January 16, 2004

Short Takes, January 2004

ICG Creates Top 10 List

The International Cinematographers Guild (ICG) recognized "the most influential cinematographers in the history of filmmaking" on a Wall of Fame at the Guild's new national headquarters at 7755 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. ICG celebrated its 75th anniversary and commemorated the opening of its new headquarters at a gala event on November 8.

According to a survey of ICG members, the following cinematographers top the list: Billy Bitzer; Jordan Cronenweth, ASC; Conrad L. Hall, ASC; James Wong Howe, ASC; Sven Nykvist, ASC; Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC; Gregg Toland, ASC; Haskell Wexler, ASC; Gordon Willis, ASC; Freddie Young, BSC; and Vilmos Zsigmond.

 "We didn't ask our members to select the most talented or creative cinematographers, because that would be like asking artists to choose between Dali and Rembrandt," says ICG National President George Spiro Dibie, ASC. "We invited them to choose the cinematographers who have done the most to influence the art form. That was still a very difficult decision. More than 300 cinematographers received votes."

 The list features cinematographers whose work spans the history of the industry. Bitzer, Howe, Toland and Young were in the first and second generation of cinematographers who were literally inventing a new visual language. Cronenweth, Hall, Nykvist, Storaro, Wexler, Willis and Zsigmond were in the front ranks of a new wave of filmmakers who transformed the art form beginning in the 1950s. They were "outsiders" with diverse backgrounds and different ways of thinking than the Hollywood cinematographers who worked under contracts at studios. According to ICG Executive Director Bruce Doering, the reasons behind the creation of the list include paying tribute to those who were chosen, and the opportunity to use the platform to draw attention to the largely unrecognized role that cinematographers have played and will continue to play in the future.

AFI and CustomFlix Partner for Distribution

The AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival (AFI FEST) and CustomFlix, the pioneers of on-demand video publishing, have announced a new relationship that enables AFI to offer CustomFlix's independent publishing service to all AFI FEST filmmakers and extend the services offered at the festival. The partnership will give filmmakers the option to make their films available for purchase to over 44,000 festival attendees.

Christian Gaines, director of festivals at AFI, said in a prepared statement, "CutsomFlix's video publishing system enables us to ...easily make the filmmaker's work available on DVD, thus giving filmmakers another outlet to get their films watched, and audiences further opportunity to explore the films at AFI FEST."

David Huerta, VP of business development, CustomFlix, commented that in order to be successful, independent filmmakers need both to have their films promoted to audiences and made easily available for sale. He explained, "The partnership closes the loop for the filmmaker by getting the audience exposed, excited and purchasing the film."

Audience members will be able to pre-order films at the festival as well as online at the CustomFlix AFI website. After the fest, AFI will continue to help promote the films and direct interested buyers to the online showcase.

Court TV Brings Wrongful Convictions to the Small Screen

Court TV is premiering a new series of documentaries based on real-life wrongful convictions. The series stems from a partnership with The Innocence Project, a pro bono legal assistance organization that has assisted in reversing over 100 convictions, often based on DNA evidence. Barry Scheck, one of the attorneys from the O.J. Simpson trial, is one of the co-founders of the organization.

The first doc produced from this partnership, Marvin Anderson's Nightmare: Stories of The Innocence Project, is hosted by Richard Dreyfuss, and was presented at The Hamptons Film Festival in October. Anderson was in jail for 15 years, accused of robbery, abduction and rape in Virginia, and sentenced to 210 years in jail.


Garbus' Girlhood Finds a Home at Wellspring

Liz Garbus' documentary Girlhood has been acquired by Wellspring. The doc tells the moving coming-of-age stories of two troubled yet marvelously self-aware young girls from Baltimore. Shanae, ten years old when she was gang-raped by five boys, responded by drinking and using drugs, and then graduated to murder, with the stabbing death of a friend, at age 11. Megan, whose heroin-addicted mother abandoned her to turn tricks, ran away from ten different foster homes before being arrested for attacking another foster child with a box cutter. Both girls ended up in the Waxter Juvenile Facility, home to Maryland's most violent juvenile offenders. It is here that their journeys really begin.

With unprecedented access to the system and to the complex interior lives of the protagonists, Girlhood follows Shanae and Megan over the next three years of their lives. One of them will graduate from high school fourth in her class, another will find herself trapped by the demon of her upbringing, on the streets of East Baltimore, still searching for salvation.

As reported in indieWire, Wellspring began a limited release of the film this past October, and the company plans to license the film internationally. It will be available in Spring 2004 on video and DVD, and will air on The Learning Channel in 2004.

