June 1, 2001

Short Takes, June 2001

Guggenheim at Work in Germany on World War II Doc

A New York Times article recently described IDA Award-winner Charles Guggenheim’s latest project—a documentary about American G.I.s held captive in a Nazi concentration camp. Guggenheim traveled to Berga, Germany, the site of the former Nazi camp where several hundred Jewish-American soldiers were held captive for two months and 70 soldiers died. Guggenheim has interviewed 40 survivors for his film, and he is shooting re-enactments in Berga. The film, tentatively titled G.I. Holocaust, is a co-production of Guggenheim Productions and WNET, the PBS affiliate in New York.

History Channel to Lens Fire on the Mountain

The History Channel will undertake the most ambitious and expensive projects—a documentary based on the best-selling nonfiction book Fire on the Mountain. Lone Wolf Pictures will produce.

Fire on the Mountain, by John McLean, tells the story of a tragic 1994 forest fire in Colorado that burned for 10 days and killed 14 firefighters. The $1 million documentary will include re-enactments, and McLean will serve as a consultant to the project. Fire on the Mountain is projected for a 2002 airing.

Ascher and Jordan In Production on The Heywood Project

Steve Ascher and Jeanne Jordan, makers of the Oscar®-nominated Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern, are in production on a profile of a family in crisis: The Heywoods, whose son Stephen is struggling with ALS, a neurological disorder. The Heywoods have launched their own research institute to find a cure for Stephen, bypassing the Byzantine worlds of academia, government and the pharmaceutical industry.


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Academy Foundation awarded a total of $400,000 in grants to “programs that focus on bringing together students and professional filmmakers.” The recipients included Film Arts Foundation (San Francisco), The Austin Film Society, Boston Film/Video Foundation, Cinestory (Chicago), Film/Video Arts (New York), Foundation for Independent Video & Film (New York), Independent Feature Project/West (Los Angeles), UCLA, Columbia University, New York University, University of Southern California, North Carolina School of the Arts, American Film Institute, Yale University and University of Arizona.

The Japan Prizes for International Education Programs, sponsored by NHK-Japan Broadcasting Corporation, were announced late last year. Here is a breakdown of the winners: The Grand Prix and The Minster of Posts and Telecommunications Prize for best program in the Adult Education Category—Through a Blue Lens, Veronica Mannix, producer/director, National Film Board of Canada. The Minister of Education Prize for Best Program in the Youth Education Category—STOP! On Democracy, Anders Bergh, producer/director, Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company. The Governor of Tokyo Prize for best program in the Issues in Education Category—SUPERTEACHERS: Challenging a TabbooWaris Dirie, Hatsuto Hachiya, senior producer, NHK. The Japan Foundation President’s Prize for a program that “contributes to mutual understanding between nations and races.”—About a Bad Dream, Czech Television. The UNICEF Prize for a program that “presents the lives of children in difficult situations.”—“With…”—The Life of a Young Artist, Mainichi Broadcasting System, Japan. The Hoso Bunka Foundation Prize for a program that “offers a new angle on educational broadcasting.”—ZIG ZAG: A Walk through Time, BBC. The Maeda Prize for a program that “demonstrates originality through its content, direction and/or viewpoint.”—OUR HEALTH: Chaupair, Nepal Television Corporation.

UK-based Lion Television was honored as Best Independent Production Company at the Broadcast 2001 Awards. The company was cited for its “extraordinary range of programming from high-end documentary to docu-soap.” Lion Television’s Castaway 2000 earned two awards recently—Documentary Programme of the Year 2001 from the Television & Industry Club Awards and Factual Award 2001 at the Indie Awards. In addition, Lion’s A Blagger’s Guide to Black History earned Best Television Entertainment 2000 honors at the CRE Race in the Media Awards.

The University Film & Video Association recently awarded Jennifer Petrucelli of Stanford University a grant of $1,500 for her documentary proposal Life on the Unit.

The United Nations Association Film Festival (www.unaff.org) received the Earl Eames Award for combining new technology and traditional media to advance UNA goals and promote international awareness.

The Chicago Underground Film Fund awarded Helen Stickler a grant for her documentary Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator, about a professional skateboarder.

Toronto Women in Film and Television Fetes Basmajian

Silva Basmajian, producer with the National Film Board of Canada, was given the Outstanding Achievement Award in April by the Toronto Women in Film and Television.

Working out of the NFB’s Documentary Ontario center, Basmajian has, for the past 25 years, earned 39 awards for her films. Her work has been broadcast in every country and screened at 185 international film festivals. She recently won the Donald Brittain awarded for Best Social/Political Documentary for Deep Inside Clint Star. She is currently working on two sports docs—Chuvalo vs. Ali, on the 1966 boxing match between Canada’s George Chuvalo and Muhammed Ali; and Endless Winter, which profiles ski bums in Whistler, British Columbia.

PBS, HBO Top Peabody Winners

PBS and HBO led all national broadcasters in the nonfiction categories, earning nine Peabody Awards for broadcast or cable excellence between them.

The PBS series Frontline took an award for Drug Wars, while P.O.V. earned a Peabody for Barbara Sonnenborn’s Regret to Inform. Other PBS winners included Napoleon, produced by David Grubin and Devillier Donegan Enterprises; Building Big, produced by WGBH-TV in Boston; 1900 House, produced by Wall to Wall Productions for Channel 4 in association with Thirteen/WNET; and School Sleuth: The Case of an Excellent School, produced by Learning Matters and The Merrow Report.

