Last Tuesday saw the Toronto International Film Festival reveal its 2017 TIFF Docs lineup, programmed by our very own Thom Powers. The 22-film program centers around world premieres of new works by Brett Morgan, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, Morgan Spurlock, Sam Pollard, Sophie Fiennes, Matt Tyrnauer and “goes deep into the lives of boundary-pushing characters — Grace Jones, Jim Carrey, Jane Goodall, and Eric Clapton, to name only a few of the most famous.” In his overview of the selections at Doc Soup, Tom Roston notes that there are 20% less films on this year’s slate than last year, but notes that it “is so power packed that it may well provide the tipping point for awards season.” Anne Thompson also weighed in on the selections at IndieWire, picking out ten films that already have the potential to shake up this year’s Oscars, pointing out that “the race always begins at Sundance, but…this year, without clear frontrunners, TIFF’s influence will be greater than ever.” Meanwhile at Realscreen, Meagan Kashty spoke with Thom Powers himself about this year’s selections.
In other festival news, according to Brian Steinberg of Variety, NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ and the American Film Institute have teamed up “for a film festival to be held in November in Washington D.C….The ‘Meet the Press’ film festival will feature contemporary documentaries of 40 minutes in length or less that focus on untold stories of American politics.” As always, Basil Tsiokos has given a trio of overviews of the non-fiction offerings at festivals currently running around the globe, including Kosovo’s Dokufest, Switzerland’s Locarno Film Festival, and Australia’s Melbourne International Film Festival, the latter of which was covered by the fine folks over at 4:3, whom listed their favorites from the fest so far.
In a collaborative effort between the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the International Documentary Association (IDA), a new report titled “State of the Field: A Report from the Documentary Sustainability Summit” was made public this week. The work begins, “Comprised of voices from the field, the following report represents a reflection of the day-today realities of maintaining a documentary career in an ever-changing cultural and business marketplace. Accompanied by recommendations throughout, these reflections are aimed to empower the documentary community (and related stakeholders) to assert agency in shaping a forward-thinking future that re-envisions current systems.” Additionally, the NEA will offer four free webinars that provide opportunities for the public to engage with experts in the field, beginning with a Report Overview on Thursday, August 10th. Complete webinar schedule and details can be found here.
As you might have noticed, there was no memo last week due to the fact that I was away attending this year’s edition of Missouri’s hybrid focused True/False Film Festival. As Richard Brody summed it up so deftly in The New Yorker, it’s a festival “governed by an idea, the essence of which is documentary filmmakers thinking about what they’re doing and making that thinking integral to their films.” Maybe more than any year prior, there was a lengthy list of press folk in town to cover the fest, including Vikram Murthi for RogerEbert.com, Steven Zeitchik of the LA Times, Alissa Wilkinson writing for Vox, Jim Brunzell at Hammer To Nail, Vadim Rizov of Filmmaker Magazine and Glenn Heath Jr. for MUBI’s Notebook. I, myself, let my impressions loose over at Nonfics.
While I was away, Chicago’s DOC10 revealed their 2017 lineup. Programmed by Anthony Kaufman, the schedule includes DOC NYC Grand Jury Prize winner THE ISLAND AND THE WHALES, one of my favorites from True/False, RAT FILM and other gems like the Sundance highlights CASTING JONBENET and STEP, which will serve as the opening night picture.
Here at Stranger Than Fiction, our winter season continues tomorrow night at IFC Center with Sara Taksler’s TICKLING GIANTS, which sees “Bassem Youssef make a decision that’s every mother’s worst nightmare… He leaves his job as a heart surgeon to become a full-time comedian.” The screening will be followed by a live Q&A with director Taksler. Tickets are still available here.
The film SUNSHINE SUPERMAN about BASE jumping was picked up by distributors after screening at this year's TIFF.
This week TIFF dominated documentary news. Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter wrote on the screening of THE LOOK OF SILENCE, director Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow up to THE ACT OF KILLING. Manori Ravindran of Realscreen had the news that Cinephil had inked a number of international distro deals for the film. And Variety shared a video interview with Oppenheimer. Director Michael Moore made waves by issuing a documentary filmmaker manifesto in a keynote speech that Indiewire reprinted in its entirety. Sam Adams also interviewed Moore in a piece for Biography. Indiewire’s Paula Bernstein reported that CNN Films and Magnolia Pictures had partnered to acquire SUNSHINE SUPERMAN from director Maria Strauch. The Hot Docs festival also used TIFF as a launching pad for its new report on learning from documentary audiences; Kevin Ritchie of Realscreen reported on its release.
