This past week, doc filmmakers have been accorded quite lovely news on various fronts. After much public debate and industry outcry over whether or not INDEPENDENT LENS or POV would continue to feature in PBS’s primetime slots, the decision has been made to not only keep them, but to bolster their promotional support, according to reports from both Variety’s James Rainey and Kevin Ritchie at Realscreen. Just the day prior to the announcement, Ritchie had written a fortuitously timely, extensive feature at Realscreen on the incredible success of the non-fiction format on television, while the following day Esquire’s Nick Schager wrote at length on HBO’s primetime success this year – the breaking news seeming only to echo their claims.
Not only this, but Doug Block’s essential doc filmmaker’s online resource, The D-Word, has been given a major face-lift with its crowd funded 3.0 upgrade. Not only is it easier to keep track of all the topics pertinent to you, the site looks a lot cleaner and is now much easier to browse from mobile devices. A full list of new changes to the site can be found here. In addition, Indiewire’s Paula Bernstein caught up with Block to discuss The D-Word’s long gestating upgrade.
Tomorrow, Stranger Than Fiction continues with director Daisy Asquith’s immensely personal story of her mother’s conception after a dance in the 1940s on the remote west coast of Ireland in AFTER THE DANCE. The film screens at 8 pm at the IFC Center and will be followed by a Q&A with Asquith.
It seems that WNET’s plan to sweep documentary programming aside has been met with a litany of outrage from the filmmakers who’ve long enjoyed the support that PBS’s POV and Independent Lens have lent them over the years. Variety’s James Rainey has the story, in which “more than 2,000 documentarians” – the likes of Laura Poitras, Gordon Quinn and Tracy Droz Tragos among them – “have signed a petition saying they fear that the New York station’s action would lead to the shows being marginalized by PBS affiliates nationwide, slicing into their audiences and crippling efforts to raise money for often edgy, controversial films.”
In response to the criticism, the programmers at WNET have set up what they’ve called a “Listening Tour”, stopping in major cities and hosting public forums to discuss how they can better support filmmakers. At the POV Blog, you can find details on the New York City stop of the tour to be hosted on February 23rd at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. If you’d like to attend the free event, RSVP here.
Also in NYC, the Stranger Than Fiction Winter ’15 Season continues tomorrow at 8pm at the IFC Center with FREE: CRACK IN THE SYSTEM. Following the screening, there will be a Q&A session with director Marc Levin.
The Ken Burns film PROHIBITION was among those made available on Netflix through the recent agreement.
Adam Benzine of Realscreen reported that Netflix had expanded a licensing agreement with PBS that would make a number of docs, including several works from Ken Burns, available on Netflix’s streaming service. You can find the Netflix press release on the deal here.
Adam Benzine also reported on the 40 documentary filmmakers invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), with Claude Lanzmann, Roger Ross Williams and Jafar Panahi numbering among them. A statement from Panahi, director of THIS IS NOT A FILM, was also published on Michael Moore’s website.
Joe Reid of the Tribeca Film Institute blog published his list of the five most essential docs of the year thus far, with Sarah Polley’s STORIES WE TELL topping his rundown.