Monday Memo: 20 Feet From Stardom Takes Home Oscar

Morgan Neville's film 20 FEET FROM STARDOM won the Oscar for the best documentary this year.

Morgan Neville’s film 20 FEET FROM STARDOM emerged the winner of the Oscar doc contest this year, beating out the more politically oriented films – DIRTY WARS (STF alum), THE SQUARE, among other films. Mark Olsen of the Los Angeles Times reported on the win for 20 FEET FROM STARDOM, which also screened at DOC NYC last year. Also writing for the Los Angeles Times, Tracy Brown reported on the win by Malcolm Clark for his short doc THE LADY IN NUMBER 6: MUSIC SAVED MY LIFE. Also, at Indiewire Paula Bernstein reported on how Edgar Barens shot his Oscar-nominated short PRISON TERMINAL: THE LAST DAYS OF PRIVATE JACK HALL in a maximum security prison.

The True/False FIlm Fest seems to keep burnishing its reputation as the documentary filmmaker’s festival, and this year was no different. At Filmmaker Magazine, Vadim Rizov issued a dispatch covering his first day at the festival, while the festival’s own blog did the same. Basil Tsiokos provided an overview of the festival at his What (Not) to Doc blog.  Also writing for Filmmaker Magazine, director Robert Greene considered the benefits of premiering at True/False. At, Daniel Walber wrote up the festival’s five most anticipated films. Public radio station KBAI had a handful of interviews with True/False directors: Ryan Famuliner interviewed Ryan Murdock, director of BRONX OBAMA; Kellie Moore spoke with THE JOYCEAN SOCIETY director Dora Garcia; and Katie Hiler chatted up THE NOTORIOUS MR. BOUT directors Tony Gerber and Maxim Pozdorovkin.

At the True/False blog, Dan Steffan spoke with director Robert Greene about his film ACTRESS and APPROACHING THE ELEPHANT, which was directed by Amanda Rose and produced and edited by Greene. Writing for the POV blog, Tom Roston issued a list of five True/False films to keep an eye out for. Writing for, Daniel Walber gave Jessica Oreck’s new film THE VANQUISHING OF THE WITCH BABA YAGA a four-star review. Indiewire critic Eric Kohn reviewed Robert Greene’s ACTRESS, giving it a grade of A-.

This week Stranger Than Fiction hosts a screening of THE ROAD TO FAME from director Hao Wu on Tuesday, March 4 at 8 p.m. at the IFC Center in Manhattan. The film follows the collaboration between China’s top drama academy and Broadway. Director Hao Wu and editor Jean Tsien will be in attendance for a Q&A following the screening. For more information or to purchase tickets, please go here.

Continue reading…

Monday Memo: The Act of Killing Drops a Bundle on BitTorrent

THE ACT OF KILLING distributor Drafthouse Films released a promotional bundle for the film via BitTorrent this week.

The New Year holiday has left us with another light news week. Perhaps the most interesting news was that distributor Drafthouse Films released a “bundle” of content related to THE ACT OF KILLING via BitTorrent, a medium most closely associated with pirating. The bundle dropped at the same time the film was being released on iTunes. Realscreen’s Adam Benzine covered the development, as did Paula Bernstein of Indiewire. And Anthony Ha of TechCrunch also had the news.

Indiewire rounded up all of their doc advice from last year in one incredibly helpful post that you can check out here.

Melena Ryzik of the New York Times took note of the fact that both PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER and THE SQUARE had been banned in the respective countries in which they had been shot, while also landing on the Oscar shortlist for docs. Vanessa Thorpe of The Guardian mentioned PUSSY RIOT in a piece noting the political nature of those getting on the shortlist. Jezebel’s Rebecca Rose had details on a screening of PUSSY RIOT intended to take place in Russia that was scuttled by the government there.

Continue reading…

Monday Memo: Netflix Picks Up The Square, The Short Game

This week, Netflix acquired the first-run rights to the film THE SQUARE, strengthening their move into acquiring documentary content.

Netflix continued to grab newshole with the official announcement that it had acquired first-run rights for Jehane Noujaim’s film on the Egyptian revolution, THE SQUARE, as an “original documentary.” Alison Willmore of Indiewire had the news, as did Adam Benzine of Realscreen and Brian Stelter of the New York Times. At Filmmaker Magazine, Sarah Salovaara wondered what Netflix meant, exactly, by describing THE SQUARE as “original programming.” Shortly after announcing its acquisition of THE SQUARE, Netflix revealed that it had picked up another doc, THE SHORT GAME. Again, Alison Willmore reported the news for Indiewire, while Adam Benzine did the same at Realscreen. At the Los Angeles Times, Steven Zeitchik took the temperature of a handful of doc filmmakers on Netflix’s recent moves.

