December 22, 2004

Short Takes, December 2004


McGowan Theater Opens at the National Archives

The William G. McGowan Theater, which opened in September, is a centerpiece of the new National Archives Experience, a multi-year initiative that will more than triple the exhibition spaces and public educational and programming facilities of the National Archives on the Mall in Washington, DC. The McGowan Theater will be one of the nation's leading centers for documentary film, as well as a prominent forum for the discussion and exploration of great issues of American history, democracy and government.

In addition to documentary film series, major public symposia, discussions and community activities, the theater will host the annual William G. McGowan Communications Forum, an exploration of the junction of communication, technology and government. It will also feature a documentary program called National Archives Experience, in partnership with the Academy Archive and the Foundation for National Archives.

Center Receives Grant from Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Center for Social Media  has received a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation to study and showcase the work of the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Reentry National Media Outreach Campaign. This documentary outreach program is an example of current, cutting-edge strategies in using media to engage community discussion on prisoners' rights and prison reentry issues.

The center began its work in October by inviting director Katy Chevigny to screen her film Deadline, a Reentry project. The work continues with a workshop for documentary filmmakers on outreach in February, for which the center began taking reservations in September. The center will also host a panel discussion as part of the Institute for Strategic Communication for Non-Profits in summer 2005, among other activities.

The Center for Social Media undertakes research, programs events, hosts artists and shares resources on media as creative tools for public knowledge and action. To find out how the Reentry project is using documentaries to engage in community discussion, visit:

Thought Equity Jumps into the Game with Warren Miller Entertainment

Video management and stock footage licensor Thought Equity has partnered with extreme sports filmmaker Warren Miller Entertainment (WME). Warren Miller Films, the production arm of WME, is recognized worldwide as a premier source for action/adventure sports, exotic time-lapse scenes, rare wildlife footage and intense dramatic cinematography. WME plans to take advantage of Thought Equity's motion footage licensing infrastructure to accelerate its online distribution strategy for its footage archive.



Takes and Sound Fulfill Celluloid Dreams

Celluloid Dreams acquired the international sales rights for feature documentary Touch the Sound, winner of the Critics Week Prize at the Locarno Film Festival, and for The Take, written by Naomi Klein and directed by Avi Lewis.

Touch the Sound , directed and produced by Thomas Riedelsheimer (Rivers and Tides), is an expedition into the world of sound with the most unlikely of guides, a woman who is profoundly deaf. Evelyn Glennie is an internationally renowned classical percussionist for whom her conversation with the drums is felt through every sense in her body. Celluloid Dreams' Managing Director Charlotte Mickie believes that the film "Illuminates you. You rediscover your senses and your humanity."

Filmed in lush 35mm, Sound was produced by Filmquadrat GbR, Munich, Germany, and Skyline Productions Ltd, Edinburgh and financed by Scottish Screen, FFF Bayern, FFA, BKM, NRW Filmbüro, BR (Bavarian Television), Arte, and YLE (Finnish Television).

The Take made its international debut in the new Digital Section of the Venice International Film Festival. Earlier this year it was received with unanimous kudos at its Canadian national debut at Hot Docs. Against the backdrop of Argentina's historic economic collapse, the film chronicles the extraordinary story of workers and activists who take back their bankrupted businesses and run them without bosses. To reclaim their lives and their dignity, they first have to face down the former owners, the trigger-happy police, and, in the midst of national elections, the prospect of a repressive government returning to power.

The film is produced by Barna-Alper Inc. and Klein-Lewis Productions, in co-production with the National Film Board of Canada, and in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Oil On Ice Documentary and WebDVD Production Complete

Filmmakers Dale Djerassi and Bo Boudart, in association with Lobitos Creek Ranch (, have completed production of Oil on Ice, a multi-faceted media project about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the controversy over drilling for oil there. An effort to inform viewers about the connections between oil, the environment and America's energy future, the project includes a one-hour documentary film, four-minute exhibition video, WebDVD and website. Sierra Club Productions lent support to the creation of the WebDVD's grassroots action components and is helping to market the project.    

Deals for Docs in Toronto

Documentaries fared well at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival, where a number of nonfiction films found distribution. Susan Kaplan's Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family landed theatrical and DVD distribution with THINKFilm. The deal was brokered by Josh Braun of Submarine Entertainment on behalf of the filmmakers and Randy Manis for THINKFilm. The film was produced in association with Bravo, where it will have its broadcast premiere.

