July 8, 2020

Essential Doc Reads: Week of June 29

Sundance Film Festival Director Tabitha Jackson. Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Due to the long holiday weekend, we're a bit late on Essential Doc Reads. But here it 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!

Sundance Film Festival Director Tabitha Jackson spells out her vision for the 2020 edition.

This is my image for the Festival: a powerful array of perspectives, of talent and artistry—combining with audiences in homes and cities and across countries to reveal new truths. An accessible, inclusive Sundance Film Festival whose form this year enables us, together, to see differently.

N. Bird Runningwater, director of the Indigenous Program at Sundance Institute, reflects on how the program is moving forward.

So, despite many facets of our everyday lives being turned upside down during this time of pandemic, what emerges is a different kind of opportunity for creativity to emerge and flourish. Social media and other digital platforms are continually being shaped and utilized in new ways by artists and storytellers not only to connect with one another but also to get our stories out into the world.

Writing for Deadline, Andeas Wiseman reached out to seven UK-based artists of color for separate conversations about race inequality in the UK industry.

Asif Kapadia: Of all the years I've been in the industry, the executives at the top at the UKFC, the BFI, BBC, ITV, Channel4, at newspapers, trade publications, magazines, how many of those people in power, who can genuinely commission, are people of color? In the film sector, how many of those people are Black, in particular? I can't think of any. The same people get the same jobs, they move around and maintain power.

Realscreen's Jillann Morgan reports on a recent discussion at the virtual version of Sheffield Docfest about racism in the film and TV industry.

"A lot of it's to talk about racism, trauma, and sometimes it's done with an insensitivity to the fact that in making these projects, we have to endure our own traumas and that comes to the surface as well...What I would appreciate from the industry is people acknowledging that we had ideas before this happened, and our storytelling isn't just for the sake of serving immediate needs so you can look like you're doing something at the moment, or like you care. This needs to be something that endures."

The New York Times' Salamishah Tillet spoke to a power quartet of documentary filmmakers—Stanley Nelson, Ava Duvernay, Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis—about how their work shapes the fight for racial justice.

But, a big part of documentary film is that you can actually reimagine the production of history. You have to analyze where the silences in those historical narratives are and what's been remembered and what's been forgotten, and what are the inequities that are revealed through the absence of so much. That was really the endeavor that we undertook with 13TH, which allowed me to interrogate the power structures, the systems, and the way that history is produced and just kind of accepted wholesale as the truth and fact.

It's been five years Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) published a study on impact production. POV's Jason Anderson checks in on how the impact producing model has evolved.

Clearly, impact production has continued to morph and mature as a model both for making documentaries and for reaching the diverse group of viewers who may take their messages to heart. While the DOC study outlines trends and tactics that remain relevant—whether it’s seeking funding and collaborations in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors or marshaling the almighty power of social media—recent examples and experiences point toward new factors and considerations, too.

Veteran distributor Ira Deutschman understands the necessities and deficiencies in the COVID-driven virtual cinema model that such players as Kino Lorber, Oscilloscope, Magnolia and others have embraced. But he also sees the model working in a post-COVID world. He shares his insights in IndieWire.

But here's the thing: If done right, I believe that "virtual cinema" can become an ongoing profit stream for exhibitors and distributors. If done right, it can attract larger audiences to movies that might not otherwise have made a dent. If done right, it could actually help bring people to physical theaters rather than competing with them. And if done right, it could solve some of the systemic issues that caused pundits to write off the theatrical business in the pre-COVID world.

From the Archive, Winter 2014, "Championing Documentary as an Empathy Machine: Tabitha Jackson Joins the Sundance Institute"

"You can't be in the business of storytelling without thinking how best to tell the story, asking which platforms and for whom," Jackson asserts. "The audience has much more power in the sense that now the audiences have audiences. You need to make sure the stories you're telling are where the audiences are—without always expecting the audience to come to where you are."


In the News

Motion Picture Academy Invites 819 Artists and Executives to Join Organization


DOC NYC Announces Festival Plans and Programming Team


BFI London Film Festival Reveals Virtual Edition


Karlovy Vary To Host Smaller Physical Festival in November


MipCom Set To Go Ahead for October as Hybrid Event


The Documentary Life Podcast Partners with The D-Word


XTR Launches Nonfiction Streaming Platform


Critics Choice Association Announces Real TV Awards Winners


Hollywood Critics Association Name Midseason Awards Nominees


Netflix Commits $100 Million to Support Black Financial Institutions


UK Arts Sector Receives $2 Billion Rescue Package


New Zealand Injects $48 Million towards Film and TV Industry Recovery


Sundance Institute Selects 2020 Native Filmmakers Lab Fellows


Sundance Institute Cuts 13 Percent of Staff


Vice Studios Names Jannat Gargi as US Documentary Head


Northern Banner To Distribute The Walrus and the Whistleblower