Short Takes, February-March 2005

NEWS BRIEFS

Kodak Moves Forward With Digital Initiative

Eastman Kodak Company is taking a major step forward in its goal of making high-quality digital cinema available for motion picture exhibitors around the world with the Kodak Digital Cinema Solution for Feature Presentations, a bundled package of hardware, software and support services.

The core of the package is a unique Kodak CineServer, which includes proprietary color technology and image science to deliver high quality images to the screen. Bill Doeren, general manager of Kodak Digital Cinema, emphasized that Kodak sees digital cinema as a whole new process that involves preparation, distribution and display of movies in a new way.

Services include preparation of Digital Source Master files by LaserPacific, a Kodak company. The digital content is transferred to a hard disc drive or DVD-ROM, which are distributed to cinemas. The disks are loaded into the Kodak CineServer, which decrypts and decompresses the movie and sends it to a cinema-grade digital projector to play on the theatre screen. All components can be connected to the Kodak network, which serves as a vital communications link, and also provides security keys to protect against piracy.

Flaherty 2005 Announces History Theme

The 51st Robert Flaherty Film Seminar will be held June 11-18, 2005, at the Claremont Colleges, Claremont, California. Guest curators Jesse Lerner and Michael Renov will program the seminar around the theme of "Cinema and History." Celebrating half a century of service to the independent film field, the Flaherty Seminar is a unique forum that brings together US and international media artists, critics, scholars, curators, librarians and students, who spend a week of intensive viewing and impassioned discussion in a relaxed retreat environment.

Within the broad theme of "Cinema and History," the seminar will analyze the construction of historical representation through a program of works by makers who engage questions of historiography, memories, reconciliation with the past and histories revised or recovered. The films screened over the course of the week will approach history with a wide variety of strategies, perspectives and concerns, including re-creation, the re-use of archival documents and images, and the exorcisms of past ghosts.

Library of Congress Doles Out $3 Million for Digital Preservation

Thirteen/WNET New York has been awarded close to $3 million by the Library of Congress for Preserving Digital Public Television, a new three-year planning project that will set the groundwork for preserving digital television programming.

Joining Thirteen as partners on the project are public broadcaster WGBH Boston, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and New York University. All four institutions will work together to plan standards, procedures and facilities that will lead to creating a long-term preservation archive for public television programming produced in digital formats.

"Public television programs such as Great Performances, NOVA, Nature and Frontline are important cultural artifacts," said Ken Devine, vice president and chief technology officer for Thirteen, said in a statement. "Preserving them is an important legacy for the future, but because the digital environment is so new, we don't know the best way to protect them yet. Just as programs on videotape can be lost without proper storage or playback equipment, in their own way, programs in digital formats are in just as much danger-without proper plans for long-term preservation, storage and playback, they, too, could easily disappear forever."

The project is the first step in dealing with this issue. It will inventory the at-risk program materials held at each public television organization, establish criteria and procedures for creating the archive, research technology issues and outline operating policies for a cooperative facility. The next stage after this planning will be to make such an archive operational.

NYU's Tisch School of the Arts recently launched a Masters Program in the Moving Image Archiving and Preservation. "We are enthusiastic about lending our considerable expertise to facilitate standard-setting for public television's digital archives," said Dean of Libraries Carol Mandel in a statement. "We could not be more pleased than to be supporting the creation of such an important new facility."

Tax Bill to Help Indie Filmmakers

As reported in Variety, President George W. Bush signed a massive tax bill at the end of October that could benefit low budget film producers. The bill contained a provision that enables producers to write off in a single year the costs of a film budgeted at $1 million - $15 million, if 75 percent of that budget is spent in the US.

While the provision does not seem to help out the studios, it could possibly allow individual investors in a film investment fund to take advantage of the one-year write off.

THE POPCORN GALLERY

THINKFilm To Release Wine and Chess Docs

THINKFilm released Vikram Jayanti's feature documentary Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine in New York City this past December. The film tells the story of the match between chess genius Gary Kasparov and Deep Blue, the now infamous supercomputer that IBM built to beat the man.

