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Sundance 2018 Indie Episodic Preview: The Most Anticipated TV Pilots and Premieres at This Year’s Festival

Don’t let the title fool you: The Sundance Film Festival has been featuring television programs for years, be it the slew of documentaries that end up on HBO, Showtime, and Netflix or pilots that earn a special showcase like “Animals.” did in 2015.

But 2018 is special. This year, Sundance is dedicating an entire section to episodic programming, including short-form series, docu-series, traditional pilots, and more experimental premieres. It’s all coming together under the Indie Episodic banner, and it’s all designed with one clear mission:

“There is no clear path to series if you’re trying to do it independently — if you’re going to try and shoot your own pilot, and then try and get picked up,” Sundance programmer Charlie Sextro told IndieWire. “There’s a clear way [in] making an independent film: It gets picked up at Sundance, and then it gets out to the world. It’s
See full article at Indiewire »

DGA Documentary Awards Nominations Snubs and Surprises: Oscar Frontrunners ‘Jane’ and ‘Faces Places’ Don’t Make Cut

As usual the documentary awards race is all over the place. DGA nominations are either a sign of strength or a boost into a must-see before the Oscar balloting closes on Friday. The DGA combines hybrid long-form documentaries along with features, such as AFI special award-winner “The Vietnam War” from Ken Burns ands Lynn Novick, and Errol Morris’s groundbreaking Netflix series “Wormwood,” which was not deemed eligible for the documentary Oscar, to the filmmaker’s chagrin.

Given filmmaker Bryan Fogel’s role in unveiling the high-profile Russian Olympic doping scandal, Netflix’s Oscar short-listed “Icarus” continues to move forward, while Matt Heineman’s “City of Ghosts” pulls ahead of other Syria documentaries. Two significant omissions here are Brett Morgen for Jane Goodall profile “Jane” and Agnes Varda and J.R.’s whimsical visual tour-de-force “Faces Places,” which are considered Oscar frontrunners.

Netflix and PBS scored two DGA slots each,
See full article at Indiewire »

DGA Documentary Awards Nominations Snubs and Surprises: Oscar Frontrunners ‘Jane’ and ‘Faces Places’ Don’t Make Cut

As usual the documentary awards race is all over the place. DGA nominations are either a sign of strength or a boost into a must-see before the Oscar balloting closes on Friday. The DGA combines hybrid long-form documentaries along with features, such as AFI special award-winner “The Vietnam War” from Ken Burns ands Lynn Novick, and Errol Morris’s groundbreaking Netflix series “Wormwood,” which was not deemed eligible for the documentary Oscar, to the filmmaker’s chagrin.

Given filmmaker Bryan Fogel’s role in unveiling the high-profile Russian Olympic doping scandal, Netflix’s Oscar short-listed “Icarus” continues to move forward, while Matt Heineman’s “City of Ghosts” pulls ahead of other Syria documentaries. Two significant omissions here are Brett Morgen for Jane Goodall profile “Jane” and Agnes Varda and J.R.’s whimsical visual tour-de-force “Faces Places,” which are considered Oscar frontrunners.

Netflix and PBS scored two DGA slots each,
See full article at Thompson on Hollywood »

‘Abacus’ Director Weighs Impact Of Oscar Shortlisted Doc On Chinatown Bank Snared In Suspect Prosecution

‘Abacus’ Director Weighs Impact Of Oscar Shortlisted Doc On Chinatown Bank Snared In Suspect Prosecution
Acclaimed filmmaker Steve James has built his reputation primarily on the strength of Chicago-oriented documentaries, among them Hoop Dreams (1994), The Interrupters (2011) and Life Itself (2014). But he finds himself in the Oscar race this year with a story that took him from the Second City to the first. In Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, he explored the case of Abacus Federal Savings, a bank catering to New York's Chinese immigrant community that became the only U.S…
See full article at Deadline »

The Best Documentaries of 2017

Healing from past trauma, film preservation, Isis, libraries, chimps, rats, and cats — these were just a few of the subjects and stories that this year’s documentary offerings brought us. With 2017 wrapping up, we’ve selected 21 features in the field that left us most impressed, so check out our list below and, in the comments, let us know your favorites.

