Photo by Larry Busacca / Getty Images
Crystal Moselle’s unbelievable Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner THE WOLFPACK is undeniably the most talked about doc of the year thus far. Hitting theaters this past weekend, the film was not only selected by our own Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen as WNYC’s Documentary of the Week, but featured in the LA Times by Steven Zeitchik, Huffington Post by Matthew Jacobs, the Wall Street Journal by Caryn James, Salon thanks to Lauren Wissot and The New York Times by Cara Buckley. Manohla Dargis also reviewed Moselle’s film for The Times, as did NPR’s Ella Taylor, NY Daily News’ Joe Neumaier, RogerEbert.com’s Brian Tallerico, The Dissolve’s Tasha Robinson and Ned Benson at The Talkhouse. At Indiewire, Anne Thompson and Ryan Lattanzio posted a new video of the film’s subjects, the Angulo Brothers, remaking classic DeNiro scenes, while Simon Houpt spoke with two of the boys for The Globe and Mail. With all the attention, it’s unsurprising to find Moselle has been doing interviews with everyone, including Jenelle Riley of Variety, Jamie Maleszka at Nonfics, The Dissolve’s Tasha Robinson and Vice.
This last week also saw two substantial new entries into the doc world. The Wrap’s Itay Hod and Bent’s Jamie Gates both reported that Logo TV is launching an LGBT documentary division with a slate films that include Michele Josue’s MATT SHEPARD IS A FRIEND OF MINE and Deborah Riley Draper’s VERSAILLES ’73: AN AMERICAN REVOLUTION. Likewise, Economist Magazine has kicked off a new documentary unit, Economist Films, according to Variety’s David S. Cohen. Starting big, they’ve already posted a pair of films for viewing in DRONE RANGERS and DRUGS: WAR OR STORE?.
Less than a month after the conclusion of this year’s edition of Toronto’s Hot Docs Film Festival, Charlotte Cook, the festival’s Director of Programming for the last four years, has announced that she’ll be stepping down from her position to focus, in her words, on “working closely with filmmakers. Something I hope to have the honour to do for the rest of my life.” Shipra Harbola Gupta reported the news for Indiewire, as did Julianna Cummins for Realscreen. Gracefully ruminating on her time with Hot Docs, Cook wrote a personal statement over at Medium, signing off with, “A huge thank you to everyone who supported a young Brit with a passion for showing films and celebrating those who make them. And I can’t wait to share my next adventure with you all..”
Last week there was much talk about The New York Times’ decision to change their film reviewing policy to no longer guarantee a review if it plays in theaters, some positive, some negative. This past week, a pair of further thoughts came through the wire, one from The New Yorker’s Richard Brody in which he opines that the new policy gives smaller films and online releases a more even playing field while incisively commenting on very nature of criticism in our current culture of mass data itself. The second came from Calum Marsh in The Guardian who discussed what will likely end thanks to the policy change – ‘four-walling’, or how filmmakers pay to see their work on screen.
We here at Stranger Than Fiction show films not for reviews, but because we want audiences to be able to see them in their prime, on the big screen. Our Spring Season is coming to a close tomorrow with Crystal Moselle’s mind-blowing debut, THE WOLFPACK. The director will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A. More details on both the film and screening can be found here.
Robert Durst arrested, photo by Orleans Parish Sheriffs Office
Months back when news broke that HBO was to premiere Andrew Jarecki’s long awaited return to non-fiction in the form of a six part serial mini-series on Robert Durst, I don’t think anyone could have predicted this: Jon Herskovitz of Reuters, Emily Shapiro of ABC News, Ashley Southall and Charles V. Bagli of The New York Times and the staff at Variety have reported that Saturday the son of the one of New York City’s largest real estate barons was arrested in New Orleans on a murder warrant issued by police in Los Angeles related to the death of his friend, Susan Berman. After the fifth episode of Jarecki’s THE JINX: THE LIFE AND DEATHS OF ROBERT DURST aired last Sunday, revealing the discovering of new evidence in Berman’s murder case, The New York Times ran an article by Charles V. Bagli that dropped the bomb that the district attorney in Los Angeles had recently reopened an investigation into Berman’s death. The Guardian also ran a piece on Saturday in which Andrew Gumbel outlines the possibility of Jarecki and his team actually solving the murder case through the medium of investigative documentary filmmaking. The series concluded its shocking six episode run on HBO last night in which Durst unknowingly admitted, “Killed them all, of course”. Late last night, Charles V. Bagli and Vivian Yee reported on the horrifying reveal for The New York Times, as did Ben Williams for Vulture and Jessica Contrera and Peter Holley for The Washington Post.
