February 23, 2018

Essential Doc Reads: Week of February 19

Feras Fayyad, director of the Academy Award-nominated "Last Men in Aleppo."  Photo: Joel Barhamand for 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, Cara Buckley reports on two Oscar doc nominees facing different kinds of Russian meddling.

Fayyad said that malignment of his film Last Men in Aleppo began soon after its premiere last year at Sundance, where it won a grand jury prize, and has only intensified since. In the Russian media, Mr. Fayyad has been accused of being a Western-funded propagandist whose film is a thinly disguised "Al-Qaeda promotional vehicle." And, in what might catch members of the academy's documentary branch by surprise, the film's Oscar nomination was, according to Russia Insider, clear evidence that "the Hollywood celebrity industry is now an integral part of the U.S. state's propaganda machine."

At POV Magazine, Daniel Glassman shares a history of conceptual documentaries.

When you think about documentaries, certain things come to mind: verité shooting, archival footage, interviews, narration. Embedded in this idea of what could be called the "well-made doc" is a set of assumptions that largely reduces documentary to fact and to narrative. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, and most documentaries fit into that idiom: they tell a story and argue for an interpretation of it. Yet there is much in the realm of documentary that does not adhere to these conventions. Maintaining the fundamental documentary instinct to reflect reality, these films nevertheless depart from that narrative form, imaginatively manipulating documentary techniques to investigate less tangible realities.

At TV Week, Hillary Atkin reports on a Humanitas Prize ceremony that took on added resonance after a Florida school shooting.

It may outwardly have the look and feel of other awards shows, especially occurring as it does in the midst of the winter awards season, but the Humanitas Prize ceremonies hold a special place in the hearts of the Hollywood creative community. The message of the prizes bestowed by the nonprofit organization Humanitas to those who create television programs and films exploring our common humanity is perhaps more resonant in these times than ever. It was especially poignant that the 43rd annual awards held at the Beverly Hilton came Feb. 16, just two days after 17 innocent people, most of them students, were killed in the Parkland, Fla., school shooting.

At Multichannel News, a publication of net neutrality rules draws a crowd.

"An open internet is absolutely essential to a functioning democracy, and we will fight to make sure that the people, not the special interests and their compliant FCC, have the final word on its future," said Michael Copps, former FCC commissioner and chair, and a special advisor to Common Cause. "Federal Register publication of the FCC's net neutrality repeal does not mark the end of the fight for an open internet but just the beginning. Common Cause and its allies are fighting all the way to oppose the FCC’s misguided actions and restore the net neutrality rules through all fronts including litigation, state legislation and the Congressional Review Act."

At The New York Times, John L. Dorman writes about a new 3-D doc exploring America's musical canvas.

In America's Musical Journey, a 3-D documentary film narrated by the actor Morgan Freeman and hosted onscreen by the singer-songwriter Aloe Blacc, the musical spirit of the country is explored through Mr. Blacc's excursions to New York, New Orleans, Chicago, Nashville, Detroit and Miami. In the 40-minute film, which premiered at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington last week and will expand to theaters around the country and abroad, his trips tell the story of how jazz, country, blues, soul and rock 'n' roll melded to fuel American creativity.

From the archives, August 2017, "Anatomy of a Scandal: 'Icarus' Shifts from Comedic Experiment to Thriller Investigation"

Bryan Fogel's debut documentary, Icarus, was one of Sundance 2017's undeniable success stories, having sold distribution rights to Netflix for a whopping $5 million. The film is an incendiary, globetrotting investigation into a large-scale Russian Olympic doping scandal, driven by a compromised anti-doping official turned charismatic whistleblower named Grigory Rodchenkov. Fogel, who befriends and supports Rodchenkov over the course of the film, would be first to admit that he's an unlikely candidate to pursue this story.

In the News:

'I Am Not Your Negro' Wins BAFTA Doc Prize
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AmDoc Adds to Board of Directors
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David Parfitt Accuses Harvey Weinstein of Assault
read more

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