Another True/False in the Books as SXSW Kicks Off

As you might have noticed, there was no memo last week due to the fact that I was away attending this year’s edition of Missouri’s hybrid focused True/False Film Festival. As Richard Brody summed it up so deftly in The New Yorker, it’s a festival “governed by an idea, the essence of which is documentary filmmakers thinking about what they’re doing and making that thinking integral to their films.” Maybe more than any year prior, there was a lengthy list of press folk in town to cover the fest, including Vikram Murthi for, Steven Zeitchik of the LA Times, Alissa Wilkinson writing for Vox, Jim Brunzell at Hammer To Nail, Vadim Rizov of Filmmaker Magazine and Glenn Heath Jr. for MUBI’s Notebook. I, myself, let my impressions loose over at Nonfics.

While I was away, Chicago’s DOC10 revealed their 2017 lineup. Programmed by Anthony Kaufman, the schedule includes DOC NYC Grand Jury Prize winner THE ISLAND AND THE WHALES, one of my favorites from True/False, RAT FILM and other gems like the Sundance highlights CASTING JONBENET and STEP, which will serve as the opening night picture.

Here at Stranger Than Fiction, our winter season continues tomorrow night at IFC Center with Sara Taksler’s TICKLING GIANTS, which sees “Bassem Youssef make a decision that’s every mother’s worst nightmare… He leaves his job as a heart surgeon to become a full-time comedian.” The screening will be followed by a live Q&A with director Taksler. Tickets are still available here.

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Monday Memo: True/False Announces 2017 Lineup & Podcast

I’ve returned after a week away from the cold, movies, the internet and headlines feeling mentally rejuvenated and ready to get back into the swing of things. A bit of ocean air seems to have done me well. And being that next month I’ll be heading to Columbia, Missouri once again for this year’s edition of the True/False Film Festival, it is exciting to find that they’ve revealed not only their 2017 lineup and schedule, but that they will be launching a new bi-weekly podcast – the True/False Podcast – on which “True/False programmers will sit down with filmmakers and tackle a new topic each episode.” The first episode is scheduled to go live two weeks before the festival begins, on February 23.

Speaking of podcasts, last week’s episode of Pure Nonfiction featured a conversation between our own Thom Powers and John Heilemann, co-creator of TRUMPED: INSIDE THE GREATEST POLITICAL UPSET OF ALL TIME, which aired on Showtime last week after its Sundance premiere.

Tomorrow, we here at Stranger Than Fiction are celebrating Valentine’s Day with a very special screening of THE LOVING STORY, which tells the dramatic story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple living in Virginia in the 1950s, and their landmark Supreme Court Case, Loving v. Virginia, that changed history. Director Nancy Buirski will be on hand for a live post-screening Q&A. Tickets and season passes are still available here.

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Monday Memo: True/False Wraps While a Slew of Fests Announce Line-ups

Photo by Shane Epping of Mizzou News

As you may have noticed, there was no Monday Memo last week thanks to the remarkable celebration of non-fiction cinema that is True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri, which I had the pleasure of attending for the second year in a row. My thoughts on this year’s edition can be found over at IONCINEMA, as well as a trio of interviews that will follow shortly. Despite the festival’s rather small line-up, with each passing year it seems to garner more international attention thanks to its intelligent curation, community focused outlook and baseline fun factor. Steven Zeitchik of The Los Angeles Times wrote no less than four dispatches from the fest, outlining what sets it apart from other festivals, noting formal trends and thematic through-lines, as well as the game-shows and other carnivalesque happenings that only happen at True/False.

A whole host of other True/False round-ups were logged by indieWIRE’s Sam Adams, Hammer to Nail’s Jim Brunzell, AV Club’s Noel MurrayAlissa Wilkinson at, and Vadim Rizov, who posted a pair of dispatches at Filmmaker Magazine that focus “on the thorny subject of what happens when documentaries do — or antagonistically don’t — try to serve as compassionate ambassadors to the world on behalf of their subjects.” More specifically, indieWIRE’s Chris O’Falt reported on the emotionally charged premiere of CONCERNED STUDENT 1950, as well as exactly why a handful of filmmakers choose to have their films shown as a one of True/False’s fabled secret screenings before their world premiere at a festival geared more toward sales and distribution deals.

Here at Stranger Than Fiction, our winter season continues this week with a pair of screenings in Gabriel London’s THE MIND OF MARK DEFRIEST, about the legendary escape artist on Tuesday, and on Thursday, a special 10 Year Anniversary screening of the cult-hit documentary DARKON, by Luke Meyer & Andrew Neel, about American LARPers. The filmmakers of both films will be present for post-screening Q&As at each of their respective screenings. Tickets to both screenings are still available and can be purchased here.

