Out of what appears to be strictly a matter of greed, soul singing legend Aretha Franklin has filed suit and successfully received an emergency court injunction barring the Telluride Film Festival from world premiering Sydney Pollack’s long gestating posthumous documentary AMAZING GRACE, “which shows the making of Ms. Franklin’s album of the same name more than four decades ago,” reports Brooks Barnes and Michael Cieply of The New York Times. Reacting to the news Franklin issued a statement saying, “Justice, respect and what is right prevailed and one’s right to own their own self-image,” despite “a recently discovered 1968 contract that Franklin signed allowed the use of the footage,” according to The New York Times. Catherine Shoard of The Guardian covered the story as well, noting “that four years ago Franklin sued Elliott over the same issue, and ‘the lawsuit was resolved after Elliott agreed not to release the film’.” Steven Zeitchik and Rebecca Keegan of The Los Angeles Times and Tambay A. Obenson of indieWIRE also covered the news, while Chris Willman featured the film in question for The Hollywood Reporter. Looking to the Toronto Film Festival where the film is set to screen later this week, our own Thom Powers has assured the show will go on, stating, “We’re proceeding with plans to screen AMAZING GRACE at TIFF. We haven’t heard of any legal procedures regarding the film in Toronto.”
Before all this legal hub-bub went down, at What (not) To Doc Basil Tsiokos gave an overview of the non-fiction offerings screening at both Telluride and Venice, which kicked off last Wednesday. Coverage from Venice has been slowly coming in, including Kaleem Aftab‘s positive review of Rinku Kalsy’s FOR THE LOVE OF MAN for indieWIRE, Guy Lodge‘s glowing review of Amy Berg’s JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE at Variety, and a pair of supportive reviews of Evgeny Afineevsky’s WINTER ON FIRE: UKRAINE’S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM from The Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Farber and Variety’s Jay Weissberg. Weissberg also reviewed Frederick Wiseman’s latest, IN JACKSON HEIGHTS, while Manori Ravindran spoke with the institution-obsessed documentarian Realscreen about his first (and likely last) foray into crowdfunding and why he prefers long-form to television friendly films.
In a sea of exciting doc news, for us at Stranger Than Fiction the most thrilling thing to hit the wire this week was the announcement that our theatrical home, the IFC Center, will be expanding “from 10,328 square feet to 20,071 square feet” according to Kate Erbland‘s exclusive at indieWIRE, more than doubling the number of screens from 5 to 11. In a statement from the article, “John Vanco, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the IFC Center said, ‘IFC Center has spent the past ten years celebrating filmmakers from New York and around the world by showcasing their documentaries, fiction features and short films for Greenwich Village audiences hungry for the best in contemporary and classic cinema. Expanding our facility is crucially important in allowing us to continue to fill a unique and important cultural space in the downtown arts scene, as well as helping vital works of cinema get launched into broader release.'”
The IFC Center is also the home of DOC NYC, who announced this week that Barbara Kopple’s MISS SHARON JONES! will serve as their Opening Night selection, as well as the fact that Jon Alpert, Barbara Kopple and Frederick Wiseman will receive Lifetime Achievement Awards at the festival’s second annual Visionaries Tribute. The announcement was picked up by Gregg Kilday at The Hollywood Reporter, Manori Ravindran at Realscreen and Anne-Katrin Titze at Eye For Film.
Nearing ever closer, the Toronto International Film Festival continues to garner quite a lot of press attention. Rolling Stone’s David Fear posted a list of his top 25 films to look out for, starting with Sydney Pollack’s AMAZING GRACE and including Laurie Anderson’s HEART OF A DOG, Amy Berg’s JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE and more. Similarly, Alexander Huls of Blog TO listed his top 10 docs to catch at the fest, while Eric Kohn named 7 hidden gems that included Mika Taanila and Jussi Eerola’s RETURN OF THE ATOM. Surprisingly absent from each of these lists was Morgan Neville’s KEITH RICHARDS: UNDER THE INFLUENCE, which was extensively featured in The New York Times by Jon Pareles. In The Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy surveyed the fall festival circuit in hopes of gauging the awards season buzz to follow, while Anthony Kaufman outlined the TIFF doc sales market for indieWIRE. And if you are looking for a taste of what’s on the menu at TIFF this year, Realscreen’s Kevin Ritchie has a pair of posts that pair synopses with trailers for each doc on offer.
Still from Barbara Kopple's MISS SHARON JONES!, premiering as part of TIFF Docs
Following the rather shocking news that Michael Moore would debuting his previously unannounced new film WHERE TO INVADE NEXT at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Thom Powers and the TIFF gang have revealed the entire TIFF Docs program which no consists of a staggering 31 films. The slate includes a wealth of music based docs such as Barbara Kopple’s MISS SHARON JONES!, Morgan Neville’s THE MUSIC OF STRANGERS: YO-YO MA AND THE SILK ROAD ENSEMBLE, Kahlil Joseph’s THE REFLEKTOR TAPES, which was previewed by Hugh McIntyre at Forbes, and a new film shot by Sydney Pollack titled AMAZING GRACE on Aretha Franklin’s record of the same name. The film received a pair of previews thanks to Steven Zeitchik at the LA Times and Flavorwire’s Jason Bailey. Also included in the lineup is IN JACKSON HEIGHTS, by Fredrick Wiseman, who was interviewed this week about the film by David Ehrlich at Little White Lies.
