November 6, 2020

Essential Doc Reads: Week of November 2, 2020

From Nathan Grossman's 'i Am Greta.' Courtesy of Hulu

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!

The New York Times Magazine’s David Marchese profiles teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg, in conjunction with Nathan Grossman’s forthcoming documentary, I Am Greta.

I hope it can be a bridge for people to understand that we are in a crisis. I would maybe like it if the movie was less focused on me and more focused on the science. But I understand that it’s a movie. Also, by doing this film, they show how absurd this celebrity culture we live in is, that people are so obsessed about me as an individual and an activist rather than the climate itself. And also that all this responsibility falls on us children and instead of taking action themselves people applaud children. Children who don’t even want to do these things but feel as if they have to because the people applauding aren’t.

Following the September release of their film All In: The Fight for Democracy, filmmakers Lisa Cortes and Liz Garbus both volunteered on Election Day. They share with The Hollywood Reporter’s Rebecca Keegan what they observed.

“Answering the hotline in South Carolina was essentially like watching the slow-motion train wreck that we depicted in our film, with problems for low information voters, problems in majority Black and brown counties,” Garbus says. “It was truly heartbreaking to watch it happen.”

Variety’s Marta Balaga reports on an online discussion that filmmaker Hubert Sauper had at the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival about his career and his latest film, Epicentro.

“A film is written four times—it’s a line from my editor Yves Deschamps. Once on paper, second time with a camera, third time in the editing and then in the spectator’s mind.”

Writing for Modern Times, Lauren Wissot reports on the DOK Leipzig panel “Naked Truths—Intimacy in Documentary Film.”

If a documentarian chooses to show sex workers having sex onscreen viewers are, well, suddenly stunned. In other words, we should be questioning not the sex but our own reactions to it. Or as Pappel put it, "We need to challenge the paradigm." Sexualized violence has become nearly «acceptable» because those watching rarely relate to the characters. We need to re-humanize these people, the panel agreed. This is where documentaries come in —ultimately stimulating all of us to open ourselves to the human experience, whatever form it may take.

Screen Daily’s Melanie Goodfellow talks to Giona Nazzaro, the newly appointed artistic director of the Locarno Film Festival, about his goals and objectives for the Switzerland-based showcase.

[Former US president] Barack Obama, while addressing some students, said that we need to broaden our moral horizons. This is something that touches me very much. Cinema can help us to broaden our moral horizons. If someone comes to me and says that a film has helped them look at something in a different way, I would say part of the mission has been accomplished.

Andrew McIntosh of POV Magazine examines how documentaries have inspired the process of making narrative features that are based on true stories.

DuVernay, whose documentary credits include the features This Is the Life (2008) and 13th (2016), used raw interview footage from the shooting of Sarah and Ken Burns’ documentary The Central Park Five (2012) as the starting point for her research into the men and their case. “I called [Sarah Burns] and said I want to explore the next steps beyond what they told you,” DuVernay explains. “[I asked her,] ‘Would you give me your tapes—the raw footage that didn’t get cut—so that I don’t have to ask them what you asked them, so I can ask them the next question?’ And she did. I’m grateful to her for that… I used all of her tapes to get all of the details of the case.”

Writing for Current, Patricia Aufderheide of the Center for Media & Social Impact, discusses a recent CMSI study that tracked the impact of Jacqueline Olive’s Always in Season on the community discussions that followed screenings.

We think there are takeaways for public TV leaders in this study. Documentaries are a critical asset for public TV. Stations are a trusted site for in-person (and, in the time of a pandemic, high-touch virtual) conversations across difference, at a time of unprecedented social division. And people welcome the opportunity to move beyond being audience members and becoming changemakers for communities that their public TV stations so proudly represent.

Realscreen spoke with Chris Bonney of Cineflix Media, Richard Life of Cineflix Rights, Annie Roney of ro*co films and Andrea Jackson of Magnify Media about how the 2020 pandemic has impacted their distribution strategies.

We are doing event-driven screenings that have the added value of a conversation around it.  People are tired of passive screening on SVOD — and are coming together as groups to screen a film and have follow-up conversations. Impact screening campaigns — though virtual — have become vital.

From the Archive, September 2020: “The Battle for the Ballot: 'All In' Traces the History of Voter Suppression”

We were dealing with a story that’s so big—hundreds of years and it affects hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. We had to constantly decide on what stories we’d tell and which ones we wouldn’t. Those were conversations Lisa and I had all the time. Voter suppression is often seen as a partisan issue, which it is today. But historically, it hasn’t been one. It was important for us to bring in those ideas, to talk about the youth vote. It was a constant decision-making process—whose stories do we elevate and whose do we leave aside? Those were key questions, not just in storytelling but also from the point of a social responsibility. Those conversations between the two of us were key in terms of figuring out the arc and architecture of this film. 

In the News

IDA Announces New Board Members


DOK Leipzig and Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival Unveil Award Winners


Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival Announces Award Winners


Austin Film Festival Winners Announced


Palm Springs International Film Festival Cancels 2021 Edition


ITV Orders COVID-19 Feature Doc from Kevin Macdonald, with Nick Fraser as Executive Producer


Robert Fisk, War Correspondent and Subject of Yung Chang’s Documentary This Is Not a Movie, Dies at 74