May 4, 2020

Essential Doc Reads: Week of April 27

Photo: Tedward Quinn/Unsplash

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!

The Los Angeles Times' Amy Kaufman checks in on documentary filmmakers who are persevering through lockdown on their projects.

While there are still no clear answers on when and how production could resume on Hollywood's scripted movies, many documentary filmmakers have been able to continue working. Some, like Porter, have been able to forge ahead by equipping their subjects with the proper technology. Others have shifted gears, diving into research and archival footage until they can return to the field. And a scant few are still outside filming, working with tiny crews and risking consequences for breaking stay-at-home guidelines.

Vulture's Chris Lee surveys the pandemic-related docs currently in progress.

"I felt like it is the most important story of my lifetime," Matthew Heineman tells Vulture. "So I set out to embed within hospitals in New York City and put a human face to the amazing, heroic, heartbreaking work that doctors and nurses and administrators here are doing. How they are fighting 24 hours a day, seven days a week. How they are navigating through uncharted waters without even blinking. How they are doing everything they can to keep people alive."

Film professor Patricia R. Zimmermann and aerial cinematographer Caren Kaplan got together for a conversation in Film Quarterly about the preponderance of drone footage during the COVID-19 era.

This drone footage is specific to the pandemic, but also, in other ways, not at all. Just as the virus emerges from and circulates via the material conditions of neoliberalism and globalization, there are powerful historical continuities that require substantial tracing, linking, and retracing to understand its emerging visual lexicon.

Filmmaker's Scott Macauley talked to Elizabeth Lo about her film Stray, which was to premiere at Tribeca (and which was screened at IDA and Film Independent's DocuClub). The film takes a dog's perspective of life in stray-friendly Istanbul.

Part of the goals of the film was to try to inhabit a dog's gaze and represent a dog's life. In a way, that was subversive, a political act—giving screen time to a scrappy stray dog that lives outside of human matters. But I also recognized early on that because of technological limitations—me with an Easyrig and a gimbal following the dogs—it was not possible to fully inhabit a dog's gaze. Also because I'm a human, the film was always going to be a mediation, an idea of representing a dog. And so I made peace with the fact that the film was going to occupy this liminal space between human and dog. 

The New Yorker's Richard Brody praises the upcoming series on The Criterion Channel, Tell Me, a program of docs from the 1970s by women filmmakers, like Chantal Ackerman, Julia Reichert, Liana Brandon, Joyce Chopra and Claudia Weill, among others.

The movies in Tell Me are talking pictures—movies centered on dialogue, and, for that matter, on monologue—which nonetheless have as their subject the nature of the cinematic image. The films in this series collectively call attention to a decisive set of wrong turns in the very history of the art (which go hand in hand with deformations of society at large), and an absence of women's perspectives that goes along with an absence of actual recording, an absence of voices. 

From the Archive, Fall 2018 issue: "Life in the Time of Ebola: Inside the 2014 Epidemic in Sierra Leone"

Pratt's extreme care with a camera lens, as well as his subject matter, are on full display in the film. The meticulous attention to detail one must develop to avoid contracting the Ebola virus, is mirrored in the same fastidious cinematography used to document the day-to-day lives of his fellow Sierra Leoneans.

 

In the News

POV Announces 33rd Season

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Motion Picture Academy Announces Rule and Category Changes

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YouTube, Tribeca Enterprises Partner on Free Virtual Festival, with 20 Major Partners

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Socks on FireJacinta Pick Up Doc Awards at Tribeca

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Doclands and Variety Team Up for Virtual Conversation with Filmmakers

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Sunny Side of the Doc Reveals 2020 Pixii Festival Selection

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Film Comment To Temporarily Cease All Operations

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Karlovy Vary Film Festival Cancelled

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TCA Summer 2020 Press Tour Cancelled

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NFB Reports Steady Flow of Production and Distribution to Support Filmmakers

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Fifteen Documentaries Receive Support from Telefilm Canada

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BFI To Archive Best Coronavirus Videos

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Netflix, Higher Ground, Big Mouth Productions to Air Michelle Obama Doc

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Two Docs-in-Progress on Boeing 737 MAX Air: 

Participant Media and Barak Goodman and Rachel Dretzin (in production)...

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And Imagine Entertainment and Rory Kennedy (acquired by Netflix):

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NEON Super Ltd Acquires SXSW Doc You Cannot Kill David Arquette

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Quibi Orders The Fix Docuseries from Filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar

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SBA Limits Business Loans to Small Lenders

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