March 1, 2020

Essential Doc Reads: Week of February 24

From Rithy Panh's 'Irradiated,' which won the Berlinale Documentary Award.

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!

Cineuropa's Kaleem Aftab interviews filmmaker Rihty Panh about his latest film, Irradiated, which won the Berlinale Documentary Award.

In Cambodia, cinema is a little bit better now than it was a few years ago because, since the fall of the Khmer Rouge, 45 years have passed, and a new generation has emerged during this time, who have started to tell their stories. They are very much influenced by the movies of Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Wong Kar-wai. And it's good that they’re making films. But for my generation, there were very few people making movies. This was because the Khmer Rouge killed most of us from this generation. And so we try to use cinema in a way that reveals our identity and our history, and Irradiated is not only about the bomb, but also about the consequences of extreme violence.

As Berlinale came to a close, IndieWire's Eric Kohn spoke to festival director Carlo Chatrian about his first year at the helm.

In Chatrian's first year, the improved lineup provides a fascinating study in curatorial rectification that starts with an acknowledgment of its own limitations. "I am aware that being in the first quarter of the year is not probably the best time," Chatrian told me during an interview at the festival. "At the same time, if we want to support cinema, we cannot put all the festivals together in the second half of the year. It would be unhealthy."

Meredith Blake of the Los Angeles Times sat down with filmmaker Nanette Burstein and former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton about the docuseries Hillary, premiering March 6 on Hulu.

Burstein saw an opportunity to create an ambitious, wide-ranging biography that would tie in the history of the women’s movement and the evolution of partisan politics — and, hopefully, provide some perspective on a uniquely polarizing figure in American life. "People idolize her or they vilify her," says the director. "She's so black or white to people. But within that there’s a real human, who's had real experiences. Let's unpack that, because there’s so much to be learned."

Writing for Realscreen, Michael Cascio reports from the Realscreen Summit on what’s old, new, old, borrowed and blue.

The consolidation of networks has put the squeeze on producers, who are feeling blue over the resulting effect on the development process. Ask around. The production community is rarely unified, but I’ve heard the same refrain from too many producers, most of whom run small- or medium-size businesses: The development process is a killer. 

Randy Astle of Filmmaker interviews Paris-based Diversion Cinema co-founder Camile Lopato about distributing VR productions.

First, they need to have in mind that a distribution strategy is necessary. And it should be planned at an early stage, long before production ends. How will you show your VR experience? On which devices? How will you greet the audience? What will happen once the audience takes off the headset? Those are questions that should be answered at the production stage because depending on the answers it may change what happens in the headset. 

Fifty years ago, a number of centers and departments for Asian American studies started proliferating in universities and colleges across the country, and in the years that followed community organizations devoted to Asian American media came into being. The Spring issue of Film Quarterly has taken the occasion to examine this evolution over the past half-century. B. Ruby Rich and Brian Hu explain in their introduction. 

Certainly there was Asian American filmmaking before any such institutions existed, whether the early silent films of Marion Wong and her sister Violet or the industry contributions of James Wong Howe or the films of Esther Eng or so very many others. But that history is not the focus of this dossier. Instead, these articles pay attention to the post-1968 moment when national politics, campus activism, independent filmmaking, video technologies, and an unprecedented concurrence of pan–Asian American consciousness all came together to create a newly self-aware cinema.

Cineaste's David Neary reviews Hazuo Hara’s classic The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On, newly restored and presented on Blu-ray for the first time by UK distributor Second Run.

Where the likes of Flaherty (Nanook of the North, Man of Aran) and Buñuel (Land Without Bread) had pushed the limits of documentary toward fiction, Hara was pushing the other way, taking the vérité style of Pennebaker and Rouch to a different, unquestioning extreme. This leaves the role of filmmaker as enabler, the very presence of whom (and of their camera) causes the narcissist to further indulge their worst behavior. 

Hyperallergic's Willow Catleyn Maclay talks to filmmaker Jennie Livingston about the impact and legacy of Paris Is Burning, 30 years after its premiere.

I think Paris Is Burning presents the viewer, whether they identify as part of the community or not, with individuals whose dreams and perceptions are really comprehensible. I think it’s something the film did well in its time and to this day, that people who are nonconforming on the spectrum of gender and sexuality may find a resting place. It's reassuring to queer viewers that somebody who is connected to us says these things and lives the way they do.

Canadian filmmaker Melissa Cox was arrested and detained by Royal Canadian Mounted Police last week as she was documenting Wet’suwet’en land defenders' efforts to resist Coastal GasLink’s pipeline project. The producers of the film in progress, entitled YINT'AH, have issued a statement in Medium

Security forces arresting journalists and filmmakers causes a chilling effect on freedom of speech and interferes with the public’s right to be informed, which are cornerstones of democracy. Transparency and communication in a fair, accurate, nuanced and honest way is also the only basis on which right relations between people and between nations can ever be achieved. This has been Ms. Cox’s stance as a documentary filmmaker, and we wholeheartedly stand with her. We expect that no charges will be laid, and that as matters of public interest related to policing of Indigenous communities continue to unfold throughout Canada, journalists and filmmakers will be able to report and film unimpeded.

From the Archive, Spring 2014 issue, "A Cambodian 'Night and Fog': Filmmaker Rithy Panh Takes on the Khmer Rouge Genocide"

"Only creativity can fight any attempt to erase things, which is the exact purpose of genocide [erasure]," he asserts. "Cinema, more than just entertainment, has become an essential tool in the work on and of memory. And that is what makes it so universal."


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