Short Takes, July / August 2001
IDA, LA Schools Team for “Docs Rock”
Last May, the IDA Outreach program and the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs department collaborated with the Los Angeles Unified School District in bringing documentaries to the schools—in this particular case, San Pedro High School in southernmost point of Los Angeles. In an event at San Pedro’s Warner Grand Theatre entitled “Docs Rock,” filmmakers Paul Espinosa and Arthur Dong presented their respective films, The Lemon Grove Incident and Licensed to Kill, and fielded questions from the students. This was a kickoff event to a class that starts in September on Documentary Films and Filmmaking at San Pedro High School.
Many thanks to the Docs Rock team— Kyle Button, Jacquie Augustus, Deborah Claesgens, Dr. John Ramirez, Tony Saavedra and Thelma Vickroy—for spearheading this important effort.
Academy Film Archive to Move to Hollywood
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced in May that it had purchased a former television studios building in Hollywood that would be the future home of the Academy Film Archive.
The 118,000 square-foot building will also house the Academy Players Directory, a 300-seat screening room, and 15,000 square feet of storage for collections of the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library. The building most recently housed the operations of Aids Project Los Angeles.
Renovation of the building is underway and is projected to be completed by May 2002. The Academy Archive is currently housed at the Academy’s Center for Motion Picture Study, which has proved to be inadequate in terms of storage space. “We’ve had to be unusually careful about our acquisitions because of the space problem,” said Film Archive Director Michael Pogorzelski in a prepared statement. “But even so, we’ve added significantly to the collections in recent years and we look forward to a greatly expanded program of acquisition, preservation and restoration.”
History Channel Airs Vietnam Doc on Helicopter Pilots
The History Channel aired The Personal Experience: Helicopter Warfare in Vietnam last June. Producer/writer Richard Jellerson was himself an Army helicopter pilot in Vietnam for two years, and he secured the cooperation of the Army, the National Guard and the Offices of the Chief of Public Affairs in Los Angeles for the production.
The documentary features interviews with pilots and crew members, as well as previously unseen Vietnam era Super8 mm footage filmed by the helicoptor crews themselves.
New Yorker Films recently secured US distribution rights to Sandi DuBowski’s Trembling Before G-d, which explores the personal stories of Hasidic or Orthodox Jews who are gay or lesbian. The film earned the Teddy Award for Best Documentary at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival. The film will screen at festivals in Jerusalem, Karlovy Vary, Pusan and Melbourne. Theatrical release is scheduled for October 2001.
Dogtown and Z-Boys, the multi-award winning skateboarding documentary from Stacy Peralta, was recently picked up by Sony Pictures Classics for a 2002 release.
Steven Cantor’s Bounce: Behind the Velvet Rope, which won the Audience Award at the 2000 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, debuted on Showtime last month. The doc profiles an international cross-section of nightclub bouncers.
The Australian Film Financing Corporation announced in May that it would fund the following documentaries: Black Chics Talking—Bain Stewart, producer; Leah Purcell and Brendan Fletcher, directors/writers; The Dinosaur Dealers—Andrew Ogilvie, producer; Alan Carter, director/writer; Eye of the Tiger—Brian Beaton and Celia Tait, producers; Tosca Looby, director; Ghosts of the Forest—Norm Wilkinson, producer/director; Jaimie Leonarder—Karena Slaninka, producer; Brendan Young, director; Landscapes of the Mind—Sophie Jackson, producer; Sean O’Brien, director/writer; Waves of Change—Bill Leimback and Richard Flax, producers/directors; Gulpilil—Tom Zubrycki, producer; Darlene Johnson, director/writer; The King of Belle-Ile—Albie Thoms, producer/director.
Discovery Networks International recently announced the winners of its First Time Filmmakers initiative in Asia. Discovery fielded more than 400 proposals for this initiative, and the six winners will be funded by DNI and will air on Discovery Channel in Asia in late 2001. Discovery called for proposals of projects that addressed themes on the impact of technology and innovation on the lives of people in Asia. The winning proposals were Tan Pin Pin: This Beautiful House (Singapore); Mohd Naguib Razak: The Boat-maker and the Sea (Malaysia); Kidlat de Guia: Trojan Box (Philippines); Chandra Tanzil: Yadi (Indonesia); Prakhan Chalaemkhet: When Technology and Innovation Enter the Dharma Practice Zone (Thailand); and Chung-Chiang Yeh: Cultural Preservation through Technology (Taiwan).
