While the midterm elections, another mass shooting, and word that RBG fell and fractured three ribs were all making headline news this last week, plenty of notable documentary happenings were taking place in the background. On Saturday night in Brooklyn, the third annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards took place, at which “WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? took home the evening’s most prestigious award for Best Documentary as well as Best Director for Morgan Neville and the award for Best Editing. FREE SOLO took home the award for Best Sports Documentary, the award for Best Innovative Documentary and was honored for Best Cinematography…the Best Political Documentary winner was RBG. QUINCY took home the award for Best Music Documentary. There was a tie for Best First Time Director between Bing Liu for MINDING THE GAP and Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster for SCIENCE FAIR.”
Two days prior, the Cinema Eye Honors announced the nominees for its 12th edition, with MINDING THE GAP leading the pack with a total of 7 nominations, tying the record for most nominations in Cinema Eye history. The six films up for the top prize of Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking are BISBEE ’17, HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING, MINDING THE GAP, OF FATHERS AND SONS, THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS, WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?.
Many of the nominees and award winners thus far turned up in conversation with one another for The Hollywood Reporter‘s annual Documentary Roundtable. Meanwhile, Anne Thompson noted at IndieWire that “Last year, the Academy documentary branch had to grapple with a record 170 documentary feature submissions for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar. This year, it’s not so bad: only 166 were entered. The short list of 15 will be announced, along with eight others for the first time on a single date this year: December 17.”
Director Yance Ford and his remarkable heart-wrenching debut STRONG ISLAND received a trio of major awards at the 11th annual Cinema Eye Honors in Queens on Thursday evening, including Outstanding Direction, Outstanding Debut and Outstanding Nonfiction Feature Film. Additionally, Brett Morgen’s JANE was honored with the Audience Choice Prize and the award for Outstanding Score, while Jonathan Olshefski’s QUEST won Outstanding Editing, Kareem Abeed, Stefan Kloos and Soren Steen Jespersen won Outstanding Production for LAST MEN IN ALEPPO, Andrew Ackerman and Jeff Orlowski won Outstanding Cinematography for CHASING CORAL, and Stefan Nadelman won Outstanding Graphic Design for LONG STRANGE TRIP.
Earlier in the week, the Directors Guild of America revealed its nominees for Best Documentary of 2017 – THE VIETNAM WAR, ICARUS, CITY OF GHOSTS, ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL & WORMWOOD – as did the British Film Academy Awards (BATFAs) – CITY OF GHOSTS, I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO, ICARUS, AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL & JANE. Leading the way in its support of women nonfiction filmmakers, Chicken & Egg Pictures, via Rachel Montpelier at Women and Hollywood, announced that the recipients of their annual Breakthrough Filmmaker Awards are Natalia Almada, Ramona Diaz, Laura Nix, Kimi Takesue, and Nanfu Wang. Each filmmaker is to recieve a $50,000 unrestricted grant and a year of professional mentorship.
As we wait for Sundance to kick off later this week, Akiva Gottlieb reported for IDA on UnionDocs‘ “weekend workshop called ‘Speculations in the Archive,’ a sold-out gathering that explored the archive’s potential to spur imagination and invention.” The verdict? “If there’s something that links the new practitioners of what might be called speculative archival filmmaking, it’s the conviction that documentary can be the product of solitude, and that communion with inanimate materials can generate the most thrilling, immediate forms of direct cinema.”
With nominations from various organizations being announced this week, we can no longer deny that we are now in the midst of award season. The IDA Documentary Awards revealed their initial nominations for its 33rd edition, including those up for the ABC News VideoSource Award for best use of news footage in a documentary: BLOOD ON THE MOUNTAIN, ICARUS, OBIT., ELIÁN and LA 92. Those wishing to attend the award ceremony on December 9th at the Paramount Theatre in LA can still purchase tickets here through October 27th. IDA also announced this year’s Enterprise Documentary Fund Grantees who received $850,000 in funding across 11 projects.
Last Tuesday, Cinema Eye announced their annual list of Unforgettables, “which annually celebrates the exciting and sometimes tricky collaborations between filmmaker and subjects by noting those indelible individuals who helped define documentary cinema in 2017.” Among the 30 individuals from 15 different films named were Daje Shelton from FOR AHKEEM, Ola Kaczanowska of COMMUNION, Yance Ford from STRONG ISLAND, and Christine’a Rainey, Christopher “Quest” Rainey, PJ Rainey and William Withers from QUEST. Anne Thompson broke the story over at IndieWire.
