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.”
Still from Anna Fitch and Banker White's HEAVEN THROUGH THE BACKDOOR
In the lead up this week’s midterm elections, doc news has been in unusual abundance. On Thursday, the Sundance Institute announced that “Thirty-three nonfiction works from seventeen countries comprise the latest Sundance Institute Documentary Fund and Stories of Change Grantees, announced today. 81% of the supported projects have at least one woman producer or director; 48% originate from outside the US.” Grantees include Lucrecia Martel, Manuel Abramovich, Violeta Ayala, and Nanfu Wang. That same day, Kartemquin Films revealed the recipients of $150,000 in grants, as well as the fact “that in 2019, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation will support Kartemquin’s new Diverse Voices Accelerator Fund, pledging $50,000 annually in grants to fellows and alumni of their Diverse Voices in Docs (DVID) program, a professional mentorship and development program for documentary filmmakers of color.” Those awarded include Kartemquin co-founder Gordon Quinn, Bing Liu, and Laura Checkoway.
As awards season ramps up (and the Oscar eligible doc list continues to expand), it’s always interesting to see what organizations and festivals across the pond rally around. The newly announced British Independent Film Award nominees for Best Documentary are a prime example of how different the results might be from the US marketplace. The five nominees are Steve Sullivan’s BEING FRANK: THE CHRIS SIEVEY STORY, Orlando Von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara’s EVELYN, Steven Eastwood and Elhum Shakerifar’s ISLAND, Felip Bustos Sierra’s NAE PASARAN, and Chris Martin and Tom Brisley’s UNDER THE WIRE. Additionally, DocLisboa announced its 2018 award winners, with the City of Lisbon Award for Best International Competition film going to GREETINGS FROM FREE FORESTS by Ian Soroka and the Award for Best Portuguese Competition film going to TERRA by Hiroatsu Suzuki and Rossana Torres. The Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival also revealed that among its award winners Alexandra Kandy Longuet’s VACANCY won Best World Documentary, Nora Agapi’s TIMEBOX won Best Central and East European Documentary, and Karel Žalud’s ENCLOSED WORLD took home Best Czech Documentary.
On the domestic festival front, Dave McNary reported in Variety, “After 18 years under Film Independent, the Los Angeles Film Festival is no more. Film Independent announced Wednesday that it was ending the festival — which had been moved this year from June to September — and replace it with year-round events aimed at building community and broadening its support of visual storytellers.” Frederick Blichert of Realscreen caught up with documentary filmmakers Ashley York and Sally Rubin to respond to the news and discuss the lasting impact of the LA Film Festival on the indie documentary industry.
First off, I apologize for missing the memo last week. I had prepped one celebrating both my wife’s birthday, as well as the release of DOC NYC‘s and IDFA‘s full lineups, but a family emergency reared its head and everything else got sidelined for a few days. The good news is that all is ok for the time being and I’m back for another week of exciting doc news! Settling at the top was Cinema Eye Honors announcement of the 2016 Unforgettables, the 15 best doc subjects of the year, including Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner of WEINER, Laura Albert of AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY and Kate Lyn Shiel from KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE. Additionally, they revealed that the Museum of the Moving Image will host “a 10-week series highlighting films from the first #CEHDecade: “Pushing the Envelope: A Decade of Documentary’s Cinema Eye Honors”. The series will kick off Friday, November 4, 2016 with the first winner of Cinema Eye’s Outstanding Nonfiction Feature award, Jason Kohn’s MANDA BALA (SEND A BULLET).”
In the same vein, the Gotham Independent Film Awards released their full list of nominees, including the documentary category. Oddly, their website still lists last year’s info, but the trades all picked up the press release, with CAMERAPERSON, I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO, O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA, TOWER and WEINER listed as the doc nominees. And while the festival circuit was fairly quiet this week, Portugal’s Doclisboa did kick off on Thursday evening and Basil Tsiokos wrote an overview of the new features on offer over at What (not) To Doc, noting new work by João Monteiro and several world premiering competition titles in Kimi Takesue’s 95 AND 6 TO GO, Yuki Kawamura’s A FRIEND FROM SIBERIA, Ludovica Tortora de Falco’s DO NOT TOUCH ME!, and Maximiliano Schonfeld’s THE SLEEPING TIGER.
Here at Stranger Than Fiction, our Jonathan Demme documentary retrospective continues tomorrow at the IFC Center with his New Orleans set I’M CAROLYN PARKER: THE GOOD, THE MAD, AND THE BEAUTIFUL from 2011. Director Demme and Demme and producer Daniel Wolff will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A. Tickets for the screening can still be purchased here.
Bright and early Thursday morning Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro, Variety’s Gordon Cox and The Hollywood Reporter’s Hilary Lewis each broke the news that the Gotham Independent Film Awards had named their 2015 nominees, including APPROACHING THE ELEPHANT, CARTEL LAND, HEART OF A DOG, LISTEN TO ME MARLON and THE LOOK OF SILENCE. The following day, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the full list of 124 contenders in the Oscar race for Best Documentary Feature, as reported by Steve Pond at The Wrap, indieWIRE’s Zack Sharf and Dave McNary for Variety. And while we’re still quite a ways away from the event scheduled on June 9th, Realscreen reports that submissions for the 2016 Realscreen Awards are now open.
With the 13th edition of DocLisboa having begun late last week, Cineuropa’s Vitor Pinto previewed the Portuguese productions on offer, as Basil Tsiokos wrote up an overview of the fest at What (not) To Doc. Tsiokos also previewed the docs on offer at The American Museum of Natural History’s Margaret Mead Film Festival and NYC’s NewFest. At MUBI’s Notebook, Boris Nelepo reflected on the career of the Serbian filmmaker Želimir Žilnik, who is receiving first complete international retrospective as part of DocLisboa. As IDFA draws near, indieWIRE’s Tambay A. Obenson took the time to highlight a trio of films of African diaspora, while Jorn Rossing Jensen reported on the many Norwegian productions that will be making their way to Amsterdam for Cineuropa.
The Montreal International Documentary Festival revealed the programming schedule for their annual industry conference, Doc Circuit Montréal (DCM) reports Daniele Alcinii of Realscreen. Likewise, Cineuropa’s Vladan Petkovic covered the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival’s announcement of the program for its Inspiration Forum, “a platform intended to facilitate the search for new themes and their interpretations.” Scheduled speakers include Julian Assange (via Skype) and Maria Alyokhina (Masha) of Pussy Riot.
This week Stranger Than Fiction continues with a special screening of AN OMAR BROADWAY FILM, showing prison life through the eyes of the prisoners – the violence, the boredom, what everyone inside the prison, both inmates and guards, do to survive. The film’s director, Douglas Tirola, will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A. Tickets are still available here.