November 22, 2020

Essential Doc Reads: Week of November 16, 2020

From Kirsten Johnson's 'Dick Johnson Is Dead,' which won the Critics Choice Award for Best Feature Documentary. Courtesy of Netflix

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!

Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. checks in with Allen Hughes about his docuseries about the late rapper Tupac Shakur and his activist mother Afenie Shakur, and how the tumultuous events of this year have impacted the tone of the series.

“There is this fragility and vulnerability laced through all the interviews now, like everyone had been affected by the preciousness of life. There is emotion coursing through the interviews now. There was emotion before, but it was a different type. It has made me more a fan of the documentary medium than the fiction medium, because of the way what’s happening in the world affects the DNA of the film. If I was just directing an action film, and we’d had to shut down, it wouldn’t really affect the outcome of the ultimate film.”

Immerse’s Carrie McLaren contemplates the adverse effect of immersive media and platforms.

So, for creators of immersive media, perhaps a little soul-searching is overdue. Artists and producers may find it gratifying when a person experiencing their VR or AR exhibit comes out of it shaken, or joyous, or emotionally transformed in some way. Why? What is behind that impulse to shape and mold others? And what can practitioners learn from those stodgy old antifascists who pressed for a media landscape that honors individual differences and autonomy?

Writing for Screen Daily, Geoffrey MacNab reports on the opening of the 2020 IDFA, which is presenting a hybrid online and in-person edition.

“The pandemic has turned everything on its head. There has been so much grief, so much loss and so much tragedy,” she said. ”At the same time, it is a moment of reckoning, a moment of reflection. The pandemic has showed us our humanity. It has showed we are not what neo-liberalism has defined us as for the last 40 years - competitive, singular, isolated, individuals just trying to get what we can. We have shown ourselves as having a capacity for deep altruism.”

Sight & Sound’s Elena Gorfinkel writes about the work of Kevin Jerome Everson on the occasion of a two-DVD collection that was released recently through Second Run.

Everson’s cinema embraces the oblique and the opaque, avoiding the expository. He says that he makes his films for his subjects, rather than for an audience. His approach short-circuits a liberal white gaze that seeks a certain narrative of blackness’s representability. His images prompt us to look differently, precisely because they do not require the spectator’s participation to be complete.

Writing for Cineaste, Jonathan Kirshner reviews a newly restored DVD/Blu-ray version of Chris Hegedus and DA Pennebaker's Town Bloody Hall, which captures an April 1971 forum in New York City on the women’s movement, that pitted author Norman Mailer against some of the leading feminists of the day, including Germaine Greer, Diana Trilling, Jill Johnson, Betty Freidan and Susan Sontag. 

Town Bloody Hall is ultimately a time capsule—many of the issues of contention now seem outdated—but one well worth revisiting. For all the shouting, theatrics, and crude vulgarity, at bottom, the evening offered a civilized exchange of strongly held points of view, and Hegedus captures a moment alive with possibility. “It wasn’t my brightest night,” Mailer reflects, with some understatement. Greer, and, from the audience Sontag and the writer Cynthia Ozick, land the most powerful blows. Had it been a boxing match (one of Mailer’s favorite analogies), the referee would have stopped the fight.    

Lauren Harris of Columbia Journalism Review discusses the work of ¡Presente! Media, a Philadelphia-based bilingual media collective. 

All of the participants in the documentary have hopes and a vision for a journalism that serves them: they worry about distortion, about corporate ownership of local outlets, about narratives that only scratch the surface of the truth. ¡Presente! Media aims to offer Philadelphia residents chances to be heard.  

From the Archive, Fall 2018 issue: “Augmented Reality’s Documentary Potential”

AR can serve documentary in many ways: helping to narrativize, contextualize and critique; facilitating collaboration, discussion and exploration; and changing how we understand history, place and each other. In turn, documentary can help reveal and expand AR’s potential, and investigate its pitfalls. In this nascent stage, the possibilities for AR are endless—and the stakes are high. It is crucial that we seize the present opportunity to gather together diverse voices in critically, creatively and boldly imagining the future of AR.

In the News

Simon Kilmurry To Step Down as IDA’s Executive Director


Gil Goldschein Announces Departure as Bunim-Murray CEO 


CNN President Jeff Zucker To Step Down in Early 2021


Libby Geist Announces Departure from ESPN


Southern Documentary Fund Names Kristy Breneman As Artist Development Director


American Cinematheque Appoints New Board Members


The Redford Center Names Dyland Redford, Jannat Gargi as Board Co-Chairs


DOC NYC Reveals New Leaders 2020 List


Critics Choice Documentary Awards Winners Announced; Dick Johnson Is Dead Named Best Documentary Feature


DOC NYC 2020 Announces Award Winners


Edinburgh TV Festival Reveals Award Winners


Cinema Eye Honors Announces Stay Focused Initiative


Ottawa To Require Broadcasters to Fund Indigenous Productions


Discovery To Unveil Global Streaming Service