April 1, 2001

Short Takes, April 2001

It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.
-George Orwell




Banff to introduce Documart at TV Fest

The Banff Television Festival is launching the CTV Canadian Documart this June as part of the festival. The Documart, a 90-minute pitching session, is modeled after the Australian Documart format developed by the Australian International Documentary Conference.

The Canadian Documart works like this: An independent panel of judges will select six finalists from the submissions (see www.banff2001.com for entry form). These individuals will be given 10 minutes each to pitch to a panel of 24 commissioning editors from around the world. Following these sessions the editors will cast ballots, the votes will be tallied and the winners will be announced at the end of the session. A total of $100,000 will be awarded—$50,000 to the first place project and $30,000 and $20,000 for the runners-up.

Four European Companies Team to Co-Produce Docs

An alliance aimed at the co-production of feature documentaries by internationally renowned directors debuted in February. The alliance includes Fabienne Servan Schreiber of Cinétevé (Paris), Domenico Procacci of Fandango (Rome), Karl Baumgartner of Pandora (Cologne), and Rosa Bosch of Tequila Gang (London/Mexico).

The four companies will join forces in the financing and production of films on a project-by-project basis and build on their experience and contacts to secure distribution. The quartet has worked together before: Fandango and Pandora co-produced Super8 Stories, Emir Kusturica's first documentary, while Fandango and Tequila Gang served as associate producers on Fernando Trueba's Calle 54, produced by Cinétevé

The Short Film Group, New Nonprofit, is Born

The Short Film Group was funded in January as a nonprofit organization for raise public awareness of the short film as an art form. The Group, based in Los Angeles, will present quarterly screenings and provide educational and hands-on resources to assist filmmakers in the production and completion of their short film projects.

The Short Film Group's website, www.shortfilmgroup.com, features an on-line magazine that covers all the latest happenings in the short film world news, reviews, production listings, tech info and interviews. For more information about submitting films to The Short Film Group. call 818.547.4845: e-mail: info@shortfilmgroup.org.




Betsy McLane to Head Children's Film Festival

Betsy A. McLane. Ph.D., the former executive director of the IDA, was recently named executive director of the Backyard National Children's Film Festival, which is headquartered in Los Angeles.

The festival is the result of a merger of the National Children's Film Festival, based in Indianapolis since 1996, and the Los Angeles-based Backyard Film Festival. The mission of the Backyard National Children's Film Festival is to provide an opportunity for young people to create and appreciate stories through the lens of a camera. The festival celebrates films made by young people ages 18 and younger, while empowering them with their own voice and vision.

Ms. McLane supplemented her nine-year tenure at IDA with an impressive litany of activities in the media arts and academia. She has served as a juror at the Sundance Film Festival, the Hawaii International Film Festival, the AFI Sony Video Awards, the IDA awards and DocuDays in Beirut. In addition, she has taught at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles: Emerson College, Los Angeles program University of Vermont; Art Center College of Design; and University of Southern California.

"l am honored to have been selected to spearhead the Backyard National Children's Film Festival." Mclane said in a prepared statement "and excited by many opportunities available to young people at our new Los Angeles location."

A&E, History Channel Name Oversees Managers

According  to DOCtv, A&E Television Networks appointed Simon Pollock as its Managing Director, Europe, Pollock will oversee European operations for The History Channel and The Biography Channel and develop an overall strategic plan for expansion.

Elsewhere on the globe, The History Channel named Asia Ireton as its general manager in Japan. The History Channel recently enhanced its presence in Japan as a 24-hour network. Ms. Ireton will manage daily operations and develop long-term strategies for the network. She was previously Deputy Head, International Department at Toho-Towa Co. Ltd., where she handled films rights acquisitions, licensing and co-productions.




Steve James, Magic Johnson To Team on Hoops Reality Series

According to Variety, former NBA superstar Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Hoop Dreams co-director Steve James will partner on a new reality series called Making the Team.

