June 8, 2019

Essential Doc reads: Week of June 3

Jason Holiday, star of Shirley Clarke's "Portrait of Jason." Filmmaker Robert Greene maintains that Holiday delivers "the greatest performance in documentary history." Courtesy of Milestone Films

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.

Filmmaker/educator Robert Greene, writing for the British Film Institute’s website, cites the greatest documentary performances of all time, from Nanook to AOC.

Great performances are often the most overlooked aspect of great documentary films. We audiences naturally resist the seemingly contradictory notion of nonfiction performance, because what we think we want from a piece of documentary content is to not be manipulated by acting. The camera is, of course, drawn to the most alluring and enigmatic among us, and documentary filmmakers tie their fates to their subjects’ abilities to deliver Screen Actors Guild-worthy enactments. If there’s a camera, there’s a performance; what we crave from the subject-filmmaker collaborations we consume is the illusion of authenticity, which means, of course, good-not-bad acting.

In the wake of YouTube’s hate speech policy, IndieWire’s Eric Kohn questions the wisdom of banning Leni Reifenstahl’s much-studied Nazi propaganda classic Triumph of the Will.

After all, Triumph of the Will falls under the rubric of “videos that promote or glorify Nazi ideology, which is inherently discriminatory,” as YouTube explains one prohibited category. The movie is also regarded as one with major historical value, raising essential questions about the nature of the film medium. Does it belong in the same category as Lunikoff, a German Neo-Nazi band whose channel also got the boot?

Filmmaker’s Pamela Cohn interviews director Marcus Lindeed about his social experiment/nonfiction work The Raft, which opens in New York City.

For me as a director, working in this obviously artificial way in a black box studio opens up a whole other toolbox with which I can work more freely with the documentary material.

Writing for Little White Lies, Sarah Jilani talks to the respective makers of the award-winning Tiny Souls and For Sama about their unique perspectives on the refugee crisis.

Harnessing both the poetic and journalistic powers of documentary, For Sama and Tiny Souls capture the experience of one brutal, ongoing conflict through its two locations – the home being fought for, and the exile endured for safety.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Shannon L. Bowen talks to veteran doc composer Miriam Cutler about how she and her colleagues helped to convince the TV Academy to add a documentary score category.

“An important part of our pitch was that both the TV Academy and AMPAS are really trying to increase diversity, and documentaries [have] lower budgets, so there's not as much of this pressure and fear around newcomers, women, composers of color. So we feel like it's really helping with diversity too, and it's bringing in more people to the Academy who never dreamed [of participating in this way].”

Laura Hertzfeld, a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford, writes in Medium about how her conversations with artists have honed her thinking about immersive journalism.

I aim to build on this framework to create a working model and checklist to help journalists create more impactful immersive projects in virtual reality, augmented reality, and even in the physical space around us. I also plan to include ways of threat modeling to keep in mind the legal and policy implications of this kind of work. We are just scratching the surface of this technology and its potential effects on society. Imagine what’s possible when journalists think a little more like artists.

Filmmaker/indie distribution guru Jon Reiss and Sonji Henrici, film producer with the Scottish Documentary Institute, joined forces at Hot Docs to present “The Seven Deadly Sins of Self-Distribution.” The PDF of the presentation can be found here.

Writing for Film School Rejects, Emily Kubincanek spells out what makes a perfect true crime documentary.

Where disturbing, graphic, and unjust stories are concerned, some of the best are true. True crime is a genre that continues to flourish as long as the world continues to create unbelievable crimes to obsess over. It’s up to the filmmaker to create an enticing documentary around a true story, which involves a lot more work than you’d think. A lot of true crime filmmakers get it wrong, but when they get it right, it’s better than any fictional drama out there.

From the Archives, Summer 2008 Issue, “Composers Confab: Creating the Best Score for Your Film”

“I always feel this incredible responsibility to be very heartfelt and pure in my approach, because this is somebody's real story. I try to use the craft of music to express what the beats of the film are, to find a truth with that and to always respect the fact that these characters are living people and they've been incredibly brave.”

 

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