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Monday Memo: Remembering David Carr, Berlin Concludes, True/False Line-up Revealed

David Carr in 2008. Photo by Stephen Chernin of Associated Press.

With NBC news anchor Brian Williams losing the world’s trust over a pack of lies and the tragic death of 60 MINUTES correspondent Bob Simon in an automobile accident, this week has been rough for journalism, but the passing of beloved New York Times cultural commentator David Carr late Thursday evening may be the toughest to take for many in the documentary filmmaking community. His family at The Times have put together a loving tribute with various articles from co-workers like A.O. Scott and many links to video moments with Carr, while Andrew Rossi, the director of PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES, a film in which Carr came to the fore as the heart and soul of the newspaper, wrote his own memorial to the man who he inevitably became friends with following the film.

In the wake of the unfortunate news, Variety’s James Rainey wrote his own appreciative piece on Carr’s unlikely career in journalism and Realscreen’s Barry Walsh collected responses to the news from the documentary community. Just hours before Carr collapsed in the offices of The Times, he hosted a discussion with the team behind CITIZENFOUR – Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden – as part of the TimesTalks series hosted at The New School’s John L Tishman Auditorium in New York.

Looking up, Stranger Than Fiction continues tomorrow at the IFC Center with BEST OF EGG: THE ARTS SHOW (2000-’03), curating the cream of the crop from a show considered by many to be one of the best arts programs ever broadcast in America. The screening begins at 8pm with a post-screening Q&A featuring producers Jeff Folmsbee, Mark Mannucci and others to follow.

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Monday Memo: More Oscar Rule Changes in Store for Filmmakers

This week the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced yet more changes to the documentary branch.

This week Pete Hammond of Deadline reported that rule changes to the documentary category of the Oscars were results of an effort to pare down the number of films eligible for the awards.

Writing for Indiewire, Anthony Kaufman reported on the rise of VOD for docs with the concurrent decline of box office receipts. In a related piece, Indiewire’s Eric Kohn took a look at the VOD-friendly distribution strategy used by the action narrative film SNOWPIERCER.

At Filmmaker Magazine, Michael Murie provided a roundup of new developments in non-linear editing systems.

The True/False fest blog posted a panel from its latest iteration, this one on the topic “Beyond Pretty Pictures.”

Writing for The Dissolve, Jason Guerrasio interviewed director Steve James about his latest film, LIFE ITSELF.

At his What (Not) to Doc blog, Basil Tsiokos provided an overview of docs screening at the Outfest Film Festival, as well as those offered at the Jerusalem Film Festival.

The POV blog announced that the show had selected a new digital technology fellow in Brian Chirls. Also on the POV blog, Emma Dessau shared some advice for filmmakers considering using cloud storage services as a tool for collaboration.

Writing for Realscreen, Adam Benzine shared a report on the archival footage-dependent film LET THE FIRE BURN by director Jason Osder. Realscreen colleague Manori Ravindran examined the interactive doc FORT MCMONEY and the use of transmedia by a variety of doc producers.

At the International Documentary Association (IDA) website, Corinne Gaston shared five tips for digital distribution by filmmakers. Gaston also threw in a distribution terminology guide for digital DIY distro newcomers. Also at the site, Katharine Relth wrote about the breadth of films offered by the Los Angeles Film Festival, while Thomas White also shared his thoughts on the festival’s lineup

Daniel Walber of penned a review of the film AIM HIGH IN CREATION! from director Anna Broinowski about fracking and the propaganda style of North Korea (yes, you read that correctly). Walber also shared a piece on a few docs screening at this year’s Japan Cuts, a film series put on by the Japan Society.

Back at the IDA site, Ron Deutsch took a look at the film GETTING BACK TO ABNORMAL about post-Katrina New Orleans, a film screening on POV tonight. Also at the site, Madelyn Grace Most recapped the international doc marketplace Sunny Side of the Doc. Finally, Amanda Lin Costa explored the new opportunities offered for documentary filmmakers by online publications.

Also at, Christopher Campbell provided coverage of the nominations for primetime Emmy awards, whose ranks included the film THE SQUARE. In a separate post, Campbell made a solid case for why documentary filmmakers should not care about the Oscars.

The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) this week announced the 19 new project recipients of its Bertha Fund.

At Indiewire, Sam Adams reacted to a proposed plan by Participant Media to track the ability of docs to inspire change in viewers

Writing for his blog, Zak Forsman shared the first part of his DIY DCP tutorial.

Finally, Simon Parkin of Technology Review reported that virtual reality might yield a reimagining of documentary journalism.