of the selections at Doc Soup, Tom Roston notes that there are 20% less films on this year’s slate than last year, but notes that it “is so power packed that it may well provide the tipping point for awards season.” Anne Thompson also weighed in on the selections at IndieWire, picking out ten films that already have the potential to shake up this year’s Oscars, pointing out that “the race always begins at Sundance, but…this year, without clear frontrunners, TIFF’s influence will be greater than ever.” Meanwhile at Realscreen, Meagan Kashty spoke with Thom Powers himself about this year’s selections.

In other festival news, according to Brian Steinberg of Variety, NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ and the American Film Institute have teamed up “for a film festival to be held in November in Washington D.C….The ‘Meet the Press’ film festival will feature contemporary documentaries of 40 minutes in length or less that focus on untold stories of American politics.” As always, Basil Tsiokos has given a trio of overviews of the non-fiction offerings at festivals currently running around the globe, including Kosovo’s Dokufest, Switzerland’s Locarno Film Festival, and Australia’s Melbourne International Film Festival, the latter of which was covered by the fine folks over at 4:3, whom listed their favorites from the fest so far.

In a collaborative effort between the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the International Documentary Association (IDA), a new report titled “State of the Field: A Report from the Documentary Sustainability Summit” was made public this week. The work begins, “Comprised of voices from the field, the following report represents a reflection of the day-today realities of maintaining a documentary career in an ever-changing cultural and business marketplace. Accompanied by recommendations throughout, these reflections are aimed to empower the documentary community (and related stakeholders) to assert agency in shaping a forward-thinking future that re-envisions current systems.” Additionally, the NEA will offer four free webinars that provide opportunities for the public to engage with experts in the field, beginning with a Report Overview on Thursday, August 10th. Complete webinar schedule and details can be found here.

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Monday Memo: News and Doc Emmy Noms & Grierson Awards Shortlist Unveiled


Just two weeks after the Television Academy revealed its nominations for the 69th Emmy Awards, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) announced the nominees for the 38th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards. Films up for Best Documentary include Marcel Mettelsiefen’s CHILDREN OF SYRIA, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s A GIRL IN THE RIVER: THE PRICE OF FORGIVENESS, Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker’s WELCOME TO LEITH, David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall’s THANK YOU FOR PLAYING, and Joshua Oppenheimer’s THE LOOK OF SILENCE.

The always comprehensive Grierson Trust Awards also revealed their 2017 Shortlist. Covering the announcement for Realscreen, Daniele Alcinii noted that Raoul Peck’s I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO is up for two awards in the Best Historical and Best Cinema categories.

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Monday Memo: TIFF Wraps Up, Cinema Eye Announces Shorts List


Like so many in the business of film making, curating, critiquing or just consuming, I’m feeling a little overstimulated after 11 days of movie-going at the Toronto International Film Festival, but in a good way. I managed to catch 46 films of the 296 features on offer this year, 19 of which were docs, many of which were outstanding. I managed to log a trio of reviews over at IONCINEMA, while an avalanche of doc coverage was amassed at outlets like Nonfics, POV Magazine, and Cinema Scope, among countless others. Found in the mix was Amy Kaufman’s extensive takes on RATS and AMANDA KNOX, and Steven Zeitchik‘s review of BEFORE THE FLOOD, all for the LA Times, while The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee also ruminated on AMANDA KNOX.  At Realscreen, Jonathan Paul spoke with Errol Morris about his latest, THE B-SIDE: ELSA DORFMAN’S PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY, while Kevin Ritchie asked Werner Herzog about INTO THE INFERNO. At yesterday’s closing awards ceremony Raoul Peck’s I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO was given the People’s Choice Documentary Award, while Fisher Stevens’ BEFORE THE FLOOD and Steve James’ ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL were named the second and first runners up, respectively.

In the midst of the action, our own Thom Powers hosted TIFF’s annual one day Doc Conference, featuring live panels and discussions on a wide range of non-fiction filmmaking related topics. If you weren’t able to make it, most of the events are now available to stream on TIFF’s YouTube channel, including conversations with Steve James, Jonathan Demme and more. Meanwhile, VR made its prescence known at the festival this year with its POP VR event reports Realscreen’s Jonathan Paul. Looking at the many films that scored distribution at TIFF, Kate Erbland wrote an overview of the sales for IndieWire, including Magnolia’s pick up of I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO and Syndicado’s purchase of IN EXILE.

Here at Stranger Than Fiction, we’ve revealed that our Fall Season is devoted to the documentary work of Jonathan Demme. The series features a six film retrospective with live director Q&As at each screening, beginning on September 27th with his legendary Talking Heads concert doc, STOP MAKING SENSE. Season passes and individual screening tickets are available.

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Monday Memo: Wiseman To Be Honored With Oscar, Telluride & Venice Hit The Ground Running


With forty films, a Golden Lion, three Primetime Emmys, and a Peabody award credited to his name, Frederick Wiseman has been selected as one of four individuals to receive honorary Oscars at this year’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Governors Awards gala. Barry Walsh of Realscreen reported that “the Honorary Award is given ‘to honor extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy.'”

On the eve of the 2016 Telluride Film Festival, its hyper secretive program was revealed and IndieWire’s Eric Kohn combed through the A-list offerings, making special note of the latest from Errol Morris and Werner Herzog, as well as the Leonardo DiCaprio backed THE IVORY GAME and Doug Nichol’s essayistic doc, CALIFORNIA TYPEWRITER. Glowing reviews of Herzog’s INTO THE VOLCANO and Richard Ladkani and Kief Davidson’s THE IVORY GAME from IndieWire’s David EhrlichEric Kohn, and The Wrap’s Robert Abele, respectively. Shortly after the lineup announcement, Basil Tsiokos gave a rundown of the festival’s non-fiction offerings over at What (not) To Doc.

Tsiokos also outlined the Venice Film Festival‘s doc lineup, highlighting the world premiere of Terrence Malick’s first doc outing VOYAGE OF TIME: LIFE’S JOURNEY and Jon Nguyen, Olivia Neergaard-Holm, and Rick Barnes’ DAVID LYNCH: THE ART LIFE, among many notable others. Having screened over the festival’s first weekend, Obaidah Zytoon and Andreas Dalsgaard’s THE WAR SHOW has already been dubbed “a deeply affecting documentary of the Syrian conflict” by Jay Weissberg of Variety, while Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian highly recommends Ulrich Seidl’s “brutal, illuminating” SAFARI with a four star review, and Vanessa Friedman and Nicolas Rapold wrote commending pieces on Francesco Carrozzini’s FRANCA: CHAOS AND CREATION and Sergei Loznitsa’s AUSTERLITZ for The New York Times.

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