April 27, 2019

Essential Doc Reads: Week of April 22

From Nancy Schwartzman's "Roll Red Roll."

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!


Nina Sachdev of Media Impact Funders talks to Roll Red Roll director Nancy Schwartzman about her ongoing impact campaign addressing and confronting rape culture.

“Additionally, for many people, ‘rape culture’ is a new concept. Instead of explaining it with talking heads or experts as an abstract concept, in the film we show it. We show teens using language that minimizes and mocks sexual violence, and we show adults who enable, chastise and support it.

Frontline’s Marcia Robiou interviews filmmakers Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts about the making of their award-winning For Sama, al-Kateab’s five-year documentation of her native Syria’s civil war and her own transformation into motherhood.

“It was also really important to me to record the reality of life under the regime — what our dreams were and how we ended up in all this violence. It is a record for the future that is outside the regime propaganda and misinformation….The camera became a part of me. It was something that supported me and helped me feel strong even when I felt scared.”

Writing for Hyperallergic, Beandrea July talks to filmmaker Pamela B. Green about her new documentary, Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché, about one of the unsung pioneers of cinema.

“...what’s special about her is she’s creating the grammar of cinema that we know of today and there was nobody at the beginning. Very few people were even thinking about infusing story; they were just thinking about the equipment, so she’s pushing the medium forward technically but she’s also thinking about how is the audience going to react because nobody cares about a machine. ...She’s thinking, What can I do to make the audience laugh? What can I do to make the audience connect? What can I do to make them feel like they can relate, that it’s their own story?”

Moviemaker’s Paula Bernstein talks to Dan Reed, Alison Klayman and Penny Lane about documentary and journalism and their respective films Finding Neverland, The Brink and Hail Satan?.

Documentary films rely on many of the same techniques as journalism, but moviemaking is more reliant on the craft of storytelling than breaking news. Still, when making a film about life-and-death issues and topics that are controversial enough to provoke anger (including death threats), there’s a great responsibility for moviemakers to get their facts right.

As Robert Durst, subject of the award-winning 2015 HBO doc series The Jinx, goes to trial for murder this week, documentary filmmakers Andrew Jarecki, Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier will also be called as witnesses. What’s in question is how a crucial scene was edited and subsequently handled as evidence. Charles V. Bagli reports for The New York Times.

Beyond the courtroom, the discussion among documentarians is likely to focus on the question of just what is allowed in such editing. Every filmmaker, or reporter for that matter, edits interviews for clarity and brevity. “It’s not deceptive as long as it doesn’t misrepresent what the person says,” said Rick Goldsmith, co-director of the 2009 documentary, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.  “It’s effective storytelling.”

Wired’s Angela Watercutter reports on film festivals as the optimal venue for launching VR/AR/XR projects.

"I believe that festivals are a crucial part of the ecosystem of location-based entertainment, particularly as it relates to [VR, AR, and mixed reality]," says Loren Hammonds, programmer for the Tribeca Film Festival's Immersive slate. "We don't have the Netflix 'problem' yet of losing audiences to their living rooms, mostly because the majority of people haven't adopted headsets for at-home usage yet. What we're offering are premium experiences that simply can't be duplicated at home, with fully realized installations, live actors, and more that can truly complement the digital work of the creators."

Charles Haine of No Film School reports on the latest NAB, in which the filmmakers behind the upcoming release The River and the Wall discussed how they achieved the stunning HDR look, with Dolby Atmos audio.

The perks of Resolve on this project boiled down to the ability to have three people, a lead editor, an assistant editor, and an additional editor, working on the 400 hours of footage at the same time in the same project, which was, of course, enabled by having the media all on the shared Jellyfish storage. This, combined with the ability of Resolve to use all the GPU power you throw at it to play high bandwidth media in real-time, made Resolve the right editing platform.

Sizing up this year’s Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, Director of Programming Shane Smith talks to RealScreen’s Selina Chignall about what this year’s slate is telling us.

“We are seeing the evolution of documentary language that filmmakers are using to tell all kinds of stories – not just creative or artistic subjects – but creative and artistic approaches to heavier and more challenging subjects that don’t often receive that kind of treatment.”

From the Archive--December 2004 Issue: "Taking on the Taliban with Truth: Afghani Women Trade Burqas for Cameras"

She is young, pretty, petite. She faces a hostile group of men who claim the Koran decrees that women should cover their faces, and dares to tell them they're wrong. A voiceover translates her commentary: "I will never accept that ignorance and intolerance should hide my face ever again." Later, she turns her uncovered face to the camera, and says in English, "I am not afraid. I am a journalist. I am brave."

In the News

ESPN, PBS and BBC Among Peabody Awards Winners in News, Radio/Podcast Categories


SFFILM Announces Golden Gate Award Winners


Academy Board of Governors Announces Rule Changes for 92nd Oscars


Caroline Libresco Exits Sundance Institute after 18 Years


IDFA, IFFR Call for Immediate Release of Myanmar Filmmaker and Festival Director Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi


HBO Rejects Subpoena for Rock and a Hard Place Footage