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the finalists for the 28th Annual Student Academy Awards competition. The finalists in the documentary category are Green: Laura Dunn, University of Texas, Austin; Homers: Sophie Goodhart, New York University; In Between Days: Lori Lovoy-Goran, University of Southern California; Losing Your Grip: A Family's Battle with ALS: F. Hatton Littman, Boston University; The Playroom: Rafael Del Toro, New York University; Undesirables Marianna Yarovskaya, University of Southern California; XXXY: Porter Gale and Laleh Soomekh, Stanford University.
The winners of the British Academy of Film and Television Awards in the documentary and factual categories are the following: Factual Series—Britain at War in Colour (ITV); Best Documentary—True Stories – 100% White (Channel 4); News & Current Affairs—Out of Africa (Channel 4); Specialized Program or Series—Howard Goodall’s Big Bangs (Channel 4).
Doctors’ Diaries, produced by Neil Moreno of Blizzard Productions and executive produced by Bnntv, recently won a Telly Award for one of its episodes. The documentary series, which captures the lives of doctors and patients at the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, NY, airs on The Health Network.
Odyssey Channel Award Goes to Facing the Demons
The Australia-based Odyssey Channel announced last May that Facing the Demons (Aviva Ziegler, director; Dee Cameron, producer) won the Award for Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking. The award was given out as part of the REAL: Life on Film Festival, which focuses on documentaries “with a cultural or human rights theme.” The films in the festival are culled from The Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival and the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, both in New York.
Facing the Demons, which looks at new methods of healing for victims of crime, has also won the United Nations Association Award for Best Television Documentary and a TV Week Logie for Most Outstanding Documentary.
Hollywood Film Festival to Present Hollywood Humanitarian Award to Nobel Laureate
Carlos de Abreu, founder of the Hollywood Film festival, announced in May the first recipient of the Hollywood Humanitarian Award, which will be awarded this summer to José Ramos Horta, the recipient of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize.
“The Hollywood Humanitarian Award is bestowed on an individual for his/her dedication to fighting injustices and creating social change for the improvement of human rights,” de Abreu said in a prepared statement. “We select the recipient for the award from our documentary submissions.”
The documentary component of the festival will screen The Diplomat, a profile of Horta and his 25-year struggle to free his country, East Timor.
The Toronto-based Hot Docs! Film Festival honored the following films: Gold Award for Best Canadian Documentary—My Left Breast: Gerry Rogers, director; Paul Pope, producer. Silver Award for Best Canadian Documentary—Out of the Fire: Shelley Saywell, director/producer. Gold Award for Best International Documentary—Southern Comfort: Kate Davis, director/producers; Elizabeth Adams, producer. Silver Award for Best International Documentary—100% White: Leo Regan, director/producer. Best Documentary in the National Spotlight Programme—Vision Man: William Long, director; Lars Aby, producer. Best First Documentary Award—Alone With War: Danièle Arbid, director; Christian Baute, Jacques-Henri Bronckart, producers; and Living Afterwards: Laurent Bécue-Renard, director; Michel Rotman, executive producer. Best Direction Award—Larry Weinstein (Ravel's Brain). Humanitarian Award—Breakaway: A Tale of Two Survivors: Mathew Welsh, director/producer. Audience Award—Southern Comfort. Special Achievement Award—Don Haig.
The Living Century (Chrstopher Carson and Steve Lathan, producers) won Platinum at WorldFest Houston for Best Television Documentary.
The Audience Award for Best Documentary at the San Francisco International Film Festival went to Promises (Justine Shapiro, B.Z. Goldberg and Carlos Bolado, producers), which also won the Best Bay Area Documentary Award. Kate Davis’ Southern Comfort took the Golden Gate Award for Best Documentary, while Aaron Lubarsky’s Uncle Eugene won the Golden Gate Award for Best Short. Dominique Abel’s Dawn in Granada earned a Certificate of Merit.