Among the other docs set for release by the company are Ross Kaufman'and Zana Briski's Born Into Brothels, Matt Mahurin's I Like Killing Flies, Vikram Jayanti's Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine, Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou's Genesis and Barry Avrich's The Last Mogul, about the late Hollywood power broker Lew Wasserman.

Fine Line Features purchased worldwide rights to James Stern and Adam Del Deo's The Year of the Yao, the documentary about NBA Houston Rockets big man Yao Ming. The film Yao through one of the most exciting rookie debuts in NBA history. Executive producers are Adam Silver, Gregg Winik, Bill Sanders with co-executive producer Larry Weitzman. The production company is Endgame Entertainment/NBA Entertainment. The deal was negotiated on behalf of Fine Line Features by Carolyn Blackwood with Guy Stodel and Sejin Park, and on behalf of the film by James Stern and Adam Del Deo with Rick Hess and Roeg Sutherland of CAA.<

Russell Short Doc To Be Released With Uncovered

David O. Russell's Soldiers Pay, which was scheduled to be screened this fall with the Warner Bros. re-release of the 1999 Gulf War film Three Kings, has found a new home with Cinema Libre Studio. The company released the film in October conjunction with Robert Greenwald's Uncovered: The War on Iraq. The short doc will also be included as part of the Uncovered DVD release.

With a budget of  $207,000, and directed by Russell, Tricia Regan and Juan Carlos Zaldîvar, the film features interviews with Iraqi refugees, human-rights officials and veterans of the current war on Iraq. After scrapping the short doc, Warner Bros. gave Russell back the rights to his film, not wanting to get involved with a "political opinion" doc before the November election.

Said Greenwald in a statement, "I am excited to participate in this double bill that serves the audience. Both films take you inside the government speaking out about distortion of information and David Russell's powerful personal story of the toll war takes on those who have to fight it."


Moore's Doc Blockbuster Turns Up the Heat at Home

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment released Michael Moore's electrifying, critically acclaimed Fahrenheit 9/11 on DVD and VHS in October. The DVD includes extra footage and features added to foster a better understanding of the context in which Moore's highly political film was made.

The film, which documents the Bush administration's involvement in the current Iraqi conflict, includes such bonuses as a montage of images of Iraqis on the eve of the invasion, accounts from Iraqi eyewitnesses, Condoleezza Rice's 9/11 Commission testimony and an extended interview with Sgt. Abdul Henderson.

Fahrenheit 9/11 is distributed by Lion's Gate Films, IFC Films and the Fellowship Adventure Group.

Facets Looks at All Sides of Christianity

This October, Facets Video released on DVD Origin of Christianity, an extensive, 10-hour investigation of the birth of the Christian faith.  The four-disc special edition sparked a storm of controversy when it was originally released in France by Arte Video. Featured on the covers of national magazines and the subject of intense debate, Origin of Christianity quickly became Arte's  best-selling DVD title of all time. The program, produced by filmmakers-scholars Gérard Mordillat and Jérôme Prieur, is primed to take advantage of New Testament-themed successes such as Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and Dan Brown's best-selling book, The Da Vinci Code.

 Prieur and Mordillat, authors of Jesus after Jesus, spent over three years assembling and interviewing 23 of the world's most astute historians, archeologists and writers on religion to probe the emergence of Christianity. They bring to their lucid discussions state-of-the-art research into the most explosive issues in the Christian world, including: Did Jesus found the Church? Is Jesus God? Did Jesus have siblings? What is the relationship between Judaism and Christianity? And who was the Apostle Paul, and was he the true founder of the Church?

Music Doc Series Finding World Wide Audiences

As reported by, Planet Rock Profiles is doing well worldwide. The Biography Channel in the UK has taken on a number of new episodes of the music documentary series, and Zebra in Australia has picked up 50 episodes for broadcast on the cdp Music channel in China. Among those profiled in the series are Beyoncé, Tom Jones, Macy Gray and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Monster Distributes will have 100 episodes of Planet Rock Profiles available at MIPCOM. The series airs in some 1200 countries and on 46 airlines. In the UK it broadcasts on ITV.


