July 28, 2017

Essential Doc Reads: Week of July 24

Essential Doc Reads is a weekly feature in which the IDA staff recommends recent pieces about the documentary form and its processes. Here we feature think pieces and important news items from around the Internet, and articles from the Documentary magazine archive. We hope you enjoy!

At Vanity Fair, David Kamp writes that the forthcoming The Vietnam War is Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's most ambitious project yet.

Now, at long last, comes The Vietnam War, more than 10 years in the making. The series premieres on PBS on September 17, its 10 episodes totaling a whopping 18 hours. Burns first rose to national prominence in 1990, with his documentary The Civil War, an exhaustive examination of what remains - at press time, at least - our nation's darkest hour. But The Vietnam War, in scope and sensitivity, is the most ambitious and fraught project Burns has ever taken on. "Nothing compares to this film in terms of that daily sense of obligation, of responsibility, coupled with the possibility for art and expression," he told me when I sat down with him and Novick recently in the Midtown Manhattan offices of WNET, New York City’s flagship public-TV station.

At Billboard, guitarist Stevie Salas discusses a new documentary about the musical influence of Native Americans.

When Stevie Salas was selling out arena tours as Rod Stewart’s guitarist back in the 1980s, even he, an Apache Indian from Oceanside, California, looked around and began to notice that others like him weren’t around. He dug more, and eventually his curiosity about his own people’s story led to discoveries of other Native American musicians like Charley Patton, Mildred Bailey, Link Wray, Jimi Hendrix, Jesse Ed Davis, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robbie Robertson and Randy Castillo helped shape the soundtracks of our lives.

At The New York Times, Steven Kurutz covers one filmmaker's series about the death of American shopping malls.

Though upscale malls in wealthy communities continue to do well, Mr. Bell isn't interested in those; he visits dead malls, and among the deadest are ones in working-class and rural communities. Filming at the Bristol Mall in Bristol, Va., Mr. Bell discovered 10 stores that remained open in the entire center; the rest of the retail spaces sat empty behind lowered metal gates.

At Paste Magazine, a guide to the 8 best film festival vacations in North America.

Fantasize about mingling with Hollywood heavyweights at the Sundance Film Festival? Sure, Park City's snow-capped January extravaganza shines as bright as the stars on Hollywood Boulevard, but there are many smaller festivals where cinephiles can watch movies and get up-close and personal with the filmmakers.

Also in The New York Times, Bruce Fretts reports on the new trend of documentary sequels. 

In fact, nonfiction films have become so popular lately that documentary sequels are now a subgenre unto themselves. Buena Vista Social Club: Adios, a companion piece to the 1999 sleeper about Cuban musicians, reached theaters over Memorial Day weekend, and the director Michael Moore is working to unleash Fahrenheit 11/9, a Donald Trump-themed bookend to Fahrenheit 9/11, his 2004 takedown of George W. Bush, which earned $222 million worldwide.

From the archives, February 2015, "Rory Kennedy on History and Lessons Learned From Vietnam"

Eschewing a re-examination of the Vietnam War, Kennedy focuses on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour account of that chaotic month and on the lesser known characters in this episode - the noble-and-principled-to-a-fault ambassador, who stubbornly delayed the evacuation; the heroic servicemen, who tirelessly evacuated as many American and Vietnamese as possible; the journalists who covered the last days; and the magnanimous citizens who were left behind, but who eventually made it to the US. Last Days in Vietnam is not a revisionist history, but more of tribute to those who tried to salvage something redeeming out of a lost cause.

In the News:

Vice Media Laying Off 2% of Staff
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Flint Water Crisis Documentary in the Works
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Report Card on Top Rated UK Documentary Programs
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Nominees for 38th Annual News and Documentary Emmys
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