Realscreen provided an astounding amount of coverage of the festival. Adam Benzine reported on Martin Scorsese’s Q&A following the screening of his documentary THE 50 YEAR ARGUMENT at TIFF. Nick Krewen spoke with THE PRICE WE PAY filmmaker Harold Crooks about his new film. Kevin Ritchie talked to Steven Markovitz, uncovering five tips for finding a coproduction partner. Manori Ravindran covered a panel talk from Marc Schiller of Bond Strategy and Influence. Kevin Ritchie covered the screening of the new Nick Broomfield film TALES OF THE GRIM SLEEPER. Adam Benzine also reported that HBO had purchased U.S. television rights for Broomfield’s film. Manori Ravindran spoke with directors Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan about their film THE WANTED 18. At Indiewire’s Thompson on Hollywood blog, John Anderson listed the best docs at the festival with about three days left.
Stranger Than Fiction announced its lineup this week, with the coming fall season dedicated to the works of filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker. “This is the first time STF has ever devoted a full season to one filmmaking team,” said Artistic Director Thom Powers. “It spans over 50 years of time and traces the history of modern American documentary making.” The season officially kicks off on Sept 23 with TOWN BLOODY HALL (1979), the first collaboration between Pennebaker and Hegedus, about a raucous debate over women’s liberation moderated by Norman Mailer with Germaine Greer. For more information on the season, or to purchase tickets, please go here. Also, a reminder that Stranger Than Fiction will feature a pre-season special screening of the film BRONX OBAMA by filmmaker Ryan Murdock about a Barack Obama impersonator living in the Bronx on Thursday, Sept. 18 at 8 p.m. at the IFC Center in Manhattan. For more information or to purchase tickets please go here.
A special note this week that Ameena Matthews, one of the subjects from the film THE INTERRUPTERS, was recently diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. Matthews desperately needs an immediate bone marrow transplant. A community of friends has established a crowdfunding page to help Matthews, who lacks insurance, to pay for her lifesaving treatment. You can find out more about the campaign and donate here.
The film AFTER TILLER, which takes a look at the four late-term abortion doctors in the U.S. left after the 2009 slaying of Dr. George Tiller, was released in theaters this week. At the POV blog, Tom Roston spoke with directors Martha Shane and Lana Wilson about the film, while Christopher Campbell interviewed them in a post at RogerEbert.com. Darianna Cardilli also interviewed the pair at the International Documentary Association’s Documentary site. A.O. Scott reviewed the film for The New York Times, as did Joëlle Pouliot at the DocGeeks blog. At Mother Jones, Kate Sheppard wrote about AFTER TILLER’s relationship to Chicken & Egg Pictures. And Daniel Walber reviewed the film for Nonfics.com.
News came out of Egypt this week that filmmaker John Greyson and doctor Tarek Loubani had begun a hunger strike in a Cairo jail; the pair have been held there since August 16 without charge. Friends and family announced the hunger strike in a post on website created to secure the pair’s release, and Alex Ballingall reported on the development for the Toronto Star.
Kevin Ritchie of Realscreen reported that Susan Lacy, the creator and executive producer of the “American Masters” doc show on PBS, was leaving affiliate WNET for a job directing and producing docs at HBO. The Deadline site also reported on the news, as did Bill Carter at the Times and AJ Marechal at Variety.
This week Stranger Than Fiction is kicking off its fall season with a screening of Evan Jackson’s film LINSANITY, which follows professional basketball phenomenon Jeremy Lin. Jackson and producer Brian Yang will be in attendance for a screening following the screening. You can find more information and purchase tickets by going here.
Al Jazeera America this week announced the creation of a doc unit.
The Qatari government-funded news channel Al Jazeera America this week announced the launch of a new documentary film unit, with former National Geographic TV executive Kathy Davidov joining the outfit as senior executive producer. Adam Benzine reported on the development for Realscreen, as did Indiewire’s Alison Willmore.
Werner Herzog made waves this week with the release of a documentary on the dangers of texting and driving. Nick Dawson covered the news for Filmmaker Magazine, while Donald Melanson did the reporting for Engadget and Matt Hamblen did the same for Computerworld.
The Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship has opened its call for submissions for the 2014 fellowship, setting a September 30 deadline for applications. Scott Macaulay of Filmmaker Magazine reported on the fellowship, created to honor editor Karen Schmeer who was killed in 2010 by the driver of a car fleeing a robbery.