July 13, 2020

Essential Doc Reads: Week of July 6, 2020

At the 2016 IDA Documentary Awards, left to right: Stanley Nelson, Ava Duvernay, Raoul Peck. Photo: Todd Williamson

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!

In a Los Angeles Times editorial filmmaker Stanley Nelson presses the need for Black filmmakers to tell the story of 2020

Perhaps, had funding been available, along with more support for filmmakers of color, stories that we recognize as valuable and just good stories— from slavery and emancipation to reconstruction and so much more — would have gained popular acclaim, helping to transform how we think of our larger history.

We need to create a funding stream now to ensure that this moment produces a new body of work, shaping how we cover what is happening and what has happened throughout our history.

IndieWire's Carlos Aquilar reports on how Academy Award-nominated actress Yalitza Aparicio (Roma) is helping to support and amplify the work of indigenous filmmakers in Mexico. 

"Cine Too has become the epicenter for many young indigenous people who want to learn how to make films...There's a big difference between being a spectator watching a movie and learning how to make movies, making them communally, and then being able to project the finished movies at your local cinema for all the people in your community to attend."

Following last week's announcement that the four major fall festivals—Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York—would collaborate in some way, IndieWire's Eric Kohn speculates about what that collaboration would look like, and how it would impact the festival circuit.

The programming heads debated the merits of holding virtual editions if physical gatherings become impossible; for the moment, all four festivals are exploring ways of combining physical and virtual aspects of their programs. That led to conversations about the ideal online screening platforms, safety standards, and protocols for handling filmmaker and industry guests, should choose to travel. This has meant that studios with the final word on whether their films will play festivals no longer have to look at it as a game of chess. Everyone is on the same page.

Referencing Ira Deutchman's essay about the possibilities of the virtual cinema model, Kino Lorber's Wendy Liddell, writing in IndieWire, discusses her company's paradigm and its possibilities in a post-COVID world.

This is why I am really looking forward to the re-opening of theaters and what we are calling a duplex model of side-by-side physical and virtual cinema. We have spoken to a good sampling of our theatrical partners and the vast majority understand that ongoing virtual theatrical presentations will be necessary to supplement in-theater box office constrained by reduced capacity and customer reticence. Based on these discussions, we envision three duplex scenarios: 1) day-and-date on both a physical and virtual screen on opening day, 2) a right-sized physical opening followed by expansion to a theater’s virtual screen, and/or 3) using the virtual screen for move-overs. 

Hyperallergic's Dan Schindel talks to Bill and Turner Ross about their latest hybrid work, Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets.

We have the wonderful opportunity to be two minds on the same idea. A lot of my pursuit was thinking about people inhabiting the space, and how the space was a character itself, how the people move through it, and thinking about their entrances and exits. I made a little maquette of the bar, to help visualize the possibilities for shooting there. Still, once the folks walked in the door, it was up to them what happened. We had hopes and intentions, but we also wanted to be available to whatever happened. And with the cast, mostly of non-actors, we didn’t want some sort of stagey situation where people were aping an experience. We needed them to truly live through this experience, and not be thinking about, 'What do Bill and Turner need me to do right now?'

Eight years after the release of Chris Kenneally's Side by Side, about the celluloid vs. digital debate that had reached a tipping point in 2010, Su Fang Tham, writing for Film Independent's Blog, catches up with Kenneally about where the debate stands now.

The two reasons some might still prefer film are image acquisition and the grainy/organic visual quality of film. If you're going to choose film now, it’s an intangible look-and-feel argument and no longer a mathematical argument. Digital didn’t use to have sufficient resolution and dynamic range, but now the dynamic range of dark to light and resolution has far surpassed film.

From the Archive, August 2013, "The End of Film? 'Side by Side' Ponders an Imminent Demise"

One of the big questions Reaves and Kenneally touch on near the end of their film is whether a conversation about, say, the dynamic range of celluloid versus digital camera even matters to an audience watching motion pictures less and less in theaters and more often on their iPhones and other platforms. "This isn't like going from silent to talkies," Reeves maintains. "It's not like going from black & white to Technicolor; it's actually more subtle than that. Where the documentary leads to is to talk about the philosophical aspects of film, like when Martin Scorsese says that people don't believe the image anymore, but then Jim Cameron says, 'When was it ever real?'



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