June 16, 2017

Essential Doc Reads: Week of June 12

From Andrew Cohn and Davy Rothbart's 'Medora.'

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 Filmmaker, director Andrew Cohn (Night School) explains his commitment to making films in the Midwest.

Similar to politicians, too often the people and places in the Midwest seem to be exploited by filmmakers as political vessels (I'm looking at you, Michael Moore!). While I mostly agree with the message of these films, they typically project the point-of-view of the filmmaker, not necessarily the communities at large. Instead of giving complex and unflinching glimpses into these places, the film's subjects simply satisfy the filmmakers' moral objectives (usually to shine a light on a particular social issue). While their hearts are almost always in the right place, some filmmakers mistakenly view themselves as interpreters, attempting to translate their experience to more sophisticated audiences in metropolitan areas.

At Realscreen, Meagan Kashty reports from a Sheffield Doc/Fest panel about using archival footage as a building block.

In a session titled "Playtime with Archive" on Saturday (June 10) at Sheffield Doc/Fest, a panel of filmmakers who remix, reinterpret and play with archive film shared how they source archive material, manage rights issues, and discussed the reasons behind the different approaches taken to working with archive footage.

At POV's Documentary Blog, Colin Nusbaum reports on a convening of documentary editors.

The task of the documentary editor can sound like folklore, even to someone who takes it on. There is very rarely any script, and with digital cameras, often a mountain of footage. Editors retreat to dark rooms, alone with whirring hard drives, hoping to be responsive to the material, to collaborate, sometimes to clash, to daydream and to creatively play until there is something to show for it. It is because the process is always unique that it remains so mysterious and strange to talk about with much specificity. Nonetheless, there are few treasured opportunities that give documentary editors the chance to gather and share experiences and perspectives on the process.

At L.A. Weekly, Jenny Lower tells the story of an L.A.-based genre filmmaker who became an ally to Syrian refugees.

Until recently, Syrian-American filmmaker Elias Matar probably was best known for Chingaso the Clown, his 2006 campy short thriller about an orphaned clown bent on revenge. That all began to change in the fall of 2015, when he flew from his home in Glendale to Austria. From there he planned to rent a van to help transport Syrian refugees trekking across Europe to escape the civil war in their homeland, but legal concerns soon convinced him to abandon that scheme. Instead, he traveled to a cornfield on the Serbia-Croatia border, where he translated Arabic for refugees and, with the help of a freelance cinematographer, filmed as 2,000 to 3,000 people - some of them unaccompanied children as young as 12 - flooded across the border in a single night.

At Salon, Tom Roston speaks to Reuben Atlas, director of a new film about the controversy that swept up ACORN during the '08 election.

"We always wanted the film to reach beyond the choir. A Fox News watcher familiar with ACORN probably thinks it’s a criminal enterprise that traffics underage sex workers. In 2012 Public Policy Polling showed that when asked whether Obama won the election fairly or if ACORN stole it, 49 percent of Republicans and 6 precent of Democrats thought ACORN stole it. That was two years after ACORN shut its doors. A lot of the misinformation surrounding ACORN and the way it was disseminated became the blueprint for the rise of Trump."

From the archives, Fall 2016, "Careers Outside Major Media Centers: Surviving - and Thriving - in 'Flyover Country'"

"What I like about this reality is that the collective experience allows you to see the big picture a bit better," Kiely adds. "It's not all production for me anymore; it's about the funding, the pitching, the technology, the presentation. My understanding of the industry feels deeper, more true to the impact of film work. And it's made me more flexible and thoughtful about the many arms necessary to take film to great heights— which is the ultimate intention we all have, no?"


In the News:

'City of Ghosts' Wins Top Prize at Sheffield Doc/Fest
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Summer 2017 Grants All Filmmakers Should Know About
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BBC World Service and Sundance Institute Launch New Collaboration
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