January 26, 2018

Essential Doc Reads: Week of January 22

Selena. Photo: Arlene Richie/Getty Images.

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 Electronic Frontier Foundation, Daniel Nazer outlines an amicus brief urging the California Court of Appeal not to let celebrities censor realistic art.

A huge range of expressive works—including books, documentaries, television shows, and songs—depict real people. Should celebrities have a veto right over speech that happens to be about them? A case currently before the California Court of Appeal raises this question. In this case, actor Olivia de Havilland has sued FX asserting that FX's television series Feud infringed de Havilland's right of publicity. The trial court found that de Havilland had a viable claim because FX had attempted to portray her realistically and had benefited financially from that portrayal.

In IndieWire's report from Art House Convergence, Eric Kohn writes that the main theme was diversifying America's movie theaters.

Potential solutions could be heard everywhere in the conference. The night before Sundance, guest speaker Marcia Smith of nonprofit production company Firelight Media addressed a dining hall filled with some 600 registrants. "Your space is a lot more than chairs and a screen," she said. "People are very destabilized right now, disoriented. In some cases, they're very fearful, and they want to talk about it. They want to engage with each other, they want to tell their stories, they want to be involved in their communities. Imagine a mini-festival of films from Haiti or Africa right now… There's an opening where we can have a space and use it."

At Broadly, Kristen Yoonsoo Kim reflects on the legacy of Tejana pop star Selena, the subject of a rarely screened Lourdes Portillo documentary. 

Portillo's hour-long film, though unflashy in presentation, gives voice to women academics—all of Mexican descent—as they talk about Selena, her legacy, and what she means to them, even though some admittedly are not fans of her music. Selena was a good girl who told her young fans to stay in school. She also "gave these girls a way to have Chicana sexuality," one woman says, and another notes that Selena gave the term "Chicana" itself a frame of reference. The academics also discuss that the very things people criticized Selena about in regards to her Chicana authenticity—like modeling herself after Madonna and singing in English—are actually all "very Chicana things."

At Realscreen, Danielle Alcinii talks to the co-founders of Impact Partners about balancing artistic vision and bottom lines.

"The last 15 years have seen both the rise of documentary film and the decline of traditional newspaper reporting. I don't there's an accident there. Whether it's Laura Poitras doing the Edward Snowden story in [Citizenfour] or Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering exposing sexual assaults in both the military in Invisible War or colleges around the country in The Hunting Ground — 15 years ago you would have expected those to be in-depth investigative pieces in major newspapers, and now they're documentary films. I think there's a reason for that. Newspapers have contracted what they're able to do and documentary filmmakers are able to tell stories that reach a massive audience and then expose them to the human, emotional and dramatic situations that these stories find themselves in."

At POV, IDA Executive Director Simon Kilmurry reflects on his long tenure as an executive producer for the PBS documentary program.

It is POV's enduring legacy and the one constant that will carry it into the future – that the vision of filmmakers will always be at its center. I always felt my role at POV was as something of a temporary caretakers, and sometimes fierce protector, of a vital part of our public square that would honor the stories of the afflicted and marginalized, celebrate the unfathomable strength of ordinary people, hold those in power to account.

From the archives, November 2017, "Lourdes Portillo: Filmmaking As Desire"

"Love is like water in the work that we do. I think we have to fall in love with what we think we are going to do. We end up loving the child, and its faults, just as it is afterwards. You need to love your work. You need to love your co-workers, because you are not there alone. There is a sense of aloneness and the lone filmmaker that can make anything. And it's not like that. It's more about the love between your team. And that's the other thing that I adore about documentary: you could create a team and be with them and be married to them in that other kind of love."

In the News:

IDA Gives Grants to 13 Doc Projects
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Netflix Expands Doc Series Lineup
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Montana Becomes First State to Implement Net Neutrality After FCC Repeal
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'Is Australia Racist?' Receives First Realscreen Diversity and Inclusion Award
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Producers Guild Announces Award Winners
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Warren Miller, Legendary Maker of Ski Movies, Dead at 93
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