March 1, 1999

Short Takes, March 1999


In January, with impeachment hearings i n full brew, it was time to get out of town , to somepl ace where the Constitution just isn 't discussed—much less read—or even optioned for a movie. So... Grace Ouchida and IDA Board member Lance Webster hightailed it to New Orleans to manage the Documentary Pavilion, sponsored by IDA and RealScreen, at the NATPE Convention... And this loyal hack left for the natural and manmade blizzard that is Sundance, armed and ready to cheer on the docs in competition, including IDA Fiscal Sponsorees Death: A Love Story (Michelle LeBrun) and Speaking in Strings (Paola di Florio). And when we returned, L.A. lingered in that mid-winter lull between the crescendo of year-end top ten lists and the cacophony of springtime awards.

Academy Board of Governors Votes Out Short Docs Category

In a move that rocked the documentary community, the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted to elimi nate the Short Documentary category from the Academy Awards®, thereby forcing all documentaries to compete in a single category. According to the Los Angeles Times, Bruce Davis, the Academy's executive director, confirmed that the board's vote was due to what certain committee members cited as a general decline in quality submissions in the shorts category. Former IDA Board member Chuck Workman had initially proposed the change when he served on the executive committee last year.

The short documentary category faced extinction once before, in 1993, when the Board of Governors voted to eliminate both that category and the live-action shorts category, but the opposition was strong enough to have the categories restored. "It's always difficult to get attention paid and to get [short films] seen," IDA President David Haugland was quoted by the Times. "The Academy's recognition always really kept them alive and vital and was very important to these films. Recognition can help the filmmakers reach a bigger audience and put the work out there."

ISSFED Calls for Members

The International Society of Specialty Film Exhibitors and Distributors (ISSFED), a nonprofit organization for people who work to bring art films to movie screens, includes independent theater operators and bookers, cinematheque and festival programmers, college film programs and distributors. For more information about ISSFED, contact Michigan Theater Foundation , 603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104; phone: 734-213- 5278; fax: 734-213-5285; e-mail:; web:

Archive Films to Team with Encyclopaedia Brittannica

Encyclopaedia Britannica announced that Archive Films will market the company's award-winning collection of educational films and videos as stock footage to the film, advertising and new media industries. The agreement brings together one of the most distinguished producers of educational films and videos with a leading distributor of historical stock footage. The purpose of the partnership, said both companies, is to maxi­mize the market potential of Britannica 's famous collection, which includes thousands of titles on a wide range of subjects dating back to the beginni ng of educational films in the 1920s.


