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.
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 Ehrlich, Eric 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.
Fall festival season is nearing and with the first lineup announcements of both the Toronto and Venice Film Festivals, my anticipation is quickly mounting. Among the first of many titles to premiere at TIFF is a pair of concert docs in Jonathan Demme’s Justin Timberlake-centered JT + THE TENNESSEE KIDS and Paul Dugdale’s THE ROLLING STONES OLÉ OLÉ OLÉ!: A TRIP ACROSS LATIN AMERICA says the Realscreen staff, while headlining the world premiering doc offerings in Venice is Terrence Malick’s first long in-the-works doc effort VOYAGE OF TIME, as well as Massimo D’Anolfi and Martina Parenti’s SPIRA MIRABILIS notes Manori Ravindran. Looking at a pair of fests currently in progress, Basil Tsiokos previewed the nonfiction works screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival and Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival.
This past week, The Grierson Trust released it’s extensive shortlist of docs up for this year’s Grierson Awards, naming heavy hitters like AMY, THE LOOK OF SILENCE and CARTEL LAND in contention for the Bertha DocHouse Best Cinema Documentary award. BBC noted the record breaking amount of female directors named on the shortlist this year, with 53 women listed, completely “dominating in the best documentary series and best constructed documentary series categories,” while Realscreen’s Daniele Alcinii singled out SHERPA director Jennifer Peedom and MY BEAUTIFUL BROKEN BRAIN helmers Lotje Sodderland and Sophie Robinson “among the record number of female directors to be shortlisted for the Grierson Trust’s 2016 British Documentary Awards.”
Though the Primetime Emmy nominees were announced a couple weeks back and the News & Documentary Emmy nominees the following week, Thursday saw the announcement that director Stanley Nelson, known for his highly regarded work on black history and activism with films like his recent THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION, will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 37th Anual News & Documentary Emmy Awards. Manori Ravindran reported on the news for Realscreen.
After being inundated by an avalanche of doc news in the wake of TIFF, this past week has been comparatively quite quiet. Coverage from Toronto keeps trickling in through pieces like Jason Gorber‘s list of the festival’s top docs that was published over at Nonfics and film reviews like my piece on Kent Jones’ HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT posted at IONCINEMA, while most media has already trained their eyes on the New York Film Festival which kicked off last Friday. Prior to opening night, Manohla Dargis wrote a thorough preview of the fest for The New York Times, as did Basil Tsiokos at What (not) To Doc, both of whom somehow overlooked the world premiere of Laura Poitras, AJ Schnack and Charlotte Cook’s FIELD OF VISION short subject series, which took place last night. If (like most of us) you weren’t able to make yesterday’s screening at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the series is scheduled to hit the net tomorrow!
As reported by Stephen Holden in The New York Times, Noah Boambach’s DE PALMA is set to make a splash later this week, as is Paul Thomas Anderson’s first non-fiction feature JUNUN, on his friend and frequent creative collaborator Jonny Greenwood. Most excitedly, much like FIELD OF VISION, JUNUN will be available for online viewing the day after its NYFF premieme on October 9th via the meticulously curated streaming service, MUBI. Sophie Monks Kaufman wrote about the surprise development for Little White Lies.
Here at Stranger Than Fiction, tomorrow night marks the opening of our Fall 2015 season with a very special screening of TIFF’s People’s Choice Documentary Award winner WINTER ON FIRE: UKRAINE’S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM at the IFC Center! Director Evgeny Afineevsky will also be on hand for a post-screening Q&A. Season passes are still available here.
Phew. I’ve returned, a bit winded from another rather joyous outing in Toronto, having copiously feasted on the year’s biggest and best selection of films just about anywhere. And in my relative absence from the happenings of online cinema news, a tsunami of exciting announcements, festival coverage and more has hit the net – most essentially, The Intercept’s launch of Field of Vision, a new documentary unit co-created by filmmakers Laura Poitras, AJ Schnack and former Hot Docs Director of Programing Charlotte Cook. Variety’s Dave McNary had the exclusive on the arrival of the group, while Eric Hynes interviewed the creative trio about their intentions for Field of Vision at The Intercept itself. Paula Bernstein of indieWIRE also spoke with them about how the project hopes to impact documentary filmmaking, as did Manori Ravindran for Realscreen. According to Varun Nayar at Tech Times, “2015’s inaugural season is set to begin on Sept. 29, where Poitras will look at the man behind Wikileaks, Julian Assange, documenting his progress and his time spent in political asylum in London’s Ecuadorian embassy.”
Still riding the waves of CITIZENFOUR, Laura Poitras won the Emmy Award for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking, alongside Andrew Jarecki, who won the Emmy for Outstanding documentary or nonfiction series award for THE JINX, and Alex Gibney, who took home the prize for Outstanding documentary or nonfiction special for GOING CLEAR, reports Stephanie Merry in The Washington Post. Last week also saw the release of the European Film Awards’ first doc shortlist, which includes Asif Kapadia’s AMY, THE LOOK OF SILENCE from director Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean McAllister’s A SYRIAN LOVE STORY, according to Scott Roxborough of The Hollywood Reporter. Similarly, Manori Ravindran of Realscreen reports that Cinema Eye Honors also announced their doc shorts finalists, naming David Darg’s BODY TEAM 12 and Kitty Green’s THE FACE OF UKRAINE: CASTING OKSANA BAIUL amongst others.