15 items from 2015
It’s been a couple months since the last edition of What’s Up Doc? placed Michael Moore’s surprise world premiere of Where To Invade Next at the top of this list and in the meantime much shuffling has taken place and much time has been spent on various new endeavors (namely my Buffalo-based film series, Cultivate Cinema Circle). Finally taking its rightful place at the top, D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hagedus’ Unlocking the Cage is in the midst of being scored by composer James Lavino, according to Lavino’s own personal site. Though the project has been taking shape at its own leisurely pace, I’d expect to see the film making its festival debut in early 2016.
- Jordan M. Smith
It’s day four of the year’s final seminar for Greenhouse, a development program for Middle Eastern and North African documentary filmmakers, and in any other place or time, the scene unfolding on a hot summer night in Izmir, a port city along Turkey’s Aegean coast, would be considered extraordinary. The Israelis and Palestinians, Turks, Iranians, Afghans and Moroccans all melding together on the dance floor knock back shots and trade hugs and jokes.
The program, now in its ninth year, is a grassroots documentary incubator comprised, over the course of 12 months, of three weeklong intensive seminars and dozens of pitch drafts that lead to a completed trailer, revised over and over under the guidance of industry mentors. A joint initiative of Israel’s New Fund for Cinema and Television, Turkey’s Ankara Cinema Assn. and Morocco’s Marrakesh School of Visual Arts — with partners in U.S. »
- Debra Kamin
The fall festival rush is upon us. Locarno is currently ramping up. Venice has released their line-up and Thom Powers and the Toronto International Film Festival team have dropped a bomb with a previously unannounced new feature from powerhouse docu-provocateur Michael Moore. It is truly a miracle that the production of a film such as Moore’s upcoming Where To Invade Next (see still above) managed to go completely undetected by the filmmaking community until it was literally announced to world premiere at one of the largest film festivals in the world. Programmed as a one of the key films in the Special Presentations section at Tiff, the film sees Moore telling “the Pentagon to ‘stand down’ — he will do the invading for America from now on.” Also announced to premiere at Tiff was Avi Lewis’ This Changes Everything, which has slowly been rising up this list, as well as »
- Jordan M. Smith
It’s been a surprisingly interesting month of moving and shaking in terms of doc development. Just a month after making his first public funding pitch at Toronto’s Hot Docs Forum, legendary doc filmmaker Frederick Wiseman took to Kickstarter to help cover the remaining expenses for his 40th feature film In Jackson Heights (see the film’s first trailer below). Unrelentingly rigorous in his determination to capture the American institutional landscape on film, his latest continues down this thematic rabbit hole, taking on the immensely diverse New York City neighborhood of Jackson Heights as his latest subject. According to the Kickstarter page, Wiseman is currently editing the 120 hours of rushes he shot with hopes of having the film ready for a fall festival premiere (my guess would be Tiff, where both National Gallery and At Berkeley made their North American debut), though he’s currently quite a ways away from his $75,000 goal. »
- Jordan M. Smith
Academy invitee Eddie Redmayne in 'The Theory of Everything.' Academy invites 322 new members: 'More diverse and inclusive list of filmmakers and artists than ever before' The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has offered membership to 322 individuals "who have distinguished themselves by their contributions to theatrical motion pictures." According to the Academy's press release, "those who accept the invitations will be the only additions to the Academy's membership in 2015." In case all 322 potential new members say an enthusiastic Yes, that means an injection of new blood representing about 5 percent of the Academy's current membership. In the words of Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs (as quoted in the press release), in 2015 "our branches have recognized a more diverse and inclusive list of filmmakers and artists than ever before, and we look forward to adding their creativity, ideas and experience to our organization." In recent years, the Academy membership has »
- Anna Robinson
©Renzo Piano Building Workshop/©Studio Pali Fekete architects/©A.M.P.A.S.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this week that the Los Angeles City Council, in a unanimous vote, approved plans for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Construction will begin this summer, and ceremonial groundbreaking festivities will occur this fall.
“I am thrilled that Los Angeles is gaining another architectural and cultural icon,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “My office of economic development has worked directly with the museum’s development team to ensure that the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will create jobs, support tourism, and pay homage to the industry that helped define our identity as the creative capital of the world.”
“We are grateful to our incredible community of supporters who have helped make this museum a reality,” said Dawn Hudson, the Academy’s CEO. “Building this museum has been an Academy »
- Michelle McCue
After the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Friday it has invited 322 people to join this year, many pundits remarked upon the considerable number of younger invitees, women and minorities among them. I noticed that, too, but something else also caught my eye: the fact that at least three dozen of them were born somewhere other than America or the U.K. That number is, by all indications, unprecedented in the history of the 88-year-old organization. Among this year's foreign-born invitees are directors Guy Davidi (Israel), Pirjo Honkasalo (Finland), Bong Joon-ho (South Korea), Francois
- Scott Feinberg
Strangely dropping a press release on a historic day where the nation's attention is elsewhere, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed their annual list of new member invitees this morning. For those who criticize the makeup of the Academy there was some good news and the stark realization the organization still has a long way to go. The Academy has spent the last eight to 10 years attempting to diversify its membership and this year's class mostly reflects that. There are significantly more invitees of Asian and African-American descent, but the male to female disparity is still depressing. Out of the 25 potential new members of the Actor's Branch only seven are women. And, no, there isn't really an acceptable way for the Academy to spin that sad fact. Additionally, It's important to realize the 322 people noted in the release have only been invited to join Hollywood's most exclusive club. »
- Gregory Ellwood
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences continues to push for diversity, sending membership invitations to 322 individuals, including a healthy number of people who can help change the org’s demos.
