September 1, 2017

Essential Doc Reads: Week of August 28

Ken Burns.

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 The New Yorker, Ian Parker profiles Ken Burns, who sees his documentaries as acts of "emotional archeology."

He listed, in descending order, the films that members of the public most press him to make: "Railroads, labor, immigration. And then: 'My great-great-grandfather wrote four volumes about the Civil War. He didn't go, but . . . '" He laughed. He later said, "After The Vietnam War, I'll have to lie low. A lot of people will think I'm a Commie pinko, and a lot of people will think I'm a right-wing nutcase, and that's sort of the way it goes."

At National Endowment for the Arts, Jax Deluca argues that everyone -- not just docmakers -- is a stakeholder in the conversation about documentary sustainability. 

Documentaries matter because a successful story has the power to allow others to see the world from a new perspective. Public agencies, nonprofits, educational institutions, museums, libraries, and other community-focused organizations frequently use documentaries to complement programming, spark community dialogue, and build deeper understanding and empathy on complex issues.

At Immerse, Ingrid Kopp asks how to build a more inclusive virtual reality space.

What do I mean by access? Who gets to both make (and make again and again) and experience VR work. The nationalistic and fascist movements sweeping the US and Europe scare the bejeezus out of me and sometimes these questions feel like the very least of our problems. I have to constantly remind myself why art is important and why it is vital that more people have access to emerging storytelling mediums such as VR so that the stories that we are telling and experiencing are diverse, brave and resonant.

At LA Weekly, Dennis Romero reports that the porn industry is warning performers about alleged dishonest tactics behind Netflix's doc series Hot Girls Wanted

She says Netflix and the producers have not responded directly to the coalition's allegations. Netflix, Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus did not respond to our email requests for comment. But producers denied the allegations in recent interviews with Variety. "Nobody was coerced," Bauer said. Gradus told the publication that women who identified themselves as sex workers on social media were concerned that Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On featured 9 seconds of their footage - without identifying them.

At Medium, Ranjan Roy offers a skeptical take on VICE's widely acclaimed dispatch from Charlottesville.

When watching a segment, try to be conscious of what makes it so appealing. It doesn’t get you 'up there' — it gets you 'down there.' It's visceral, exhilarating, titillating, horrifying. Every animalistic adjective you can conjure up. It's a series of exaggerated characters that create an extreme view of reality. It's an appeal to your most base instincts that creates a distorted perception of the world.

From the archives, December 2002, "The Accidental Historian: Ken Burns Mines America's Past"

A slow, searching pan over the weathered visage of an American president...the plaintive vibrato of a fiddle and the contemplative phrasing of a piano...a cannon poised majestically at low-angle against a burnt-orange sunset...the subtle resonance of cheers, hoofbeats and gunfire...the burnished locution of the narrator...the eloquent passages from presidents, soldiers, musicians and ballplayers, ably channeled through a chorus of readers...the wise observations of on-camera commentators...These are the elements that, when woven together by filmmaker Ken Burns, transform the tableau of American history into a vast, roiling Shakespearian drama peopled with heroes, villains and fools.

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