Aperture Inc. recently announced twelve finalists for its 1999 Short Film Grant. The nominees in the documentary category are Jessica Chapel (Putting Away the Tears); IDA member Lisa Cole (King Don: I Walk with Fire); James T. Hong (Behold the Asian: How One Becomes What One Is); Scott Ippolito (The Y2K Bug: How Bad Will it Bite); IDA member Steve Keller (In the News Tonight... and Mercury Rising); Angela Shelf Medearis (Always a Bridesmaid); Steven Rivo (Flo Fox); and Eden Wurmfeld (Sunset Hall). Aperture, Inc. is a nonprofit organization whose aim is to spotlight emerging filmmakers and help them develop their talent through short film production. Each year Aperture, in association with Eastman Kodak, selects one promising film­maker to receive an award of $ 10,000 cash and $ 1,000 worth of Kodak film stock to make a film under 30 min. in length... Juan Carlos Carrasco's Jose Barrientos won an Ariel Award for Best Short Documentary; the Ariels are given annually by the Mexican film industry... NOVA, the long-running science news series on PBS, received five Alfred duPont/ Columbia University Awards for broadcast journalism. The five honored programs include Everest: The Death Zone; The Brain Eater; Supersonic Spies; Chinas Mysterious Mummies; and Coma. Other winners include the PBS series P.O. V. for Fear and Learning at Hoover Elementary; The Independent Television Service for Struggles in Steel: The Story of African-American Steelworkers; and WNET-TV in New York for Taken in: The Lives of America's Foster Children... The finalists for the IFP/West Truer Than Fiction Award—a $20,000 prize given to an emerging documentarian—include Vicky Funari (Paulina), Tim Kirkman (Dear Jesse), Julia Loktev (Moment of Impact), IDA member Barbara Sonneborn (Regret to Inform) and Kyra Thompson (Dying to Tell the Story)... The National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) announced the first recipients of the NFPF's Laboratory—Archive Partnership Grants. The following non-profit archives received grants to preserve nonfiction films: Northeast Historic Film, for Albert Benedict Collection (1920s), which includes nitrate footage of Maine's Monhegan Island artists colony; National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian, for Explorations in the Amazon Basin (1924-25); National Museum of American History, Smithsonian, for Groucho Marxs Home Movies (1929-34); UCLA Film and Television Archive, for Hearst Metrotone News Selections; Nebraska State Historical Society, for Kearney and its People in Motion Pictures (1926), a film time capsule of a Nebraska town, made as a public service by Universal Pictures; University of South Carolina, for Reunion of Confederate Veterans (1930s); University of Mississippi, for Thomas Collection (1950s), which depicts the segregation-era town of Wall, Mississippi; Emory University, for World War Against Slums (1934-46), a documentary by public housing crusader Charles Forrest Palmer; and Yale University, for Yale Class Reunions (1920s- 1940s)... The National Foundation for Jewish Culture has awarded $150,000 in completion grants to five films from its Fund for Documentary Filmmaking. The recipients are Andre's Lives, directed by Brad Lichtenstein; Anusim: A Story of Crypto-Jews in North America, directed by IDA member Nick Athas and Daniel Goldberg; The March, directed by IDA member Abraham Ravett; and The Pleasures of Urban Decay, directed by Samuel Ball... The National Society of Film Critics named The Farm: Angola USA, produced and directed by Liz Garbu s and IDA member Jonathan Stack, as best nonfiction film of 1998, while the National Board of Review gave the honor to Barbara Kopple's Wild Man Blues... The European Film Academy named Claudio Pazienza's Tableau Avec Chute the Best European Documentary of '98... The Writers Guild of America announced its nominations in January. The nominees in the documentary category are: Current Events: Frontline: Busted: America's War on Marijuana, written by Elena Mannes, PBS; The McCaughey Seven: A Homecoming, written by Lori A. Bores for Primetime Live, ABC; Once Upon a Time in Arkansas, written by Michael Kirk and Peter J. Boyer, PBS. Other Than Current Events: The American Experience: Truman, written by IDA member David Grubin, PBS; The Irish in America: The Long Journey Home, written by Thomas N . Brown and Thomas Lennon, PBS; The American Experience: Surviving the Dust Bowl, written by Chana Gazit, PBS; The American Experience: Reagan, Part I , written by Adriana Bosch, PBS; In Search of Ourselves, written by Alice Markowitz, PBS; Lusitania: Murder on the Atlantic, written by Kelly McPherson and IDA member Melissa Jo Peltier, A&E; Sea Tales: The Doomed Voyage of the St. Louis, written by Christopher Meindi and Melissa Jo Peltier, A&E.


Polish director Dariusz Jablonski took the top prize for best documentary at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam for Fotoamator (Photographer). The VPRO Joris Ivens Award-winner is based on the stories of three residents of the Lodz ghetto, which the Nazis destroyed during the Holocaust... The International Film Financing Conference (IFFCON) selected three documentary projects and filmmakers to participate in the sixth annual forum for independent films in development. IDA member Jonathan Stack presented his latest work St. Gabriel: Women's Prison, Buzz Hays brought Conjuring Women, and Josh Rosen presented Serious Toys... Wim Wenders's latest work, Buena Vista Social Club, a documentary on the Cuban musicians featured on the acclaimed album of the same name, made its world premiere at the International Festival of New Latin America Cinema in Havana... The following feature-length documentaries were screened in competition at Slamdance: Amerikan Passport, by Reed Paget; My Friend Paul, by Jonathan Berman ; and Three Days, by Carter B. Smith and Kevin Ford.

SIFVC "lndieplex" Makes Online Debut

The Seattle Independent Film and Video Consortium (SIFVC) recently announced the premiere of the world's first "Indieplex," an Online cineplex devoted entirely to independent film, video and digital media. The megasite, located at, brings together twelve major netcasters from around the world, including Bijou Cafe, Cyber Theatre, EuroUnderground,, Filmbytes, Free Speech TV, Hollywood Shorts, Pepper Scott, Planetour, Protein TV, Shortcuts and The

The Sundance Channel Filmstore Open for Business

The Sundance Channel Filmstore (, a new Internet desti­nation from Sundance Channel, New Video and Critics' Choice Video, announced its grand opening in January. Featured at the Filmstore is The Sundance Channel 99 Videos Collection, which includes 99 works on video and DVD, all of which screened at the Sundance Film Festival. The Sundance Channel Filmstore is designed and managed by Critics' Choice Video, one of the largest catalogs of classic, popular and hard-to-find movies.

Web Sites for Festivals

To be fully apprised of docu-happenings around the world, here is a list of websites for selected festivals: