Short Takes, December 2003


Black Documentary Collective Takes 14 Films to Brazil's Festival Do Rio

Members of the Black Documentary Collective (BDC), a New York-based network of documentary filmmakers of African descent, were invited to participate in Brazil's Festival do Rio, the largest festival in Latin America, last October. The filmmakers screened 14 of their films and participated in panels addressed the topics "African-American and Afro-Brazilian Images on Film: Where We Stand" and "Race & Activism: Documentary as a Toll for Political Action."

The Ford Foundation helped to make possible this trip. The filmmakers who participated ranged from first-timers to seasoned veterans. They were Pearl Bowser (Midnight Ramble: Oscar Michaeux and the Story of Race Movies), Nikki Byrd (In My Own Skin), Terry Carter (A Duke Named Ellington), Nicole Franklin (The Double Dutch Divas), Laurens Grant (Rokia: Voice of a New Generation), St.Clair Bourne (Paul Robeson: Here I Stand), William Greaves (Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice), Darralynn Hutson (Hughes Dream Harlem), Madison Lacy (Free to Dance), Regge Life (Native Son), Stanley Nelson (The Murder of Emmett Till), Michele Stephenson (Faces of Change) and Eric V. Tait (Then I'll Be Free to Travel Home).

Academy Reintroduces Searchable Awards Database

An official Academy Awards searchable database has returned to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences website ( in a new and improved format. The complete historical record of the Academy's 75-year-old awards competition now lists approximately 6,500 people, numerous companies and countries, and over 13,000 nominees. Says Academy Executive Administrator Ric Robertson, "It is a small database, but it is surprisingly complex." Searches can now be done in a variety of ways, making it much more user-friendly. The site went back up in the middle of the year after being unavailable while improvements were being made.

Disc Makers Makes DVD Replication Affordable and Easy for Indie Filmmakers

Disc Makers, the nation's leading independent media manufacturer, has announced a new, complete DVD manufacturing service that finally puts professional DVD replication within reach of most independent filmmakers. Its flagship package offers 1,000 DVDs in Amaray-styled boxes, including full-color wraparound insert printing, replication and packaging for only $1,790.

"Disc Makers made a name for itself catering to the needs of independent musicians back when no one else would," explains Tony van Veen, vice president of sales and marketing for Disc Makers. "Now we're doing the same for the indie film community. By specializing in small to medium size orders, Disc Makers is making it easier and more affordable for independent filmmakers to produce and release major studio-quality DVDs."

 Filmmakers provide Disc Makers with the raw materials, video, electronic graphics files, etc., and Disc Makers' multimedia development team will then guide them through the authoring and marketing design process. Replication and duplication packages for indie filmmakers are also available. For more information, visit the Disc Makers website at

NAB and Future Media Concepts Launch Post-Production Educational Conference

The National Association of Broadcasters announced the creation of the world's largest post-production educational conference-The NAB Post|Production World Conference, to be held during NAB2004 (April 17- 21) in Las Vegas.

The NAB Post|Production World Conference, co-produced with digital media educator Future Media Concepts, will feature over 160 sessions on a variety of topics including digital video and film editing, news editing, compositing and special effects, 3-D animation, Web design, DVD authoring, video encoding for DVD and streaming, sound design, digital imaging, tech support for digital facilities and DV production tips.
"NAB research shows that our production/post-production attendees are extremely talented professionals seeking only the highest quality educational opportunities," says John Marino, vice president, NAB. "This partnership with Future Media Concepts will offer NAB2004 attendees a world-class educational event to complement the massive display of audio and video production hardware to be seen on the NAB2004 show floor."

The sessions are designed for intermediate to advanced users who wish to enhance effectiveness and creativity and walk away with power tips that they may apply to future projects. Software covered in the sessions will include, among others, a variety of Avid products, Protools, NewsCutter, Apple Final Cut Pro, Shake, DVD Studio Pro and Logic, Adobe Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere and Encore, Combustion and Cleaner, and Boris Red and Continum. In addition, the conference will feature Spanish-speaking instructors for sessions on Avid, Final Cut Pro and After Effects for the NAB spring convention's growing international constituencies.


Winged Migration Flies Large

Last August, an enhanced 35mm version of Sony Classics' hit doc Winged Migration began showing on the huge IMAX screens at New York's Lincoln Square, Los Angeles' Universal City and the Metreon in San Francisco.

