February 16, 2018

Essential Doc Reads: Week of February 12

Top row, left to right, Rashida Jones, Halle Berry, Tracee Ellis Ross; middle row, Barack Obama, Lolo Jones, Adrian Fenty; bottom row, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Derek Jeter. Courtesy of The New York Times.

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 York Times, Anna Holmes writes about biracial identity and the experience of the "Loving Generation," the subject of a new documentary series from Topic.

But after you're accepted, then what? What does it mean that many prominent self-identified black people in America today were born to a white parent? Did Halle Berry pave the way for another black woman to win a best actress Oscar, or for another black woman who also happens to have a white parent? Beyond the continued question of colorism, what does this all mean for the next generation, the next crop of American power brokers, black or mixed or otherwise?

At The Hollywood Reporter, Etan Vlessing reports on how Canada became a springboard for female directors.

The initiative already is having an effect: A 2017 Telefilm study shows a 27 percent increase in agency-backed projects directed by women since 2015. And it's not just Telefilm: The National Film Board of Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and the Canada Media Fund also have unveiled plans to achieve gender parity by 2020. But with its deep pockets — the agency invests around $100 million annually in homegrown filmmaking — Telefilm is leading the way.

At Columbia Journalism Review, Anne Helen Petersen interviews fellow journalists about the cost of reporting while female.

Most of it arrives online—through Twitter, via personal Facebook messages, on Instagram, through email exchanges, and sometimes even in our parents’ inboxes. When ignored, these threats can sharpen and multiply. What begins as displeasure with a piece can escalate to confrontations that are chilling in their  cruelty. Abuse and menace have become a way of life for women in journalism. But like so many things in women's lives, the labor of confronting that menace is largely invisible.

At Filmmaker, three documentarians discuss making difficult films about their own families.

"My father was resistant to the shoot almost the entire way through production. He seemed incredulous that anyone would care about anything he had to say, and felt I was largely wasting my time when I could have been making a film about the environment or something 'important.' In the end, his pushback to the film plays nicely into our own onscreen relationship struggles and is a regular source of comic relief. He constantly asks me on camera if what I'm doing will earn me a living. Other friends and family were nervous about my intentions, worrying sometimes that I was making a film which would air too much of our family's dirty laundry — or even worse, worrying that after airing the laundry I'd find no one cared."

At IndieWire, Eric Kohn reports on four major festivals searching for new leadership roles at a time when many in the industry want to see women take charge. 

"Change at this level will impact the entire field, because currently 90 percent of film festivals follow the lead of the top fests — Sundance, Berlin, TIFF and Cannes, from programming many of the same films to even copying their incremental logistical improvements," said film marketing consultant Brian Newman, a former CEO of the Tribeca Film Institute. "To my mind, the single greatest factor limiting the diversity of films, their directors, and cast has been the lack of diversity in the primary gatekeepers of the film world." 

Also at IndieWire, Jude Dry revisits Yance Ford's Strong Island through the lens of the director's transgender identity.

"If you listen to the phone call, that's the kind of phone call that a 24-year-old guy would make to his younger brother, not to his younger sister," Ford told IndieWire. "I want to encourage people to take a closer look at that moment, and what’s legible on my face as a character in this film, and then ask themselves if my trans identity at the end of watching Strong Island is really a surprise."

From the archives, Spring 2012, "Happy 'Loving' Couple: One Family's Fight Against Anti-Miscegenation"

After watching Mildred Jeter Loving's quiet, collected manner of speaking, one gets the sense that this is a woman who never intended to be in the spotlight. Palpable too is her husband Richard's shyness and hesitancy to engage with anyone but his family. So it makes sense that first-time director Nancy Buirski didn't become fully aware of the couple's story--one integral to the evolution of the Civil Rights struggle yet surprisingly hidden in the wings of history's stage--until after Mildred's passing in 2008. After becoming aware of their compelling story, Buirski embarked on a quest to reconstruct the past for her first feature, The Loving Story.

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