The participants in the weekly series will be a group of talented basketball players whose dreams of college hoops were dashed because of personal hardship. Johnson will oversee the selection process of the nine-person squad, and will coach the team as it takes on the nation's top high schools. What's more, the final nine will be awarded full four-year college scholarships, while those who don't make the cut will still get some financial aid.

Steve James will direct the series and executive produce with John Davis at Davis Television. "The idea is to show the dramatically interesting and revealing elements of human nature of kids, of former ballplayers who thought their dreams were washed up," James told Variety. "The series has to be both dramatic and compelling, and true without being exploitative."

The Making of the Team will be shopping the series around to networks for a projected air date of tall 2001.

PBS Emphasizing Doc Series for Future Slate

PBS, which is airing both the much-anticipated American High series staring this month and David Zeiger's Senior Year (see September 2000 ID) in the fall, is emphasizing what it calls "observational documentaries" in its future programming sensibilities, according to an article in Current: The Public Telecommunications Newspaper.

Among the projects in the pipeline are Five Girls. a two-hour doc by Kartemquin Educational Films that follows the lives of Chicago-area adolescent girls of different backgrounds; Local News, produced by Lumière Productions, a five-hour series on the day-to-day behind-the scenes workings of a television newsroom in Charlotte, NC; New Americans, another series from Kartemquin that chronicles the lives of immigrants to the United States from countries in Central America, Africa, and Asia, Coming of Age in Appalachia, from David Sutherland (The Farmer's Wife), a series about four teenage boys whose lives are documented over a three-year period; and The Congregation, the latest from Alan and Susan Raymond, a portrait of a Protestant congregation.

Craven Helms Clinton Doc

No, it's not Scream 4: The White House Years, but horror-master Wes Craven is directing a documentary about President Bill Clinton in the final days of his administration. According to Variety, Craven filmed Clinton conducting a tour of the White House while reflecting on his presidency. The doc, produced by Miramax co-chair Harvey Weinstein and Tribeca President Jane Rosenthal, will be a part of the presidential library in Arkansas.

HBO to Produce Monica Doc

Monica Lewinsky, the It Girl of the Clinton years, is back again—this time as the subject of a tell-all documentary to be produced and televised by HBO; Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey, the makers of The Eyes of Tammy Faye, will helm this doc. According to The New York Times, Lewinsky had approached HBO about the idea of going beyond her book Monica's Story and her televised interview with Barbara Walters. Sheila Nevins, head of documentary programming, became intrigued with the idea when she first met Monica face to face. "It may be her journey," she told the Times. "But for us, it's an investigative report. It's not just Monica: It's Monica in history; it's Monica in privacy; it's Monica in trauma."

Cowboy Booking Docs Premiere on Sundance Channel, at Screening Room

Two of Cowboy Booking Intentional's notable releases over the past few year—the IDA Award-nominated Benjamin Smoke, by Jem Cohen and Peter Sillen, and Tim Kirkman's Dear Jesse—were acquired by the Sundance Channel for US television rights. Cowboy Booking is releasing On Hostile Ground, which looks at the daily battles of three ordinary medical professionals placed in extraordinary situations by their choice to provide abortions." IDA member Liz Mermin and Jenny Raskin produced and directed the film, which screens at The Screening Room in New York this month.

St. Clair Bourne Resumes Work on Doctor Ben

IDA Award-winner St. Clair Bourne returned to post-production on Doctor Ben, a "road movie" portrait of controversial Egyptologist Dr. Joseph benJochannon, or "Doctor Ben." Bourne directed the film, which was delayed due to schedule conflicts with executive producer and narrator Wesley Snipes. The film follows Doctor Ben through Egypt and New York, where he lectures, challenges, cajoles and shocks his tour group with his often earthy historical commentary.

Bourne also directed John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighy Walk, and produced the critically acclaimed Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks, which aired on HBO last November. He earned an IDA Distinguished Documentary Achievement Award for Paul Robeson: Here I Stand.




One Day in September received Germany's Golden Camera Award for Best International Film in February. Producer Arthur Cohn accepted the award in a ceremony in Berlin's Congress Hall.