Kino on Video Releases Hell's Highway on DVD

After a nationwide theatrical release, Kino on Video has released the documentary Hell's Highway: The True Story of Highway Safety Films on VHS and DVD. Written, produced and directed by filmmaker Bret Wood (Lon Chaney: Behind the Mask), Hell's Highway recounts the history of the shock-value driver's ed films that haunted American teens throughout the 1960s and ‘70s.

The films forever changed the face of educational documentaries by bringing unflinching color footage of fatal car accidents to classrooms. The two-disc special edition DVD brings never-before-seen and/or rare supplemental video materials, including three complete Highway Safety films: Signal 30 (1959), Highway of Agony (1969), and Options to Live (1979).


The 24th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards were presented by the National Television Academy on September 3, 2003. The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Don Hewitt, executive producer of the pioneering news magazine 60 Minutes, along with executive editor Phil Scheffler and past and present 60 Minutes correspondents Mike Wallace, Harry Reasoner (posthumously), Ed Bradley, Morley Safer, Dan Rather, Andy Rooney, Lesley Stahl, Steve Kroft, Bob Simon, Christiane Amanpour, Diane Sawyer and Meredith Vieira. Other awards included: Outstanding Coverage of a Continuing News Story in a News Magazine: CBS News 60 Minutes II: The Church on Trial; Outstanding Coverage of a Feature News Story in a News Magazine: CBS News 60 Minutes: A New Lease on Life; Outstanding Investigative Journalism in a News Magazine: Dateline NBC: Slaves to Fashion; Outstanding Investigative Journalism - Long Form: FRONTLINE: An Ordinary Crime (PBS); Outstanding Informational Programming - Long Form: AMERICA UNDERCOVER SUNDAYS: Telling Nicholas (HBO); Outstanding Historical Programming - Long Form: NOVA: Galileo's Battle for the Heavens and Shackleton's Voyage of Endurance (PBS); Outstanding Cultural And Artistic Programming - Long Form: Ansel Adams: A Documentary Film   (PBS); Outstanding Science, Technology and Nature Programming: The Secret Life Of The Brain (PBS); Best Report an a News Magazine In 2002: CBS News 60 Minutes II: The Lost Boys; Best Documentary in 2002: NOVA: Why The Towers Fell (PBS); Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Writing and Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Graphic and Artistic Design: Serge Schmemann and The Saline Project:  Adam Toht, Jacob Guttormsson, Jesse Roff-Mortal Enemies (Discovery Channel); Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Direction: David Allen, Anna Fitch—Living With Bugs (TLC); Outstanding Individual Achievement In A Craft: Research Levan Adami,  Supriya Awasthi,  Kate Blewett,  Clarinda Cuppage,  John Maier, Jed Rothstein,  Hasan Serefli,  Deborah Shipley,  Brian Woods—Kids Behind Bars (Discovery Channel); Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Cinematography: Curt Apduhan— Amargosa (Sundance Channel); Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Editing: Beth Gallagher —The Living Edens: Big Sur: California's Wild Coast (PBS); Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Music and Sound: Chris  Biondo, Lenny  Williams, Mike  Kelly, Miho  Nasu, Nelson Funk, Jeff  Morales—National Geographic EXPLORER: Hornets From Hell and Stalking Leopards (MSNBC); Oustanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Lighting Direction and Scenic Design: Andrew  Anderson,  Tim  Liversedge—National Geographic EXPLORER: Owls: Silent Hunters.

 Creative Arts Emmy Awards were presented to the following: Outstanding Nonfiction Special (Traditional): Benjamin Franklin (PBS); Outstanding Nonfiction Series (Traditional): American Masters (PBS); Outstanding Nonfiction Program (Alternative): Cirque du Soleil: Fire Within (Bravo); Outstanding Reality/Competition Program: The Amazing Race (CBS); Outstanding Picture Editing for Nonfiction Programming (Single or Multi-Camera):Aaron Lubarsky Journeys With George (HBO); and Outstanding Sound Editing for Nonfiction Programming (Single or Multi-Camera): David Kitchens, Ben Zarai, Gonzalo Espinoza, Eric Lalicata, Chris McDonough, Eric Reuveni, Matthias Weber— James Cameron's Expedition: Bismarck (Discovery Channel).

Primetime Emmy Awards were presented to the following: Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming: Michelle Ferrari—AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Seabiscuit (PBS); and Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming: Stanley Nelson—AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: The Murder Of Emmett Till (PBS).

