July 1, 2002

Short Takes, July / August 2002


Hi-Def BBC Comes to North America

In a new deal with BBC Worldwide, CineMuse, the leading hi-def production and distribution company, will present a range of BBC landmark programs to audiences in the US and Canada. The programs will be distributed through the CineMuse Network of hi-def sites located at museums, universities and other cultural and educational institutions. The collaboration represents the first agreement by the BBC to bring hi-def programs in science, nature and history to international audiences in this way.

Among the first BBC programs to be available to North American museum and school audiences are Walking with Dinosaurs (a BBC/Discovery Channel/TV & BS Asahi/ProSieben co-production), Walking with Prehistoric Beasts (a BBC/Discovery Channel/TV & BS Asahi/ProSieben co-production), The Blue Planet (Seas of Life) (a BBC/Discovery Channel co-production), Ancient Apocalypse, Great Natural Wonders of the World, Hotel Heliconia, The Life of Birds, The Planets and Space.

The programs were converted to hi-def from both film and video masters using a special process developed by BBC resources. The technique creates visual images that offer superior clarity and color.

VisionTV’s Roberts Pleads for “Green Space”

In a presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in Ottawa, VisionTV President and CEO Bill Roberts told a federal review of the broadcasting industry that the diversity of the Canadian television system is at risk without protection for public service channels. He recommended that Canada's Broadcasting Act should be amended to give formal recognition to these channels, and that policy makers establish a special Foundation Tier in order to provide “green space” for public service broadcasters within the market-driven television environment.

Said Roberts, “Public service channels make an invaluable and irreplaceable contribution to the Canadian broadcasting system. They treat viewers as citizens rather than consumers, and provide for a wealth of strong and vibrant Canadian voices on television. But [they] are also among our industry's most vulnerable players.”

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is currently undertaking a comprehensive study of Canada's broadcasting system.

The term “public service broadcaster” refers to those channels that are mandated to address public rather than commercial interests. This includes the provincial public broadcasters, the CBC specialty networks Newsworld and RDI, and other public policy driven services such as the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and VisionTV. The category might also encompass CPAC, Access Alberta and local broadcasters that provide community programming.

The proposed Foundation Tier for public service broadcasters would be the basic “must-buy” offering from every cable, satellite and wireless distributor in the country - a low-cost package that would give viewers ready access to programming that enriches their experience as Canadians.

National Geographic Goes Hi-Def

National Geographic Film Library (NGTL) has signed with Minneapolis-based HI-WIRE to convert its existing film archives to the increasingly popular high-definition format. HI-WIRE will also handle conversion of current programming and on specific films requested by NGTL clients. The agreement signifies National Geographic’s commitment to ensuring the highest quality and application of its programming and will enable the Film Library to build a fully comprehensive library specifically targeted to the HD market.

“Over the past few years we've seen a significant increase in clients requesting footage in the HD format,” said Matthew White, Vice President, Film Library at National Geographic Television & Film (NGT&F). “Our relationship with HI-WIRE will allow us to utilize this technology to best meet the artistic and commercial needs of our clients.”

In addition to improving the quality of its films, the creation of the HD archive will significantly reduce cost and production time for NGTL clients, from weeks to a matter of days. The move marks an aggressive response to a market where demand for HD is increasing rapidly and confirms NGT&F's confidence in the new technology and its future application for both trade and consumers. National Geographic's Film Library functions as an archive and repository for all NGT&F-produced film and videotape material. The Library catalogues and sells stock footage from NGT&F's Specials, EXPLORER series, Educational Films, and other National Geographic Channel and NGT&F productions.


Happy Birthday, Jimmy Scott

Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew, Matthew Buzzell’s intimate portrait of 76-year-old jazz vocal legend Jimmy Scott, will have its Los Angeles premiere on July 16 at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre. Scott will be in attendance, and will perform the following night—his 77th birthday—at the Hollywood Bowl.

Jimmy Scott: If Only You Knew looks at Scott’s personal and professional hardships and eventual triumphs. Concert footage, interviews with Scott, family, friends, band mates, and scholars offer a detailed view of the artist.

Produced by Buzzell and Brian Gerber, in association with Tree Media Group, the film has screened at the 2002 SXSW Film Festival, 2002 TriBeCa Film Festival, 2002 Atlanta Film and Video Festival and 2002 Florida Film Festival.