Jarecki is a Stranger Than Fiction alumnus, with his doc classic CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS having screened as part of our Fall 2013 season. Our current season continues tomorrow with a special screening of TO TELL THE TRUTH: A HISTORY OF DOCUMENTARY FILM (1928-1946) dedicated to Ali Pomeroy, who produced the film and tragically passed away February 27, 2015 after a 2 1/2-year struggle with cancer. Both David Van Taylor and Cal Skaggs, the film’s co-directors, will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A.
Albert Maysles at DOC NYC 2014 where he received the Visionaries Tribute Lifetime Achievement Award
Last week I said I’d be skipping the Monday Memo until next week due to the fact that I’d be at True/False Fest all weekend, but despite being thoroughly drained from the incredible films I took in and festivities I took part in, there is yet news that must be addressed, albeit briefly. As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Albert Maysles, a documentary pioneer whose work includes such classics as GREY GARDENS, SALESMAN and GIMME SHELTER, passed away late last Thursday night, just after it was announced that IN TRANSIT, what will now be his final film, will have its world premiere next month at the Tribeca Film Festival. Word spread like wild fire both on Twitter and through the various Qs throughout True/False Friday morning. During the festival’s celebratory March March through downtown Columbia, MO, filmmakers took to the streets with portraits of Maysles and film stills from his monumental oeuvre pinned to their jackets in tribute to their fallen hero.
Mourning the loss, articles revealing the news of his death and detailing the filmmaker’s life and career showed up at The New Yorker in a loving piece by Richard Brody, in an article by Matt Schudel in the Washington Post, the New York Times thanks to Anita Gates, as well as at The Dissolve in an obituary by Keith Phipps. For Slate, Charles Loxton wrote a piece on the filmmaker’s passing, while Matt Zoller Seitz wrote up a list of 8 things about Al over at RogerEbert.com. For this week’s Indiewire Podcast, Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson discuss why Maysles mattered. Christopher Campbell also paid tribute and passed along the statement released from the Maysles Documentary Center over at Nonfics.
Maysles died just prior to the theatrical rerelease of GREY GARDENS, which Alex Simon of The Huffington Post had recently interviewed him about. Andrew O’Hehir had also reported on the film’s restoration for Salon, while Katey Rich of Vanity Fair released a 2001 Phone Call Between Little Edie of GREY GARDENS and Maysles earlier in the week. Just prior to boarding a plane to True/False and hearing the news of Maysles passing, Farihah Zaman had submit an article on GREY GARDENS to The Talk House.
Over the years, Al Maysles was a guest of and mentor to Stranger Than Fiction and it is with great sadness that we must say our goodbyes. Our conversations with Al about SALESMAN and GREY GARDENS can be viewed at the links.
This week is rare in that we hosting a double header with SEYMOUR: AN INTRODUCTION playing tonight at 8 pm, while A DANGEROUS GAME will screen Thursday at 8 pm, both at the IFC Center with post-screening Q&As, as usual.
The PBS documentary show Independent Lens announced its Winter/Spring lineup this week.
The PBS show Independent Lens this week announced the lineup for its Winter/Spring 2014 season. At Indiewire, Alison Willmore had coverage of the program’s schedule, which includes AT BERKELEY from Frederick Wiseman, MEDORA from Davy Rothbart and Andrew Cohn, LET THE FIRE BURN from Jason Osder and THE NEW BLACK from Yoruba Richen, among others. At the Independent Lens blog, Craig Phillips interviewed JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI director David Gelb.
Year-end lists continued to roll in from all quarters of the internet this week. Nonfics.com’s Christopher Campbell rounded up a whole slew of critics picks, while Jose F. Rodriguez of the Tribeca Film Institute wrote up a list of the year’s 10 best docs. The POV blog also updated its list of the top docs of 2013, while Paste Magazine’s Michael Dunaway had his picks for the year’s top 15 films at Paste Magazine. At Indiewire’s Women and Hollywood blog, writers Melissa Silverstein and Inkoo Kang listed the year’s best female-helmed docs. Filmmaker Caveh Zahedi penned a list of his top 10 docs at Fandor. And Indiewire’s Peter Knegt updated the site’s list of the top grossing indie docs for 2013 as of December 17.
CNN doubled down on docs this week, announcing that it would begin acquiring and airing documentaries that were not first on television premieres. Adam Benzine covered the move for Realscreen, with Tony Maglio doing the same at The Wrap and Hilary Lewis pulling duty at The Hollywood Reporter.. Lisa de Moraes of Deadline also reported that CNN chief Jeff Zucker had other changes for CNN in the works intended to help the network compete with channels such as Discovery and National Geographic.