Monday Memo: Fall Film Festival Fervor Begins


During the summer, much of the doc world goes relatively quiet, but this week it kicks into overdrive as the fall film festival season goes from 0 to 60 in one week flat. The 74th edition of the Venice Film Festival began on Wednesday with “just over 30 documentary features among its more than 100 feature offerings,” as Basil Tsiokos noted in his nonfiction overview of the fest at What (not) To Doc. In his own festival preview in The New York Times, Nicolas Rapold singled out a few docs – Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel’s CANIBA, Frederick Wiseman’s EX LIBRIS, Chris Smith’s JIM & ANDY – that are set to also screen next week at the Toronto International Film Festival, while others – HUMAN FLOW by Ai Weiwei (which received a glowing review from IndieWire’s David Ehrlich) and the hybrid series WORMWOOD by Errol Morris (who spoke with Brent Lang of Variety and picked up praise from IndieWire via Eric Kohn and The Guardian’s Xan Brooks) – had their debuts this weekend at the exclusive Telluride Film Festival. Following Telluride’s lineup unveiling, Adam Benzine and the fine folks over at Nonfics pointed out that the festival launched last year’s Oscar doc shorts winner and posed the possibility of the same happening with this year’s HEROIN(E) and LONG SHOT. At Variety, Kristopher Tapley discussed the fate of Sydney Pollack’s long embattled Aretha Franklin film AMAZING GRACE, which has been slated for a Telluride debut for years.

Closer to home, TIFF takes over Toronto this Thursday and the Toronto Star’s Peter Howell already broke the news this past week that long time director and CEO Piers Handling has announced his departure after nearly 25 years at the helm. “The urbane Handling, 68, has a lot planned for his post-TIFF life, including a book — something film-related but not personal memoirs — and more of the world travel and mountain climbing that have long been among his other passions. In all, the former film professor will have been at TIFF for 36 years, nearly half his life.”

Giving an exclusive preview of the TIFF Docs offerings, programmer Thom Powers and his colleague Dorota Lech outlined each of the films in a pair of episodes of the Pure Nonfiction podcast. The CinemaScope crew have already begun combing through the more experimental docs making their domestic debut at the fest, with reviews of GOOD LUCK via Phil Coldiron, MRS. FANG via Daniel Kasman, TA PEAU SI LISSE via Adam Nayman, and FACES PLACES by Jordan Cronk. And at Entertainment Weekly, Joey Nolfi spoke with Lady Gaga and director Chris Moukarbel about GAGA: FIVE FOOT TWO, which is set to have its world premiere at the fest this coming Friday.

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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: 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: THE KILL TEAM Bows at Theaters


This week the film THE KILL TEAM reached theaters.

This week the doc THE KILL TEAM from director Dan Krauss reached theaters. At New York Magazine’s Vulture blog, David Edelstein reviewed the film, while Jordan M. Smith did the same at Ion Cinema. Writing for Indiewire, Anthony Kaufman described the film as “essential viewing,” while Nathan Rabin shared his thoughts on the film at The Dissolve.

Writing for Realscreen, Kevin Ritchie reported that Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow up to THE ACT OF KILLING, a film titled THE LOOK OF SILENCE, would screen at this year’s Venice Film Festival. Also at Realscreen, Nick Krewen reported that the festival was set to honor documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman.

Alison Byrne Fields wrote a very interesting piece about the complications resulting from attempts to quantify the impact of social issue docs at the Aggregate site.

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Monday Memo: Docs Move Prior to the Toronto International Film Festival


The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) launched on Thursday, Sept. 5 and distributors were moving with alacrity to nab titles, with many picking up distro rights before the festival even launched. Realscreen’s Adam Benzine spoke with TIFF programmer (and Stranger Than Fiction Artistic Director) Thom Powers about several of the deals secured by films premiering at the festival. However, Benzine reported that Ron Howard’s Jay-Z concert doc MADE IN AMERICA had found an international rights sales agent in The Exchange. Realscreen colleague Kevin Ritchie had the news that the UK’s Dogwoof had acquired international rights for DANGEROUS ACTS STARRING UNSTABLE ELEMENTS OF BELARUS. Gregg Kilday of The Hollywood Reporter reported that HBO had nabbed U.S. television rights for the film.

At the What (Not) to Doc blog, Basil Tsiokos offered an overview of docs screening at TIFF. The Hollywood Reporter also shared a post on five must-see films screening at the festival. Writing for the POV blog, Tom Roston interviewed Thom Powers about certain festival selections. Back at Realscreen, Adam Benzine had the opportunity to speak with director Claude Lanzmann.

The folks behind the blog Film School Rejects this week launched a new site dedicated to nonfiction entertainment titled Nonfics.com and headed by former Documentary Channel blog editor Christopher Campbell. Campbell’s prodigious output has yielded too many posts to link individually, but you can check out his editor’s welcome here, as well as a list of 10 TIFF selections Campbell was excited to see. Campbell also wrote up an interview with TIFF sensation TIM’S VERMEER subject Tim Jenison, and penned a piece about the phenomenon of spoilers potentially ruining documentaries. Robert Greene also wrote the first of a series, Shots From the Canon, as part of efforts to identify a new nonfiction canon.

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