Uncle Eugene also won the Best Documentary Short award at the Arizona Film Festival.
At the Los Angeles Italian Film Awards Festival, Marco Amenta’s One Girl Against the Mafia took the Best Documentary award.
Monteith McCollum’s Hybrid took Best Documentary honors at the Bermuda International Film Festival.
Duane Graves won awards for Best Documentary and Best Editing for his film The Up Syndrome at the Williamsburg Brooklyn Film Festival.
The Devil’s Playground, directed by Lucy Walker and produced by Steven Cantor, earned the Grand Prize and the Documentary Prize in the AVI DVCam Fest, sponsored by Sony. The film, which looks at youth in Amish culture, will be screened at AFI Fest 2001 in November.
American Indian Festival Set for 2002 Launch in Los Angeles
Red Crow Creations and The Eyapaha Institute have joined with UCLA American Indian Studies Center to hold “The Hoop of Life,” the first annual Los Angeles American Indian Film, TV and New Media Festival, in 2002. To set the course for the festival, UCLA hosted a series of discussions and screenings in May, as well as a gala benefit dinner to raise completion funds for Floyd Red Crow Westerman’s historical documentary series Exterminate Them! America’s War on Indian Nations.
CHANGES AT THE HELM
Sally Jo Fifer To Lead Independent Television Service (ITVS)
The Independent Television Service (ITVS) recently announced the appointment of Sally Jo Fifer as executive director of the San Francisco-based public television production company. Fifer, who previously headed the Bay Area Video Coalition for nine years, will take the helm at ITVS this August. “Building on ITVS’ 10 years of extraordinary leadership bringing new voices to public television, I am tremendously excited to serve as the next executive director,” Fifer said in a prepared statement.
Fifer has served on funding panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council and co-edited Illuminating Video: An Essential Guide to Video Art. She currently serves on the boards of New Art Trusts and the National Alliance of Media Arts and Culture, and has been on the board of ITVS for two years.
Michael Cascio Picked to Head Animal Planet
Michael Cascio has joined Animal Planet, the Discovery affiliate, as executive vice president and general manager. He replaces Clark Bunting, who now holds the same title at Discovery Channel. Prior to Animal Planet, Cascio was previously vice president, cable programming development at NBC News and senior vice president for programming at A&E.
New Programming Director Named at Canada’s Documentary Channel
Christina Pochmursky has been named programming director at Documentary Channel, the new venture owned and operated by Corus Entertainment, National Film Board of Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Barna-Alper, CineNova, Galafilm and OMNI.
Pochmursky will be charged with acquiring, licensing and commissioning Canadian and international documentaries for the channel. A documentarian herself, she has produced, written and directed Incredible Medical Mysteries: Dwarves—Little People, Big Lives; Women Adventurers; and Jackie: Power and Style.
Nashville Festival Hires SFFF’s Gordon
The Nashville Independent Film Festival recently hired Brian Gordon at executive director. Gordon had previously served as director of the San Francisco International Film Festival’s Golden Gate Awards since 1988. He had also run art cinemas in Cincinnati, Denver, Berekeley and San Francisco. Kelly Brownleee, whom he replaced as interim executive director, will assume the role of festival director.
Arne Sucksdorff, the Father of Swedish Documentaries, Dies at 84
Arne Sucksdorff, the first Swedish filmmaker to win an Academy Award, died in May in his native Stockholm. He had pneumonia.
Sucksdorff shot, wrote directed and even acted in documentaries. Although he studied art and natural history in college, he found his calling in film while taking photographs in Italy. He won and prize for the collection of photos that resulted from that tour, and he bought a movie camera and began a series of short films on natural life in Sweden.
He later made documentaries in India and Brazil, where he lived for nearly 30 years and taught documentary filmmaking for UNESCO. His work with poor children there resulted in the film My Home is Copacabana, which documents the dire poverty that these children lived in.
Sucksdorff earned the Academy Award® in 1949 for his short documentary Rhythms of a City, about life in Stockholm. He later won a British Academy Award and a Cannes Film Festival prize in 1954 for The Great Adventure. He received a lifetime achievement award in 1997 at the Gothenburg International Film Festival.