June 1, 2020

Essential Doc Reads: Week of May 25

Filmmaker Stanley Nelson leading a master class earlier this year, presented by IDA and BADWest. Photo: Laura Ahmed

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!

IndieWire's Eric Kohn spoke to filmmaker Stanley Nelson about the need for black filmmakers to tell the story behind the George Floyd protests.

It's important for documentary filmmakers at this point to understand that we are the news. There's a lot of reporting that's not news, or slanted. One of the things we believe strongly at our company, Firelight, is that people should tell their own stories. We really believe this is a time when filmmakers of color can have a chance to tell their stories. It’s incumbent on white filmmakers to help them do that, to move out of the way so that they can do that. Part of the hierarchy of race in our country is how many times white filmmakers have the access to power and money, the access to equipment. They could get out there and make a film about this that’s in some ways not entirely representative of where we are as a community. It’s really important that people tell their own stories.

Writing for IndieWire, Kristin Lopez discusses the advantages for the disability community to experiencing films via VOD.

While exhibitors love to preach the sanctity of the communal experience, that belief system often seems to neglect the fact that a portion of that community—15 percent of the world’s population, to be exact—can't participate. Those with disabilities who can't visit a theater are often left to wait at least three months to see a movie. And when you're already treated differently, any distance from normalcy takes on added significance. It's understandable why people on social media mourn the loss of theaters, but imagine if you were never able to see a movie in a theater in the first place.

Sight & Sound's Isabel Stevens and Trevor Johnston surveyed a range of UK-based media arts organizations to gauge the impact of the pandemic on film culture there, and to learn what the future holds.

Small indie cinemas will need to find more financial support to bridge the gap while they rebuild audiences. Another factor to consider, though, is the growth of streaming, which was already beginning to impact box-office across the world. Cinemas won't die out, but this is a strange time we are in and will definitely be a talking-point in cinema history.

Leonardo Goi of MUBI Notebook looks into the recent trend of distributors like Kino Lorber, NEON and Oscilloscope of developing and implementing virtual models for distribution.

It's an on-demand entertainment model exhibitors have staunchly resisted for years, evidence that unprecedented times require unprecedented measures. But while virtual cinemas are being touted as an extraordinary safety plan, questions remain over the long-term consequences they may have on the industry in the post-COVID-19 scenario. Will virtual cinemas only disincentivize viewers from returning to theatres once the pandemic subsides? If so, is the tactic essentially a Trojan horse? 

Writing for Filmmaker, Brett Story interviews Cecilia Aldarondo about Landfall, her documentary about Hurricane Maria and its repercussions for the people of Puerto Rico.

Landfall deserves to be seen on the big screen, and by people in shared company. The COVID-19 crisis has interrupted the film's Tribeca world premiere and festival rollout, but the film has essential insights for this moment, including the warning that opportunity will always be made out of disaster. This opportunity will either favor those few with the most money and power or those many with the least power but the most at stake. 

Jeff Wagenheim of ESPN.com talks to Bao Nguyen about Be Water, his film about legendary martial artist Bruce Lee.

"He's become more than just a man. He's become an icon that anyone can project their story on," Nguyen said. "But in order for heroes to become relatable, for people to really want to be like them, you have to know their human side. Their struggles. Their fears. You need to be able to say, 'He had the same insecurities that I have, but he believed in himself and fought his way through it.' I find that to be the most aspirational part of Bruce Lee."

The CAAM blog reports on its Filmmakers Summit: Work from Home Edition—and specifically a case study on funding and fundraising that was moderated by IDA's own Dana Merwin and featured filmmakers Marjan Safina and Grace Lee of And She Could Be Next.

Raising a hefty $2.2 million budget (yes, you read that right!) for a two-part series was a daunting challenge. The first money was received from a private funder through a personal relationship Lee and Safinia had cultivated—but they did assure the funder, at the very least, that the money would be used for a short film if a series didn’t pan out. "There’s no way we would have raised this money had we not spent 20 years in the field prior building these relationships," Safinia said. The moral? Start now. For emerging filmmakers, getting to know and connecting with funders "as people" out in the world whenever you can pays dividends down the road, "not just when you’re submitting your [application] at the deadline hour," Safinia said. And that includes distributors, too. "We categorize these people in an 'ivory tower' sort of way," she said, "but they're just people."

From the Archive, Fall 2015 Issue, "Black Lives Mattered Then, Too: An Insider's Look at the Black Panthers"

There are obvious similarities with what is going on today. It's sad to see how little things have changed. Are conditions actually worse than 50 years ago? There are lessons for young people who are starting movements all over the country. Hopefully one of the things that happens out of these tragedies is the rise of the active movement, and the Panthers should be a lesson in how to organize, how to use the media—and not get used by the media—and how, if you have a movement, there will be forces against you who will do everything to stop the movement. Culturally, there are lessons to be learned from 50 years ago.

 

In the News

CNN Reporters Arrested While Covering Uprising in Minneapolis

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VOD or Theater: Results from Entertainment Industry Survey Revealed

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IFP Week To Go Virtual

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Telluride Film Festival Will Move Forward

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Venice Film Festival Is Still On for September

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Doc Lisboa To Extend Festival Across Six Months

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YouTube Pulls Planet of the Humans; Filmmakers Michael Moore, Jeff Gibbs Claim Censorship

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Twitter, Internet Group Oppose US Rules Requiring Visitors To Disclose Social Media Info

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Ava Duvernay Introduces Array 101, An Online Education Platform

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Seed & Spark Launches Online Film Festival Platform

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Television Academy Foundation Announces College Television Awards

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Association of Moving Image Archivists Unveils Diversity and Inclusion Fellows

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The Andrew Berends Film Fellowship Announces Inaugural Winners 

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Sundance Film Festival Senior Programmer David Courier To Retire

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Tribeca Film Institute Suspends Operations

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Vulcan Productions To Shutter Operations in Early 2021

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We Are One Festival Launches

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We Will Stand Up Wins Best Feature Doc at Canadian Screen Awards

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LA County Task Force to Present Film and TV Production Guidelines

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Netflix Buys LA-Based Egyptian Theatre

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