April 19, 2020

Essential Doc Reads: Week of April 13

From the 10-part ESPN series 'The Last Dance,' (Dir.: Jason Hehir; EP: Mike Tollin) which also streams on Netflix outside of the US. Courtesy of Netflix

Essential Doc Reads is our curated selection of recent features and important news items about the documentary form and its processes, from around the internet, as well as from the Documentary magazine archive. We hope you enjoy!


Sundance Institute announced a $1M Artist Relief Fund on Friday, and the Los Angeles Times' Mark Olsen sat down with CEO/Executive Director Keri Putnam to discuss the specifics of this fund.  

I think that is one of the most important pieces of this actually. There are several pieces of it that are very different from what we typically do at Sundance. And I think that's what this moment requires—for all of us to dig deep and really listen and try to respond to the moment that's out there. And that involves doing things differently than we would typically do, but being connected to the purpose behind it. So for us, the question of supporting other organizations was part of a whole idea of moving beyond the curated groups that we typically work with in our programs.

In a guest blog for Moviemaker, Melanie Addington,  executive director of the Oxford Film Festival, calls for film festivals to step up for filmmakers during the pandemic.

And right now, when everything is in many ways at a standstill, it is going to take real leadership and cooperation to make sure the ones who should matter most to us—our filmmakers—get through this.

MUBI Notebook's Michael Sicinski talks to filmmaker Sky Hopinka about the making of his first feature film, maɬni – towards the ocean, towards the shore, which is currently streaming as part of Toronto's Images Festival.

In a lot of ways the content of my work drives the form of it, and then the form of it affects how I think about the content and what I want to share and what I don't want to share. It's a cyclical sort of relationship that is very important to how I make work and how I think through these different processes and the complications of representation. 

Deadline's Mike Fleming Jr., discusses with filmmaker Mike Tollin, The Last Dance, a 10-part ESPN series about the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls that premiered April 19. Tollin is executive producer; Jason Hehir directed.

For someone as willful and talented as Michael Jordan to be as coachable…there are so many dimensions. And credit to the NBA crew because no one was affected by the presence of their cameras. They weren't besieged by cameras, or things showing up on social media that night and they weren’t reading about it in the paper the next day. You felt like a fly on the wall, which is every documentarian's dream.

Hyperallergic's Dan Schindel weighs in on the pandemic sensation, Tiger King—and he doesn't exactly like what he sees.

Despite my misgivings, I watched all of Tiger King. No matter how messy the show is, it's impossible to deny the power of the story's riveting developments, or how magnetic the cast is. Finding such incredible people is ideally the foundation of great documentary. But too often, filmmakers use the unique stories and characters they find as a crutch, trusting them to carry things along. And the worst part is that they may be right in thinking they can coast and get away with it.

Chicago Magazine’s Taylor Moore spotlight's Jiayan Shi's Finding Yingying, about the kidnapping and murder of Yingying Zhang, who was studying at University of Illinois at the time of her disappearance. The film, produced by Kartemquin Films, won a Special Jury Recognition for Breakthrough Voice at SXSW.

"She was so kind and generous and brilliant and ambitious. That's something we wouldn't really know from general media coverage. From my perspective, nothing is more powerful than her own plans through her own words."

Writing for Cinema Tropical's blog, Juan Medina interviews Natalia Almada about her crossover from documentary to fiction.

For me it's a very natural continuation of my work. El Velador (2011) is a documentary that is very close to fiction because of its minimalist approach. For me, the open narrative of El Velador lends itself to fiction. In terms of ways of working, it also allowed me to start feeling what it is to have a more controllable set since the watchman's routine was so predictable that I could start to anticipate and choreograph my camera with his actions, the light and the environment or set.

From the Archive, Winter 2010, "2009 Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award: Transcending Borders: Natalia Almada"

I think I use the camera as a way to see what I see. It is almost like a mirror, in that sense. It is the process of making documentaries that I love. I really do begin from a point of curiosity and pick up my camera to go explore that thing which caught my attention. It is a pretext to look at something more closely, to look at it differently, to understand how I see it and relate to it. If I didn't have this curiosity, then I'm not sure if I would feel driven to make films.


In the News

COVID-19 Initiatives and Funds

Seed & Spark Launches Platform to Boost Film Festivals


How France Is Supporting Its Film Industry


Netflix, Netherlands Film Fund Launch COVID-19 Production Aid


Ava DuVernay's Array Launches Grant Programs for Organizations and Festivals Impacted by COVID-19


Film Independent Announces Emergency Filmmaker Support Fund


California Governor Newsom Announces New Initiatives To Support California Workers Impacted by COVID-19


SBA PPP Runs Out of Money



Other News

Hot Docs Reveals 2020 Lineup


SFFILM Fest Goes Virtual As Programming Director Bows Out


Together Films Presents #StayHomeWatchTogether Series Online


Sheffield Doc/Fest Makes Selections for Virtual Marketplace


Cinemark Says It Hopes To Re-Open Some Theaters in July


Craig Gilbert, Creator of groundbreaking American Family Series, Dies at 94


15 Docs That get Inside an Artist’s Head


Court Rules Photographer Gave Up Licensing Rights by Posting Her Work on Instagram