March 22, 2019

Essential Doc Reads: Week of March 18

From Khalik Allah's "Black Mother." Courtesy of Grasshopper Film

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!


Vox’s Alissa Wilkerson talks to Khalik Allah about his new documentary Black Mother.

My inspirations never actually look like what I make, but I definitely draw inspiration from all over. The main thing was, I think, just walking and asking myself what’s important to me. I wasn’t necessarily thinking of my audience, or overthinking my audience. I just respect my audience and expect them to come to the film with an open mind. In the case of Black Mother, the title isn’t supposed to be a definitive statement on the black woman or the black mother.

With CPH:DOX underway, Filmmaker’s Lauren Wissot spells out why that festival is “the future of progressive doc fests.”

Though CPH:DOX showcases everything from cinematic art pieces to true-crime thrillers, it’s forever rooted in civic engagement. Indeed, I would go so far as to call CPH:DOX a social activist entity — perhaps even the most progressive doc fest on the planet.

Writing for Vanity Fair, A.M. Homes remembers the late Barbara Hammer and shares an interview with the experimental LGBTQ pioneer from last November.

Barbara Hammer was ebullient even as she was dying. After five decades as a cult figure in the art world and a fearless icon in the LGBTQ community, the experimental filmmaker spent the last years of her life putting her affairs in order. While dying she used her own life and work as a creative force, demonstrating that the art of death and the art of life are one and the same.

Kaleem Aftab of Cineuropa talks to Agnes Varda about her final film, Varda by Agnes.

I’m very interested in other people, and I think all of the people I have met have been so important to me, and so I should stop speaking about myself. I should start preparing myself to say goodbye and to go away. It’s fine – it’s about slowing down in order to get the necessary peace.

Alex Gibney’s The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, now streaming on HBO Now and HBO Go, is one of many works that take on the tale of Elizabeth Holmes and her fall from self-made billionaire to devious fraud. The New Yorker’s Rachel Syme tries to decipher Holmes’ “vexing inscrutability.”

But, as The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, a new HBO documentary from Alex Gibney, shows, the real Holmes remains vexingly sphinxlike, no better understood today than when she was in the depths of her deception.

Cole Henry of Nonfics presents the “10 Best Documentaries About the Struggles and Triumphs of Filmmaking”

Cinema is not created in a vacuum. Movies are the product of an often violent and tumultuous creative process. Artists devote themselves entirely to their vision and sometimes it comes to fruition. Other times it does not, and their dream dies a long and slow death, in boardrooms and financial documents, and the creator’s desire to create is met with the harsh reality that cinema as an art has been commodified to a near-impossible degree.

In his blog, Peter Hamilton analyzes the fallout from Amazon Prime Video Direct’s recent announcement that it would slash royalties by 33%.

Instead of a flat fee based on aggregate hours viewed, the company is introducing a new metric, called “Customer Engagement Ranking,” which will score video titles based on a variety of factors including unique viewers, hours streamed and the popularity of the title in terms of talent, IMDb rating or even box-office performance.”

The Writers Guild of America West recently issued a report, Agencies for Sale, that illustrates the fraught relationship between agencies and the guild.

In recent years, WME and CAA have transformed from partner-owned talent agencies into businesses that are majority-owned by private equity funds and other outside investors. This change has drawn these agencies so far away from the fundamentals of the agency business that they no longer act as proper fiduciaries for their clients.

From the Archive, February 2019: "Ways of Seeing: Images and Politics of ‘Hale County’"

I think that the way in which the images are captured are as much about being open to— I think it indirectly ties back to how do we not frame someone. But I think the images are directly trying to be responsive to the moment, and to the content and to the world, and to whatever’s happening perceptually—as opposed to imposing previous modes of capturing that within the documentary form, or within cinema.

In the News

The Intercept, A Billionaire-Funded Charity, Cuts Back


Hot Docs Announces 2019 Slate


San Francisco Film Festival Unveils 2019 Lineup


Sheffield Announces Doc/Rhythm Strand


Heart of Stone Takes Top Honors at One World 2019


Cinequest 2019 Wrap and Awards


2019 Royal Television Society’s (RTS) Programme Awards


Daytime Emmy Nominations


2019 Rockie Awards International Competition Programme Nominees


Magnolia Pictures Expands Subscriptions Service


Gravitas Ventures Launches SVOD Services


Apple Is said to Pursue Prestigious Awards for New Video Service


Netflix Won’t Be working with Apple on its Video Plans