Sensible filmgoers might hope that with ICARUS and HEAVEN IS A TRAFFIC JAM ON THE 405 winning big last week at the Oscars (read Brian Newman‘s piece on breaking the “rules” to win an Oscar for Short Doc at Sub-Genre Media) and awards season coming to its logical conclusion, we could all take a collective sigh of relief and maybe a ever so short cinematic reprieve, but instead film festivals across the land have either just wrapped, are currently in motion, or are just gearing up. Just last week, Columbia, Missouri’s True/False Film Festival took over the modest college town for its 15th edition, garnering universal praise from Daniel Kasman at MUBI’s Notebook, Ben Godar at Nonfics, and Vikram Murthi of RogerEbert.com (my own coverage of the festival will soon be found over at Senses of Cinema). Looking further back, Dan Sullivan covered this year’s edition of the Berlinale for Film Comment, singling out Corneliu Porumboiu’s INFINITE FOOTBALL and Kristina Konrad’s epic ONE OR TWO QUESTIONS, as Eric Hynes dissected a pair of my favorites from this year’s Sundance in Bing Liu’s MINDING THE GAP and Sandi Tan’s SHIRKERS. As I write, four fests around the globe are taking place, each of which Basil Tsiokos wrote previews for at What (not) To Doc: Miami Film Festival, SXSW, Ambulante, and Tempo Documentary Festival.
Meanwhile, both the Tribeca Film Festival and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festivals announced their full 2018 lineups. Tribeca is holding the world premieres of 12 new nonfiction films in its documentary competition, in addition to its closing night film, THE FOURTH ESTATE by Liz Garbus, about how the challenges of journalism in the age of Trump, while Full Frame has 14 world premieres on its docket, including David Schalliol’s THE AREA, Katie Galloway and Dawn Valadez’s THE PUSHOUTS, and Anne de Mare’s CAPTURING THE FLAG.
Tonight night, Stranger Than Fiction continues at IFC Center with a rare opportunity to preview the first two episodes of one of the most anticipated documentary series of the year – Maclain and Chapman Way’s WILD WILD COUNTRY, featuring a live Q&A with the directors and Executive Producer Mark Duplass. Tickets are still available here.
After last week’s politically charged dispatch of stories on Trump’s proposed budget cuts and the controversy over Jason Pollock’s STRANGER FRUIT, this week, thankfully, seems a bit subdued. The most notable news of the week is the dual lineup announcements of Toronto’s massive Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s more focused Art of the Real. At Realscreen, Daniele Alcinii spoke with Hot Docs’ Director of Programming Shane Smith and several filmmakers about this year’s lineup. The complete Hot Docs program and schedule can be found in PDF form here.
Now in its second year, Chicago’s DOC10 film festival kicks off later this week. Leading up to the proceedings, the festival has been posting brief interviews with the filmmakers behind each of the ten films programmed on their website, while over at RogerEbert.com, Matt Fagerholm has given a thorough overview of the festival’s offerings, highlighting RAT FILM, WHOSE STREETS? and THE CINEMA TRAVELERS, among others. Also in motion this week is the Paris based doc fest Cinéma du Réel, which Basil Tsiokos previewed at What (not) To Doc.
Here at Stranger Than Fiction, we’re closing out our winter season tomorrow at the IFC Center with Amanda Micheli’s VEGAS BABY, with Micheli herself in attendance for a live post-screening Q&A. Tickets are still available.
Filmmaker Laura Poitras (photo by Damon Winter of New York Times/Redux)
In the wake of Sundance fever, it was Laura Poitras’ newly opened exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, ASTRO NOISE, that had the documentary world’s attention this past week. The co-founder of Field of Vision and CITIZENFOUR director’s personally revealing show on her own life experiences of FBI surveillence and beyond was the talk of the town, receiving features in The New York Times from Holland Cotter, Wired by Andy Greenberg, Vogue via Sara Corbett, and Russell Brandom of The Verge. At the POV Blog, Tom Roston said that experiencing the project is “like walking through a documentary…It’s a remarkable work, even more so when you consider, although Poitras once studied the visual arts, she’s primarily a feature documentary filmmaker.” The Guardian published a pair of pieces on the exhibition, one from Jason Farago, the other by Dominic Rushe. Artinfo’s Noelle Bodick wrote a piece outlining why the Whitney might be nervous about serving as a platform for Poitras and her repurposing of leaked classified images into politically charged works of art. While in Artforum, Stephen Squibb beautifully sums up the exhibition, “For Poitras, installation is a technology capable of staging a self-conscious relationship to method itself. She uses venerable tropes of cinema—which constitute a common language, a lingua franca of perceptible gestures—to bypass the contemporary tension between documentary and fantasy, credible and incredible, which today inheres in imperceptible and clandestine information as much as in visual or sensory phenomena.”
