March 15, 2019

Essential Doc Reads: Week of March 11

From Todd Douglas Miller's "Apollo 11." Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

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!


Christopher Campbell of Nonfics.com discusses Apollo 11 and They Shall Not Grow Old as recent examples of a growing surge of archive-intensive documentaries that are transforming how we engage history.

Docs that are going for the full-on archival style aren’t really looking to any precursor or precedent or to one another for how these films ought to be. That’s exciting. Maybe the most exciting thing going on in documentary right now. And the fact that some of them are also box office hits is even better.

Writing for Film Comment, Imogen Sara Smith examines two documentaries about artists and their respective processes: Mark Cousins’ The Eyes of Orson Welles and Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Mystery of Picasso.

“You were mad for contact with the world,” director Mark Cousins says, addressing the subject of his film The Eyes of Orson Welles. And we are mad for contact with him, for some way to get inside his head, see through his eyes, fathom his astronomically vast but maddeningly messy gifts. We want to get under his skin the way he has gotten under ours. But how can we? In 1956, Henri-Georges Clouzot suggested an answer, stating in the prologue to his astonishing film The Mystery of Picasso that “to understand a painter’s mind, one need only follow his hand.” Cousins takes a similar tack, building a portrait of Welles around the drawings and paintings he made throughout his life.

In response to the increasing danger and threats faced by journalists around the world, Time Magazine and a dozen other prominent news organizations launched the One Free Press Coalition to promote freedom of the press. Time published the Coalition’s first “10 Most Urgent List,” which identifies “10 journalists around the world who represent the most severe examples of abuses to press freedom or cases of injustice.”


Firelight Documentary Lab Fellow Sian-Pierre Regis writes in Medium about how he dealt his anxiety about finding the right story to tell.

As we sat around sturdy tables in a large classroom, my fellows and I each shared an insecurity about this film process that shook us with fear. I haven’t found the story, I’m not sure about this story angle, What if no one sees this film, Can I sustain myself throughout this process? As each poured in, I noticed that their fears were my own.

The tributes continue to come in for the late Andrew Berends, who passed away March 1. The Independent’s Michael Liss shares his thoughts.

But it was never the battles or devastation that he was looking to frame. It was the humanity caught in the middle. A humanity that this tall, lanky and blond American could uniquely connect to with deep empathy, no matter how out of place he looked in these remote villages of the world.

Academy Award-nominated filmmaker RaMell Ross, writing for Film Quarterly, offers a manifesto: “Renew the Encounter.”

A lung submits to anxiety and smog, a heart to love and cholesterol. All sense of truth passes through the body. People are the real documents of civilization. And one’s eyes are made for the field of events. Things come in as this and are processed into that; while most melt aimlessly in one’s memory, others cling to totems in their sky. In this personal storm of consciousness, the act of looking makes a mirror of meaning. Instinct is infused with culture, a reflex by which nothing can be understood until it is adjusted.

From the Archive, Fall 2011 Issue: “Archive Vérité: Editing as Art Form”

Not every subject is ideally suited for an "archival vérité" film, but if you stumble on a project with a vast amount of footage and compelling central characters--and you're supported by forward-thinking producers--you may want to let the footage tell the story.

 

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