Among the deluge of festival reports and theatrical reviews that came in this past week, the most interesting tidbit may be the announcement that docu legend Frederick Wisemen has taken to Kickstarter in hopes of raising funds to complete his 40th feature film, IN JACKSON HEIGHTS. The campaign page features a short video of the director himself pitching his project, as well as the first trailer for the film. Manori Ravindran reported on Wiseman’s first foray into the crowdfunding over at Realscreen, as did Sarah Salovaara for Filmmaker Magazine.
Though the Sheffield Doc/Fest having wrapped a couple weeks back, both Cineuropa’s Naman Ramachandran and Realscreen’s Manori Ravindran reported early this past week that Joshua Oppenheimer’s THE LOOK OF SILENCE took home the festival’s Audience Award, while Sean MacAllister’s A SYRIAN LOVE STORY, reviewed by Camillo De Macro at Cineuropa, took home the Grand Jury Prize. De Marco also wrote a piece on the awards handed out at this year’s Bologna Biografilm Festival, including the Unipol Award for Best Film which was given to Patricio Guzman for THE PEARL BUTTON. Back stateside, as reported by Kevin Ritchie at Realscreen, Mo-Young Jin’s MY LOVE, DON’T CROSS THAT RIVER won the LA Film Fest Documentary prize. Ritchie also covered the 10 films shortlisted for next year’s Cinema Eye Awards for television projects, which include Alex Gibney’s GOING CLEAR, Alex Winter’s DEEP WEB and Jose Antonio Vargas’ DOCUMENTED.
AFI Docs kicked off Wednesday and wrapped up last night in Washington, DC. In The Washington Post, Ann Hornaday wrote a substantial preview of the festival that was marked by its truthful, but accusatory headline, “In the Golden Age of documentaries, the medium could use more artistry”. At Keyframe, David Hudson kept a substantial round-up of the festival’s press coverage, while Chad Gracia’s Sundance prize winner THE RUSSIAN WOODPECKER received some attention from Manori Ravindran in Realscreen and Camillo De Marco at Cineuropa. Prior the fest, Basil Tsiokos previewed the non-fiction offerings at not just AFI Docs, but BAMcinemaFest, Frameline and the Edinburgh International Film Festival, each at What (not) to Doc.
Photo by Larry Busacca / Getty Images
Crystal Moselle’s unbelievable Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner THE WOLFPACK is undeniably the most talked about doc of the year thus far. Hitting theaters this past weekend, the film was not only selected by our own Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen as WNYC’s Documentary of the Week, but featured in the LA Times by Steven Zeitchik, Huffington Post by Matthew Jacobs, the Wall Street Journal by Caryn James, Salon thanks to Lauren Wissot and The New York Times by Cara Buckley. Manohla Dargis also reviewed Moselle’s film for The Times, as did NPR’s Ella Taylor, NY Daily News’ Joe Neumaier, RogerEbert.com’s Brian Tallerico, The Dissolve’s Tasha Robinson and Ned Benson at The Talkhouse. At Indiewire, Anne Thompson and Ryan Lattanzio posted a new video of the film’s subjects, the Angulo Brothers, remaking classic DeNiro scenes, while Simon Houpt spoke with two of the boys for The Globe and Mail. With all the attention, it’s unsurprising to find Moselle has been doing interviews with everyone, including Jenelle Riley of Variety, Jamie Maleszka at Nonfics, The Dissolve’s Tasha Robinson and Vice.
This last week also saw two substantial new entries into the doc world. The Wrap’s Itay Hod and Bent’s Jamie Gates both reported that Logo TV is launching an LGBT documentary division with a slate films that include Michele Josue’s MATT SHEPARD IS A FRIEND OF MINE and Deborah Riley Draper’s VERSAILLES ’73: AN AMERICAN REVOLUTION. Likewise, Economist Magazine has kicked off a new documentary unit, Economist Films, according to Variety’s David S. Cohen. Starting big, they’ve already posted a pair of films for viewing in DRONE RANGERS and DRUGS: WAR OR STORE?.
Just as HBO’s Vice premiered their latest episode, “Campus Coverup” (which Sarah Seltzer covered for Flavorwire), and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo began to screen Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick’s exposé of rape crimes on U.S. college campuses, THE HUNTING GROUND, in an effort “to promote legislation that would establish a uniform definition of consent, as well as reporting and investigative procedures for all his state’s public and private colleges and universities”, controversy has broken out over the film’s legitimacy thanks to an exhaustive factual critique by Emily Yoffe at Slate in which she suggests that “the filmmakers put advocacy ahead of accuracy”. In response, Flavorwire’s Jason Bailey published an article he titled “Our Brand Is Rape Skepticism: On Slate and Emily Yoffe’s Weird ‘Hunting Ground’ Obsession”. The back and forth makes for an interesting read.
