FOCAL Awards 2018 host Hardeep Singh Kohli
Every year the London based FOCAL Awards celebrate the best use and preservation of archival material in cinema. Last Tuesday, the 2018 FOCAL International Award winners were announced – Bill Morrison’s DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME won Best Use of Footage in an Arts Production, Raoul Peck’s I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO won Best Use of Footage in a Cinematic Feature, Peter Bratt’s DOLORES took home Best Use of Footage in a Factual Production, and Daniel Lindsay and T. J. Martin’s LA 92 was honored with Best Use of Footage in a History Feature.
On that award season wavelength, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed that it is “extending invitations to join the organization to 928 artists and executives who have distinguished themselves by their contributions to theatrical motion pictures.” Of those invited, 49% are female, bringing the overall Academy membership of women to 31%, and 38% of new members are 38%, bringing the overall membership of people of color to 16%, and 85 of those invited work in the documentary field. Those invited include doc filmmakers such as Bill and Turner Ross, Evgeny Afineevsky, Nanfu Wang, Yance Ford, Petra Costa and Katy Chevigny.
While the Academy is tinkering with its very makeup, Ben Travers at IndieWire is already debating what films might win big at the Emmys. He notes, “HBO has a slew of contenders, all of which have caused a stir in and outside the industry. ANDRE THE GIANT has big-name subjects supporting the doc on the famous wrestler-turned-actor, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robin Wright, Billy Crystal, and David Letterman. THE ZEN DIARIES OF GARRY SHANDLING is a personal passion project from Judd Apatow, and his intimate understanding of the late comedian combined with his influential friends should help set the doc apart. Meanwhile, ELVIS PRESLEY: THE SEARCHER has the pull of The King himself.”
In the same week that Rebecca Sun reported the disheartening news that Slated’s new “analysis of nearly 1,600 features reveals a ‘trust gap’ when it comes to movies made by women”, The Academy of Motion Pictures released its complete Class of 2016, inviting a record “683 new members: 46 Percent Female and 41 Percent People of Color” according to Gregg Kilday of The Hollywood Reporter. Meanwhile, POV and The New York Times disclosed that they would be collaborating on a new interactive documentary project about race and are currently “seeking pitches from potential mediamakers, with applications due by Monday, July 25,” reports IndieWire’s Michael Nordine.
Though, The Hollywood Reporter’s Gregg Kilday, the Palm Springs International ShortFest‘s jury named Maxim Pozdorovkin’s CLINICA DE MIGRANTES: LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS the best documentary of the festival, while the audience declared Annie O’Neil and Jessica Lewis’ PHIL’S CAMINO to be their favorite, festival circuit happenings were a bit low-key this past week. Always looking ahead, Basil Tsiokos surveyed the doc offerings at the upcoming Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic, noting Manuel Abramovich’s SOLAR, Leire Apellaniz’s THE LAST SUMMER and Alice Diop’s ON CALL among others. Looking back a couple weeks, Christopher Llewellyn Reed reviewed a quartet of films from this year’s edition of AFI Docs for Hammer To Nail, including Werner Herzog’s LO AND BEHOLD, REVERIES OF THE CONNECTED WORLD, Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk’s AUDRIE & DAISY, Nicole Lucas Haimes’ CHICKEN PEOPLE, and Alex Gibney’s ZERO DAYS. Gibney and his production company was also the topic of much discussion by Boris Kachka over at Vulture. The piece convincingly argues that the filmmaker’s studio-like Jigsaw Productions is steadily shifting how investigative documentaries are made and marketed. Continue reading…
Still from AJ Schnack's SPEAKING IS DIFFICULT
Despite the outrage over racial exclusion in this year’s Oscar nominations and the Academy’s announcement that they will be swiftly enacting a whole host of changes to ensure greater diversity in the make-up of future votes, in the doc world, all eyes have been fixated on this year’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. While Anthony Kaufman looked back at the films that had a lasting impact from last year’s fest in Filmmaker Magazine, everyone from Tom Roston to Christopher Campbell, through Kenneth Turan, Amy Taubin, Trevor Groth and Brooks Barnes have been listing their most anticipated films of the fest, each noting a variety of exciting docs on the horizon. At indieWIRE, Eric Kohn outlined why Sundance continues to be such an important beacon of cinema in a sea of international film festivals, while our own Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen spoke on WNYC this about why New Yorkers should care about the happenings in Park City this week.