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (Steve James)

Steve James’ filmography has long been about finding entry into larger conversations through intimate portraits. The director’s landmark debut, Hoop Dreams, and latter-day efforts like 2014’s monument to critic Roger Ebert, Life Itself, don’t have much in common on the surface, but they both use their central characters to tell larger stories about big picture topics like structural dysfunction and the purpose of film criticism. That double purpose is the quiet genius of James’ latest documentary, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.
See full article at The Film Stage »

'Quest' Review: Moving Doc on Philly Family Makes the Personal Political

'Quest' Review: Moving Doc on Philly Family Makes the Personal Political
His name is Christopher Rainey, but you can call him "Quest" – that's the nickname this North Philly resident is known by. Christine'a Rainey, his wife and a women's shelter employee, is sometimes called "Ma Quest," usually by the folks who drop by her spouse's recording studio for his "Freestyle Friday" open-houses. ("I always feel like someone's mother," she says, with both pride and weariness.) They each have kids from previous marriages – her son William has just become a father and discovered he had a cancerous brain tumor in quick succession – and one child together: P.
See full article at Rolling Stone »

Sundance 2018 Ushers In the Age of Independent TV With Indie Episodics Line-Up

  • Indiewire
Sundance 2018 Ushers In the Age of Independent TV With Indie Episodics Line-Up
At the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, TV is invading the schedule in a whole new way. The Park City film fest has previously dabbled in what’s possible on the small screen, but this year marks the launch of the Indie Episodics section — which will spotlight TV pilots that mostly lack mainstream distribution.

The selections include “America to Me,” a new docu-series by “Hoop Dreams” director Steve James; as well as “The Mortified Guide,” a screen adaptation of the popular stage show “Mortified,” spotlighting the most embarrassing true stories of adolescence. There’s also “This Close,” showcasing star/creators Josh Feldman and Shoshannah Stern (both of whom are deaf), and “Franchesca,” featuring digital star and “The Nightly Show” writer/contributor Franchesca Ramsey.

This marks a major change for Sundance, and a renewed commitment to independent television. While Sundance has featured TV programming since the premiere of “Top of the Lake” in
See full article at Indiewire »

IFP’s Gotham Awards Give Indie Films a Boost

IFP’s Gotham Awards Give Indie Films a Boost
On Sept. 30, 1991, John Turturro and the late Jonathan Demme were the first of seven New Yorkers to garner a Gotham Award. Trophies were handed out at the Roseland Ballroom without much fanfare. The celebratory dinner, a fundraiser for the Independent Filmmaker Project, was a small, low-key, quirky event that didn’t draw mainstream media.

“It didn’t have that big huge red carpet thing that happens nowadays,” says former Ifp exec director Catherine Tait, who oversaw the creation of the Gotham Awards. “It was really intimate because the interest in indie filmmaking was not very heightened at the time.”

Cut to the same awards show at the same venue four years later. “Reservoir Dogs,” “Kids” and “Hoop Dreams” were officially part of the zeitgeist and Madonna was posing for photographers along with fellow Gotham Award guests Ted Turner and Jane Fonda. The Gotham Awards were officially a hot ticket.

“We were riding a wave of sudden consumer
See full article at Variety - Film News »

In Oscar Documentary Race, First Time Can Be the Charm

In Oscar Documentary Race, First Time Can Be the Charm
It’s never easy being green, but if you’re a documentary filmmaker it can have its advantages. Especially come Oscar season.

In the past two decades, 12 directors have taken home the Academy Award for their very first documentary theatrical feature. They include Ezra Edelman (“O.J.: Made in America”), Louie Psihoyos (“The Cove”) and Malik Bendjelloul (“Searching for Sugarman”). Those films beat out docus made by veteran nonfiction helmers like Kirby Dick (“The Invisible War”), Wim Wenders (“Pina”) and Oscar winner Roger Ross Williams (“Life Animated”).

When it comes to receiving a nomination in the documentary feature category, the odds are even better. In the last decade more than 20 first time feature docu helmers have nabbed an Oscar nod. They include Ellen Kuras (“The Betrayal — Nerakhoon”), Sebastian Junger and the late Tim Hetherington (“Restrepo”), Charles Ferguson (“No End in Sight”) and John Maloof and Charlie Siskel (“Finding Vivian Maier”).