Footlong Finds a Home with 7th Art Releasing

7th Art Releasing has picked up worldwide rights for Chris Patak and Gerry Beyer's documentary Footlong. The film documents the hot dog and its influence on American culture, both in the past and currently, through visits to common hot dog stands as well as festivals and historic sites around the country.

In a prepared statement, Beyer explained, “To understand a bicycle, you look at its wheels. To understand a wall you look at each brick. And to understand America, you must look at the hot dog.”

Women Make Movies Acquires Portillo's Senorita Extraviada

Women Make Movies has acquired Lourdes Portillo’s documentary, Señorita Extraviada. The film received the Special Jury Prize in Documentary at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.

Señorita Extraviada tells the haunting story of the over 200 kidnapped, raped and murdered young women of Juárez, Mexico. The murders first came to light in 1993 and young women continue to “disappear” to this day without any hope of bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Lourdes Portillo is a multiple award-winning filmmaker whose films have focused on the search for Latino identity. Senorita Extraviada is the fifth award-winning work from Portillo distributed under the Women Make Movies’ banner. Her body of film work includes After the Earthquake (1979), Columbus On Trial (1993), The Devil Never Sleeps (1996) and Las Madres: The Mothers Of Plaza De Mayo (1985). The recipient of several distinguished grants and awards, including the Rockefeller Foundation Intercultural Film and Video Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the American Film Institute Filmmakers’ Award, Portillo has screened her films have shown to wide acclaim throughout the North America, Latin America and Europe. Women Make Movies is a national nonprofit media arts organization dedicated to the production, promotion, distribution and exhibition of films and videos made by and about women. Established in 1972, Women Make Movies is the largest distributor of women’s films and videos in the world.


2001 Peabody Award Winners include: ABC News Coverage of September 11, 2001 (ABC News, New York); CNN Presents: Beneath the Veil and Unholy War (CNN Productions (Atlanta), Channel 4 International and Hard Cash Productions); America: A Tribute to Heroes (Joel Gallen and the US Broadcast and Cable Networks); American Masters: F. Scott Fitzgerald: Winter Dreams (Thirteen/WNET New York, presented on PBS); Van Cliburn: Playing on the Edge (Peter Rosen Productions, Inc., and KERA-TV, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas); Mzima - Haunt of the Riverhorse (Survival Anglia LTD, UK); The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (The Chiesla Foundation and Cinemax); Still Life with Animated Dogs (Independent Television Service (ITVS) and Paul & Sandra Fierlinger, AR&T Associates, Inc.); Visions of Vine Street (WCPO-TV, Cincinnati, Ohio); WTO Challenge (Television Broadcasts Limited, Hong Kong, SAR, People’s Republic of China); Endgame in Ireland (Brook Lapping Productions for BBC2 in association with WGBH/Boston, RTE [Ireland], La Sept ARTE [France and Germany], SBS [Australia] and YLE [Finland] ); Hell in the Pacific (A Carlton Production in association with The Learning Channel for Channel Four Television); The First Year (Teachers Documentary Project, presented on PBS); My Father's Camera (National Film Board of Canada); WGBH (Boston, Mass.); 60 Minutes II: Memories of a Massacre (CBS News, New York); and Nightline (ABC News, New York).


At the Tribeca Film Festival, Junge’s Chiefs took the best doc prize. Described as Hoop Dreams on the reservation, the film follows a Native-American high school basketball team through two seasons. In the short-subject categories, the best doc prize went to Natalia Almada’s All Water Has a Perfect Memory.

Area K-A Political Fishing by Nadav Harel took Best Documentary at the Brooklyn Film Festival.

The Hudson Waterfront Film Society held its first annual awards competition, the Back East Picture Show, April 25-28 at the Hudson Street Cinemas in Hoboken, NJ. Israel Horovitz's 3 Weeks from Paradise, a documentary concerning a father's fears on September 11, received the nod for best documentary. The film was picked up by Bravo and is set to air on the one-year anniversary of the event.

International Short Film Festival Oberhausen announced its awards for this year’s festival. Mexican filmmaker Luciano Larobina was given the “Principal Prize” for Los Zapatos de Zapata. Alma Becirovic of Bosnia and Herzegovina earned the “Special Mention of the Jury of the North Rhine Westphalia Government Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, Culture and Sports” for Opst’o L Ost’o Jedan Dan (Survived'n Lived Through One More Day). “Prize of the Ecumenical Jury” and a “Special Mention of the International Jury” went to Suka, by Igor Voloshin of Russia.

