Each year the Academy of Motion Pictures re-evaluate their rules for Oscar consideration and the like. Last Tuesday, it was announced that the Documentary Short Subject shortlist would be changing from a maximum of 8 films to 10, and the actual nominations would be set at a static 5 films, rather than fluctuating from 3 to 5 films each year. Anne Thompson reported on the list of Oscar rule changes for Indiewire, while Daniele Alcinii wrote about the news for Realscreen.
While major awards are always a fast track to cinematic cultural recognition, Anthony Kaufman pored over whether celebrity supporters actually have any impact on whether or not documentaries find a market or not for Indiewire. Unsurprisingly, filmmakers like Rachel Boynton who directed BIG MEN and had Brad Pitt as a supported found that “Basically, it makes people feel like your film will be taken seriously by the world when it’s finished. And that can be the difference between getting a ‘no’ and getting a ‘yes.'”
Contemplating film form rather than marketing, Ben Kenigsberg wrote a feature in The New York Times that sees filmmakers such as CARTEL LAND director Matthew Heineman and doc curators such as our own Thom Powers speaking on manipulative, often aesthetically based choices made when constructing non-fiction features. Joe Berlinger, of films like BROTHER’S KEEPER and PARADISE LOST, thinks there needs to be a balance of intimacy and aesthetics, stating, ““The more you treat your interview and your documentary situation like a film set, the less people are comfortable, and the less spontaneous action you can film.”
Last week AFI Docs Film Festival wrapped up and Monday morning the Audience Award winners were announced. Liz Garbus’ WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE? took home the Award for Best Feature, while the Best Short Award went to Blair Foster’s A CONVERSATION WITH MY BLACK SON. While it’s a quiet week on the festival front, Marjan Safinia’s ArcLight Documentary Series is scheduled to start back up next Tuesday, July 7th with David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall’s THANK YOU FOR PLAYING screening at ArcLight Hollywood Cinemas.
Having been released worldwide on Netflix last Friday after debuting at Sundance earlier this year, Liz Garbus’ film has attracted quite a bit of attention this past week. WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE? was not only selected by Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen as WNYC’s Documentary of the Week, but it was featured by Soraya Nadia McDonald in The Washington Post, and was reviewed by Manohla Dargis in The New York Times, Brian Tallerico at RogerEbert.com, Odie Henderson in Movie Mezzanine, and even was written about by Garbus’ doc making peer Amy Berg at The Talkhouse. Commenting on the film herself, Garbus was interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter’s Chris Gardner.
Another Sundance debuted doc, Sacha Jenkins’ hip-hop fashion focused FRESH DRESSED hit theaters and garnered comparable coverage over the weekend, including a pair of features by Robin Givhan and Leanne Italie in The Washington Post. Jon Caramanica also reviewed the film for The New York Times, as did RogerEbert.com’s Odie Henderson, The Dissolve’s Keith Phipps and Dan Schindel for Movie Mezzanine.
Tony Rayns selected Alex Gibney’s GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF as this week’s Sight & Sound Doc of the Week, as the film just hit theaters in the UK. Accordingly, David Jenkins reviewed the film for Little White Lies. At Variety, Gibney was found in video speaking about his latest film, STEVE JOBS: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE, while Carole Cadwalladr interviewed the filmmaker about GOING CLEAR for The Guardian.
Other coverage this week included reviews of Dana Nachman’s BATKID BEGINS from LA Weekly’s Amy Nicholson, The New York Times’ Jeannette Catsoulis, Tasha Robinson at The Dissolve and RogerEbert.com’s Nick Allen. Similarly, 3½ MINUTES, 10 BULLETS was covered by Joshua Brunsting at Criterion Cast, Donna K. wrote about PERVERT PARK at Hammer to Nail, Daniel Walber reviewed the South Korean smash hit MY LOVE, DON’T CROSS THAT RIVER for Nonfics and Soraya Nadia McDonald reflected on RUBBLE KINGS in The Washington Post.
According to Cineuropa’s Joseph Proimakis, the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival is now accepting entries for the 2016 edition of the Greek doc fest. On the development end of the spectrum, the international doc marketplace Sunny Side of the Doc took place this past week in La Rochelle. Fabien Lemercier reported on the event for Cineuropa, while Domenico La Porta interviewed Yves Jeanneau, the CEO of the event, for the same outlet. Kevin Ritchie also covered the event happenings for Realscreen.
In a pair of insightful pieces at Indiewire, Eric Hynes posted a brief transcript of a short play that was performed by Oscar-winning producer Simon Chinn at Sheffield Doc/Fest’s Market Place Live a few weeks back, while Paula Bernstein reported why Brent E. Huffman’s documentary SAVING MES AYNAK will be distributed for free to the people of Afghanistan thanks to Kartemquin Films.
The New York Times Op-Docs series received a pair of new entries this past week in David Thorpe’s WHO SOUNDS GAY? and Genéa Gaudet’s ELDER: A MORMON LOVE STORY, both of which are free to watch at the links. Similarly, Vice posted a new short by the Angulo brothers (subjects of THE WOLFPACK) titled MIRROR HEART. And lastly, Nicholas Laskin reported on a newly available TAXI DRIVER making-of doc for Indiewire.
As usual, if you have any tips or recommendations for the Memo, please contact me via email here, or on Twitter, @Rectangular_Eye. I look forward to hearing from you!