June 1, 1998

Short Takes, June 1998


The power troika of Haugland, McLane and Ouchida stormed into New York for the annual IDA Trustees confab. Sheila Nevins of HBO played the role of gracious host once again, welcoming such media mavens as Ron Devillier and Brian Donegan of their eponymous outfit; newly anointed trustee Steven Rosenbaum from BNN; Jackie Glover, sitting in for HBO; David Seevers from ABCNews VideoSource; Janet Anderson, sitting in for Margaret Clark from Eastman Kodak; Stan Moger from SFM Entertainment; also Mel Stuart. From the Royal Ontario Museum, Dr. Lindsay Sharp crossed the border from Toronto for the occasion.

Slamdance Takes Its Act to Cannes

Slamdance, the scrappy young film festival that runs concurrently with the venerated Sundance Festival in Utah every year, is looking across the Atlantic to ruffle the feathers of another wizened institution: the Cannes Film Festival. At press time, Slamdance organizers were set to launch "Cannes You Dig It" during the French filmfest. Their efforts won't go unnoticed: Stephen Walker of the BBC plans to feature Cannes You Dig It as part of a docu­mentary he'll make about Cannes.

P.O. V. Launches Second Decade of Indy Docs

P.O. V., the celebrated documentary on PBS, embarks on its second decade of venturesome programming this month (see North American Broadcast Premieres). P.O.V. kicks off with Baby, It's You, a funny account of filmmaker's Anne Makepeace's efforts to understand modern fertility science and the expanded notions of family in the '90s. Other highlights of the 1998 summer season: Arthur Dong's Licensed to Kill, a chilling investigation into the motives and motivations of men who have murdered homosexuals; Susan Stern's Barbie Nation: An Unauthorized Tour, which explores the history and fantasy behind this unlikely cultural icon; and Macky Alston's Family Name, in which the filmmaker embarks on a mission to unearth the history of his white, slave-holding family and identify the links to the black families that share his name. The airing of Family Name launches a new initiative for P.O.V and parent company, American Documentary: the Television Race Initiative, a three-year effort in which diverse, character-driven broadcasts create a spine for community dialogue and problem­ solving around the issue of race relations. P.O. V. will also continue such other endeavors as Talking Back: Video Letters to P.O. V., in which viewers share videotaped impressions of the documentaries in the series; and P.O. V. Interactive, which encourages online dialogue about issues raised by each program

National Geographic to Partner with UK's Carlton

National Geographic Television and British broadcaster Carlton Television will collaborate on a three-year venture to produce and distribute more than 300 hours of nonfiction programs, the companies announced in April. Programs will focus on natural history, adventure and exploration, and representatives from each company will make the programmatic decisions. This joint arrangement is designed to create programming for the soon-to-be-launched National Geographic Channels.

Acclaimed Docs Find Homes

Three of the most talked about documen taries in recent months—Out of the Past, Hands on a Hardbody, and Kurt and Courtney—have found distributors for upcoming theatrical releases. Out of the Past, which won the Audience Award at Sundance this year, was acquired by IDA member Unapix Films. The film, by Jeff Dupre, examines the plight of the gay and lesbian community in conservative Utah. Legacy Releasing picked up S. Robb Bindler's Hands on a Hardbody, which was prominently featured on the National Public Radio program This American Life. The film demonstrates the excruciating—and maddening—lengths that some people will go just to win a Nissan Hardbody pickup truck. Kurt and Courtney, Nick Broomfield's investigative probe into the lives of rocker Courtney Love and her late husband Kurt Cobain, earned some notoriety for not screening at Sundance. Roxie Releasing has already released the film in San Francisco, Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles, with other major cities such as Denver and Boston sure to fall in Line.

Visual Communications On the Move

Los Angeles-based Visual Communications, the nation's oldest Asian Pacific American media arts center, has moved to a larger facility—the Union Center for the Arts. The center includes space for a multimedia learning center and media production facilities, as well as for Visual Communications' archival collections and its arts education and training programs. The new address for Visual Communications is 120 Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles, CA 90012; phone: 213-680-4462; fax: 213-687-4848; e-mail: viscom@vc.apanet.org; web: vc.apanet.org.

Productions in Full Swing at Denver Center Media

Denver Center Media, the film, video and sound department of The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, continues its active production schedule. America's Prairie: Where the Sky Began, commissioned by Discovery Channel, examines the history, ecology and topography of the vanishing American grasslands. The film was edited at the center's post facility, and the soundtrack was recorded and mixed there, too. Pamoja: A Coming Together, to be aired on PBS stations nationwide, chronicles the collab­oration of three African dance companies with the Denver-based Cleo Parker Dance Ensemble. Challenge, a documentary highlighting the abilities of athletes with disabilities, gave Denver Center Media its eleventh Heartland Emmy Award, this time for Best Sports Program. The Center is currently producing Stagestruck, a documentary that follows young actors enrolled in the three-year Master's degree training program at the National Theatre Conservatory in Denver. Finally, the center has made several public service announcements for Denver-area nonprofit organizations.


The Overseas Press Club honored Frontline/WGBH Boston and BBC Panorama with the Edward R. Murrow Award for best interpretation or documentary, for their respective programs on Rwanda... WGBH also received two Peabody Awards—one for The American Experience: The Presidents Series, and one for The American Experience: Troublesome Creek—A Midwestern.


The USA Film Festival gave first prize in the nonfiction category to The Spitball Story, by Jean Back... At the Turin International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, the docu­mentary winners circle was an all-American affair, with Monte Bramer's Paul Monette: The Brink of Summer's End taking the main prize; The Brandon Teena Story, by Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdotir, and Out of the Past, by Jeff Dupre, earning special mentions.