The Germans will be learning a lot more about the powers of myth and nature. According to, Munich-based Telecast Media Group has signed two license deals with German networks for two doc series it represents.  RTL2 has licensed Mythbusters, a six-part documentary series which airs in the United States on Discovery Channel, from Beyond Productions of Australia. AB Group's new Terranova Channel has made a deal for Los Angeles' GRB Entertainment's Storm Warning. The 28-episode series explores the force of nature in its most tumultuous state. reported several new deals for Granada International. The company has made investments in two new UK Independent Tigress Productions projects. The Dolphin Murders is a 50-minute special that explores the mysterious deaths of dolphins on the Scottish coastline. Snowflake, commissioned by WNET, tells the story of a white gorilla, Snowflake, who died last year. Both programs are expected to be available at the end of the year. Granada has also licensed the ITN documentary The Forgotten Kingdom: Prince Harry in Lesotho to ABC News. The special follows Prince Harry as he travels to Lesotho to raise awareness about the AIDS crisis, and will be broadcast as part of Primetime Live this fall.


IFP/New York announced in August that it was distributing $50,000 in grants to a total of five documentary projects in development. These projects represent the first awards through the newly re-launched Anthony Radziwill Documentary Fund. The grants, open to US-based producers and directors, were created to provide "seed funding" to new non-fiction work at the earliest stages of development, traditionally a difficult point at which to secure funding. The five projects selected for the $10,000 seed grants are Banished: How Whites Drove Blacks out of Town in America, Oriana Zill and Marco Williams, directors; Gambian Marriage, Marlo Poras, director; Heat Wave: An Unnatural Disaster, Judith Helfand, director; The Lord of Light, Diane Bernard, director; and The Trials of Darryl Hunt, Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern, directors.

"We hope that by putting funding directly into projects at the proposal stage, it will encourage other funders with deeper pockets to step up and support these projects so that they can go into active production," says Michelle Byrd, executive director of IFP/New York, in a statement. The Fund is named in memory of the late Anthony Radziwill, an Emmy Award-winning documentary producer, and was originally established in 2000 as part of the IFP Gotham Awards by Lee Radziwill and current IFP/New York board member Carole Radziwill. At that juncture, the award honored emerging documentary filmmakers from New York's own community. The Fund now awards up to 10 development grants annually over two six-month grant cycles and seeks applicants from across the country. Guidelines and on-line applications are available at  

The Sundance Institute Documentary Fund announced its second round of grants for 2004.  Eleven feature-length documentary films, selected from over 400 submissions, will receive a total of $435,000.  The Fund, established at the Sundance Institute in 2002 by a grant from the Open Society Institute, is dedicated to supporting U.S. and international documentary films and videos that focus on current human rights issues, freedom of expression, social justice, and civil liberties.

Grants were awarded to the following: Work In Progress Grants: Natalia Almada, Unted States: Al Otro Lado (To The Other Side); Raed Andon, Palestinei: Improvisation; Eugene Jarecki, United States: Why We Fight; Anne Makepeace, United States: Refugee Dreams; Nicole Newnham and David Grabias, United States: Sentenced Home; Dennis O'Rourke, Australia: Land Mines: A Love Story; Leslie Woodhead, UK: Hasan's War; and Anat Zuria, Israel: Sentenced to Marriage. Development Grants: Renata Gritskova, Belarus: After; Sabiha Sumar, Pakistan: Musharraf's Destiny. Supplemental Grants: Mercedes Moncada,  Nicaragua/Spain: The Immortal.

2004 Emmy Winners in the News and Documentary Categories include: Outstanding Coverage of a Current News Story—Long Form: Battle of the X-Planes (Sen. Exec. Prod.: Paula S. Apsell; prod.: Michael Jorgensen; Sen. Ser. Prod.: Melanie Wallace-NOVA, PBS); Outstanding Investigative Journalism—Long Form: The Burden of Innocence (Exec. Prod.: David Fanning; prod.: Ofra Bikel-FRONTLINE, PBS); Outstanding Informational Programming-Long Form: Watergate Plus 30: Shadow of History (Exec. Prods.: Richard Clemmow, John Lindsay; Prod.: Sherry Jones; Co-Prod.: Marijo Dowd/PBS); Outstanding Historical Programming-Long Form: The Center of the World (Exec. Prods.: Mark Samels, Margaret Drain, Ric Burns, Donald Rosenfeld; Prods.: Ric Burns, Marilyn Ness-AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, PBS); Outstanding Cultural & Artistic Programming—Long Form: Spellbound,  (Exec. prod.: Sheila Nevins; Sup. Prods.: Julie Anderson, Lisa Heller; Prods.: Jeffrey Blitz, Sean Welch-CINEMAX REEL LIFE: Cinemax); Outstanding Science, Technology And Nature Programming: The Pill (Prods.: Chana Gazit, David J. Steward-AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, PBS); and Wolf Pack (Exec. Prod.: David Royle; Sen. Prod.: Jon Goodman; Sup. Prods.: Kevin McCarey, Bruce Norfleet, Kathryn Pasternak; Prod.: Bob Landis-NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORER, MSNBC); Best Documentary: Be Good, Smile Pretty (Exec. Prods.: Chris Donahue, Sally Jo Fifer; Prods.: Tracy Droz Tragos, Randy Mason, Michael Murphy-INDEPENDENT LENS, PBS).

