June 14, 2019

Essential Doc reads: Week of June 10

From Martin Scorsese's 'Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story,' currently streaming on Netflix. Courtesy of Netflix.

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!


Pat Mullen calls Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder: A Bob Dylan Story the Seinfeld of documentaries in his review for POV Magazine.

The film revisits the 1975 concert tour/travelling circus that brought Dylan back on the road after a long hiatus from performing. Scorsese presents the Rolling Thunder Revue through a series of lenses that range from clear-eyed memories, looks back through rose-coloured glasses, and hazy memories from nights tinged with LSD.

The Los Angeles Times’ Wendy Lee tracks how brands seek out documentary filmmakers to help reach younger consumers who skip over traditional television commercials.

"As most audiences have fled [watching commercials on traditional television], you really have to reimagine how you are going to communicate with people.… A documentary is a really nice way," said James DeJulio, chief executive of Tongal. The Santa Monica firm runs a platform that connects creators and other talent with entertainment companies and brands.

Film Independent’s Matt Warren interviews executives from Emblematic Group about the company’s approach to telling stories with emerging technologies.

"Volumetric VR is definitely a whole new medium. Creators get to build a world and choose the characters that inhabit it but they have to hand over the reins of perspective to the user. They can’t frame the shot or cut between scenes the same way they do in traditional filmmaking. The user gets to decide where they look and how their bodies move in the space."

Indie filmmaker Claire J. Harris writes on Medium about her experiences with scam film festivals that are more about making money off of filmmakers than supporting them.

These festivals will not grab the attention of a producer or distributor, because they aren’t there. They will not get your film in front of an audience of more than a handful of other filmmakers. What they will do is line the pockets of someone who has not seen and does not care one bit about the movie you spent years making.

Jessica Clark, founder/director of Dot Connector Studios and editor of Immerse.news, explores the concept of co-creation in an age where audiences are questioning the authority of single auteur storytellers.

While the study was produced by the Co-Creation Studio at MIT’s Open Documentary Lab, it’s just as relevant to journalists as it is to documentarians. Both fields are grappling not only with tough questions about audience trust and agency, but with the ways in which participatory platforms and machine learning are unsettling the notion of single auteur as the best route to knowledge.

Real Screen writer Daniele Alcinii reports on a 2019 Sheffield Doc/Fest panel discussion about navigating the ethics and legalities of documenting sensitive or taboo topics.

Colette Camden’s innovative documentary Married to a Paedophile, meanwhile, employed actors who lip-synced along to real-life audio recordings of families whose lives have been turned upside down after their patriarchs have been charged with having child sex images. All names in the film were changed to protect their identities.

Writing for Film Independent, Anthony Ferranti talks to filmmakers about the legal and creative considerations that should be taken before shooting true crime documentaries.

"Making a true crime show is not an easy task and the filmmakers need to be prepared to do research, be able to support the assertions made in the film with reliable sources and be prepared to receive pushback. If the people on the team are good journalists, they’ll be fine. But don’t approach this thinking it’s easy."

Cassidy George from The New York Times interviews Paris Is Burning director Jennie Livingston about ballroom culture in 1991 New York, decades before Pose and RuPaul’s Drag Race brought it to mainstream television.

"The film also helped open up territory for other writers, filmmakers and TV showrunners because it created a solid reference for queer and trans characters who weren’t white or mainstream. Most crucially, the film helped audiences from all over imagine and know queer worlds. If LGBTQ people have been seeing ourselves in straight stories for centuries, Paris and other films of its era helped usher in a world where straight people can see themselves in queer stories and storytelling."

A year after Anthony Bourdain’s death, John Nichols of The Nation explores the intersection of food, culture and politics in Bourdain’s CNN series Parts Unknown.

He said he was a storyteller, not a journalist. Yet, Bourdain was invariably a clearer commentator on geopolitics than the pundits who seem always to be conspiring against that deeper understanding of our shared humanity that might someday yield a safer and saner world.

Lorraine Wheat of The Hollywood Reporter writes about the activists and entertainers showing support for 5B, a documentary about the nurses and patients of first HIV/AIDS ward.

"I saw the work of all these beautiful angels, the nurses that took care of these patients when nobody else would, and thought, 'Wow, this is our history of the AIDS epidemic,'" Halle Berry told The Hollywood Reporter while accompanying nurse Alison Moed from the cast on the carpet. "It needs to be out there. This new generation needs to understand where we've come and realize how far we have to go"

From the Archives, Summer 2001 issue, "Tales from the Trenches: Good Fests, Bad Fests: A Primer"

Don't say yes to every invitation. The number of festivals is growing like weeds. Most are legitimate, but some will take your money and leave you wondering. Most of the rejection notices I received were form letters, at least, but a number of festivals where I sent the $50 or $75 submission fee never responded at all. If you have any doubt, research the festival on the Internet or ask the programmer to send you the catalogue from the previous year.


In the News

Sheffield Doc/Fest 2019 Award Winners


Tel Aviv on Fire, We Are the Radical Monarchs Win Seattle Film Festival Awards


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Academy Returns to Late February Oscar Dates

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Seven Documentary Projects Receive Support from IDFA Bertha Fund

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Outcry after Police Raid Australia’s Public Broadcaster

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