ONE WORLD International Human Rights Film Festival, held last April in Prague, announced the following award winners: Special Award By President Václav Havel—It´s My Life directed by Brian Tilley (South Africa); Best Film award—Unfinished Symphony, directed by Bestor Cram and Mike Majoros (USA); Special Mention—Children Underground, directed by Edet Belzberg (USA). Peter Torbiörnsson (Sweden) received the Best Director Award for Lovers of San Fernando. The Rudolf Vrba Award in the Ecce Homo Category was given to Chechen Lullaby, directed by Nino Kirtadze (France). Tatiana Furman and Natalia Sergeeva (Russia) received The Mayor of Prague Award for the Best Short Documentary for Children of War. Special Mentions went to Howrah Howrah, by Till Passow (Germany and India). Special Citation of Czech Radio for the creative use of music and sound in documentary film was awarded to Sacrificio: Who Betrayed Che Guevara?, directed by Erik Gandini and Tarik Saleh (Sweden). The Audience Award went to Life and Debt, directed by Stephanie Black (USA).


O’Connell Takes the Reigns at Sheffield

The Sheffield International Documentary Festival announced the appointment of Jarlath O'Connell as new Festival Director. O’Connell takes over from former Director, Kathy Loizou. Now in its ninth year, the festival is the only UK event dedicated solely to documentary film.

Shifts at Cowboy and Code Red

As reported in indieWire, Cowboy Pictures co-presidents John Vanco and Noah Cowan are amicably restructuring the operations of their company. Vanco will take over as the sole president of Cowboy Pictures, while business partner Cowan has been named the president of Code Red, a releasing label formed two years ago by Cowboy and Antidote Films Jeffrey Levy-Hinte to acquire and distribute doc, indie and foreign-language pictures.

The move is entirely amicable and seems designed to allow Vanco and Cowan the opportunity to more actively pursue areas that each are interested in. Cowboy is currently releasing two Code Red titles, Chris Smith's Home Movie and Shohei Imamura's Warm Water Under a Red Bridge.

Cowboy Pictures releases have included Aviva Kempner's The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, Jem Cohen and Pete Sillen's Benjamin Smoke, George Butler's The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition and Justine Shapiro, B.Z. Goldberg and Carlos Bolado's Promises. Noah Cowan, a former associate director of programming for the Toronto International Film Festival and a contributing editor for FILMMAKER Magazine, was an executive producer of Benjamin Smoke. John Vanco was a national publicist at Miramax. Prior to that, he was director of marketing and publicity for New Yorker Films.

Campbell Chosen as New Chief of Discovery Networks, US

Billy Campbell has been selected as the new President of Discovery Networks, U.S. Before joining Discovery Networks, Campbell held important executive positions at CBS, Warner Brothers Television, ABC and, most recently, Miramax Television, where he was president.

As President of Discovery Networks, US, Campbell will manage DCI's U.S.-based television division, including programming, affiliate sales, advertising sales, marketing, research and communications. Discovery Networks, U.S. operates the Discovery Channel, TLC (The Learning Channel), Animal Planet, the Travel Channel, the Discovery Health Channel, The Science Channel, Discovery Kids Channel, Discovery Civilization Channel, Discovery Home & Leisure Channel, Discovery Wings Channel, Discovery en Espanol and Discovery.com.

Campbell served from 1998 as president of Miramax Television, responsible for all aspects of television, including development, marketing, legal affairs and production. As president, Campbell shepherded an impressive array of projects, including Project Greenlight, the 12-episode documentary series that aired on HBO.

Before joining Miramax, Campbell served as Executive Vice President, CBS Entertainment, and was Senior Vice President, Drama Development at Warner Bros. Television. He began his career at ABC Entertainment in the current programming department.


Alzheimer Documentary Subject Hoffman, 94, Passes

Doris Goodday Hoffmann passed away at the age of 94 due to complications related to Alzeimer’s Disease. Her daughter, filmmaker Deborah Hoffman, chronicled Doris’s descent into dementia in the Oscar-nominated documentary Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter. The film won more than 30 international awards, including a Peabody and an Emmy, and has helped doctors, patients and family members cope with the disease.