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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, Winter 2009

By Tom White

Dear Readers,

As we usher out the Bush Administration and welcome the Obama Era, the documentary community can look back on these eight years as a thriving period in which box office records were broken, the Web continued to offer up a plethora of alternatives, and the documentary form took on many exciting permutations, mixing and mashing genres in concert with rapidly evolving technological possibilities.

Werner Herzog, the 2008 Career Achievement honoree, is not one to confine himself to genres or define himself by documentary tropes. Yet he’s a giant in the community, inspiring scores of filmmakers with his restless curiosity, his animated passion for finding and capturing the poetry in images and the tragicomic beauty in those who, like him, engage the more dangerous and foreboding terrains for something truthful. Writer Taylor Segrest offers an appreciation.

Marina Goldovskaya, the Preservation and Scholarship honoree, honed her art in the former Soviet Union, and later captured the fall of Communism and the difficult gestation of a democratic Russia. She has much to pass on, and she does willingly and with uncommon grace and generosity as a teacher--at Moscow State University, for 30 years, and more recently, UCLA, for over a decade. The greatest names in documentary have gladly made the trek to Los Angeles at Goldovskaya’s beckoning to share their work with her students. She shares her story here with Michael Rose.

Rob Epstein, the Pioneer Award honoree, also divides his time between education and filmmaking, having headed up the new documentary program at California College of the Arts. From the first film he worked on, the groundbreaking Word Is Out, which examined gay and lesbian issues and identity from gay and lesbian perspectives, Epstein helped inspire a generation of filmmakers to tell their stories. Six years later, his The Times of Harvey Milk won the Academy Award for Best Documentary feature. Epstein’s subsequent films--Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, which would earn him and filmmaking partner Jeffrey Friedman a second Oscar; The Celluloid Closet; and Paragraph 175--would help bring gay and lesbian culture into the mainstream. Sara Scheiron talks to Epstein about his 30-year oeuvre.

Sam Pollard, the winner of the Avid Excellence in Editing Award, learned his craft over three decades ago from such mentors as St.Clair Bourne. Pollard would later work with a range of filmmakers, from veterans like Spike Lee to rising talents like Shola Lynch. Through it all he has shared his editorial vision as a teacher and mentor, while continually honing his art and craft, which he discusses with Tracie Lewis.

Finally, Stefan Forbes burst on the scene this year with the timely Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story, which he self-distributed in concert with the Election Year, and which aired on PBS’ Frontline in November. He is this year’s Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award winner.


Yours in actuality,

Thomas White