Looking at the festival’s lineup as a whole, one will soon notice that this year’s hot button issue weaving throughout a whole host of films is that of domestic gun violence, and not the gratuitous action film type. Leading the conversation are non-fiction films like AJ Schnack’s SPEAKING IS DIFFICULT, Kim Snyder’s NEWTOWN, Stephanie Soechtig’s UNDER THE GUN and less directly, Robert Greene’s KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE. Writing for The Los Angeles Times, Steven Zeitchik explores the depths of this topical programming decision, noting, “When the Sundance Film Festival begins Thursday, it will do so with a rare accumulation of movies about the subject of gun safety. All of them hope to raise questions, if not provide solutions, in a place that has long been a ground zero for cultural movements.” Brooks Barnes of The New York Times awknowledged that “This year Sundance programmers, with deep commitment to freedom of expression, and their selected filmmakers seem to be taking a position that real guns, not the movie kind, ought to be more tightly policed.” Likewise at Nonfics, Christopher Campbell also took notice of the program, stating that “This time it’s about the issue of real gun violence in America — the problem with constant mass shootings and the debate over gun control and the 2nd Amendment.”
Back here at Stranger Than Fiction, we are ramping up for our 2016 Winter Season, which begins next Tuesday at the IFC Center with Craig Lowy’s high flying OXD: ONE EXTRAORDINARY DAY, about Elizabeth Streb’s Extreme Action Company and their attempt to perform on some of London’s most beloved landmarks. Season tickets, as well as individual tickets, are currently on sale. As an aside, I’d also like to point out that this week Thom Powers launched the online home of his soon to be released new documentary focused podcast, Pure Nonfiction.
Bright and early Thursday morning Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro, Variety’s Gordon Cox and The Hollywood Reporter’s Hilary Lewis each broke the news that the Gotham Independent Film Awards had named their 2015 nominees, including APPROACHING THE ELEPHANT, CARTEL LAND, HEART OF A DOG, LISTEN TO ME MARLON and THE LOOK OF SILENCE. The following day, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the full list of 124 contenders in the Oscar race for Best Documentary Feature, as reported by Steve Pond at The Wrap, indieWIRE’s Zack Sharf and Dave McNary for Variety. And while we’re still quite a ways away from the event scheduled on June 9th, Realscreen reports that submissions for the 2016 Realscreen Awards are now open.
With the 13th edition of DocLisboa having begun late last week, Cineuropa’s Vitor Pinto previewed the Portuguese productions on offer, as Basil Tsiokos wrote up an overview of the fest at What (not) To Doc. Tsiokos also previewed the docs on offer at The American Museum of Natural History’s Margaret Mead Film Festival and NYC’s NewFest. At MUBI’s Notebook, Boris Nelepo reflected on the career of the Serbian filmmaker Želimir Žilnik, who is receiving first complete international retrospective as part of DocLisboa. As IDFA draws near, indieWIRE’s Tambay A. Obenson took the time to highlight a trio of films of African diaspora, while Jorn Rossing Jensen reported on the many Norwegian productions that will be making their way to Amsterdam for Cineuropa.
The Montreal International Documentary Festival revealed the programming schedule for their annual industry conference, Doc Circuit Montréal (DCM) reports Daniele Alcinii of Realscreen. Likewise, Cineuropa’s Vladan Petkovic covered the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival’s announcement of the program for its Inspiration Forum, “a platform intended to facilitate the search for new themes and their interpretations.” Scheduled speakers include Julian Assange (via Skype) and Maria Alyokhina (Masha) of Pussy Riot.
This week Stranger Than Fiction continues with a special screening of AN OMAR BROADWAY FILM, showing prison life through the eyes of the prisoners – the violence, the boredom, what everyone inside the prison, both inmates and guards, do to survive. The film’s director, Douglas Tirola, will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A. Tickets are still available here.