Awardees in the Craft categories include: Writing: Russia Land of the Tsars (Don Campbell; History Channel); Directing: In the Name of God: Scenes from the Extreme (Dan Setton, Helmar Buechel; CINEMAX REEL LIFE, Cinemax); Research: Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony (Lee Hirsch, Sherry Simpson Dean; CINEMAX REEL LIFE, Cinemax); Cinematography: Blood From A Stone (Scott Duncan; History Channel) and Killer Cats of the Kalahari (David Hughes, Carol Hughes; NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ULTIMATE EXPLORER, MSNBC); Editing: The Elegant Universe With Brian Greene (Jonathan Sahula, Dick Bartlett; NOVA, PBS); and Music and Sound: April 1865 (Rick Krizman, Jim Faraci; History Channel).

The Primetime Emmy winners in the Non-Fiction categories include: Outstanding Non-Fiction Special: The Forgetting: A Portrait of Alzheimer's (Exec. Prod.: Naomi S. Boak; Prod.: Elizabeth Arledge—PBS; Outstanding Non-Fiction Series: American Masters (Exec. Prods.: Susan Lacy, George Feltenstein, Roger Mayer; Sup. Prod.: Julie Sacks; Ser. Prod.: Prudence Glass; Prods.: Susan Lacy, John Fricke).


At the Rhode Island Film Festival, the prize for Best Documentary went to Patrick Shen's Flight From Death: Quest for Immortality, an analysis of society's relationship with death. Dr. Maryanne Galvin's documentary The Pursuit of Pleasure, a look at modern feminism, took home the special Providence Film Festival award.

Morgan Spurlock cleaned up again at the Edinburgh Film Festival, winning the Guardian New Director's Award for Super Size Me, his funny, informative fast food doc. Jim Hickey's And So Goodbye won the Saltire Society Grierson Award for Short Documentary.

Director/producer Scott Dalton won the Documentary Feature Director Award at the 2004 IFP Market for his film La Sierra, which follows the lives of three young people in a small neighborhood in Medellin, Colombia, which is ruled by a gang of young men affiliated with Colombia's illegal paramilitary armies. The award includes $10,000 in cash.


Film/Video Arts Searching for New Exec Director

Film/Video Arts, New York City's largest nonprofit media arts center, is searching for a new executive director. Eileen Newman has stepped down after six years of leadership, and F/VA board member Paul Kontonis is serving as acting executive director while the organization begins its search. Kontonis is a partner and marketing strategist of For Your Imagination, a design and marketing group that consults to the film and entertainment industries.

Current programs of F/VA include year-round hands-on affordable classes for independent filmmakers, fiscal sponsorship for independent producers who need nonprofit status in order to accept donations, post-production services and the Artist Mentor Project, which matches emerging producers with professional guidance, encouragement and production resources.

Palmer Joins MFF

Chris Palmer has joined MacGillivray Freeman Films as vice president of special projects and director of the MFF Educational Foundation, a newly created position at the company. Palmer was formerly President of National Wildlife Productions at National Wildlife Federation. Palmer stepped down from that position on July 30 in order to found and direct the new Center for Environmental Filmmaking at the School of Communication at American University in Washington, DC. He will continue to direct the center in addition to serving at MFF.

Said Greg MacGillivray in a statement, "Over the past five years we have worked with Chris on two successful film projects, Dolphins and Coral Reef Adventure, and in that time, we have grown to love and respect Chris' prodigious mind, his warmth and generosity of spirit and his steadfast dedication to protecting the environment."