August 9, 2020

Essential Doc Reads: Week of August 3, 2020

From Greg Whitley's final season of 'Last Chance U.' 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!

IndieWire's Steve Green talks to filmmaker Greg Whiteley about how he approached the final season of his IDA Documentary Award-winning series, Last Chance U.

"I actually think we are a lot more nervous than the players are. I've entered every single season doing this show, even if we're at a school where we filmed the year previously, and all the players are pretty much different. I'm filled with a very similar set of anxieties," Whiteley told IndieWire. "Who are the main players that we’re going to focus on? And are we going to be able to do something that was as good or better than the year before? This is the last year we’re going to do it. Let’s not deliver a stinker. Those first few days, all of us as a crew, we feel an amalgamation of those two anxieties. The players, they’re just playing. After nine minutes of us being there, they don’t really care."

Filmmaker's Lauren Wissot talks to A Thousand Cuts director Ramona S. Diaz about working with journalist Maria Ressa and the challenges of filming in Duterte’s Philippines.

The bottom line is you have to be realistic and acknowledge the danger and decide if you’re in or out. Personally, my imagined regret had I not pursued the story outweighed the fear. What am I a documentary filmmaker for if I don’t step up at moments like these?

The 2003 documentary The Corporation, from Canadian filmmakers Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott and Joel Bakan, offered a trenchant analysis and diagnosis of corporate culture in the developed world, and posited that the corporation, were it a person, would be a psychopath. The trio is prepping a followup, The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel, based on Bakan’s followup book, The New Corporation: How 'Good' Corporations Are Bad for Society, for its world premiere at the virtual edition of the Toronto International Film Festival. POV Magazine’s Pat Mullen revisits and reassesses the original.

They ultimately create a profile of a psychopath, as corporations meet all the requirements to diagnose an individual as such. But if psychopaths may be removed from society for treatment and for the protection of the greater population, the question of why corporations may enact their own rampant violence upon society needs to be answered. In 2020, when Trump is in the White House and a viral pandemic is widening the rich/poor gap while corporations thrive, the patient requires further treatment.

Caroline Baum of The Sydney Morning Herald profiles celebrated Australian filmmaker Lynette Walworth, whose groundbreaking work in VR has earned her global renown.

"The thing about VR that is so powerful is that it leaves a different memory from conventional film. It feels closer to something that has happened to us, and it registers in the same part of the brain as dreams. It has a very powerful pathway to the subconscious."

Criterion Daily's David Hudson, writes about renowned Iranian documentarian Mehrdad Oskouei, whose work is the subject of a virtual retrospective presented by Cinema Guild and Moving of the Moving Image. 

"When we know that death is so close to us, to what extent can we make humanity more meaningful? How will our thoughts, actions, behavior, and choices during this pandemic be judged by future generations?"

Sight & Sound's Ashley Clark explores the work of Black British filmmakers over the past 60 years as an underappreciated canon of power and activism

These haunting images of dignified resistance to state power resonate strongly in today’s climate of Black Lives Matter activism, and are early entries in a lineage of moving images spanning six decades that depict and explore Black British protest against racism and injustice. This material, encompassing fiction and nonfiction film and television of varying lengths and styles, constitutes a ghost canon of British filmmaking: urgent work that has often been overlooked, actively suppressed, or left to languish in the margins, unloved or inaccessible.

Since their pioneering work on An American Family, Alan and Susan Raymond have taken their cameras to troubled American systems—police forces, public schools, prisons—to get to the root of systemic issues defining these systems. The New Yorker's Richard Brody examines selected films from the Raymonds' canon. 

Yet the Raymonds are not dogmatic or purist about their approach: they also provide much-needed historical background and societal context, on the soundtrack, through the commentary that Susan both wrote and delivers. The film focuses on the individual stories of students who succeed or don’t, of teachers who achieve good results or don’t (and even one who quits midyear), but the film's scope is national and its critique is systemic.

From the Archive, July-August 2004 issue: "Of Golden Arches and Golden Parachutes: Two New Docs Find Ways to Skin Corporate Fat Cats"

"When you're making a film about the corporation, you're making a film about the world," says Jennifer Abbott, co-director and editor of The Corporation. "Our problem wasn't finding stories; it was deciding which ones to include in our film. For us it was really about finding the statue in the marble."

 

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