Comparatively, in the last 10 years,
See full article at Variety - Film News »

Sliff 2017 Interview: Donald Rosenfeld – Producer of Cradle Of Champions

Cradle Of Champions screens Sunday, November 5th at 4:00pm at The .Zack (3224 Locust St.) as part of this year’s St. Louis International Film Festival. Producer Donald Rosenfeld will be in attendance. Ticket information can be found Here

Made with a dream team of documentary talent — the crew’s past films include “Citizenfour,” “Cameraperson,” “Queen of Versailles,” “Racing Dreams,” and “Cartel Land” — “Cradle of Champions” captures the epic story of three young people fighting for their lives in the oldest, biggest, and most important amateur boxing tournament in the world: the New York’s Daily News Golden Gloves. “Cradle of Champions” follows three inspiring individuals on an urban odyssey through the 10-week Golden Gloves. Though boxing has come under increasing criticism in the past few decades, the tournament — which has produced more professional world champions than the Olympic Games — has taken legions of at-risk kids off the streets and given them discipline,
See full article at WeAreMovieGeeks.com »

First Person: Sexual Harassers Are Poisonous, and So Are the Companies That Protect Them

First Person: Sexual Harassers Are Poisonous, and So Are the Companies That Protect Them
The day The New York Times broke the Harvey Weinstein story, I found myself choking back bile all day.

In the weeks since, it has become resoundingly clear that Weinstein is a virulent serial predator, and has earned whatever hell rains down on him. But Harvey Weinstein isn’t the problem, and bringing him down — while satisfying, necessary, and just — will be far from sufficient if we don’t simultaneously tear down our rotten corporate culture and reckon with our own complicity in propping it up.

As democracy derives its consent from the governed, tyranny derives its consent from the tyrannized. And while it’s long overdue, I no longer consent to being tyrannized.

I wasn’t sexually harassed by Harvey Weinstein. I worked with him briefly, consulting on “sex, lies, and videotape,” the film that changed the independent film business, Sundance, and Harvey forever; the film whose prescient title
See full article at Indiewire »

Can We Stop with the Damn ‘Rotten Tomatoes’ Outrage?!

Oh, for the love of God, why am I still reading about this? Seems like every godd**n week, I see a new article from somebody trying to figure out the ‘Rotten Tomatoes‘ phenomenon or whatever new phenomenon or faux-outrage or whatever bullsh*t about it there is… Here’s one from Vox.com a few days ago. Here’s one from Wired.com a couple months ago. Here’s one from TVOvermind.com. Here’s one from TheRinger.com. Here’s one from the god**nn New York F**king Times! Here’s an episode of “What the Flick” doing a whole Youtube segment on the New York Times article! And here’s another one from Variety, yes that Variety, about how Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t influence box office. (Sigh) Some of those are from last week; here’s an infamous one that I wrote last year!!!!!!!

Which amazes
See full article at Age of the Nerd »

New to Streaming: ‘Baby Driver,’ ‘Nocturama,’ ‘The Lost City of Z,’ and More

With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options — not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves — we’ve taken it upon ourselves to highlight the titles that have recently hit platforms. Every week, one will be able to see the cream of the crop (or perhaps some simply interesting picks) of streaming titles (new and old) across platforms such as Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, and more (note: U.S. only). Check out our rundown for this week’s selections below.

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (Steve James)

Steve James’ filmography has long been about finding entry into larger conversations through intimate portraits. The director’s landmark debut, Hoop Dreams, and latter-day efforts like 2014’s monument to critic Roger Ebert, Life Itself, don’t have much in common on the surface, but they both use their central characters to tell larger stories about big picture topics like structural dysfunction and the purpose of film criticism.
See full article at The Film Stage »

Venice: David Linde on How ‘Human Flow’ Encapsulates Participant Media’s New Course (Exclusive)

Venice: David Linde on How ‘Human Flow’ Encapsulates Participant Media’s New Course (Exclusive)
Venice, Italy — Participant Media’s David Linde and Diane Weyermann made the trek to Venice for the world premiere Friday of Ai Weiwei’s migrant crisis doc “Human Flow,” which they say encapsulates exactly what the Hollywood mini-major is hoping to achieve with entertainment that aims to drive social change.

Ai Weiwei wasn’t trying to make an art movie,” Weyermann said about the ambitious piece shot over more than a year in 23 countries by the Chinese artist.

“He was very clear about that. It’s about reaching people. He really truly believes that this is a major crisis, and there are many people out there who don’t know about it,” said Weyermann, Participant’s executive vice president of documentary films. “He wanted to reach a wide audience, to the extent that a filmmaker can.”

Human Flow,” which Amazon Studios will release theatrically in the U.S. on Oct. 13 in partnership with Magnolia Pictures,
See full article at Variety - Film News »

Quest review – black lives in the age of Obama

The power of a documentary tracing the fortunes of an African American family over eight years is all in the tender details

A window into the life of an African American family in north Philadelphia, Jonathan Olshefski’s debut feature reminded me of another observational documentary about the black American Dream. I’m surely not the first person to draw a line between Quest and Hoop Dreams, Steve James’s 1994 documentary epic about two aspiring African American basketball players from Chicago, though the scope here is significantly smaller.

