Monday Memo: WNET Gets Blowback From Filmmakers, Sundance Coverage Continues To Filter In

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.

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Monday Memo: South By Southwest Festival Kicks Off

The film EVAPORATING BORDERS from director Iva Radivojevic was set to screen at SXSW this year.

This week saw the launch of the film portion of SXSW. At his What (Not) to Doc blog, Basil Tsiokos provided an overview of the docs screening in Austin as part of the festival. Writing for Realscreen, Adam Benzine interviewed director Beth Harrington about her new doc WINDING STREAM, which screens in Austin. At, Christopher Campbell reviewed THE INTERNET’S OWN BOY: THE STORY OF AARON SWARTZ.

Coverage of the True/False Fest continued to make its way out of Columbia, Missouri this week. In a piece for Indiewire, Paul Dallas made the case for why True/False is one of the most vital festivals in the U.S. At Cinema Scope, Adam Nayman provided his own recap of the festival, while Noel Murray did the same at The Dissolve. Vadim Rizov turned in his second post on True/False for Filmmaker Magazine, and Ben Godar also produced a recap of the fest at

Daniel Walber wrote a post naming his eight favorite films of True/False at In his weekly Docutopia post, Anthony Kaufman considered the presentations of reality in the True/False  films ACTRESS and APPROACHING THE ELEPHANT. At the KBIA Missouri public radio station blog, Katarina Sostaric interviewed True/False educational outreach coordinator Polina Malikin. Back at, Daniel Walber reviewed RICH HILL and also penned a review of CAIRO DRIVE.

This week Stranger Than Fiction is hosting a screening of HARLEM STREET SINGER from directors Trevor Laurence and Simeon Hutner on Tuesday, March 11 at 8pm at the IFC Center in Manhattan. The film tells the story of the blues guitarist the Reverend Gary Davis. Following the screening, directors Laurence and Hutner will be in attendance for a Q&A. For more information or to purchase tickets please go here.

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Monday Memo: William and the Windmill and Short Game Take Home SXSW Prizes

William and the Windmill from director Ben Nabors won the grand jury prize for feature documentary film at SXSW this year.

The South by Southwest Film Festival handed out awards on Tuesday, with the grand jury prize for feature documentary going to WILLIAM AND THE WINDMILL from director Ben Nabors. The film WE ALWAYS LIE TO STRANGERS from directors AJ Schnack and David Wilson took home the special jury prize for directing. Later in the week THE SHORT GAME from Joshua Greenbaum nabbed the doc audience award. Adam Benzine of Realscreen had the news, while Scott Macaulay of Filmmaker Magazine listed all of the festival’s winners. At Indiewire, Eric Kohn reviewed WILLIAM AND THE WINDMILL, while Mary Anderson Casavant of Filmmaker Magazine spoke with Schnack and Wilson about STRANGERS.

In other SXSW news, Basil Tsiokos shared part one of his recap of docs screening at the festival. Brian Anthony Hernandez of Mashable recapped the Alex Winter-helmed doc on Napster, DOWNLOADED. The AP’s Michael Brick recapped the premiere of the Snoop Lion (nee Dogg) biopic REINCARNATED from director Andy Capper. Mark Olsen of the Los Angeles Times reported on the Kathleen Hanna doc from Sini Anderson, THE PUNK SINGER. At The Daily Beast, Marlow Stern took a look at Michal Marczak’s FUCK FOR FOREST.

Alison Willmore of Indiewire reported that video hosting site Vimeo would debut a VOD service for filmmakers, splitting the revenues 90/10 in favor of the filmmakers. Sean Holmquest of the POV blog spoke with Vimeo’s Blake Whitman about the new initiative.

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SXSW Report: We Always Lie to Strangers

The film WE ALWAYS LIE TO STRANGERS premiered at this year's SXSW festival.

It’s far too easy for jaded cynics from the coasts to think of the U.S.’s “heartland” (a conception that itself is a complicated one) as a monolithic culture of guns, jingoism and intolerance. A studied rebuke to the dismissive idea of the flyover state, WE ALWAYS LIE TO STRANGERS from directors AJ Schnack and David Wilson challenges any number of these presumptions in its investigation of Branson, Missouri–a town with a population of about 10,000 that channels some 7.5 million tourists through it on an annual basis.

Branson, situated in the highland region of the Ozarks, appropriates the neon flash of Broadway and Vegas, but promises an ideal of wholesome entertainment bereft of uncouth language or nudity–essentially anything that could easily be considered offensive by social conservatives. In the tradition of much escapist entertainment, performances in Branson’s theaters seem infused with a Stepford-esque aesthetic that belies complicated realities: a saccharine ode to the American flag and the U.S. armed forces is presented without consideration for the terrible costs of war.

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Five SXSW Docs To Look Out For

First-time director Lotfy Nathan's 12 O' CLOCK BOYS is screening at SXSW this year.

For someone mired in New York City’s dark winter for far too long, South by Southwest holds the promise of warmer climes, reasonably priced barbeque and cold beer. This year–like any other–the festival’s programmers have put together a selection of non-fiction work designed to entice any self-proclaimed fan of documentary out of the sunshine and into a darkened theater. Here are five films I think are worth waiting in line for.

THESE BIRDS WALK (Visions) Last summer Filmmaker magazine anointed the duo of Omar Mullick and Bassam Tariq as among the 25 new faces of indie film, and for good reason. The pair earned a mountain of press for their 30 Mosques in 30 Days documentary project and its user-generated offshoot, 30 Days of Ramadan. Mullick and Tariq banned both voiceover and talking heads in the making of THESE BIRDS WALK, a portrait of a young runaway living in Karachi, over which hovers the story of Pakistani humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi. The film comes to Austin fresh from a screening at the True/False Film Fest, where it built both buzz and a solid base of support among viewers. Watch the trailer; if there’s a heart beating in your body I promise you will have goosebumps.

12 O’CLOCK BOYS (Feature Competition) Lotfy Nathan’s directorial debut ostensibly follows the not-quite-yet teenager Pug as he seeks to align himself with an outlaw dirt bike gang that runs roughshod over the streets of Baltimore. But the clear subtext of 12 O’CLOCK BOYS is the dire economic and class divisions that drive Charm City’s young bikers to define themselves oppositionally to the Baltimore police, along with pretty much any other established social institution. Nathan’s film ends with a major catharsis for his subject, but probably not in the way you’d expect.

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