February 17, 2019

Essential Doc Reads: Week of February 11

Betsy West and Juia Cohen, directors of "RBG." Photo: (c) Kristin Hoebermann. Courtesy of Storyville Films

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!

Vanity Fair’s Laura Bradley talks to directors Betsy West, Julia Cohen and Chai Vasarhelyi about why the Best Documentary category has become “an Oscar haven for female directors” over the past ten years.

Why has this category made deeper strides than the awards’ narrative categories? Perhaps it’s because the barriers to entry are lower. While an Oscar-winning doc can be made on a shoestring, pulling off the same task for a narrative film is much harder—even as indie houses like A24 become more mainstream presences.

Writing in The Washington Post, filmmaker/professor Renee Tajima-Pena decries the lack of an Asian American studies program at her alma mater, Harvard University.

Asian American studies faculty members have all witnessed that moment of wokeness, when a student realizes they are no longer a stranger in their own story. But Asian American studies matters not only because it is personal. It matters in crucial debates over policy, culture and the reckoning of who we are and where we are going.

Reviewing Agnès Varda’s final film, Varda by Agnès, following its Berlinale premiere, IndieWire’s David Ehrlich marvels at this glowing valediction.

Varda by Agnès ties an anchor to the big idea that its namesake has been circling for most of the 21st century, and a long time before that. Leading us on a two-hour talk that loops through her life and art in order to knot them together once and for all, this swan song is basically just the bow on top; it’s a charming and characteristically bittersweet farewell that allows Varda to have the final word on her films. Perspective may be the only thing this glorified Powerpoint Presentation really adds to her body of work, but that makes it both an excellent primer for newcomers, and a wonderful parting gift for longtime fans.

Writing for Mubi’s Notebook blog, Leonardo Goi discusses Karim Ainoiuz’ Central Airport THF, which stream on Mubi through March 9.

Brazilian-born, Berlin-based Karim Aïnouz’s engrossing documentary Central Airport THF thrives on the strident contrast between two worlds that almost touch, but never quite come together. It is an observational piece that reads like a two-part tribute: a testament to the singular beauty of a long-destitute place, and to the people who’ve unwillingly come to call it home.

Multichannel News’ R. Thomas Umstead reports from the Television Critics Association press tour, where CuriosityStream’s’ John Hendricks predicted an SVOD war in 2019.

But Hendricks warned that the growing lineup of SVOD services will battle for limited consumer dollars, adding that the companies that can distinguish themselves in one or more of the four big content categories — movies and scripted content, sports content, factual, and general entertainment — will ultimately survive the upcoming streaming wars.


From the Archive, October 2017: “Two for the Road: Agnès Varda and JR Collaborate on Faces Places

“I love when people say there is energy in the film, and tenderness. But I don't see myself as charming. An old lady, small, vaguely fat: I don't see myself as charming at all. I see myself as an old woman, obsessed with filming life, who loves to invent.”


In the News

Tribeca Film Festival 2019 to Open with Roger Ross Williams’ The Apollo


POV to Launch 32nd Season with Roll Red Roll


EDN Unveils 2019 Documentary Pitch Forum Lineup


Berlin Film Festival Winners


AIDC To Support Projects Based in Research and Data Journalism


BAFTA Awards


Anthropocene, Amazing Race Canada among Canadian Screen Award Nominees


NEON Acquires Sundance Award-Winning Honeyland


New Partnership Announced between International Sámi Film Institute and Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program


Committee to Protect Journalists Condemns Arrest of Rappler's Maria Ressa on Cyber Libel Charge