Also on THINKFilm's release slate is director Jonathan Nossiter's documentary Mondovino, currently scheduled for a March 2005 opening. The film joins the elite club of nonfiction films that have been shown in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. The film stirred up quite a bit of controversy in France, where it was released in November 2004, because of its critique of the Bordeaux wine industry and American journalists' questionable involvement.

Nossiter, best known for his 1997 feature Sunday, is also a sommelier, consultant and wine-writer. Mondovino was filmed across three continents, in five languages, over a three-year period. The filmmaker weaves together multiple family and multi-generational sagas, and uncovers a complex tapestry of rivalries, alliances, conflicts and conspiracies all stemming from the production, distribution and consumption of wine.

Miramax Gets Deep Blue of Its Own

Miramax has acquired US rights for Deep Blue (Alastair Fothergill, Andy Byatt, dirs.; Alix Tidmarsh, Sophokles Tasioulis, Nikolaus Weil, prods.), the feature-length documentary from BBC Worldwide and Greenlight Media based on the hit series The Blue Planet. The film has earned more than $25 million at the box office since its release in Summer 2004, breaking Japan's single-theater admission record and becoming Germany's best-selling documentary feature.

Wild Parrots Flies to the Screen

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, a documentary by Judy Irving, will wing into theaters in New York City on February 11, 2005, and in Los Angeles one month later. The film is the true story of a Bohemian St. Francis and his remarkable relationship with a flock of wild green-and-red parrots. Mark Bittner, a homeless street musician in San Francisco, falls in with the flock as he searches for meaning in his life, unaware that the wild parrots will bring him everything he needs.

COMING TO A SMALL SCREEN NEAR YOU...

Recent DVD releases from Docurama include the critically-acclaimed My Flesh and Blood. Jonathan Karsh's moving film tells the story of Susan Tom, a single mother who has chosen to raise 11 children with special needs ranging from mental to physical disabilities. High School Boot Camp, released in November, takes viewers through an intensive, six-month drill at the Eagle Academy, a high school boot camp for at-risk adolescents. The film was directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Chuck Braverman and won the DGA award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary.

First Run Features released Martin Doblmeier's Thomas Jefferson: A View from the Mountain on DVD this past November. The film explores Jefferson and his personal and public dilemma about race and his paradoxical relationship with slavery using dozens of his original letters, excerpts from manuscripts, period newspapers, his will, painted images, political cartoons and interviews with historians.

Also from First Run comes director Michael Apted's The Up Series. Starting in 1964 with Seven Up, Apted interviewed 14 children from diverse backgrounds from all over England, asking them about their lives and dreams for the future. Every seven years, he has come back to talk to the same subjects, exploring the progression of their lives in an extraordinary look at the structure of life in the 20th century.

Go-Kart Films released Michael Galinsky's Horns and Halos on DVD this past October. The film captures the unlikely connection of three men-an ex-con turned celebrity biographer, a janitor cum underground publisher and US President George W. Bush- whose paths to power and popularity become tangled in a controversial book.

New Day Films has acquired nine new award-winning documentary films, including: Goro Toshima's A Hard Straight; Debra Wilson's Butch Mystique; In the Name of Love by Shannon O'Rourke; Lexi Laban and Lidia Szajko's Girl Trouble; Jesse Epstein's Wet Dreams and False Images; Beverly Seckinger's Laramie Inside Out; Pam Walton's Liberty: 3 Stories about Life & Death; and Deidre Fishel's Still Doing It: The Intimate Lives of Women Over 65. New Day is a distribution company owned and operated by 50 filmmakers.

