While the holidays have now come and gone and we’ve already cracked into the new calendar, for the last two weeks much of the movie blogosphere has been on holiday itself, resulting in a rather brief Monday Memo this week. The majority of folks who did publish new work were mostly looking back at 2016, with rundowns of the year’s best docs coming from Katie Walsh and the staff at The Playlist and Daniel Walber of Nonfics, whom importantly noted, “The list of great, undistributed docs of 2016 is long, and includes such dramatically different films as INAATE/SE/ and ALL THIS PANIC. And three beautifully crafted documentaries, all directed by Mexican women, are an especially frustrating omission of 2016’s commercial release schedule: Betzabé García’s KINGS OF NOWHERE, Maya Goded’s PLAZA DE LA SOLEDAD and Tatiana Huezo’s TEMPESTAD.”
At IndieWire, Chris O’Falt published the favorites of 2016 of 35 different directors, including Jonathan Demme, Ezra Edelman, Alma Har’el, Kirsten Johnson and more. For Fandor’s Keyframe, Kevin B. Lee and whole host of critical colleagues recounted their favorite video essays composed in 2016. The only people seeming to have the gumption to look forward is Gregory Ellwood, whose posted his Oscar predictions at The Playlist, Christopher Campbell, who listed his top 100 recommendations for doc watching via Netflix this January via Nonfics, and Basil Tsiokos, whose insightful previews of the doc to debut at Sundance later this month were the centerpiece over at What (not) To Doc last month.
As tends to happen as the year draws to a close, doc news and general coverage has slowed to a crawl. The most talked about stories of the week were not necessarily news, but reflective think pieces looking back at this tumultuous year or forward to the era of President Trump and beyond. Kiva Reardon‘s rightful call for female film critics on TIFF’s blog lit up social media, while at IndieWire, Anthony Kaufman dropped a firebrand outline for the doc community titled “Stories of Trump’s America: How Documentary Filmmakers Plan to Escape the Liberal Bubble.” Treading similar territory, Filmmaker Magazine published NUTS! director Penny Lane‘s more personal take in “Notes on Truth (Or, Documentary in the Post-Truth Era).” Taking direct action, Laura Poitras and the fine folks behind Field of Vision and Firelight Media have revealed a new project titled OUR 100 DAYS, that “will produce and distribute 10 shorts that explore topics like the rise in hate crimes, immigration, gender equality and LGBTQ rights,” reports Ashley Lee in The Hollywood Reporter.
Looking much further back, the Library of Congress announced it’s 2016 additions to the National Film Registry, including “THE ATOMIC CAFE (1982), which documents the threat of nuclear war following World War II; PARIS IS BURNING, a 1990 film that explores the complex ballroom subculture among gay men, drag queens and transgender women in New York City; SUZANNE, SUZANNE, an insightful profile of a substance abuser who confronts the legacy of physical abuse; Penelope Spheeris’ controversial, landmark documentary about the hardcore punk-rock scene in Los Angeles,” THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION, and a handful of shorts by Solomon Sir Jones that document the “rich tapestry of everyday life” of African American communities in Oklahoma during the 1920s.
Early in December there is always an avalanche of awards and lists and festival announcements and more, so it’s no surprise that at the top of this week’s news is that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has released it’s shortlist of the 15 films still in the running for the Oscar for Best Documentary. Cara Buckley highlighted the racially and politically driven focus of this year’s shortlisters for The New York Times, while Christopher Campbell outlined where can find all 15 films over at Nonfics. The 32nd annual IDA Documentary Awards also took place this past week, with Ezra Edelman’s O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA winning Best Feature, Orlando von Einsiedel’s THE WHITE HELMETS winning Best Short, and Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi’s MAKING A MURDERER taking home Best Limited Series. Additionally, IDA published a lengthy interview with its Amicus Award Honorees, Norman and Lyn Lear. Other award news included the European Film Academy naming Gianfranco Rosi’s FIRE AT SEA as the Best European Documentary at the European Film Awards over the weekend, and Cinema Eye Honors naming their immensely diverse 2017 Heterodox Award nominees in ALL THESE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS, THE FITS, KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE, MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART, and NEON BULL.
Adding to the chorus of praise that is awards season, a whole host of best of lists turned up over the last week, each with their own nonfiction infusion. The staffers over at The New York Times, Vulture, Slant and IndieWire, each published their’s. Included between the lists was NO HOME MOVIE, WEINER, CAMERAPERSON, HOMELAND: IRAQ YEAR ZERO, and of course, O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA, amongst others.
Just a week after Sundance dropped its competition linup, its Premieres section has been revealed and features new work from Lucy Walker, Barbara Kopple, Stanley Nelson, Rory Kennedy and more. Shortly thereafter, the Documentary Shorts were also announced. On the opposite coast, the Tribeca Film Festival hired former SVP of acquisitions and productions at Alchemy, Jeff Deutchman as its new Programmer at Large, according to Graham Winfrey of IndieWire. And Basil Tsiokos looked at the new nonfiction offerings of this year’s Dubai International Film Festival, while Leo Goldsmith looked back at his experience at Doclisboa for Film Comment.