With no major theatrical releases and a slew of major festivals on the verge of kicking off, it’s a rather quiet on the nonfiction front. That said, the New York Film Festival did reveal its Spotlight on Documentary lineup, which includes Travis Wilkerson’s True/False alum DID YOU WONDER WHO FIRED THE GUN?, TIFF selections JANE, A SKIN SO SOFT, and BOOM FOR REAL, as well as world premieres of Alison McAlpine’s CIELO, Ena Talakic and Ines Talakic’s HALL OF MIRRORS, and Alex Gibney’s NO STONE UNTURNED, which was previously slated to screen at Tribeca and Hot Docs before it was pulled for undisclosed legal reasons.
After revealing its full program schedule on Tuesday, the Toronto International Film Festival added a handful of last minute special events, including the world premiere of GAGA: FIVE FOOT TWO by Emmy-nominated filmmaker Chris Moukarbel, “a rare snapshot of the raucously public music icon Lady Gaga and the offstage woman that is Stefani Joanne Germanotta,” as well as the world premiere of Brandon and Skyler Gross’ ON MY WAY OUT: THE SECRET LIFE OF NANI AND POPI – the program notes read, “Roman (Popi) and Ruth (Nani) Blank have been married for 65 years, but at age 95, Roman reveals a secret that tests their seemingly invincible union, in Brandon and Skyler Gross’ touching portrait of their grandparents.”
Though the Locarno International Film Festival wrapped up a couple weeks back, at the fest IndieWire’s Irina Trocan discovered a handful of films that represent modern domestic life in new ways, including a trio of films to soon screen at TIFF – Xu Bing’s DRAGONFLY EYES, Ben Russell’s GOOD LUCK, and Wang Bing’s MRS. FANG. On a similar wavelength, Cara Buckley thoroughly examined the many current docs that are exploring the pain of racism for The New York Times, noting “A burst of new films, many of them documentaries, are taking a deep look beyond the headlines at the lasting impact that racial schisms and racism have on Americans’ everyday lives.”
I’ve returned after a week away from the cold, movies, the internet and headlines feeling mentally rejuvenated and ready to get back into the swing of things. A bit of ocean air seems to have done me well. And being that next month I’ll be heading to Columbia, Missouri once again for this year’s edition of the True/False Film Festival, it is exciting to find that they’ve revealed not only their 2017 lineup and schedule, but that they will be launching a new bi-weekly podcast – the True/False Podcast – on which “True/False programmers will sit down with filmmakers and tackle a new topic each episode.” The first episode is scheduled to go live two weeks before the festival begins, on February 23.
Speaking of podcasts, last week’s episode of Pure Nonfiction featured a conversation between our own Thom Powers and John Heilemann, co-creator of TRUMPED: INSIDE THE GREATEST POLITICAL UPSET OF ALL TIME, which aired on Showtime last week after its Sundance premiere.
Tomorrow, we here at Stranger Than Fiction are celebrating Valentine’s Day with a very special screening of THE LOVING STORY, which tells the dramatic story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple living in Virginia in the 1950s, and their landmark Supreme Court Case, Loving v. Virginia, that changed history. Director Nancy Buirski will be on hand for a live post-screening Q&A. Tickets and season passes are still available here.
Amidst a rather busy week of the doc circuit, DOC NYC revealed its Oscar predicting 2016 Short List, naming 15 films to screen at the festival with the director or other special guests present. As Anne Thompson noted in her coverage of the announcement at IndieWire, last year the DOC NYC Short List had ten titles overlapping the subsequent Oscar Documentary Short List. Among this year’s selection was Ava DuVernay’s incisive Netflix prison doc 13TH, which opened the New York Film Festival on Friday night to a standing ovation and a shower of glowing reviews. At IndieWire, Eric Kohn called the film “the most relevant movie of the year.” The Guardian’s Jordan Hoffman wrote that its “an articulate, no-nonsense cup of iced water splashed in my face telling me to wake the f-ck up.” Even Manohla Dargis of The New York Times fully endorsed DuVernay’s film, calling it “powerful, infuriating and at times overwhelming…(while it) challenges your ideas about the intersection of race, justice and mass incarceration in the United States.” Similarly rhapsodic reviews were logged by Vikram Murthi at Movie Mezzanine, Odie Henderson at RogerEbert.com, Richard Brody of The New Yorker, and Steven Zeitchik of The Los Angeles Times. You can watch the press conference with DuVernay herself over at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s website.
Of course, there are other docs on offer this year at NYFF, as Basil Tsiokos made abundantly clear in his overview of the nonfiction offerings at What (not) To Doc. Likewise, the staff at IndieWire listed seven docs to catch at the fest if you’re able, including Kasper Collin’s I CALLED HIM MORGAN, which Richard Brody, a jazz diehard, seems to have loved. Also kicking off on Friday was the International Documentary Association’s three day Getting Real conference, which a handful of diligent members of The D-Word live blogged (in three separate categories – sustainability, diversity, other conference happenings). Leading up to the conference, Realscreen published a piece by the founding members of the NYC Doc Producer’s Alliance on issues surrounding industry and career sustainability. Meanwhile across the pond, Christine Bardsley recommended a trio of docs to watch at the upcoming London Film Festival via BFI.
Our fall season of Stranger Than Fiction celebrating the documentary work of Jonathan Demme continues tomorrow at IFC Center with SWIMMING TO CAMBODIA. Director Jonathan Demme, as well as producer Renée Shafransky, will be on hand to discuss the film in a post-screening Q&A. Tickets for the screening are still available here.
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.