I’ve returned after a week away from the cold, movies, the internet and headlines feeling mentally rejuvenated and ready to get back into the swing of things. A bit of ocean air seems to have done me well. And being that next month I’ll be heading to Columbia, Missouri once again for this year’s edition of the True/False Film Festival, it is exciting to find that they’ve revealed not only their 2017 lineup and schedule, but that they will be launching a new bi-weekly podcast – the True/False Podcast – on which “True/False programmers will sit down with filmmakers and tackle a new topic each episode.” The first episode is scheduled to go live two weeks before the festival begins, on February 23.
Speaking of podcasts, last week’s episode of Pure Nonfiction featured a conversation between our own Thom Powers and John Heilemann, co-creator of TRUMPED: INSIDE THE GREATEST POLITICAL UPSET OF ALL TIME, which aired on Showtime last week after its Sundance premiere.
Tomorrow, we here at Stranger Than Fiction are celebrating Valentine’s Day with a very special screening of THE LOVING STORY, which tells the dramatic story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple living in Virginia in the 1950s, and their landmark Supreme Court Case, Loving v. Virginia, that changed history. Director Nancy Buirski will be on hand for a live post-screening Q&A. Tickets and season passes are still available here.
It’s been an incredibly difficult week to keep up with documentary news, as my normal means of news gathering have been swamped with story after story of Trump’s growing list of executive actions, and understandably so. It’s times like these that make us reconsider the importance of the arts and the industries that grease their wheels. I mean, why read about award shows and film festivals while journalists are being charged with felonies for covering the protests during the inauguration, Stephen Bannon has publicly stated that media should “keep its mouth shut” and the president himself has issued a an order on immigration that severely restricts immigration from seven Muslim countries and more? Because cinema, and more specifically, documentaries, epitomize the human condition, inspire empathy, and more often than not advocate for social change in times of political unrest – now more than ever.
In response to Trump’s immigration restrictions, Field of Vision currently has a callout for footage from inside airports pertaining to the Muslim Ban. Anyone with footage can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or share it anoymously in their secure drop. Reporting from Sundance, IndieWire’s Anthony Kaufman, Realscreen’s Valentina Valentini and Vulture’s Jada Yuan each parsed how the festival’s documentary selections worked in relief to the Trump administration thus far. Even this week’s episode of Pure Nonfiction, featuring Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives, who was profiled in the 2011 documentary THE ISLAND PRESIDENT, deals directly with the political impact of documentary films and the current political climate we’ve found ourselves in.
Right here at home, we announced last Friday that Stranger Than Fiction will be returning to the IFC Center for our 2017 Winter Season, which begins Tuesday, February 7th with the NYC premiere of Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon’s THE WAR SHOW, about “a Syrian radio DJ who documents the experiences of herself and her friends as their dreams of hope and liberation in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring give way to the grim realities of repression, forced emigration and extremism.” Alaa Hassan, the film’s producer, will be on hand for a live post-screening Q&A. Tickets to our opening night event, as well as season passes, can be purchased here.
Happy Halloween! It’s odd, one would think Halloween weekend would be primed for horror releases, but it seems an unusual amount of well regarded documentaries found their way into theaters this past week. Chief among these was Werner Herzog’s INTO THE INFERNO, which found its way into homes around the world via Netflix and also opened at the IFC Center. The volcanic film was named WNYC‘s Documentary of the week, was Film Comment‘s Film of the Week, and was selected by Manohla Dargis as a NYT Critics’ Pick. Though I’m fond of the film myself in my review at IONCINEMA, I am in full agreement with Matt Zoller Seitz when he says in his review at RogerEbert.com that many viewers detect that “all the adulation has made him cuddly, and his films warmer, more accessible, and perhaps in some ways more superficial.” We’ll return to theatrical releases a bit later.
As we near the start of DOC NYC (less than two week away now), the festival’s Director of Programming, Basil Tsiokos, has been running through a series of previews of each of the festival’s sections over at What (not) To Doc. Tsiokos also looked at the Jihlava International Documentary Festival, the Czech Republic’s widely known nonfiction fest, having ran Tuesday through Sunday, as did Vladan Petkovic for Cineuropa. Cineuropa also had David González on hand to report on the festival’s industry conference happenings in a pair of pieces on documentary making process and funding. Yesterday, the festival announced its award winners, with Maria Kourkouta and Niki Giannari’s SPECTRES ARE HAUNTING EUROPE named as the Best World Documentary, Salomé Jashi’s THE DAZZLING LIGHT OF SUNSET taking the award for Best Central and Eastern European Documentary, and Tomáš Bojar and Rozálie Kohoutová’s FC ROMA named as the Best Czech Documentary.