This week the Cinema Eye Honors announced the nominees for its awards; the honors are set to take place in January 2014. Christopher Campbell covered the announcement at, while Peter Knegt had the news for Indiewire and Adam Benzine did the same for Realscreen. The POV blog used the nominations to rejigger its list of the best documentaries of 2013 thus far.

The documentary filmmaker Ed Pincus, perhaps best known for his film DIARIES, passed away this week at the age of 75 from leukemia. William Yardley penned an obit of Pincus for the New York Times, while Paula Bernstein remembered Pincus in a post for Indiewire.

This week Stranger Than Fiction is playing host to SHOTGUN FREEWAY: DRIVES THROUGH LOST L.A., a film by Morgan Neville about the city of angels. The screening takes place on Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. at the IFC Center in Manhattan, and will be followed by a Q&A with Neville. For more information or to purchase tickets please go here.

Continue reading…

Monday Memo: Gotham Independent Film Award Nominees Announced

The nominees for the Gotham Independent Film Awards were announced this week. At Realscreen, Adam Benzine covered the nominated docs, while Peter Knegt covered both fictional and documentary nominees for Indiewire. Craig Phillips noted the Independent Lens films that snagged noms in a post at the show’s blog, and Christopher Campbell covered the announcement for Jennifer Merin also had the news at

Directer Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s film BLACKFISH aired on CNN last week. At The Wrap, Tim Kenneally reported that the film captured a key news demographic, as did Gregory Crofton of Channel Nonfiction. Writing for, Christopher Campbell covered a response to the film released by Seaworld prior to the CNN airing. Alison Willmore of Indiewire interviewed Cowperthwaite, and Cowperthwaite herself held a Reddit AMA.

Writing for, Christopher Campbell posted a piece detailing the evolution of Jehane Noujaim’s film THE SQUARE on Egypt’s revolution. At Indiewire, Bryce J. Renninger explained the differences in versions of the film that played at Sundance and the Toronto International Film Festival. A.O. Scott reviewed the film at The New York Times, and Anthony Kaufman examined it in his weekly Docutopia post at the SundanceNOW blog. In his Filmwax podcast, Adam Schartoff spoke with Noujaim and producer Kamir Amer, along with WHEN I WALK director Jason DaSilva and STRONGMAN director Zachary Levy. And Christopher Campbell and Daniel Walber discussed THE SQUARE and the Robert Drew classic CRISIS: BEHIND A PRESIDENTIAL COMMITMENT in their latest The Realness podcast.

This week Stranger Than Fiction plays host to BORN INTO BROTHELS from directors Ross Kaufman and Zana Briski on Oct. 29 at 8pm at the IFC Center. Following the screening, Kaufman will be in attendance for a Q&A. For more information or to purchase tickets please go here.

Continue reading…

Monday Memo: The Square Wins TIFF People’s Choice Award

The news regarding the doc world was dominated this week by stories coming out of the Toronto International Film Festival. Jehane Noujaim left the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) with the People’s Choice award for her film THE SQUARE about the revolution in Egypt; Christopher Campbell had coverage of the award at, while Evan Mitsui of the CBC also had the details. Writing for The Globe and Mail, Omar el Akkad covered the challenges faced by Noujaim in making the film. Globe and Mail colleague Simon Houpt also wrote up THE SQUARE and Alex Gibney’s THE ARMSTRONG LIE as films that had to evolve along with their fast-changing subject matter.

At Realscreen, Kevin Ritchie reported on a TIFF panel on distribution, while Indiewire reproduced Dan Cogan’s presentation on managing the relationship between film producers and investors. Indiewire also carried Liesl Copland’s speech on the need for more transparency regarding VOD, while Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker Magazine chimed in to back the sentiment. Kelly Anderson covered the talk for Realscreen. Michael Cieply of The New York Times also cited Copland’s speech in a piece on VOD revenues. And Kelly Anderson covered a panel discussion on the crowdfunding of the film HONDROS: A LIFE IN FRAMES for Realscreen.

This week Stranger Than Fiction is hosting a pre-season special screening of MUSCLE SHOALS on Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 8 p.m. at the IFC Center in Manhattan. The film recounts the story behind one of the most important and influential recording studios in American music. For more information or to purchase tickets go here.

Continue reading…