IFC Sets January Release for Touching the Void

IFC Films is planning a January 2004 release of Touching the Void, from Academy Award-winning director Kevin Macdonald (One Day in September). The feature doc reconstructs the fateful climb Joe Simpson and his mountaineering partner Simon Yates undertook in the Peruvian Andes in 1985.

Trembling Before G-d Hits the Shelves

Sandi Simcha DuBowski's doc about gay and lesbian Hassidic and Orthodox Jews was released on DVD and VHS in October 2003 in the US and Canada. Included are ten mini-movies created by DuBowski that capture and explore the film's social impact.

Says Dubowski, "The stories of the film's impact over the past two and a half years are quite extraordinary and went way beyond what we ever dreamed or imagined. The centerpiece of the DVD's Special Features is a featurette, "Trembling on the Road," about the movement of the film around the world with protests, dialogues, events, screenings and reactions."


The Sundance Institute Documentary Fund has announced the 14 projects that will receive funding grants for 2003. Twice a year, the Fund provides grants to US and international documentary films and videos that focus on current human rights issues, freedom of expression, social justice and civil liberties. In supporting such work, the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund encourages the diverse exchange of ideas crucial to developing an open society, raising public consciousness about human rights abuses and restrictions of civil liberties and fostering an ongoing debate about these issues.

The 14 Sundance Documentary Fund grant recipients are: Work-In-Progress Grants: Daniel Alpert, A Doula Story (USA); Gilles de Maistre, Europe, The Citadel (France); Jason Kohn, (USA); Manda Bala (Send a Bullet) (USA); Alison Maclean, Persons of Interest ((USA); Ellen Perry, Fall of Fujimori (USA);  and Peter Raymont, The World Stopped Watching (Canada). Development Grants: Rebecca Cammisa, Which Way Home (USA); Jon Else, Wonders Are Many (USA); Phil Grabsky, The Boy Who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan (England); Cristina Ibarra and John Valadez, The Last Conquistador (USA); Mercedes Moncada, Tale of Two Brothers (Mexico); and Jonathan Stack, In Pursuit of Liberty (USA). Supplemental Grants: Mark Becker, Romantico (USA); and Hank Rogerson, Shakespeare Behind Bars (USA).

The Roy W. Dean New York Film Grant was awarded to Rebecca Dreyfus for her documentary Stolen: The Search for the Lost Vermeer, a documentary about one of only 35 of the master's surviving works, which was taken from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston heritage. The grant includes a large package of goods and services.

Celebrated news anchor Walter Cronkite was honored with a special Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's News World International in Dublin, Ireland, this past October, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the television news industry.


The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, by Kim Bartley and Donnacha O' Briain, won an honorable mention from Woodstock Film Festival. It also took home the Silver Hugo for Best Documentary Feature at the 39th Chicago International Film Festival Docufest Competition.

The top doc prize at the Chicago fest, the Gold Hugo for Best Documentary Feature, went to Nathaniel Kahn's My Architect (USA). The Gold Plaque for Best Documentary Feature was awarded to Rithy Panh's S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine (France) and Jonathan Demme's The Agronomist (USA). John Cadigan's People Say I'm Crazy (USA) took the Silver Plaque for Best Documentary Feature. Documentary short film winners were Nanni Moretti's The Last Customer (Italy), recipient of the Gold Plaque; and Ted Gesing's Nutria, recipient of the Silver Plaque for his student documentary short.

 At the Atlantic Film Festival, the award for best documentary, a $1,500 prize, went to Jason Young's Animals, with an honorable mention for John Walker's Men of the Deeps. Young's doc also won the award for best cinematography (Jay Ferguson) and the award for music composition (Allen Cole and Darren Arsenault). Walker's doc also won the award for sound design (David Hillier and Alex Salter).


Carroll Named Editor at The Independent

Rebecca Carroll has been named editor of The Independent Film and Video Monthly, the publication of the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers (AIVF). Her previous experiences include a varied combination of film and writing. Carroll earned her degree in literary journalism from Hampshire College in 1992, and has edited for a number of online publications including Africana.com, Contentville.com and The ArtsCouncil Online. She has also written and edited a number of nonfiction books. Her articles have appeared in publications including Elle, Mother Jones, Readerville and Time Out New York. Carroll was also a production assistant at Blackside Productions in 1993, produced segments for the Charlie Rose Show from 1997 to 1998 and programmed for the Newport International Film Festival.