July 1, 1995

Second International Documentary Congress Set

Hundreds of documentarians from around the world are expected to convene in Los Angeles for the Second International Documentary Congress in October, a month that will also feature an intensive schedule of nonfiction screenings, and awards gala during which acclaimed filmmaker Marcel Ophuls will be presented by the IDA with a career achievement award, and an all-day marathon of new award-winning documentaries.

"The International Documentary Congress will bring nonfiction filmmakers from at least 25 countries together to review documentaries and discuss how they helped shape beliefs and attitudes," says IDA President Mel Stuart. "It is important for us to understand the influence that documentaries have in our visually literate society."

The Second International Documentary Congress, a follow-up to the hugely successful First International Documen­tary Congress of 1992, will take place October 25 to 28 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, which is co-organizing the event with the IDA. More than 750 people attended the first congress, and many of its more popular events will be reprised for the second one, including the "At One With ..." series of screenings followed by question-and­ answer sessions with filmmakers, panel discussions about issues relevant to the documentary world, and a major town meeting.

Leading up to this four-day event is a full month of screenings organized around the theme "In and Out of the Cold, 1945-1995: Documenting 50 Years of Change," to be held at various venues around greater Los Angeles (see accompanying story). Capping off the festivities will be the 11th Annual IDA Awards gala on October 27, during which Ophuls will be honored along with the five winners of the IDA's documentary competition and the IDA/David L. Wolper Student Achievement Award winner. And on October 28, filmgoers will have the opportunity to see the winning documentaries at IDA's Annual Docufest, a day­ long screening at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Best known for his 1969 documen­tary The Sorrow and the Pity, on Vichy­ French compliance with their German conquerors during World War II, Ophuls has been a pioneer in the creation of grand-scale documentaries that thor­oughly investigate the great moral and political issues of the 20th century. His documentaries are characteristically huge masses of evidence, interviews, commentaries, and newsreel footage artfully woven together into one cohesive voice. In addition to The Sorrow and the Pity, Ophuls has tackled such historical-political topics as the conflict in Northern Ireland (A Sense of Loss, 1972) and the Nuremberg war-crime trials (The Memory of Justice, 1976). With his acceptance of the 1995 IDA Career Achievement Award, he joins a distinguished list of honorees that includes Albert Maysles, Robert Drew, Frederick Wiseman, Richard Leacock, and Pare Lorentz.

The Second International Documentary Congress is being organized IDA Executive Director Betsy A. Mclane and AMPAS Program Coordinator Mikel Kaufman. Director-producer Lynne Littman, who won an Academy Award in 1977 for her documentary short Number Our Days, is chairing the congress organizing committee. Littman's work has earned four Emmy Awards, the Columbia / Dupont Journalism Award, the Los Angeles Press Club Award, a Golden Mike from the Radio and Television News Association, and numerous other honors. Other members of the committee are Bill Guttentag, Lisa Leeman, Freida Lee Mock, Flora Moon, and Walter Shenson.

Congress Screenings, the public documentary screenings themed "In and Out of the Cold," are being coordinated by Screenings Curator Robert Hawk, an independent film and video consultant who founded the San Francisco Film Arts Festival. Hawk is on the advisory selection committee for the Sundance Film Festival, is on the advisory boards of American Independents and Features Abroad at the Berlin Film Festival and of New York's "First Look" Festival, and has been a program consultant for the Learning Channel, the Melbourne International Film Festival, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Local organizations participating in the Congress Screenings include the American Film Institute, Black Filmmakers Foundation, the Directors Guild of America, Filmforum, Goethe Institute of Los Angeles, Laemmle Theaters, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Tolerance, UCLA Film and Television Archives, USC School of Cinema and Television, and Visual Communications.

The Second International Documen­tary Congress has several public and private sponsors to thank for its existence. Among these, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded the IDA a $75,000 challenge grant in March. Additionally, Eastman Kodak, Discovery Communications, Academy Founda­ tions, Lear Charitable Foundation, Devillier Donegan Enterprises, and Turner Original Productions have all stepped forward as major corporate sponsors.