At the 6th Annual DVD Entertainment Awards, the Best Educational/Documentary Title went to Lost In La Mancha (Keith Fulton, Luis Pepe, prods.dirs., submitted by New Video/Docurama).

As reported in the Associated Press, Ohio State University will use a $5,000 federal grant to restore and copy two 16mm reels of film from Adm. Richard Byrd's first expedition to Antarctica in 1939.

GALAFILM Documentaries received four Gemini Award Nominations this year from The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. Nominations included: Best Direction in a Documentary Series - Lewis Cohen for Cirque du Soleil Fire Within; Best History Documentary Program - The Trial of Poundmaker; Best Sound in a Documentary Program or Series and Best Original Music Score for a Documentary Program or Series: The Black Hawk War

In September, The Jewish Image Awards presented The Collector of Bedford Street (Alice Elliott, prod./dir)with the Documentary Film Award. The Cross Cultural Production Award went to Strange Fruit (Joel Katz, prod./dir.)The awards recognize outstanding contemporary creative works in film and television which portray the depth and complexity of Jewish values, history and tradition. 


OUTFEST celebrated its 21st birthday in 2003 as one of the world's largest gay and lesbian film festivals. Director Josh Aronson's The Opposite Sex: Rene's Story picked up the Grand Jury Award for OUTstanding Documentary Feature. The Audience Award for OUTstanding Documentary Feature was a tie between Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin (Nancy Kates and Bennett Singer) and Laughing Matters (Andrea Meyerson). Where the Girls Are, directed by Tricia Cooke and Jennifer Arnold, won the OUTstanding Documentary Short Film Award, and a Special Programming Award for Emerging Talent was presented to Tracy Flannigan for Rise Above: The Tribe 8 Documentary.

The East Coast's celebration of gay and lesbian cinema, The New York Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, awarded Best Documentary Feature to Louise Hogarth's The Gift and to Peter Barbosa's I Exist. The former is about the controversial subject of gay men ("bug chasers") who purposely seek out unprotected sex with HIV-positive men ("gift givers") so that they can be infected with the virus, either as an erotic turn-on or as an act of extreme brotherhood. The latter film looks at the obstacles gays and lesbians of Middle Eastern descent face in America. Once again, Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin won the Audience Award. The doc focuses on the civil rights leader Rustin, who once mentored Martin Luther King and helped propel the March on Washington, but was eventually dismissed from his leadership role because of his sexual orientation.

A bit further up the coast, the 2003 Newport International Film Festival doc jury bestowed it's prize on Jesse Moss' Speedo, and gave Rostislav Aalto's Cleaning Up the first place prize. Un'Ora Sola ti Vorrei (One More Hour With You), Alina Marazzi's exploration of her mother's mental illness, received the Claiborne Pell Award for original vision.

Across the Atlantic, Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain's The Revolution Will Not Be Televised earned the audience award for the Best Feature Documentary at the 15th Galway Film Fleadh

Two Canadian documentary films nabbed slots as the first and second runners-up in audience voting at the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival. Ron Mann's doc, which follows actor Woody Harrelson on an organic living tour, Go Further, was the first runner-up, while Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott's The Corporation, a critical look at the dominant institution named in the title, was the second runner-up.


MacDonald and Spence To Lead Palm Springs Fest in 2004

Darryl Macdonald and Carl Spence are heading down the West Coast to assume positions with the Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF). MacDonald, who served as the Artistic Director of the Palm Springs Film Festival from 1989 to1993, has been named executive director of the PSIFF. Spence has been named director of programming.

Macdonald is the co-founder and executive and artistic director of the Seattle International Film Festival. Spence was the director of programming of the San Francisco International Film Festival and a programmer for Macdonald at the Seattle fest.

"In our search for a new executive director and director of programming, we considered many well-qualified candidates, but these two clearly rose above the pack," stated Kevin McGuire, Chairman of the Festival board in a release.  "These two men come from the largest film festivals in the country and will bring an enormous amount of experience to Palm Springs."

In his new role, MacDonald will oversee the institutional and creative development of the organization. Spence will be responsible for guiding the selection and scheduling of films and programs for both world-class international film festivals: the Palm Springs International Film Festival (now ranked as one of the top five best-attended festivals in the country) and the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films, as well as for additional year-round programming. 

