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Essential Doc Reads: Week of Feb. 1

By KJ Relth

Kate Amend. Courtesy Sundance Institute.

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! 


From the Sundance Institute blog, editor Kate Amend discusses her art and craft:

I don't think anyone grows up wanting to be an editor. When I was a kid the options for women were housewife, teacher, and nurse. But I always fantasized that I would do something in the arts. I wanted to be a singer or an actress – although my parents didn’t encourage that. Teaching would be good, but marriage and housewife was the ultimate future in their eyes. But still, I played the violin and the piano, participated in school plays, was a cheerleader – which is kinda like dancing. I tried painting and drawing, too. I was a decent writer – always on the school paper. I just knew a life in the arts was what I wanted. So fast forward and imagine how thrilled I was to discover editing, where we practice all the arts. We work with light, color, music, words, shapes, and movement to tell a story. We choreograph, we compose, and we conduct. And whether there’s a script or not, we are writing. No wonder it’s so hard to describe what we do.


On Medium, Katherine Oliver writes about film as a force for social impact:

In a highly divisive election year audiences are particularly hungry for films that address their most pressing concerns. Whether or not these issues will be intelligently addressed by candidates, or appear on the ballot, they are being thoughtfully explored through film. Case in point, Katie Couric and Atlas Films' Under the Gun weaves together a comprehensive history of guns in America, the laws, culture and politics that have brought us to where we are today when nearly 100 people die of gun violence in America each day. The film paints a compelling case for the role of advocacy by weaving together moving interviews with victim’s families from mass shootings including Aurora and Newtown and random gunfire in San Bernadino and Chicago. At its Sundance premiere the film was met with a sustained standing ovation. In the Q&A that followed viewers wanted to know how to take action and become part of the growing chorus of Americans seeking to change the harrowing gun violence statistics of our country. 


USC Professor Henry Jenkins talks at length with William Urrichio of MIT’s Open Doc Lab about the future of documentary:

Documentary's relative freedom from institutional constraint has enabled its makers to experiment in ways that are difficult for traditional journalists. Moreover, as journalism becomes more of a curator of information and shaper of conversations, documentary's demonstrated ability to contextualize and explain through well-chosen instances has proven newly relevant. The interactive documentaries produced to date offer a compendium of approaches, interfaces, user experiences, tools and even strategies for working with crowd-sourced and co-created content all of which journalists can assess, draw from and transform. So I guess I would say that by finding themselves in the same boat, both journalists and documentarians have discovered commonalities of purpose and technique. Interactive documentary is fast developing a repertoire of techniques that work well in today’s 'digital first' and increasingly participatory environment and digital journalism still commands considerable reputation and audience reach.


Indiewire spoke with cinematographer Kirsten Johnson about how she found herself in her own documentary:

You can imagine I had no desire, ever, to be in this film. So I had a lot of resistance to that that Amanda helped me work through so, by the time I started working with Nels, I was more open to the inevitability of that idea. I think one thing that's so interesting is that we often quest to do the things we are not doing, but don't acknowledge the things we have done and do. I realized I've been filming for 25 years. There are things to be learned from looking at things the way I see. And what really blew me is when Nels cut with the footage, he really allowed me to see myself in a way I'd never seen myself. It really worked as a mirror. What's so fascinating is that I'm not in the film, yet I'm everywhere in the film. And certainly for me, it gave me this way to see what I do that I haven't felt in a long time.


From the archives, Fall 2013 -- New Models in Documentary Education:

The trend to incorporate documentary/nonfiction into the curriculum and make it part of serious scholarship goes beyond Harvard, says Galison, a professor of the history of science and co-director of the Film Study Center, but Harvard has a particular interest in being at the forefront. Galison believes that film allows students to concentrate on different things than written text, and he would like to see filmmaking share the same space. "You can write, and that allows you to get focused on certain things," he explains. "You can film and that reveals other things about the world around us. My hope is that documentary filmmaking will become seen as a part of scholarship, not just as a way of disseminating or popularizing scholarship. It will become scholarship in its own right."


In the news:

Condé Nast launches unscripted division
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Ford Foundation, Cannes Film Market Launch Docu Push Against Inequality
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Hulu Announces IFC Film Partnership
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Discovery inks deal to air IMAX-produced docs
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