In the same vein, Bailey, Deadline’s David Robb and The Hollywood Reporter’s Jonathan Handel each reported that Amy Berg’s child sex abuse in Hollywood doc, AN OPEN SECRET, has once again come under fire, this time in a threat to sue from the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists if Berg didn’t remove all references to the union from the film. Supporting the film, Jen Yamato wrote a feature on AN OPEN SECRET for The Daily Beast.
Last week our Spring Season of Stranger Than Fiction came to a close with a sold out screening of Crystal Moselle’s THE WOLFPACK. Stranger Than Fiction will return in the Fall starting September 22nd.
Less than a month after the conclusion of this year’s edition of Toronto’s Hot Docs Film Festival, Charlotte Cook, the festival’s Director of Programming for the last four years, has announced that she’ll be stepping down from her position to focus, in her words, on “working closely with filmmakers. Something I hope to have the honour to do for the rest of my life.” Shipra Harbola Gupta reported the news for Indiewire, as did Julianna Cummins for Realscreen. Gracefully ruminating on her time with Hot Docs, Cook wrote a personal statement over at Medium, signing off with, “A huge thank you to everyone who supported a young Brit with a passion for showing films and celebrating those who make them. And I can’t wait to share my next adventure with you all..”
Last week there was much talk about The New York Times’ decision to change their film reviewing policy to no longer guarantee a review if it plays in theaters, some positive, some negative. This past week, a pair of further thoughts came through the wire, one from The New Yorker’s Richard Brody in which he opines that the new policy gives smaller films and online releases a more even playing field while incisively commenting on very nature of criticism in our current culture of mass data itself. The second came from Calum Marsh in The Guardian who discussed what will likely end thanks to the policy change – ‘four-walling’, or how filmmakers pay to see their work on screen.
We here at Stranger Than Fiction show films not for reviews, but because we want audiences to be able to see them in their prime, on the big screen. Our Spring Season is coming to a close tomorrow with Crystal Moselle’s mind-blowing debut, THE WOLFPACK. The director will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A. More details on both the film and screening can be found here.
Now that Sundance is in full swing, it is near impossible to keep up with every single relevant publication of the week. That said, here we go none-the-less, but before I get to all the news coming out of Park City, there were a few interesting stories that came out this week that looked back, including a great piece at The Talk House by Jeff Reichert, director of REMOTE AREA MEDICAL, on the most overlooked docs of 2014, while, writing for NonFics, Christopher Campbell reflected on what he considers the top ten best Sundance documentaries of all time. For The Guardian, Guy Lodge considered the possibilities of what docs could take home an Oscar next month, while David Bloom over at Deadline reported that the recently Oscar nominated LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM would be available to stream for free at PBS from Feb. 5 to Feb. 7. Bridging the gap between last year and the here and now, Tom Roston wrote a piece for the POV Blog that highlighted a few overlooked films of 2014, as well as a handful of docs making their premiere at Sundance this week.
Among the many other thorough previews of the many films making their way into the world via a Park City premiere were David Fear and Phoebe Reilly‘s top 25 most anticipated Sundance films for Rolling Stone, Kate Aurthur & Adam B. Vary‘s comparable piece for Buzzfeed, and a list of the 15 best black films at Sundance by Julie Walker for The Root – each touching on the fact that docs are making an ever-increasing imprint on the visibility of the massive American fest. At Variety, Addie Morfoot previewed the many docs profiling a variety of famous folks, while at What (not) To Doc, Basil Tsiokos concluded his massive profiling of every non-fiction film at Sundance, as well as a quick preview of others making their debut at the parallel running Slamdance. Our own Thom Powers also listed his personal docs not to be missed right here at Stranger Than Fiction.
One of the things that sets Sundance apart from other domestic fests is its feroscious sink or swim massive market place, as evidenced by a variety of reports on the issue this week, such as Gregg Goldstein‘s look at documentary distro prospects for Variety or Brian Stelter‘s article on how digital distribution is shaking up the Sundance marketplace at CNN Money. Also, let’s not forget Anya Jaremko-Greenwold‘s filmmakers’ guide to the distributors at Sundance at Indiewire, nor in the same vein (though not directly Sundance related), Meredith Miller‘s filmmakers’ guide to non-theatrical and educational rights, also at Indiewire, and Cynthia Close‘s write-up of the new edition of the doc-makers’ resource, ‘Clearance & Copyright’, at IDA. Writing new distro deals for Realscreen, Michael Speier reports that Vimeo and Indiegogo have entered a distribution partnership, while CNN is launching its own short form documentary strand.