While that film spanned five years and clocked in at almost three hours, Quest is compiled from 300 hours of footage, with Olshefski compressing eight years of family life into an hour and 45 minutes. Olshefski is a visual artist as well as a film-maker, and his relationship with the Rainey family began when he was teaching photography to adults in Philadelphia in 2006. A
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Italian Movies Are Struggling in U.S. Theaters, But This Distribution Experiment Could Change That

Italian Movies Are Struggling in U.S. Theaters, But This Distribution Experiment Could Change That
When “Indivisible” screened for a crowd at Lincoln Center as the opening night selection of its annual “Open Roads: New Italian Cinema” series, it had no U.S. distribution plan. In late 2016, it had screened in higher-profile slots in Venice and Toronto, where buyers paid no heed. But at Lincoln Center, the movie — a seriocomic story about 18-year-old conjoined twins pursuing a music career (real-life twins Angela and Marianna Fontana) — played through the roof.

That was when Ira Deutchman saw its potential.

“I just fell in love with it,” the veteran distribution executive said. “It’s got everything in it. The movie is not a depressing, severe art film that requires people to look at it like work. Maybe distributors didn’t see the commerciality in a story about conjoined twins, but the women are beautiful and the movie is surprisingly entertaining.”

Read More:Ira Deutchman Receives First Annual Spotlight Lifetime Achievement Award

Now,
See full article at Indiewire »

The 50 Best Films of the ’90s, From ‘Pulp Fiction’ to ‘Groundhog Day’

  • Indiewire
The 50 Best Films of the ’90s, From ‘Pulp Fiction’ to ‘Groundhog Day’
The ’90s were a moment of tremendous upheaval in international cinema. Here in America, the revolt against Hollywood’s bland output a decade earlier had resulted in a small window in which American independent cinema became commercially viable and started seeping into more mainstream fare. Young and exciting directors, most of whom are now A-listers, were given resources and able to make multiple films. Meanwhile, Hollywood’s big commercial films were in the hands of directors like Spielberg, Bigelow, Verhoeven, Woo and De Palma, as franchises continued to be invented rather than recycled.

On the international scene, the Iranian New Wave unloaded a treasure trove of new films, the great run of Hong Kong cinema was peaking and maturing, three great autuers completely upended how films in Taiwan were made, and a pair of Danish directors with a dogma wanted to change how every film was made.

More than anything,
See full article at Indiewire »

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail review – compelling real-life legal drama

Steve James’s documentary about how one small family-owned bank fought to keep its reputation tells a very human story

Oscar-nominated documentarian Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters) turns his attention to the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Of all the banks implicated in the toxic loans scandal, the only one prosecuted was a small family-owned institution that serviced the Chinese community. This film follows the struggle of the Sung family to clear their names and that of the Abacus Federal Savings Bank. And it raises the spectre of, if not racially motivated persecution, then at least a certain degree of cultural insensitivity on the part of the district attorney’s office. Disarmingly human moments – the Sung daughters, all high-powered lawyers, fret over their 80-year-old father’s disappointing sandwich – pepper this compelling courtroom drama.

Continue reading...
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail review – engrossing tale of the bank that was bullied

A documentary about the prosecution of a bank serving Chinatown’s community exposes the racism of the Us judicial system

Veteran documentary-maker Steve James (Hoop Dreams) is back with an engrossing story: the extraordinary fiasco of the Abacus bank prosecution. It is a tale of hypocrisy, judicial bullying and racism. Abacus was a small neighbourhood bank serving New York’s Chinese community, which discovered a crooked employee falsifying mortgage documents, duly reported the matter to the authorities, but then found itself prosecuted by a district attorney who had sniffed a post-2008 PR opportunity to collar some real live bankers.

Continue reading...
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

The Best Films of 2017 (So Far)

2017 has now crossed the halfway mark, so it’s time to take a look back at the first six months and round up our favorite titles thus far. While the end of this year will bring personal favorites from all of our writers, think of the below 28 entries as a comprehensive rundown of what should be seen before heading into a promising fall line-up.

Do note that this feature is based solely on U.S. theatrical releases from 2017, with many currently widely available on streaming platforms or theatrically. Check them out below, as organized alphabetically, followed by honorable mentions and films to keep on your radar for the remaining summer months. One can also see the list on Letterboxd.

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (Steve James)

Steve James’ filmography has long been about finding entry into larger conversations through intimate portraits. The director’s landmark debut, Hoop Dreams, and latter-day
See full article at The Film Stage »
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