Following shortly thereafter, the IFP Gotham Awards unveiled their own nominations, including for a quintet of films up for Best Documentary, including EX-LIBRIS – THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY, RAT FILM, STRONG ISLAND, WHOSE STREETS?, and THE WORK. Tickets for the award ceremony to take place on November 27th at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City can be purchased here.
While TIFF 2017 has now come and gone, this past week saw plenty of wrap ups and reviews still filing in, including my own wrap-up of the best docs I saw this year in Toronto over at Nonfics. Included amidst these films is Frederick Wiseman’s EX LIBRIS – THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY, which also appears in the Top Picks of MUBI’s Notebook and The Film Stage‘s list of the best films at TIFF (see also: Wiseman on the latest episode of The Close-Up podcast). According to the 36 critics who voted in IndieWire‘s annual TIFF survey, Brett Morgen’s JANE was the best doc of the fest, while Rolling Stone shortlisted Jason Kohn’s LOVE MEANS ZERO and the folks at Vox name dropped Greg Barker’s THE FINAL YEAR and Agnès Varda and JR’s FACES, PLACES as their favorites. Meanwhile at Filmmaker Magazine, Tiffany Pritchard reported on TIFF’s Doc Conference, “an entire day of panels and talks were presented.” Probably the most thorough coverage of docs at TIFF this year can be found over at POV Magazine’s TIFF Hub, where tons of reviews can be found, as well as a handful of interviews, including this new one with Wavelength’s programmer Andréa Picard.
The Camden International Film Festival takes place during TIFF, and thus generally gets a bit overshadowed, but at Film School Rejects, Christopher Campbell argues that the festival “allows nonfiction fans to feel like most movie fans,” noting that “many documentary film festivals hold special pitching events for filmmakers, but they tend to be behind closed doors. Camden opens theirs up to the public, and this year’s took place before a sold out crowd at the Camden Opera House.” At CIFF proper, Ziad Kalthoum’s TASTE OF CEMENT and Jonathan Olshefski‘s QUEST took home Best Documentary Feature and the Audience Award, respectively, reports Daniele Alcinii at Realscreen. Looking internationally, Basil Tsiokos previewed the new nonfiction films to have their debuts at this past weekend at South Korea’s DMZ Docs, as well as the domestic, NYC based Urbanworld Film Festival.
In the hustle and bustle of festival happenings, I failed to mention last week that on September 14th the Cinema Eye Honors announced their 2018 Shorts List, including Laura Checkoway’s EDITH + EDDIE (which Cher boarded as executive producer this week, reports Chris Gardner at The Hollywood Reporter), Elaine McMillion Sheldon’s HEROIN(E), and Laura Poitras and Henrik Moltke’s PROJECT X. Apparently I wasn’t the only one late on the uptake, as Kate Erbland reported the news nearly a week later at IndieWire.
Last Wednesday marked the end of a week of a celebratory filmmaker outings for those nominated for this year’s Cinema Eye Honors, which is now in its tenth year of existence. IndieWire’s Eric Kohn documented the pre-award show outings, which included a private visit to the Whitney, live band karaoke featuring the likes of Steve James, the Ross brothers and Robert Greene, and much more. At the Cinema Eye Honors awards ceremony, “Kirsten Johnson’s CAMERAPERSON took home three awards, Outstanding Cinematography for Johnson, Outstanding Editing for Nels Bangerter and Outstanding Nonfiction Feature for Johnson and producer Marilyn Ness,” while “O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA received two awards: Outstanding Direction for Ezra Edelman and Outstanding Production for Edelman and Caroline Waterlow.” This year’s Audience Award went to Clay Tweel’s GLEASON. The full list of honorees can be found here.
In other awards news, the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs) revealed their nominees this past week, putting 13TH, THE EAGLE HUNTRESS, WEINER, NOTES ON BLINDNESS and THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS up for Best Documentary. And while Cara Buckley debated whether O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA was a mini-series or a just a really long feature film in The New York Times, Glenn Whipp wondered aloud in The Los Angeles Times whether the film will be upset at this year’s Oscars. A pair of must read end of year rundowns also appeared this week, one from Robert Greene in Sight & Sound and a whole host of cinephilic lists over at Senses of Cinema’s World Poll 2016.