Thom Powers himself spoke about the docs at TIFF this year with Realscreen’s Kevin Ritchie, as well as with David Poland on his Youtube interview series DP/30. Writing for indieWIRE, Laura Berger also surveyed the non-fiction offerings at the fest, as did Tom Roston at Doc Soup, Gregg Kilday at The Hollywood Reporter, Michael Cieply for The New York Times and Matt Goldberg at Collider. While TIFF Docs harbors the majority of non-fiction films at the festival, two new programs offer a few surprises including Alan Zweig‘s HURT: THE STEVE FONYO STORY, which screens as part of the new Platform competition reports Realscreen’s Daniele Alcinii, and Morgan Neville’s KEITH RICHARD: UNDER THE INFLUENCE, which will play in the new television sidebar, Primetime, reports Jeremy Egner in The New York Times.
Ambulante California, an nontraditional roving film festival that calls to mind the travelling festival project put together by actress Tilda Swinton and filmmaker Mark Cousins back in 2009, has also announced their documentary stuffed lineup according to Kate Erbland at indieWIRE. Carolina A. Miranda of the LA times attempted to explain why Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, the festival organizers, have decided to stay away from utilizing traditional movie theaters for their Ambulante screenings. Also on the topic of festival lineups, Basil Tsiokos previewed the doc offerings at this year’s Sarajevo Film Festival at What (not) To Doc.
I must apologize – without warning I took leave weekend to venture off to Rochester, NY to attend the Toronto Film Society’s yearly raid of the Eastman House to watch two days worth of rarely screened prints of films such as Karl Brown’s STARK LOVE, William A. Wellman’s TRACK OF THE CAT and Mikio Naruse’s KIMIKO. But with a lineup like that, who could blame me?
In my absence, startling news broke that Michael Moore had somehow managed to complete a film completely in secret and that our own Thom Powers and the TIFF programming team would have the pleasure of world premiering it as part of their headlining Special Presentations in Toronto come September. Moore’s film, titled WHERE TO INVADE NEXT, has sparked much excitement in the doc community, instantly shooting to the top of my latest most anticipated unreleased docs list published over at IONCINEMA. Anne Thompson, ruminating over at indieWIRE, wrote a piece detailing just how TIFF came to nab Moore’s latest hot commodity. In addition to WHERE TO INVADE NEXT, TIFF also released their lineup of Canadian features at this year’s fest, including a quintet of docs – Brian D. Johnson’s AL PURDY WAS HERE, Patrick Reed and Michelle Shephard’s GUANTANAMO’S CHILD: OMAR KHADR, Mina Shum’s NINTH FLOOR, Avi Lewis’ THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING and Geneviève Dulude-De Celles’ WELCOME TO F.L.
Prior to TIFF releasing their first wave of films, the Venice International Film Festival also released their staggering lineup of features which includes such notable films as Fredrick Wiseman’s IN JACKSON HEIGHTS, Amy Berg’s JANIS, as well as Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow’s DE PALMA. And while announcements are being made elsewhere, the Locarno International Film Festival is currently in full swing. David Hudson is keeping close tabs on all the coverage coming out of Locarno over at Keyframe, while Basil Tsiokos wrote up preview of the festival’s non-fiction offerings at What (not) To Doc.
The film SUNSHINE SUPERMAN about BASE jumping was picked up by distributors after screening at this year's TIFF.
This week TIFF dominated documentary news. Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter wrote on the screening of THE LOOK OF SILENCE, director Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow up to THE ACT OF KILLING. Manori Ravindran of Realscreen had the news that Cinephil had inked a number of international distro deals for the film. And Variety shared a video interview with Oppenheimer. Director Michael Moore made waves by issuing a documentary filmmaker manifesto in a keynote speech that Indiewire reprinted in its entirety. Sam Adams also interviewed Moore in a piece for Biography. Indiewire’s Paula Bernstein reported that CNN Films and Magnolia Pictures had partnered to acquire SUNSHINE SUPERMAN from director Maria Strauch. The Hot Docs festival also used TIFF as a launching pad for its new report on learning from documentary audiences; Kevin Ritchie of Realscreen reported on its release.
Realscreen provided an astounding amount of coverage of the festival. Adam Benzine reported on Martin Scorsese’s Q&A following the screening of his documentary THE 50 YEAR ARGUMENT at TIFF. Nick Krewen spoke with THE PRICE WE PAY filmmaker Harold Crooks about his new film. Kevin Ritchie talked to Steven Markovitz, uncovering five tips for finding a coproduction partner. Manori Ravindran covered a panel talk from Marc Schiller of Bond Strategy and Influence. Kevin Ritchie covered the screening of the new Nick Broomfield film TALES OF THE GRIM SLEEPER. Adam Benzine also reported that HBO had purchased U.S. television rights for Broomfield’s film. Manori Ravindran spoke with directors Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan about their film THE WANTED 18. At Indiewire’s Thompson on Hollywood blog, John Anderson listed the best docs at the festival with about three days left.
Stranger Than Fiction announced its lineup this week, with the coming fall season dedicated to the works of filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker. “This is the first time STF has ever devoted a full season to one filmmaking team,” said Artistic Director Thom Powers. “It spans over 50 years of time and traces the history of modern American documentary making.” The season officially kicks off on Sept 23 with TOWN BLOODY HALL (1979), the first collaboration between Pennebaker and Hegedus, about a raucous debate over women’s liberation moderated by Norman Mailer with Germaine Greer. For more information on the season, or to purchase tickets, please go here. Also, a reminder that Stranger Than Fiction will feature a pre-season special screening of the film BRONX OBAMA by filmmaker Ryan Murdock about a Barack Obama impersonator living in the Bronx on Thursday, Sept. 18 at 8 p.m. at the IFC Center in Manhattan. For more information or to purchase tickets please go here.
A special note this week that Ameena Matthews, one of the subjects from the film THE INTERRUPTERS, was recently diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. Matthews desperately needs an immediate bone marrow transplant. A community of friends has established a crowdfunding page to help Matthews, who lacks insurance, to pay for her lifesaving treatment. You can find out more about the campaign and donate here.