 The 15th Annual Festival will be held January 8-19, 2004. For additional information, call the festival headquarters at 760.322.2930 or visit

Sandra den Hamer Appointed General Director of International Film Festival Rotterdam

The Festival Board of the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) has appointed Sandra den Hamer as general IFFR director beginning March 1, 2004. Den Hamer currently shares the IFFR directorship with Simon Field. After the upcoming 33rd Edition (January 21-February 1, 2004) Field will leave the festival to return to London.

Chairman of the IFFR Festival Board Hans van Beers expressed his thanks to Field and den Hamer for leading the festival to its place as one of the largest cultural events in the Netherlands, as well as an important festival for independent cinema on the world stage. 

Said van Beers, "The future of the IFFR ... calls for continuity—proven expertise, good management skills-but also artistic skills and the boldness to innovate. As a consequence of these consultations and other discussions, the Board confirmed its opinion that Sandra den Hamer is ideally suited to the role of IFFR Director."

Den Hamer studied theatre sciences at the Utrecht University. After working a short period for the Dutch Film Festival, she started out at the IFFR in 1986 as CineMart co-coordinator. In 1992, she became IFFR deputy director and in 2000 IFFR co-director.

Field and den Hamer will continue together to prepare the 33rd IFFR edition, and will also lay out plans for the future of the festival from 2005-2008. More information about the festival can be found at

Academy Governors Re-Called Upon to Serve New Terms

Five new governors, four of them first-timers, have been elected by their branches to represent them on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In addition, nine incumbent members have been re-elected. The terms of all 14 governors began August 1, 2003.

In the documentary category, incumbent filmmaker Arthur Dong was re-elected to his position. Continuing as governors are Michael Apted and Freida Lee Mock.

Comings and Goings at The Independent

The Association for Independent Video and Filmmakers (AIVF) welcomes new Managing Editor Shana Liebman to the staff. Liebman has worked for The Village Voice, New York Observer, PAPER and Time Out, and recently graduated from Columbia's MFA program in fiction.

James Ellis, who put so much time and energy into The Independent this past year, has moved on to Chicago, the land of larger apartments and colder winters. Independent Editor Maud Kersnowski left AIVF in October to pursue her own projects. At the time of publication, a search was ongoing to find her replacement.

A&E Doc Director

Patrice Andrews has been named Director/Documentary Programming for A&E Network. Andrews will be responsible for managing the production of A&E Network's documentary specials and signature doc series, as well as spearheading efforts to develop new documentary programming for the network.


Leni Riefenstahl Dies at 101

Leni Riefenstahl, the German filmmaker whose innovative documentaries about a Nazi rally in Nuremberg in 1934 (Triumph of the Will) and the Berlin Olympics of 1936 (Olympia) earned her both acclaim as a cinematic genius and contempt as a propagandist for Adolf Hitler, died at her home in Pöcking, south of Munich in September.  She was 101.

Riefenstahl began as a dancer and an actress. Her films would perhaps have only been seen as propaganda had they not been so groundbreaking. Her techniques influenced many later filmmakers, thus continuing the debate over whether her political views could be separated from the art she produced.

Reifenstahl believed early on that Hitler could "save" Germany, and admitted to having an idealized view of him. After World War II, she was declared a Nazi sympathizer. Screenings of her films continued to garner protests until her death.

Triumph of the Will included such innovative techniques as moving cameras, the use of telephoto lenses to create a foreshortening effect, frequent close-ups of wide-eyed party faithful and heroic poses of Hitler shot from well below eye level. The film only used production sound— no narration.

Olympia used a crew of 170. To capture the drama of the pole vault and long jump events, she had holes dug beside the sand pit where the athletes landed. In the high-diving event, which dominated the second part of the film, "Festival of Beauty," she used four cameras, including one underwater, to capture the movement of divers from all angles. Then, in the editing room, she turned the divers into graceful birds.

After the war, Riefenstahl virtually disappeared for 20 years, before reinventing herself as a photographer in the 1960s. She became an avid diver, and published several collections of underwater photographs. Last year, she released her first movie in almost half a century, Impressions Under Water, a doc about marine life.

She remained a figure of controversy for the rest of her life. Her later pictures of the Nuba in Sudan garnered criticism for what Susan Sontag referred to as the "fascist aesthetics" of her work. At the age of 90, she was the subject of a three-hour documentary, The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (1993), by the German filmmaker Ray Müller. At about the same time, she also published her own 669-page autobiography, Leni Riefenstahl: A Memoir.