Among the invitees are David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Felicity Jones, Emma Stone, Rosamund Pike, Bong Joon-ho, Justin Lin and Francois Ozon. The Academy has been reaching out to women, foreign-born artists and people of various races, ethnic backgrounds and ages.
Accusations of Academy bigotry surfaced yet again in January when the list of Oscar nominees included Caucasians in all 20 acting categories, and few women or racial minorities among the other categories. Director Ava DuVernay and actor David Oyelowo of “Selma” had seemed like strong contenders, giving many people hopes of breakthroughs. After initial anger at the Acad, activists began to shift their protests to industry hiring practices. For example, 323 films were eligible for 2014 awards — which means AMPAS should theoretically »
- Tim Gray
Tel Aviv – The battle between Israel’s artists and its outspoken new culture minister continued to escalate this weekend, as a small group of protesters gathered outside a Tel Aviv theater with tape across their mouths to protest her repeated vows to censor voices that defame the Jewish State.
Culture Minister Miri Regev, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party who has been unabashed in her disdain for artistic projects that criticize the Israeli occupation, was at Tel Aviv’s Einav Theater on Friday to present an award. She was booed by the protesters as she entered the theater, and heckled by several audience members as she took the stage.
The event occurred one day after Regev, in a televised interview on Israel’s popular Channel 2 network, referred to artists as “tight-ass, hypocritical and ungrateful” people — comments she later backpedaled from a bit by clarifying that »
- Debra Kamin
SundanceNow Doc Club partners with the Human Rights Watch Film Festival (June 11-21) to present eight acclaimed documentaries, all focused on worldwide human issues, that subscribers can stream beginning today, June 10. You can access the program here. The VOD program include films from Oscar nominees and winners such as Werner Herzog, Laura Poitras and Kirby Dick. Here's the full list: 5 Broken Cameras Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary, Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi’s critically-acclaimed 5 Broken Cameras is a deeply personal, first-hand account of life and non-violent resistance in Bil’in, a West Bank village surrounded by Israeli settlements. As the years pass in front of the camera of a Palestinian farmer, we witness his son grow from a newborn baby into a young boy who observes the world unfolding around him with the astute powers of perception that only children possess. Afghan Star In Afghanistan a group of brave »
- Ryan Lattanzio
Well folks, after a rather long and brutal winter (at least for me here in Buffalo), we are finally heading into the wonderful warmth of summer, but with that blast of sunshine and steamy humidity comes the mid-year drought of major film fests. After the Sheffield Doc/Fest concludes on June 10th and AFI Docs wraps on June 21st, we likely won’t see any major influx in our charts until Locarno, Venice, Telluride and Tiff announce their line-ups in rapid succession. In the meantime, we can look forward to the intriguing onslaught of films making their debut in Sheffield, including Brian Hill’s intriguing examination of Sweden’s most notorious serial killer, The Confessions of Thomas Quick, and Sean McAllister’s film for which he himself was jailed in the process of making, A Syrian Love Story, the only two films world premiering in the festival’s main competition. »
- Jordan M. Smith
It should come as no surprise that Cannes Film Festival will play host to Kent Jones’s doc on the touchstone of filmmaking interview tomes, Hitchcock/Truffaut (see photo above). The film has been floating near the top of this list since it was announced last year as in development, while Jones himself has a history with the festival, having co-written both Arnaud Desplechin’s Jimmy P. and Martin Scorsese’s My Voyage To Italy, both of which premiered in Cannes. The film is scheduled to screen as part of the Cannes Classics sidebar alongside the likes of Stig Björkman’s Ingrid Bergman, in Her Own Words, which will play as part of the festival’s tribute to the late starlet, and Gabriel Clarke and John McKenna’s Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans (see trailer below). As someone who grew up watching road races with my dad in Watkins Glen, »
- Jordan M. Smith
Now that the busy winter fest schedule of Sundance, Rotterdam and the Berlinale has concluded, we’ve now got our eyes on the likes of True/False and SXSW. While, True/False does not specialize in attention grabbing world premieres, it does provide a late winter haven for cream of the crop non-fiction fare from all the previously mentioned fests and a selection of overlooked genre blending films presented in a down home setting. This year will mark my first trip to the Columbia, Missouri based fest, where I hope to catch a little of everything, from their hush-hush secret screenings, to selections from their Neither/Nor series, this year featuring chimeric Polish cinema of decades past, to a spotlight of Adam Curtis’s incisive oeuvre. But truth be told, it is SXSW, with its slew of high profile world premieres being announced, such as Alex Gibney’s Steve Jobs »
- Jordan M. Smith
Director Suha Arraf is an Arab who considers herself Palestinian, like 20% of Israel’s citizens. She pays Israeli taxes, and carries an Israeli identity card. Her directorial debut, “Villa Touma,” was partially financed by the Israel Film Fund. Her sector of the Israeli population is routinely touted as an example of Israel’s democratic nature and progressive society.
So when Arraf, one of Variety’s 2014 Screenwriters to Watch, took the picture to the Venice Film Fest and listed it as a Palestinian film, she set off a firestorm. The Israeli government — which helps bankroll the fund — demanded it repay its 1.4 million shekel ($356,000) grant.
Late last month Israel’s Yehoshua Rabinovich Foundation for the Arts took steps to avoid the occurrence of a similar fallout, amending the contract it requires all fund recipients to sign to include a declaration that they represent themselves as Israeli on those projects.
“We asked our »
- Debra Kamin
15 items from 2015
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