Sending contradictory shocks of nervous awe and critical relief throughout the film industry, the New York Times announced that they can no longer guarantee a film review no matter whether or not a film plays theatrically or not. With the increasing deluge of films being released each year, A.O. Scott, Manohla Dargis and the rest of the film critics on staff can no longer handle the crushing load such a release schedule demands of the writers. Brent Lang broke the news at Variety, while Indiewire’s Sam Adams‘ had an exclusive interview with A.O. Scott about the tough decision and its possible implications. Following the news The Wrap ran a pair of articles, one by Steve Pond, the other by Todd Cunningham, focusing on the potentially catastrophic impact for documentary films come Oscar season. Ben Child of The Guardian also reported on the policy change, while FishbowlNY’s Richard Horgan collected social media responses from the likes of Ira Deutchman and Vadim Rizov who noted that “so many freelancers are gonna get their bottom line messed with, but for the greater good, probably”.
Less remarkable was the end of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, which ended controversially, as usual. Most dubious to my mind was the fact that in nearly all coverage of the festival’s awards, mention of the new L’Oeil d’Or documentary award was wholly omitted. Separately, Variety’s John Hopewell wrote that Chilean Marcia Tambutti did in fact win the first ever L’Oeil d’Or with her film BEYOND MY GRANDFATHER ALLENDE, which Deborah Young called “a little too long” in her review of the film in The Hollywood Reporter, saying that “at times it slips away into a sort of psychoanalysis of the filmmaker and her close-mouthed family which can be heavy going”. Back at Variety, Peter Debruge continues to disparage, saying that portions of the film are “the documentary equivalent of a YouTube reaction video”. David Hudson was one of few who did manage to keep tabs on L’Oeil d’Or, collecting commentary on the award for Keyframe.
Much more positively, Stig Bjorkman’s INGRID BERGMAN IN HER OWN WORDS, which received a special mention, received a The Hollywood Reporter’s Deborah Young, calling the film “an inspiring celebrity bio with a happy ending”. Likewise, Luc Jacquet’s ecologically minded Cannes closer ICE AND THE SKY received glowing reviews from The Guardian’s Andrew Pulver, The Hollywood Reporter’s Boyd van Hoeij, and RogerEbert.com’s Barbara Scharres. Kent Jones’ much anticipated HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT also was awash in critical praise. Todd McCarthy called the doc “catnip for film buffs” at The Hollywood Reporter, while Peter Bradshaw dubbed it “a brilliant commentary on the discourse of cinema then, and now” at The Guardian. AV Club’s Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, LA Times’ Kenneth Turan and Indiewire’s Anne Thompson also reviewed the film positively. Lastly, Asif Kapadia, the director of the lavishly praised bio-doc AMY, spoke with Nigel M. Smith over at Indiewire about making his latest film, while filmmakers Rodney Ascher and Lloyd Kaufman told each other Cannes stories at The Talkhouse.
After last week’s successful screening of Marah Strauch’s BASE jumping debut SUNSHINE SUPERMAN here at Stranger Than Fiction, the film hit theaters to positive reviews from the likes of Glenn Kenny at RogerEbert.com and The Dissolve’s Jen Chaney. I also posted my interview with Strauch and the film’s producer Eric Bruggemann from back at its TIFF premiere over at IONCINEMA. The Stranger Than Fiction Q&A with Strauch and Bruggemann can also be found on the STFdocs YouTube channel. This week marks the return of legendary documentarian Barbara Kopple with her latest feature HOT TYPE: 150 YEARS OF THE NATION. The film screens tomorrow at the IFC Center and will follow with a Q&A with the director herself. More details on the event and ticket information can be found here.
Outside the buzz of festivals and film series, The Intercept’s Nick Turse contemplated THE LOOK OF SILENCE in a lengthy, incisive piece, while Sam Adams looked back at Adam Curtis’ incredible advertising epic CENTURY OF THE SELF at Indiewire (Adams also links to the film, for those who have yet to see it). On this week’s episode of The Close-up, Jia Zhangke speaks at length on the documentary form after showing his own 24 CITY at the Lincoln Film Society. After a catching a screening of THE WOLFPACK at the San Francisco International Film Festival, Hammer To Nail’s Jackson Scarlett spoke with director Crystal Moselle about her wonderfully enigmatic debut. And at Nonfics, Christopher Campbell interviewed WHICH WAY IS THE FRONTLINE FROM HERE? director Sebastian Junger.
Yael Melamede’s (DIS)HONESTY – THE TRUTH ABOUT LIES also hit theaters this past week, gleaning a handful of affirming reviews from around the net, including the New York Times’ Robin Pogrebin and The Dissolve’s Chris Klimek. Furthering the conversation, Tom Roston sat down with the film’s director for a discussion which can be found on Doc Soup.
On the doc development front, Realscreen’s Manori Ravindran reported that “the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) and the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) are teaming up for a revamped documentary lab that will focus on ‘creative risk-taking'”. Past collaborations have resulted in films such as Sarah Polley’s STORIES WE TELL and Yung Chang‘s THE FRUIT HUNTERS. Interested filmmakers can apply now through July 6, 2015. Similarly, The Grierson Trust is currently accepting applications for this year’s British Documentary Awards, but only through the end of this week (until June 1st). Doc curators, on the other hand, may be interested in a film programming position recently listed on the True/False Fest jobs page.
I’ll leave you this week with a reflective little piece by Matt Zoller Seitz, published at RogerEbert.com, on Bill Murray’s last appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman during which crowds of people attempted to catch the comedy icon on their iPhone rather than being fully present in the passing moment. In the article he reflects on our increasing desire as a society to visually document our experience, rather than actually engaging with the experience itself in the moment.
Until next week, Happy Memorial Day! If you have any tips or recommendations for the Memo in the meantime, please contact me via email here, or on Twitter, @Rectangular_Eye. I look forward to hearing from you!