October 6, 2019

Essential Doc Reads: Week of September 30

From Laura Poitras' 2014 documentary 'CitizenFour," cited by Robert Greene as one of the best docs of the decade. Courtesy of HBO Films

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!

Anticipating the cascade of end-of-the-decade reflections by a couple of months, filmmaker Robert Greene, writing for Hyperallergic, takes a dive into the zeitgeist that fueled the last ten years of energetic expansion of the documentary  form.

"The cultural consciousness and literacy around images have changed a lot in the decade since we made Darkon," Luke Meyer said. "The current language of nonfiction includes constructed scenes, clear collaboration with the people on camera, and a stronger reliance on metaphor. We have an implicit understanding that we live in a world assembled by stories, where the power of narrative is the ruling factor, not some ideal of truth. And we have learned to doubt better."

Filmmaker magazine published a conversation between two shining lights in the documentary world: Gordon Quinn and Julia Reichert, on the occasion of Kartemquin Films' honoring Reichert with its inaugural Empowering Truth Award on October 29.

So I feel we were just really fortunate to have kind of more or less come of age in the '60s. It was formative and it still is formative. And I don't think either one of us specifically make issue films, but more so films about societal, economic, and cultural shifts. 

Master filmmaker Patricio Guzman was asked by IDFA to select his top ten, which will be screened at this year’s festival in November. He shares them on IDFA's website.

I was thrilled when IDFA asked me to select my 10 favorite films. That said, I soon realized that it's no easy matter to choose from all the films I like, and thus give a place of honor to some and not to others, while there are a vast number of films that have left images etched in my memory. On the other hand, the fact that it’s hard to choose is also a good sign, because it means that there’s always interesting work to see. My selection is simple in that it brings together films that describe the world, life and different countries, in an understandable and enjoyable way. 

Writing for MUBI Notebook, Soham Gadre muses on Jonas Mekas' final film: Notes on an American Film Director At Work: Martin Scorsese (2007), in which Mekas documented the making of The Departed.

The making-of documentary has a significant place in cinema's history, excavating the cinematic process as a collaborative human endeavor often centered on the director. It can turn a mirror to the auteur, allowing him or her to examine themselves. It is guided by choice just as much as narrative cinema but it also has an obligation, as decidedly nonfiction, to allow the viewers to process their own interpretations of the subjects.

What sets Notes on an American Film Director apart is that unlike informative docs like That Moment: Magnolia Diary (2000) and The Shark Is Still Working (2007), or psychological examinations of an auteur's process like in Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991) or Burden of Dreams (1982), Mekas remains a fly-on-the-wall, a fan, and a documentarian in the most basic and rudimentary sense.

The Criterion Daily’s David Hudson commemorates the 100th birthday of Shirley Clarke--The Criterion Channel and New York City’s Film Forum are both celebrating her work--with an assessment of her canon.

"It's a Shirley Clarke film through and through," writes Reverse Shot's Jeff Reichert, adding that "anyone familiar with her body of work will recognize an unforced intimacy with her subjects, the musicality of her editing choices and camera movements, the overall improvisational feel masking design and intent."

IndieWire’s Tambay Obenson talks to Film Independent's artistic director, Jacqueline Lyanga, about her vision for year-round programming.

"We see clearly that the industry is changing so much, that theatrical distribution is difficult, and more films are going onto streaming sites, but without the marketing, and we can help with that by simply programming them and getting them to audiences where they are. We can be partners for those filmmakers 365 days a year, and really help them build an audience."

The California law Assembly Bill 5, which limits the use of independent contractors by businesses, was designed with rideshare companies in mind, but it will also impact the documentary community, which depends so much on gigs with nonfiction productions. Margot Roosevelt and Ryan Faughnder of the Los Angeles Times take a look at the broad implications of this law, which takes effect in January.

Businesses in dozens of sectors, including trucking, entertainment and translating, are scrambling to figure out how the law affects them, whether they must adapt to it, and, especially, whether they can persuade lawmakers next year to add them to a score of carved-out occupations such as doctors, architects, financial advisors and fine artists.

As the fall season will usher in new giants to the SVOD/OTT space, Rob Hardy of Filmmaker Freedom offers a comprehensive analysis of what the space will look like for indie filmmakers.

Now, as of September 2019, the aggregator market is facing a bit of a shakeup. So I want to use this article to explore what’s going on, and the variety of options available to indie filmmakers. Not only that, but if you stick around, we’ll dig deeper into how to earn consistent revenue from your indie films.

Worldscreen’s Anna Carugati interviews legendary journalist Christiane Amanpour about the state of her profession today.

The role of the reporter to go in depth, to look at things in context and to get the real facts out there for people, is becoming much more and not less important.

From the Archive, November 2018: "Career Achievement Award: Julia Reichert"

All of these are part of my story. Every film. And maybe that's the difference between the guys and me. It's more personal for me. Maybe there’s a thread that's more about my life or my concerns. Maybe I just said that actually for the first time, so I don’t know if it’s true, but it feels true right now.


In the News


IDFA Announces 2019 Selections


Kartemquin Announces 2019 Diverse Voices Accelerator Fund and Emerging Storyteller Fund Grants


Kino Lorber Launches Streaming Platform


A New UK Music Doc Streaming Service: Doc’n Roll


Distribber Closes Down


Vice Media To Acquire Refinery 29


Blue Ant Media Appoints Laura Michalchyshyn as Chief Creative Officer


UC Irvine Law School’s Intellectual Property Clinic Receives $450,000 Grant


Iconic Colombia Filmmaker Luis Ospina Dies at 70


LA-Based Vidiots Relaunches as Storefront Independent Theater