HBO earned Peabody Awards for King Gimp; Ali-Frazier I: One Nation…Divisible; Cancer: Evolution to Revolution; and The Carpet Slaves: Stolen Children of India. Elsewhere in the cable arena, CNN won for CNN Perspectives: Cry Freedom, produced by CNN Productions, Insight News Television and Channel 4 International; and Discovery Channel won for Walking with Dinosaurs, co-produced by BBC, Discovery Channel and TV Asahi.

Among the networks, CBS earned awards for the following programs: 60 Minutes II: Death by Denial; 48 Hours: Heroes Under Fire; and Sharing the Secret. NBC’s Katie Couric won an award for her weeklong series on colorectal cancer, while Dateline NBC took a Peabody for The Paper Chase.

On the local front, KHOU in Houston won for breaking the story about Firestone tires, while WJXT in Jacksonville won for a documentary on domestic violence.

Gold Award for Best Canadian Documentary
My Left Breast
Director: Gerry Rogers
Producer: Paul Pope

Silver Award for Best Canadian Documentary
Out of the Fire
Director: Shelley Saywell
Producer: Shelley Saywell

Gold Award for Best International Documentary
Southern Comfort
Director: Kate Davis
Producers: Kate Davis and Elizabeth Adams

Silver Award for Best International Documentary
100% White
Director: Leo Regan
Producer: Leo Regan

Best Documentary in the National Spotlight Programme
Vision Man
Director: William Long
Producer: Lars Aby

Best First Documentary Award (2 films)
Alone With War
Director: Danièle Arbid
Producers: Christian Baute, Jacques-Henri Bronckart
Living Afterwards
Director: Laurent Bécue-Renard
Executive Producer : Michel Rotman

Best Direction Award
Larry Weinstein (Ravel's Brain)

Humanitarian Award
Breakaway: A Tale of Two Survivors
Director: Mathew Welsh
Producer: Mathew Welsh

Audience Award
Southern Comfort
Director: Kate Davis
Producer: Kate Davis, Elizabeth Adams

Special Achievement Award
Don Haig
Singapore - Tan Pin Pin: This Beautiful House
Malaysia - Mohd Naguib Razak: The Boat-maker and the sea
Philippines - Kidlat de Guia: Trojan Box
Indonesia - Chandra Tanzil: Yadi
Thailand - Prakhan Chalaemkhet: When Technology and Innovation Enter the Dharma Practice Zone
Taiwan - Chung-Chiang Yeh: Cultural Preservation through Technology

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.

Marianna Yarovskaya, University of Southern California.

Porter Gale and Laleh Soomekh, Stanford University.


Randy Bell and Justin Rice won the Best Documentary Short Film award at the Cleveland International Film Festival for Look Back, Don’t Look Back…

China Ahlander’s Close to the Soil took the documentary prize at Aspen Shortsfest.

Doclands to Set Dublin A-Reelin’

Doclands, the documentary festival that made a splashy debut last fall in Ireland (see February 2001 ID), returns this September for four days. The Irish Film Centre, in Dublin’s Temple Bar, will host the event, which opens with industry market meetings on September 27 and continues with public screenings through the evening of the 30th. The event will showcase both Irish and international documentaries, with many being Irish and world premieres. There will also be a special retrospective showcasing the work of a well-known documentary maker, to be announced. Other events include seminars and workshops.

The deadline for submissions to Doclands is June 1. For details, visit www.ionentertainment.ie, or call +353.1.6708177; e-mail: ion@indigo.ie.


Larry Lansburgh, Two-Time Academy Award®-Winner, Dead at 89

Larry Lansburgh, whose documentaries on animals earned him two Academy Awards®, died in March at his ranch in Oregon. He was 89.

His Wetback Hound, a short, earned him his first Oscar®, in 1958. Three years later his feature-length documentary The Horse with the Flying Tail won another.

Lansburgh began his career at Walt Disney Studios in 1939—first as a messenger, then in quick succession, as an editor, writer, sound editor, cinematographer and finally director and producer. During World War II, he shot documentary footage of Walt Disney on a goodwill tour to South America. Landsburgh helped Disney Studios expand its artistic repertoire beyond cartoons to docu-dramas and documentaries.

In 1957, Lansburgh left Disney and formed his own production company to create films about animals. He disliked the term “documentary,” according to the Los Angeles Times, insisting on the drama one observes in the lives of animals. He continued to partner with Walt Disney, who financed and distributed many of his films.

He is survived by his wife, two sons, two stepchildren and eight grandchildren.

Hiroshi Teshigahara, Japanese Director, Dies

Although he is best known for his narrative features such as Woman in the Dunes (1964), The Face of Another (1966) and Summer Soldiers (1972), Japanese filmmaker Hiroshi Techigahara did make a few documentaries throughout his career, including his first film, about the woodblock artist Hokusai; Jose Torres (1959) about a New York boxer; and Antonio Gaudi (1984), about the venerated Spanish architect.

Teshigaraha experimented with many artistic disciplines when he wasn’t making films, including pottery, painting and sculpture. He once designed the sets for a production of the opera Turandot.

He is survived by his wife and his two daughters.

Michael Ritchie, 62, Filmmaker

Michael Ritchie, best known for his wry, satirical narrative features such as Smile and The Candidate, died in April of prostate cancer. He was 62.

Ritchie participated in the “Docs Rock” program at the 1998 International Documentary Congress, in which he discussed his film Divine Madness, a concert film featuring Bette Midler. He began his career in nonfiction media, working for Robert Saudek, the producer of the Omnibus television series. He later made a documentary for the French company Audio Visual Library on Albert Einstein and his theories.

Ritchie is survived by his wife, a son, four daughters, two step-children, a brother and a sister.