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 Times. Catherine 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.
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.”
The new film FED UP reached theaters this week.
This week the new doc FED UP from director Stephanie Soechtig bowed at theaters, drawing a fair amount of attention in the process. At Variety, Malina Saval had a capsule review and a quote from Soechtig, while The Economist reviewed the film. Nathan Rabin pulled the same duty at The Dissolve. And Jordan M. Smith of Ion Cinema interviewed Soechtig and producers Laurie David and Heather Reisman.
Netflix again made news this week by acquiring a new slate of docs, among them E-TEAM from directors Ross Kauffman and Kate Chevigny. At Realscreen, Adam Benzine had the details, as did the Associated Press. At the Los Angeles Times, Joe Flint focused on the acquisition of THE BATTERED BASTARDS OF BASEBALL.
In other distro news, Manori Ravindran of Realscreen reported that Lionsgate was in talks to release the film AMERICA: IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT HER from filmmaker John Sullivan and writer Dinesh D’Souza. Realscreen colleague Kevin Ritchie had the news that Kino Lorber had snagged North American rights for the the new Alex Gibney film, FINDING FELA.
This week Stranger Than Fiction hosts the new Joe Berlinger film, WHITEY: THE UNITED STATES V. JAMES J. BULGER at the IFC Center on Tuesday, May 13 at 8 p.m. The film follows the trial of gangster James “Whitey” Bulger. Berlinger will be in attendance for a Q&A session following the film. For more information or to purchase tickets please go here.