Tomorrow, We conclude our fall season with one final doc by the great Jonathan Demme, his 2007 film about the former U.S. president, JIMMY CARTER MAN FROM PLAINS. For this special screening director Jonathan Demme, Producer Ron Bozman and President Carter’s Literary Publicist Elizabeth Hayes will all be on hand for a post-screening Q&A. Tickets for this closing night screening are available here.
With more TIFF wrap ups, a bunch of theatrical releases, award show news and more, it’s been a bustling week for documentary lovers. At the top of the heap was the announcement that the Cinema Eye Honors is turning 10 this year, and to celebrate, the organization polled 110 key members of the documentary community and selected 10 filmmakers and 20 films that helped define Cinema Eye’s first decade. In partnership with the Museum of the Moving Image, Cinema Eye will be hosting a 10-week screening series of films from its first decade, beginning with four-time Cinema Eye Honoree and Academy Award winner Laura Poitras presenting her post-9/11 trilogy: MY COUNTRY, MY COUNTRY, THE OATH and CITIZENFOUR. A full schedule of the series will be announced at a later date.
Following the news that Poitras would be kicking off the Cinema Eye screening series, she made the major announcement that she’d be stepping down from The Intercept to focus on the expansion of Field of Vision at its new location, fieldofvision.org. Along with her co-founders AJ Schnack and Charlotte Cook, the trio released a simultaneous statement in which they revealed “our new website, announce a slate of international films, expanded collaborations, and a SecureDrop platform for sources to leak newsworthy video.” New films from Yung Chang, Emily Pederson, Mila Aung-Thwin and Van Royko, Braden King, Elizabeth Lo, Laura Poitras and Henrik Moltke and Hito Steyerl, among others are in the pipeline, so keep your eyes peeled.
Tomorrow, the fall season of Stranger Than Fiction, which will celebrate the documentary work of Jonathan Demme with a 6-film retrospective, kicks off with his miraculous 1984 Talking Heads concert doc STOP MAKING SENSE! Demme himself will be on hand for a live post-screening Q&A. Season passes are still available here. As a primer to our upcoming retrospective, Demme appeared again on the latest episode of Thom Powers’ Pure Nonfiction podcast to talk about his concert films with Talking Heads, Neil Young and Justin Timberlake.
Generally speaking, all was fairly quiet on the home front as far as documentary news was concerned this past week, though that’s not to say that there wasn’t some exciting moving and shaking to report. This weekend marked the start of Munich’s DOK.fest where films like Pawel Siczek’s HALF THE TOWN and Jens Schanze’s LA BUENA VIDA will screen as part of the DOK.international competition. At What (not) To Doc, Basil Tsiokos wrote an extensive overview of the offerings at this year’s festival, while Giorgia Del Don pointed out the incredible number of Swiss productions included in this year’s program (18!) at Cineuropa.
Just prior to the start of DOK.fest, another major European doc mainstay in the Sheffield Doc/Fest announced their 2015 line-up. Stacked with 150 films and scheduled to kick off on June 5th with Joshua Oppenheimer’s THE LOOK OF SILENCE, the festival will also pay tribute to Albert Maysles, as well as feature the world premiere of director Benedikt Erlingsson’s THE GREATEST SHOWS ON EARTH: A CENTURY OF FUNFAIRS, CIRCUSES AND CARNIVALS, with a score by Georg Hólm and Orri Páll Dýrason of Sigur Rós, reports Elle Leonsis of Indiewire and The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee. At the BFI, Georgia Korossi posted a preview of the festival’s offerings, as well as a trailer for the fest itself.
Tomorrow at 8pm, we here at Stranger Than Fiction will welcome directors Alan and Susan Raymond to the IFC Center for a screening of THE POLICE TAPES, their groundbreaking, experimental video documentary that revealed the life of a South Bronx police precinct in 1977, one of the most tumultuous years in the history of New York City. This past week in The L Magazine, Mark Asch called the film “a more emotionally involved heir to Wiseman’s Direct Cinema masterwork LAW AND ORDER”, while in The New Yorker, Richard Brody celebrates the filmmakers’ participation in the intense situations on screen and an especially impassioned monologue by borough commander Anthony Bouza “regarding the inherent resentment of the presence of the police and the trauma and rage of poverty—that should be engraved on the halls of justice. “should be engraved on the halls of justice”. What tickets still available for the screening can be found here.