Though cinema tinged surveillance should now once again lingering in the mind, Sundance is itself still being processed. At Nonfics, Jason Gorber listed his favorite documentaries of the festival, while Eric Kohn and Kate Erbland debated how this year’s best Sundance features might factor in next year’s Oscar Race at indieWIRE. Focusing in on the increasingly prevalent diversity debate, Paste published Shannon M. Houston‘s ’10 Black Directors to Watch in 2016,’ featuring Dawn Porter and Rita Coburn Whack, and NPR posted Monica Castillo in conversation on where Sundance fits in with Hollywood’s diversity controversy. Navigating within the same vein, Liz Garbus appeared this week on indieWIRE’s Women and Hollywood podcast to discuss her film WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?, as Melissa Silverstein points out, “the sole woman-helmed documentary in the running for this year’s Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards.”
This week at the IFC Center, the 2016 Winter Season of Stranger Than Fiction continues with a 10th Anniversary screening of Chris Sheridan and Patty Kim’s North Korean conspiracy doc ABDUCTION: THE MEGUMI YOKOTA STORY. Special guest Robert Boynton, author of “The Invitation-Only Zone: The True Story of North Korea’s Abduction Project,” will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A and book signing. Tickets for the event are still available here.
Robert Durst arrested, photo by Orleans Parish Sheriffs Office
Months back when news broke that HBO was to premiere Andrew Jarecki’s long awaited return to non-fiction in the form of a six part serial mini-series on Robert Durst, I don’t think anyone could have predicted this: Jon Herskovitz of Reuters, Emily Shapiro of ABC News, Ashley Southall and Charles V. Bagli of The New York Times and the staff at Variety have reported that Saturday the son of the one of New York City’s largest real estate barons was arrested in New Orleans on a murder warrant issued by police in Los Angeles related to the death of his friend, Susan Berman. After the fifth episode of Jarecki’s THE JINX: THE LIFE AND DEATHS OF ROBERT DURST aired last Sunday, revealing the discovering of new evidence in Berman’s murder case, The New York Times ran an article by Charles V. Bagli that dropped the bomb that the district attorney in Los Angeles had recently reopened an investigation into Berman’s death. The Guardian also ran a piece on Saturday in which Andrew Gumbel outlines the possibility of Jarecki and his team actually solving the murder case through the medium of investigative documentary filmmaking. The series concluded its shocking six episode run on HBO last night in which Durst unknowingly admitted, “Killed them all, of course”. Late last night, Charles V. Bagli and Vivian Yee reported on the horrifying reveal for The New York Times, as did Ben Williams for Vulture and Jessica Contrera and Peter Holley for The Washington Post.
Jarecki is a Stranger Than Fiction alumnus, with his doc classic CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS having screened as part of our Fall 2013 season. Our current season continues tomorrow with a special screening of TO TELL THE TRUTH: A HISTORY OF DOCUMENTARY FILM (1928-1946) dedicated to Ali Pomeroy, who produced the film and tragically passed away February 27, 2015 after a 2 1/2-year struggle with cancer. Both David Van Taylor and Cal Skaggs, the film’s co-directors, will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A.
The International Documentary Association (IDA) this week named the nominees for its documentary awards. At Nonfics.com, Christopher Campbell noted that Jason Osder’s LET THE FIRE BURN lead nominees in major categories, while Steve Pond had coverage at The Wrap. Adam Benzine had the news at Realscreen, while Anne Thompson did the same at Indiewire. In a blog post, POV also noted their nomination for the best continuing series award.
The film THESE BIRDS WALK from directors Bassam Tariq and Omar Mullick opened in theaters on Friday, winning a Critics Pick from New York Times writer Nicolas Rapold and a solid review from Scott Tobias at The Dissolve. Robert Greene wrote his own review for Hammer to Nail, as did Omer M. Mozaffar at RogerEbert.com. In a post at Indiewire, the pair wrote a piece sharing their ideas on how to make a documentary that evades social issue cliches. Tariq and Mullick were also featured on the latest episode of Adam Schartoff’s Filmwax podcast, while Tom Roston posed five questions for the pair in a post at the POV blog. Christopher Campbell and Daniel Walber also discussed the film in the latest episode of their podcast The Realness.
The folks at the True/False blog drew attention to a recently uploaded YouTube video documenting the festivals’ panel on doc criticism from earlier this year. The video’s posting seemed to provoke a response from Sam Adams of Indiewire, who wrote a piece asking if critics really understood documentary films.
This week Stranger Than Fiction is playing host to a screening of CALVET from director Dominic Allen on Tuesday, Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. at the IFC Center in Manhattan. Film subject Jean-Marc Calvet will be in attendance for a Q&A following the screening. For more information or to purchase tickets please go here.