April 4, 2021

Essential Doc Reads: Week of March 29, 2021

PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger. Photo: Rahoul Ghose/PBS

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!

NPR’s Eric Deggans reports on a letter signed and submitted to PBS executives by the 140-filmmaker group Beyond Inclusion that addresses a disproportionate level of support to white filmmakers at the expense of BIPOC filmmakers. 

"It's not about Ken Burns, it's about this public television system living up to its mandate," [Grace Lee] adds. "On Asian Americans, we got five hours to tell 150 years of American history. Ernest Hemingway, one man, gets six hours of documentary in prime time ... This kind of disparity is something that I wanted to call attention to."

POV Magazine’s Dina Lobo talks to filmmakers Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt about the making No Ordinary Man, their innovative take on the late jazz artist and trans man Billy Tipton.

“We’re not working with a container of a true archive, but rather we are thinking more expansively about what it means to find people in history and performing them in the present,” says Joynt. “I think too, if we look at the history of documentaries with trans and nonconforming subjects, so often it’s on a single person or an exemplary case, but we were thinking collectively and collaboratively with the idea of community at the centre.”

Shadow and Act’s Njera Perkins interviews filmmakers Dan Lindsay and T. J. Martin about Tina, their profile of legendary R&B artist Tina Turner, and the challenges of creating a new and different portrait from the many renderings of her life that have been produced over the decades.

"The one thing we felt like we hadn't seen in all these other iterations was, what is Tina's POV of the story of Tina? The film is really exploring that relationship that she has with the thing that got cemented as the public perception of Tina," Martin shares with us. The directors' pursuit to make a difference is what makes Tina a standout film.

Sight & Sound's Nick Bradshaw talks to filmmaker Adam Curtis about his new, “typically discursive, dizzyingly brilliant” six-part BBC series Can’t Get You out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World

Can’t Get You out of My Head takes as its epigraph a quote from the late anthropologist David Graeber, an echo of Sam McClure: “I knew him a little bit, really liked him,” Curtis says. “He said: ‘The ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something that we make, and could just as easily make differently.’” Was this argument Curtis’s starting point? Or the desire to compile an "emotional history" from the myriad character sketches he collects? “No…” he says, pausing to consider. “I mean, I suppose because I’m basically a journalist rather than a historian – I tend to start with stories. I never, ever have a theory: that usually comes quite late.

Immerse’s Amy Rose discusses the latest in speculative nonfiction and Augmented Reality in public space.

In a way, this is a rethink of what nonfiction means. If the experience demands participation in something that happens in public space — a real experience in a real place — it is hard to call it fiction. Something else is at play, some other category developing. Perhaps speculative nonfiction is more appropriate for this new form.


From the Archive: Winter 2021 Issue: "Adam Curtis’ It Felt Like a Kiss"

When I was in graduate school studying anthropology and film in the mid-2000s, the documentaries of Adam Curtis blew my mind. His playful and surprising, yet often also disturbing, historical collages were unlike anything I had seen at the time. Based at the BBC, Curtis splices gritty news and documentary archival with vintage ephemera including ads, educational films and industrials as well as Hollywood films. His cuts often highlight moments that might otherwise have been erased from official records—awkward silences, meaningful glances, unintentional camera movements. His early work such as The Century of the Self (2002) and The Power of Nightmares (2004) resonated deeply with my interest in connecting individual experience to broader power structures, and I have continued to follow his work ever since.

 

In the News

 

Oscars Update: Academy To Create European Hubs for Nominees Unable to Travel to US

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Canadian Screen Award Nominations Unveiled

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True/False Film Fest Announces 2021 Schedule

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New Directors New Films Celebrates 50 Years with 2021 Lineup

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Tribeca Film Festival To Commemorate 20th anniversary in June 

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EarthX Film 2021 Announces Festival Lineup

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The 1619 Project Docuseries Lands at Hulu

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NatGeo Acquires Matthew Heineman’s COVID Doc The First Wave

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Shout Studios Acquires Nanette Burstein’s A Crime on the Bayou

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FX Docuseries Pride Gets May Premiere Date

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Brown Girls Doc Mafia Announces Sustainable Artists Grants

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New Eyes on the Prize Exhibit Explores the Making of the Historic Civil Rights Series

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Opal Bennett Named Co-Producer of American Documentary/POV

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BBC Four To Become Archive-Only As Cost-Cutting Continues

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PBS, ITVS Delay Documentary Broadcast after Trump Quote Draws Scrutiny

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