June 29, 2020

Essential Doc Reads: Week of June 22, 2020

From Christine Choy & Renee Tajima-Pena's 'Who Killed Vincent Chin?' Courtesy of Renee Tajima-Pena.

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!

Writing for Hyperallergic, Miasarah Lai calls for more visibility, equity and access for BIPOC filmmakers.

Solidarity and social change require consistent engagement and, more importantly, putting marginalized people in positions of power. People occupying all levels of the documentary field need to educate themselves, listen, and give funding, resources, and access to BIPOC filmmakers. There's no one way to do this; strategies can include compensating BIPOC fair market rates, providing them with free or discounted services, speaking up wherever there’s a lack of diversity, and in general simply refusing to accept things as they are now. As Angela Davis said in 1972: "It is not enough to be not racist, you must actively be anti-racist."

Claire Wang of NBC News looks back on the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, subject of Christine Choy and Renee Tajima-Pena's Who Killed Vincent Chin?, amid the ongoing surge of anti-Asian racism.

Understanding that Chin's death is a continuation of this history is crucial because it shows that the roots of anti-Asian hate is white supremacy, Tajima-Peña said. By the same logic, she said, AAPIs should resist invoking Chin's case solely as a grievance to prove they’ve been oppressed, without acknowledging that racial violence is intersectional.

Moviemaker's Sophie Martinez spoke to Spike Lee about the impact of his 1997 documentary 4 Little Girls.

"They opened the case again and those motherfuckers went to prison. They'd been around scot-free. And that wasn't my intention. I just wanted to tell the story. These four girls weren’t allowed to grow up." He added: "That's always my answer I talk about what film can do."

Leezel Tanglao, writing for Huffington Post, interviews journalist Maria Rezza, protagonist in Ramona Diaz' A Thousand Cuts.

"When you do stand up for liberal democracy for these values of press freedom, you will get clobbered. Prepare yourself for that," she said. "But if you're organized as a community, then you can protect each other while helping protect us."

Randy Astle of Filmmaker talks to filmmakers Aviva Kempner and Ben West about their doc-in-progress, Imagining the Indian, about the dehumanization of Native American mascoting in professional and college sports.

I would add to this that it is essential to keep in mind that Native Americans are a living, breathing, contemporary culture. Yes, there are rich and important histories to be explored there, but we must remember to think of Indigenous people in the present as well as the past tense. So often we are portrayed as relics, artifacts. We have had multiple interview subjects relate stories in which someone they encountered was stunned because he or she "didn't know Indians still existed."

Julie Drizin, executive director of Current, asks, Why is public media so white?

In a democracy, we expect accountability from our publicly funded institutions from police departments to public schools. Why not public media? I can think of only one reason to withhold diversity data from the general public: It doesn't look good, and releasing it might jeopardize public broadcasting’s hard-won federal appropriations. But if public media isn’t making measurable, significant progress on diversity, equity and inclusion, or even at a minimum documenting local efforts toward that end, perhaps our funding should be called into question.

Angela Aguayo, writing for Film Quarterly, spotlights "We Tell," a retrospective co-programmed by Louis Massiah and Patricia R. Zimmerman about 50 years of participatory community media.

Participatory community media offers a critique of what is missing from representational politics within the larger documentary field; but beyond recording the unheard, this retrospective offers a corrective today to the all too prevalent tourism tendencies of documentary-production culture, foregrounding collaborative authorship and collective agency.

NiemanLab's Kendra Pierre-Louis interrogates how the media is reporting on protests.

Why does this matter? The role of protest is to publicize grievances from people who typically exist outside of traditional power structures. It’s why freedom of assembly is written into the Constitution, along with freedom of the press. And the role of journalism is to hold powerful people and institutions accountable to the broader public. But that's not possible if the way we report on protests is biased from the start.

Tatiana Siegel, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, examines a recent trend of prestige VOD platforms pulling docs deemed controversial.

Half a dozen hot-button docs have been pulled from platforms or dropped by digital distributors in the past year, angering filmmakers and viewers: "People do not like to be told they cannot see a film."


From the Archive, Winter 2016 Issue: "Playback: Christine Choy & Renee Tajima-Pena's Who Killed Vincent Chin?"

Revisiting the film today, I am simultaneously struck by its formal energy and its immediate relevance to the spasm of police violence that has laid bare a pervasive racism and sparked a powerful political movement.


In the News

Coalition of Black Artists Call on Cultural Institutions to Commit to Racial Justice


Motion Picture Academy Unveils Diversity Plans


BBC Commits $168.5 toward Diverse and Inclusive Content


Australian Arts and Culture Community To Get $250M Rescue Package from Government


Revry, The First LGBTQ+ Virtual Reality Channel, Launches 



AFI DOCS Announces Award Winners


Sunny Side of the Doc Announces Awards


Wintopia Leads DOXA Winners


CIFF 2020 To Roll Out Virtually in October


TIFF Announces Virtual Lineup


International Emmy Awards Moves to Digital


Ragtag Film Society Announces New Executive Leadership


Michelle Byrd Promoted to Associate National Executive Director at  Producers Guild of America