 

For further information about the congress, the IDA Awards, or Docufest, contact the IDA at (310) 284-8422.

Ondi Timoner is working on a television movie of the week based on her last documentary, The Nature of the Beast, and is developing a new company, Footlight Films, to produce documentaries that explore the intersection of law and individuals and the dichotomy between myth and reality in America .

 

Congress Screenings: An Advance Report

by Robert Hawk

During World War II, when I was very young, my primary impressions of that monumental event (not to mention the first intimations of my own mortality) were provided by the sometimes stunning still images in Life magazine.There was no television, the radio was just so much talk (unless it was an episode of some cliffhanging serial), and I was not yet old enough to see the newsreels in movie theaters. It was only after the war that I began to be exposed to the rather elegant and formally executed moving images (black and white, of course) of what is arguably the most important epoch of this century. Today brutal, in­ your-face images of the neverending conflagrations of our times are rushed instantaneously into our living rooms—images repeated endlessly, until they are indelibly seared into individual brains, as well as (courtesy of CNN) a kind of collective global psyche.

No matter what our age, our relationship to and our perception of the events of the last 50 years is constantly shifting—inevitably influenced by the choices that newspersons and documentarians have made in manipulating and communicating those images. In curating the month-long series of Congress Screenings called "In and Out of the Cold, 1945-1995: Documenting 50 Years of Change," one of my primary interests has been how changing times and technology have affected the way documentaries portray and interpret events.

Certainly, because of the scope of its overall theme, this series (running September 26 through October 30) can be neither thorough nor exhaustive. By no means is it, per se, about the Cold War. Rather, it is more about documentary making in the 50-year span dominated by the Cold War, a period in which we have continued to look back at World War II while also confronting the vicissitudes of an era punctuated by flare ups of revo­lution and hot, dirty "little" wars. And for the last five years—with camcorders and other lightweight video equipment beginning to outnumber film cameras­—documentarians have been taking immediate, visceral looks at a post-Cold War period characterized by a messy amalgamation of hope, uncertainty, euphoria, and tragedy.

In collaborating with the various organizations participating in this screening series, I've been intrigued with the variety and thematic specificity of some of the programs that have evolved. I hope that its eclectic and indicative nature will provide experiences that are both emotionally and intellectually provocative. On an aesthetic, even sensual level, there is the special opportunity to see work projected on a screen that is usually available only on video (if at all). It Is my further hope that the series will give renewed life to forgotten or rarely seen work, that it be a fruitful showcase for new work, and that it stimulate and inspire other exhibitors.

A full schedule will be available by late summer. Some of the themes to be pursued include "Neo-Fascist, Skinheads, and Political Extremists" (Museum of Tolerance), "Art and Remembrance: Creativity Out of Tragedy" (Mu­seum of Contemporary Art), the Vietnam War (University of Southern California), "Creating a Culture: Exile and Immigration in Southern California" (a weekend at UCLA in collaboration with the National Latino Communications Center and Visual Communications), an evening of personal visions (Filmforum a t the Goethe Institut), another day of primarily German work (Goethe), "The Red Scare and the Black List" (Writers Guild of America), "Strange Victories: Blacks in the Military" (Black Filmmakers Foun­dation), an evening with the Wolper Documentary Group (Academy of Television Arts & Sciences), "Documents and Drama: Directors of Social Issue Features and Documentaries " (Directors Guild of America), Academy Award-winning documentaries (Los Angeles County Mu­seum of Art), a special program on local PBS station KCET, and a day at the AFI Festival.

Our collaboration with AFI also includes the U.S. premiere of Radio Star, an entertaining German documentary about the Armed Forces Network, as well as the first West Coast showing of Marcel Ophuls latest film, The Troubles We've Seen, as part of our tribute to Ophuls (see accompanying story). In addition, there will be a variety of special programs during the Second International Documentary Congress itself at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (where, earlier in the month, there will also be a screening of the newly re­stored print of Garson Kanin and Carol Reed's feature documentary The True Glory).

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