October 5, 2018

Essential Doc Reads: Week of October 1

From Rory Kennedy's "Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomrrow, " which premieres October 13 on Discovery Channel. Apollo 8 Eathrise. Courtesy of NASA.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!


IndieWire's Chris O'Falt covers Showtime's secret documentary on President Trump's Tax Evasion.

When the New York Times editors hit publish on yesterday’s exhaustive report detailing how Fred Trump fraudulently funneled millions to his son — President Donald J. Trump — Showtime’s cameras were rolling. A holdover from Liz Garbus' "The Fourth Estate" — a four part series documenting the New York Times covering President Trump's first year in office that aired this spring — director Jenny Carchman helmed a crew that continued to follow the reporters working on this particular story about Trump’s tax avoidance, which took nearly two years to report.

Ann Hornaday dives into the "Are Documentaries journalism?" debate for The Washington Post

in my conversation with Todd at AFI Docs, I vigorously pushed back on his desire to conflate two related but crucially different practices. Although "G Is for Gun" gives space for all sides of a wrenching public debate, there is no doubt about its critical stance toward guns in schools. If "Let My People Vote" were to translate into a form of written journalism, it would be an op-ed column: At no point do the filmmakers examine the reasoning behind Florida’s voting law, however flawed or fundamentally unjust. Documentaries aren't journalism, and there's nothing wrong with that.

NASA's role in helping us understand the earth is considered by Rory Kennedy and Mark Bailey for The New York Times.

It may seem counterintuitive to think that space exploration, with all its attendant risk and glory, primarily sheds light on our own home planet. But it does. This week marks the 60th anniversary of NASA's founding. For the past two years, we have been making a documentary about NASA, and that idea was pretty much echoed by all 45 of the astronauts, scientists, administrators and historians we interviewed.

Filmmaker Magazine's Scott Macauley remembers Director Chantal Akerman on the anniversary of her passing.

I got to know Akerman over the years, not as a journalist, but through the worlds of film production and festivals. I can’t say we were close, but I grew to consider her a friend. And while much of the press that has come out this week has rightfully asserted her place in the film pantheon, I keep remembering the person who was such a passionate, bracingly funny, at times fragile, yet always magnetic presence.

Tanner Tafelski examines the experimental montages in Jean-Luc Godard's latest film for Hyperallergic.

Consider this a first draft, a first impression, a first stab at making meaning of a Jean-Luc Godard film. Along with his other late works, Film­­­ Socialism (2010) and Goodbye to Language (2014), The Image Book is a dense, multi-layered work of sound and images. It’s unlike anything else in the Main Slate at the 56th New York Film Festival.

Maxwell Strachan of the Huffington Post sat down with Ken Burns to discuss his latest film and how he responds to criticism of his work.

Burns and I met to discuss his latest film, about the Mayo Clinic, which premieres Tuesday evening on PBS. During our lunch, he was by turns eager and defensive, equal parts flack and showman. He spends a significant amount of his time fundraising these days, and it’s not hard to see how he gets people to pull out their checkbooks. No one sells the work of Ken Burns quite like Ken Burns.

Lisa Stiffler covers two Seattle women set out to preserve magnetic media cassettes for the future for GeekWire.

In a narrow, windowless, closet of an office in Seattle's City Hall, two young women are battling against the "magnetic media crisis." That's because the Hi8 home movies, VHS recordings and Betacam cassettes from decades ago are approaching the end of their lifetime — if they're not already past it — and starting to fall apart. One of the biggest threats is an ailment called "sticky shed syndrome" where the glue that holds the components of the magnetic tape together breakdown, and the recorded images and sound are lost forever. The tiny nonprofit and its two audiovisual archivists, Libby Hopfauf and Ari Lavigne, are currently hustling to preserve a set of 800 videotapes from the Vi Hilbert Collection.

From the Archives—June 2018: A Year in the Trump Era: 'The Fourth Estate' Tracks 'The New York Times'.

The term "the fourth estate" was coined by long-time New York Times columnist William Safire, "to put the press on an equal footing with the greatest power in a nation." In a watchdog era of investigative reporting on a presidency that attacks democratic institutions daily, the exigency of a free press has never been so apparent. In her current Showtime series, The Fourth Estate, veteran documentarian Liz Garbus showcases the inner workings of The New York Times during a year when the "paper of record" is simultaneously at the forefront of multiple explosive investigations and under attack from various quarters. 


In the News

PBS takes home seven awards at the News & Documentary Emmy Awards, edging out CBS and HBO.

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The 2018 LA Film Festival winners announced.

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces a new women's initiative, including the new Academy Gold Fellowship for Women.

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The finalists and winners of the 2018 Jackson Hole Science Media Awards announced.

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KCETLink Media group and PBS SoCal finalize merger agreement.

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