Essential Doc Reads: Week of October 2
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!
At Realscreen, Justine Nagan reflects on the state of PBS's "POV," entering its 30th season.
"One of the challenges for us is asking how we can continue to serve this growing field and bring top quality films to public television audiences and viewers across America for free, whether they have access to high-speed wifi or they can afford cable or a streaming service. We want to make sure they [the public] can participate in their democracy and have access to these films – which are increasingly the way people are becoming educated, informed and engaged with the issues around them."
At Labocine, Christina Lu spotlights the "cinematic thought-essays" of Tiffany Shlain.
Vociferous and prolific, Tiffany Shlain, filmmaker and co-founder of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, has entered the grumble of topical wars with the energetic hopefulness of someone who believes in the sunnier side of human nature. At a time when most are more likely to default to anger or despair, her videos are bright, curious, and meticulously designed to engage viewers in a way that lifts them out of the half empty glass. Her body of work is wide-reaching, consisting of "cinematic thought-essays" that typically have a run time of under 20-minutes.
At The Talkhouse, Whose Streets? director Sabaah Folayan reflects on her complex feelings about the success of her film.
I have not learned a way to be at peace with my professional success being inextricable from Black death. It is only the consent and approval of those who are in the film, who live in St. Louis and still face the same stacked deck, which allows me accept this. And so I have a request of anyone who is creating, programming, funding, curating or choosing what to consume; if we are to hold out hope that existing institutions can contain all of us, and that genuine representations of humanity can thrive within them (I am still not sure), we must look for more than Black death. We must begin to see Black stories as universal stories that do not require translation. If perseverance in spite of death and struggle continue to be the main themes of the art made and embraced about Blackness, then progressive institutions are exchanging a subhuman stereotype for a superhuman one, leaving no room for us to simply just be.
At The New Yorker, Richard Brody spotlights a new documentary that he finds both "essential" and "frustrating."
With Nancy Buirski's documentary The Rape of Recy Taylor, which is screening at the New York Film Festival on Tuesday night, I'm breaking a self-imposed rule of not writing negatively about festival films. I'm doing so because the subject of the film, and Buirski's approach to it, reaches beyond the frame into fundamental practices in documentary filmmaking and even further, into the woeful state of American society today. Also, I'm doing so because, regardless of the inadequacy of the film's artistry, I hope that the film gets a theatrical release and is widely seen, because what's good about it is more than good, it's essential, which is what makes its shortcomings all the more conspicuous and frustrating.
Shoot reports on the success of Alma Har'el's Free The Bid project, which advocates on behalf of women directors for equal opportunities in commercial productions.
Free The Bid is making a dramatic and unparalleled change in the ad industry’s hiring of women directors, contributing to an increase in hires and bidding of female directors of as much as 400% (in cases like CP+B and BBDO). This is in contrast to the numbers of women directors in Hollywood, which despite success stories of record-breaking films like Wonder Woman, have been reducing. Women comprised just 7 percent of all directors working on the 250 highest-grossing domestic releases in 2016, indicating a decline of two percentage points, according to a new report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.
For Kilmurry, one of the hallmarks of a POV film is that it prompts just as many questions at the end of the film as when it started. "POV films also often make me question my own assumptions," he admits. "We're not looking to impose our vision on a story. We give our filmmakers a lot of freedom and that's one of the reasons there's so many different styles and approaches. I'm so proud to be with a series that's still championing independent filmmakers when so many others have come and gone during the same period of time."
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