AWARDS ROUND UP

The following feature documentaries appeared on the Short List, from which five films will be nominated for the Academy Award: Born into Brothels (Zana Briski, Ross Kauffman, dirs./prods.); Home of the Brave (Paola di Florio, dir.; Nancy Dickerson, prod.); Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train (Deb Ellis, Dennis Mueller, dirs.); In the Realms of the Unreal (Jessica Yu, dir./prod.; Susan West, prod.); Riding Giants (Stacy Peralta, dir.; Agi Orsi, Jane Kachmer, prods.); The Ritchie Boys (Christian Bauer, dir.); The Story of the Weeping Camel (Byambasuen Dayaa, Luigi Falomi, dirs.); Super Size Me (Morgan Spurlock, dir.; The Con, prod.); Tell Them Who You Are (Mark S. Wexler, dir./prod.); Touching the Void (Kevin MacDonald, dir.); Tupac: Resurrection (Lauren Lazin, dir./prod.; Preston Holmes, Karolyn Ali, prods.);
Twist of Faith (Kirby Dick, dir.).

The following short documentaries appeared on the Academy Award Short List: Autism Is a World (Gerardine Wurzburg, dir./prod.); Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story (Jordan Mechner, dir./prod.; Don Normark, Andrew B. Andersen , Mark Moran, prods.); Hardwood (Hubert davis, dir.; Erin Faith Young, Peter Starr, prods.); Mighty Times Volume 2: The Children's March (Bobby Houston, Robert Hudson, dirs./prods.); Ninth November Night (Henning Lohner, dir./prod.; Gisela Guttman, prod.); Sister Rose's Passion (Oren Jacoby, dir./prod.; Steve Kalafer, Peter LeDonne, prods.); When the Storm Came (Shilpi Gupta, dir./prod.).

The Agronomist, produced and directed by Jonathan Demme, and produced by Peter Saraf and Bevin McNamara, won the IFP Gotham Award for Best Documentary.

The IFP Independent Spirit Awards nominations for Best Documentary are the following: Bright Leaves, Director: Ross McElwee; Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed, Director: Shola Lynch; Hiding and Seeking: Faith and Tolerance After the Holocaust, Directors: Menachem Daum and Oren Rudavsky; Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, Directors: Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky; Tarnation, Director: Jonathan Caouette. The IFP DirectTV/IFC Truer Than Fiction Award nominees are Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman for Born Into Brothels; Shola Lynch for Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed; Jehane Noujaim for Control Room; and Carlos Sandoval and Catherine Tambini for Farmingville.

The British Independent Film Award for Best Documentary went to Touching the Void (Kevin Macdonald, dir.)

The Academy Foundation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has allocated $300,000 to 25 US film festivals for calendar year 2005 programming, Festival Grants Committee Chair Gale Anne Hurd announced. Grant recipients include: the AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival, the Seattle International Film Festival, the Fort Lauderdale (Florida) International Film Festival, Hawaii International Film Festival, New Directors/New Films (New York City), Palm Springs International Film Festival, Sarasota (Florida) Film Festival, Chicago International Latino Film Festival, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival (Durham, North Carolina), San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival, Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival (Urbana, Illinois), St. Louis International Film Festival, Amnesty International Film Festival (West Hollywood, California, and four additional cities), Fresno (California) REEL Pride International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, KidFilm Festival (Dallas), MadCat Women's International Film Festival (San Francisco), Maine International Film Festival (Waterville, Maine), Roxbury Film Festival (Boston), Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival (Birmingham, Alabama), Washington (DC) Jewish Film Festival, Antelope Valley Independent Film Festival (Lancaster , California), Cine Los Americas International Film Festival (Austin, Texas), and the Kansas City (Missouri) Filmmakers Jubilee. In addition to these grants, a separately-funded grant of $50,000 a year for three years to the Telluride Film Festival was announced recently by the committee.

