Monday Memo: Life Itself Reaches Theaters

This week the Steve James-helmed film LIFE ITSELF about the late film critic Roger Ebert reached theaters.

This week the Steve James-directed doc LIFE ITSELF about the late film critic Roger Ebert hit theaters. In a post for the Chicago Reader, Ben Sachs interviewed Steve James; Eric Kohn of Indiewire did the same. At the Chicago Sun-Times, Mike Thomas also spoke with James. Adam Schartoff dedicated an entire episode of his Filmwax Radio podcast to speaking with James. Writing for, Christopher Campbell gave the film five stars and called it “a perfect biography of Roger Ebert.” Back at Indiewire, Sam Adams rounded up some highlights from a Reddit AMA held by James and Ebert’s partner Chaz Ebert. At, Odie Henderson had another interview with James, as did Brandon Harris of Filmmaker Magazine. At the Sundance Institute’s website, James spoke with Nate von Zumwalt about the importance of film preservation. And at, Etan Rosenbloom spoke with LIFE ITSELF composer Joshua Abrams.

Premium cable network HBO announced that it would set aside Monday nights for doc airings. At Realscreen, Kevin Ritchie covered the news, as did Jessica Rawden of CinemaBlend. Rick Kissel at Variety also covered the development.

For Indiewire, Paula Bernstein spoke with documentary filmmaker Doug Block about why he was not as insistent on theatrical distribution for his latest film 112 WEDDINGS. Block also sat down for an interview with Jordan M. Smith of Ion Cinema.

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Monday Memo: Tribeca Film Festival Begins With Nas Doc

The doc on rapper Nas, TIME IS ILLMATIC, opened up this year's Tribeca Film Festival.

The 2014 Tribeca Film Festival started this week with a screening of the new Nas doc TIME IS ILLLMATIC. At Indiewire, Eric Kohn reviewed the new film from director One9 as did Scott Foundas of Variety. Associated Press writer Jake Coyle had coverage of the Tribeca opening night film for his press outlet. Basil Tsiokos provided an overview of the docs screening at the festival at his What (Not) to Doc blog. At DocGeeks, Emma Norton had a list of must-see docs at the festival. Writing for, Daniel Walber previewed 10 of the festivals most anticipated docs. Walber also penned a review of the Tribeca film BALLET 422 from director Jody Lee Lipes and one of DIOR AND I from director Frederic Tcheng. Steve Pond of The Wrap had an interview with BEYOND THE BRICK: A LEGO DOCUMENTARY filmmakers Daniel Junge and Kief Davidson at The Wrap.

This week Chicago-based documentary production non-profit Kartemquin Films announced that it would collaborate with network Al Jazeera America to produce a six-part documentary series on the struggles of those on low incomes in the U.S. Sergio had coverage of the development for Indiewire’s Shadow and Act blog, while Deadline also covered the news.

Nikita Stewart of the New York Times reported that New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced that Cynthia Lopez, co-executive producer of the PBS doc series POV, had been appointed the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. Todd Cunningham of The Wrap also covered the appointment, as did Marisa Guthrie and Tatiana Siegel of The Hollywood Reporter and Shipra Gupta of Indiewire.

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Monday Memo: DOC NYC Announces Lineup

This year's DOC NYC festival runs Nov. 14-21 in New York City.

The DOC NYC film festival, set to run Nov. 14-21 at the IFC Center and the SVA Theatre, this week announced its lineup, with this year’s event consisting of 131 films, 72 features, and some 20 panel discussions and master classes. Ramzi de Coster at Indiewire had all the details, while Kevin Ritchie of Realscreen highlighted new films from Michel Gondry and Errol Morris that would make appearances. Kate Erbland had coverage of the festival for Film School Rejects, while Basil Tsiokos penned a post at his What (Not) to Doc blog. Gordon Cox provided coverage at Variety, while Adam Schartoff spoke with DOC NYC (and Stranger Than Fiction) Artistic Director Thom Powers for a Filmwax podcast.

This week AMERICAN PROMISE from directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson hit theaters on Friday. At the POV blog, Tom Roston looked at AMERICAN PROMISE as part of a pantheon of doc films that follow their subjects for a long period of time. At Filmmaker Magazine, Brandon Harris spoke with Brewster and Stephenson on the film, and Adam Schartoff also dedicated one of his Filmwax podcasts to speaking with the pair.

Chicago production house Kartemquin Films this week issued a call for participants in its Diverse Voices in Docs program, which provides professional development and mentorship to emerging documentary filmmakers of color. They’ll also be hosting a screening of work from graduates of its inaugural 2013 program on October 30 in Chicago.

This week Stranger Than Fiction plays host to THE NEW PUBLIC from director Jyllian Gunther, a film that follows an arts-focused high school that opens in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. The film screens on Tuesday, October 22 at 8 p.m. at the IFC Center in Manhattan, and will be followed by a Q&A with Gunther. For more information or to purchase tickets please go here.

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Monday Memo: TIFF Lineup Announced

Errol Morris' new film on Donald Rumsfeld, THE UNKNOWN KNOWN, is among the work that will be screening in Toronto this year.

This week the big news was the announcement of the doc films to be featured at the Toronto International Film Festival this year. Coverage of the news came from all corners of the web. Jennie Punter of Variety had the news, as did Nick Dawson of Filmmaker Magazine. Adam Benzine wrote up the lineup for Realscreen, and later rounded up some trailers of the films screening in Toronto. Jordan M. Smith covered the news for Ion Cinema, while Nigel M. Smith did the same for Indiewire. Etan Vlessing wrote up the announcement for The Hollywood Reporter. STF’s Thom Powers also spoke with David Poland of Movie City News in his capacity as TIFF doc programmer.

Penny Lane’s OUR NIXON hit CNN this week, marking the first documentary to be screened under its CNN Films banner. Alison Willmore reviewed the film for Indiewire, while her colleague Sam Adams wondered if critics held the film to a different standard because it aired on television. David Teich of Indiewood/Hollywoodn’t also interviewed Lane.

In distro news, Kartemquin Films announced that Kino Lorber had acquired US rights for the upcoming THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI from director Bill Siegel. Realscreen’s Adam Benzine reported that Sundance Selects had snagged U.S. rights for FINDING VIVIAN MAIER from directors John Maloof and Charlie Siskel. Benzine also had the news that Sony Picture Classics had gained worldwide rights for the film TIM’S VERMEER directed by one-name magician Teller. (Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times also reported on the film this week.) Benzine also reported that CNN Films had acquired SOLE SURVIVOR by director Kyle Dickens to be aired in 2014.

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Monday Memo: IDA Launches New Screening Series

The International Documentary Association has revamped its DocuWeeks screening program.

The International Documentary Association (IDA) this week announced that it was scrapping its DocuWeeks program in favor of a new Screening Series in response to recent changes in the rules regarding how doc films could qualify for an Oscar nomination. As Steve Pond of The Wrap reported, the new series will take place between September and January. The organization was still working out the details of how it would select films for the new series.

The Silverdocs Documentary Festival is also no more, having been rechristened the AFI Docs Film Festival, and will expand its screening locations from Silver Spring, Maryland, to Washington, D.C. Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post had the details.

Mike Thomas of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Illinois Department of Revenue had denied storied doc film production organization Kartemquin Films exemption from sales tax, based on the rationale that the organization was guilty of “making and selling propaganda DVDs.” The ruling led to some understandable head scratching by Dana Harris of Indiewire, as well as a writer at The Documentary Site.

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