The California Council for the Humanities announced the latest round of Media Grants to the following projects: Edward Weston: Photographs of Life, produced by IDA member Jonathan Spaulding and sponsored by the IDA; Hokan Creation Story, produced by Patricia Amlin; Cul de Sac: A Suburban War Story, produced by Garrett Scott; Daddies: A Documentary about Gay Fatherhood, produced by Johnny Symons; Saigon, USA, produced by Robert C. Winn and Lindsey Jang; The Thursday Club, produced, by George Paul Csicsery; and The Weather Underground, produced by Sam Green




Trembling Before G-D, Sandi DuBowski's documentary about Hasidic and Orthodox Jews who come out as gays and lesbians, won the Teddy Award for Best Documentary at the Berlin International Film Festival. The Teddys are voted by a jury of gay and lesbian festival representatives.

The Canal+ Prize for Public Favorite at the Rotterdam International Film Festival went to Promises, a documentary by B.Z. Goldberg. Justine Shapiro and Carlos Bolado.

Hollywood Film Festival Launches Doc Component

The Hollywood Film Festival announced in February the launch of the Hollywood Documentary Film Festival, which will run concurrently with the Hollywood Film Festival in August.

The new component will showcase documentaries from around the world for two consecutive days and will include a conference. These entrants will compete for the Hollywood Discovery Awards in the festival's main film competition. The Hollywood Documentary Film Festival is co-chaired by Carlos de Abreu, executive director of the Hollywood Film Festival, and Udy Epstein, president of Seventh Art Releasing. The advisory board committee includes Michael Donaldson, IDA President; Sydney Levine, president, Film Finders; Albert Maysles, filmmaker; Sheila Nevins, executive vice president, HBO; Fredell Pogodin, publicist; Steven Rothenberg, executive vice president, Artisan Entertainment: and Lesley Ann Wamen, actress.




Rose Freedman, 107, Subject of THE LIVING CENTURY Series, and Last Survivor of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, Dies

Rose Freedman, 107, the last remaining survivor of the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911, died at her home in Beverly Hills in February after a brief illness. The fire claimed the lives of 146 immigrants working in a sweatshop in New York's garment industry. The fire is commonly attributed as an instigator of child labor laws that were passed shortly thereafter.

Mrs. Freedman was featured on the PBS program THE LIVING CENTURY, a series of profiles of individuals who lived every day of the 20th century. She was also the subject of films on HBO and Lifetime, as well as segments on ABC, NBC, A&E, Discovery and The History Channel.

Mrs. Freedman often spoke of the "Three Miracles" in her life: surviving the fire, saving the life of a Jewish spy in Austria during World War I and witnessing her children recover from polio during the epidemic of 1942-43. She was born in Vienna in 1893, and immigrated to New York in 1909. She married an American businessman, Harry Freedman, in 1927, and she worked for Manhattan Life Insurance until she retired at the age of 79. She moved to Los Angeles in 1995. She is survived by two sons and a daughter, eight grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.




Aussies Ramp Up

The Australian Film Commission recently enhanced its website, www.afc.gov.au, to assist Australian producers in enhancing their profiles at festivals around the world. The site has links to dozens of the leading international film festivals, as well as to dozens more general sites with ample information to assist filmmakers in developing a festival strategy.

Yahoo! Fest Logs Off

The Yahoo! Online Film Festival, which made such a huge splash last year in the days leading up to the Academy Awards, will not return for an encore this year—yet another sign of the demise of the dot.com dominion. Festival organizers did proceed with the online component last month, however, but the heady days of high-rollers giddily caroming up and down Sunset Boulevard from demo to party to screening are just a virtual memory.

In a prepared statement, festival organizers attributed the cancelation to "the recent downturn in the economy, an impending writers' and actors' strike and the limited availability of sponsorship dollars."


Regarding Jonathan Stack's piece for the March "Tales from the Trenches," the 13-part series that his company Gabriel Films produced for Discovery Channel was called Casino Diaries. ID regrets the truncation.