FESTIVALS WRAP

At International Documentary FilmFestival Amsterdam (IDFA), the VPRO Joris Ivens Award for Best Long Documentary went to Shape of the Moon (Leonard Retel Helmrich, The Netherlands). A Special Jury Award was given to Liberia: An Uncivil War (Jonathan Stack and James Brabazon, USA), while Georgi and the Butterflies (Andrey Paonov, Bulgaria) picked up the Silver Wolf Award for Best Short Documentary. Podul Peste Tisa (Ileana Stanculescu, Romania) picked up the First Appearance Award for Best Debut, while the Amnesty International DOEN Award went to The 3 Rooms of Melancholia (Pirjo Honkasalo, Finalnd). The Yes Men (Dan Ollman, Sarah Price, Chris Smith, ISA) took the Audience Award, while the DOCU! Award for Best Young People's Film was given to Nabila (Hakan Beryhas and Johan Bjerknewr, Sweden)

Jonathan Caouette won the The Sutherland Trophy at the London Film Festival, awarded to the director of the "Most Original and Imaginative First Feature," for Tarnation.  

Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman's Born Into Brothels won the top award from the documentary jury at the Chicago Film Festival. The Silver Hugo for Best Documentary was awarded to Stephen Marshall's Battleground: 21 Days on the Empire's Edge, produced by the Guerilla News Network. The Gold Plaque for Best Documentary Feature was awarded to The 10th District Court / 10e chambre - Instants d'audience (France), directed by Raymond Depardon. The Silver Plaque for Best Documentary Feature was awarded to The Souvenirs of Mr. X / Die Souvenirs des Herrn X (Austria), directed by Arash T. Riahi, and a Gold Plaques was awarded to Greg Samata's "The Hot 8" (USA) for Documentary Short Film. The DocuFest Jury featured film writer Glenn Myrent, Greg Rhem (USA) and filmmaker and writer/consultant Fernanda Rossi.

The Brizzolara Family Inspirational Film Award at the Hamptons International Film Festival went to The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, by filmmaker Keith Beauchamp. Daniel Anker's Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust won the Audience Prize for Best Documentary.

WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception, by writer/director Danny Schechter, won the Maysles Brothers Award for Best Documentary at the Denver International Film Festival. Leslie Sullivan's A Touch of Greatness won the Audience Award in the documentary category.

The Best Documentary prize at the Savannah Film Festival went to Mara Wallis' Entertaining Vietnam.

Catriona McKenzie's Mr. Patterns won the Hawaii International Film Festival's Golden Maile Award for Best Documentary. Steve Ma'i'i won the Blockbuster Video Audience Award for Best Documentary Film.

CHANGES AT THE HELM

Freccero Exits Sundance Channel

As reported in IndieWIRE, Paola Freccero, the senior vice president of film programming at the Sundance Channel over the past three years, left the network at the end of the year. She is forming her own independent consulting business, retaining Sundance Channel as a client, while working with other companies. Christian Vesper, vice president of acquisitions, will move into Freccerro's position in the interim.

INdTV Names Senior Management Team

As reported by WorldScreen.com, former Disney executive David Neuman and Teen People's founding publisher Anne Zehren have been chosen to head up programming and sales and marketing respectively at INdTV, the cable channel acquired by Al Gore and a group of investors from Vivendi Universal.

Neuman was most recently the chief programming officer at CNN. Previous experience includes a four year stint as the president of programming at Channel One Network, and time at NBC and 20th Century Fox.

Prior to her tenure at Teen People, Zehren was the associate publisher/marketing at Glamour magazine.

Loughney Appointed Curator of Eastman House Museum

Dr. Patrick Loughney, head of moving images at the Library of Congress, has been named to the position of curator of motion pictures for the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film. Loughney has worked with the motion picture collections of the Library of Congress for more than 25 years.

In addition to his curator post, he will also hold the position of director of the Eastman House's L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation, the country's first school of film preservation, and have teaching responsibilities in film studies in the English Department at the University of Rochester.

At George Eastman House, Loughney will oversee a motion picture collection of 3.6 million artifacts, featuring one of the world's most important and unique collections of silent films; the largest collection of Technicolor negatives and the personal collections of Cecil B. DeMille, Martin Scorsese, Ken Burns and Spike Lee, among others. George Eastman House is one of the country's five major film archives, along with the Library of Congress, UCLA Film and Television Archive, Museum of Modern Art and the Academy Film Archive.

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