Monday Memo: TIFF & Venice Reveal First Titles, Grierson Awards Release Shortlist


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.

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Monday Memo: FIELD OF VISION & JUNUN Set For Online Debuts Post-NYFF


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, MUBISophie 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.

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Monday Memo: Field Of Vision Comes Into Focus, TIFF Fades Out Until Next Year


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.

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Monday Memo: Aretha Sues AMAZING GRACE Out Of Telluride Premiere, TIFF Screenings Still On


Out of what appears to be strictly a matter of greed, soul singing legend Aretha Franklin has filed suit and successfully received an emergency court injunction barring the Telluride Film Festival from world premiering Sydney Pollack’s long gestating posthumous documentary AMAZING GRACE, “which shows the making of Ms. Franklin’s album of the same name more than four decades ago,” reports Brooks Barnes and Michael Cieply of The New York Times. Reacting to the news Franklin issued a statement saying, “Justice, respect and what is right prevailed and one’s right to own their own self-image,” despite “a recently discovered 1968 contract that Franklin signed allowed the use of the footage,” according to The New York TimesCatherine Shoard of The Guardian covered the story as well, noting “that four years ago Franklin sued Elliott over the same issue, and ‘the lawsuit was resolved after Elliott agreed not to release the film’.” Steven Zeitchik and Rebecca Keegan of The Los Angeles Times and Tambay A. Obenson of indieWIRE also covered the news, while Chris Willman featured the film in question for The Hollywood Reporter. Looking to the Toronto Film Festival where the film is set to screen later this week, our own Thom Powers has assured the show will go on, stating, “We’re proceeding with plans to screen AMAZING GRACE at TIFF. We haven’t heard of any legal procedures regarding the film in Toronto.”

Before all this legal hub-bub went down, at What (not) To Doc Basil Tsiokos gave an overview of the non-fiction offerings screening at both Telluride and Venice, which kicked off last Wednesday. Coverage from Venice has been slowly coming in, including Kaleem Aftab‘s positive review of Rinku Kalsy’s FOR THE LOVE OF MAN for indieWIRE, Guy Lodge‘s glowing review of Amy Berg’s JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE at Variety, and a pair of supportive reviews of Evgeny Afineevsky’s WINTER ON FIRE: UKRAINE’S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM from The Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Farber and Variety’s Jay Weissberg. Weissberg also reviewed Frederick Wiseman’s latest, IN JACKSON HEIGHTS, while Manori Ravindran spoke with the institution-obsessed documentarian Realscreen about his first (and likely last) foray into crowdfunding and why he prefers long-form to television friendly films.

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Monday Memo: IFC Center Announces Expansion, DOC NYC Names MISS SHARON JONES! As Opening Film


In a sea of exciting doc news, for us at Stranger Than Fiction the most thrilling thing to hit the wire this week was the announcement that our theatrical home, the IFC Center, will be expanding “from 10,328 square feet to 20,071 square feet” according to Kate Erbland‘s exclusive at indieWIRE, more than doubling the number of screens from 5 to 11. In a statement from the article, “John Vanco, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the IFC Center said, ‘IFC Center has spent the past ten years celebrating filmmakers from New York and around the world by showcasing their documentaries, fiction features and short films for Greenwich Village audiences hungry for the best in contemporary and classic cinema. Expanding our facility is crucially important in allowing us to continue to fill a unique and important cultural space in the downtown arts scene, as well as helping vital works of cinema get launched into broader release.'”

The IFC Center is also the home of DOC NYC, who announced this week that Barbara Kopple’s MISS SHARON JONES! will serve as their Opening Night selection, as well as the fact that Jon Alpert, Barbara Kopple and Frederick Wiseman will receive Lifetime Achievement Awards at the festival’s second annual Visionaries Tribute. The announcement was picked up by Gregg Kilday at The Hollywood Reporter, Manori Ravindran at Realscreen and Anne-Katrin Titze at Eye For Film.

Nearing ever closer, the Toronto International Film Festival continues to garner quite a lot of press attention. Rolling Stone’s David Fear posted a list of his top 25 films to look out for, starting with Sydney Pollack’s AMAZING GRACE and including Laurie Anderson’s HEART OF A DOG, Amy Berg’s JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE and more. Similarly, Alexander Huls of Blog TO listed his top 10 docs to catch at the fest, while Eric Kohn named 7 hidden gems that included Mika Taanila and Jussi Eerola’s RETURN OF THE ATOM. Surprisingly absent from each of these lists was Morgan Neville’s KEITH RICHARDS: UNDER THE INFLUENCE, which was extensively featured in The New York Times by Jon Pareles. In The Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy surveyed the fall festival circuit in hopes of gauging the awards season buzz to follow, while Anthony Kaufman outlined the TIFF doc sales market for indieWIRE. And if you are looking for a taste of what’s on the menu at TIFF this year, Realscreen’s Kevin Ritchie has a pair of posts that pair synopses with trailers for each doc on offer.

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