SDFF NEWS BITS: ALUMNI UPDATES, FESTS, HONORS, NEW DOCS, INDUSTRY HAPPENINGS
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9 NOVEMBER 2021
ALUMNI AWARDS. HONORS. FESTIVALS. DOC NEWS
Filmmaker Corina Schwingruber Ilić won the Golden Dove audience award for feature-length docs at DOK Leipzig this year for Dida, a film she made with her husband Nikola Ilić about her mother Dida. The filmmaker’s mother has a learning disability that has made her dependent on her own mother, but longs for independence. Ilić’s short All Inclusive, which surveys life aboard a cruise ship, was an SDFF 2020 official selection.
The 11th annual Arlington International Film Festival, which is virtual this year, and runs through Nov. 14, selected Hunger Ward (Skye Fitzgerald, 2021) as its Best Documentary Short. The short is an SDFF 2021 selection tjat provides unflinching portraits of Dr. Aida Alsadeeq and Nurse Mekkia Mahdi as they work to save the lives of hunger-stricken children Yemen, which is on the brink of famine after years of war.
My Favourite War (Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen, 2020), an animated memoir of a Soviet childhood and an antiwar film that emphasizes the importance of an individual’s right to freedom in a democratic society, won the Calvart Journal Film Festival’s award for Best Animation Film. The festival is in its 2nd year, and streamed 35 movies from the “New East” (Eastern Europe, Balkans, Russia, the Caucus, Central Asia) over the course of two weeks. My Favourite War was an SDFF 2021 official selection and a nominee in animation for the Oscars.
When We Were Bullies (Jay Rosenblatt, 2021) won the award for best short in the Time of History section of the 66th Seminici/Valladolid International Film Festival, one of Spain’s major international film festivals. The short film captures a coincidental meeting that spurs the filmmaker to investigate a bullying event from 50 years ago in which he was complicit. It showed at SDFF 2021.
Voice Above Water (Dana Frankoff, 2020) showed as part of this year’s BANFF Mountain Film Festival. The SDFF 2021 alumni film is about Waya Nyo, a 90 year-old fisherman who has devoted his life to collecting a seemingly never-ending supply of garbage from the ocean. The BANFF film festival will be screening its film selections, which feature stories of adventure and exploration, in person, virtually and as an international tour, with dates in the U.S. and Internationally beginning Dec. 1.
From the Wild Sea (Robin Petré, 2021) received a special mention from the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival in the Best Film About Nature category. Ji.hlava IDFF is a documentary film festival in Jihlava, Czech Republic, which ran virtually this year from Oct. 26-31. Though the festival is over, its panel discussions are available for free online, and include a keynote speech by Judith Butler and discussions about a wide range of topics in the film industry, from mental health and digital space to working under authoritarian regimes and the relationship between science and nature. From The Wild Sea is filmmaker Robin Petré’s directorial debut and documents the experiences of marine animals forced into the human world by rising sea levels, told as a poetic dialogue between human- and animal-kind. It was an official selection at SDFF 2021.
The Australian Academy of Cinema Television Arts (AACTA) has nominated When The Cameras Stopped Rolling (Pat Fiske, Jane Castle, 2020) for Best Documentary. It is also an official selection of the 68thSydney Film Festival, which will run Nov. 12-21. In the film, which showed at SDFF 2021, a cinematographer tells the story of her filmmaker mother, their legacy, and their challenging relationship, using their deep archive of footage.
The 2021 Asian World Film Festival has unveiled its Competition, Centerpiece, and Special Screenings slate. The three programs will showcase features from 14 nations, highlighting this year’s theme of unity.Wuhan Wuhan (Yung Chang, 2020) is among the selected films. Wuhan Wuhan, an SDFF 2021 selection, captured life at the initial epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak and explores the universality of the pandemic experience. It has also made IDA’s shortlist for 2021.
NEW FILMS & PROJECTS FROM SDFF ALUMNI
The LA Times marked its entrée into the world of documentary shorts with the premiere of The Beauty President (Whitney Skauge, 2021), the first in the paper’s new initiative showcasing nonfiction shorts from a “West Coast” perspective. The film is about drag performer Joan Jett Blakk’s 1992 run for president as the Queer Nation party candidate against Bill Clinton, H.W. Bush and Ross Perot. The Beauty Presidentappears in an online edition of the paper, along with a written piece on the project and its subject by filmmaker Whitney Skauge. The film is a coproduction with Lena Waithe and Rishi Rajani’s Hillman Grad Productions and Ben Proudfoot’s Breakwater Studios, which is also streaming the award-winning short. Proudfoot has experience in this niche, having directed films for a similar series of shorts for NY Times Op-Docs, such as A Concerto Is A Conversation, which he co-directed with composer Chris Bowers. The New Yorker, TIME and UK’s Guardian have all recently made similar major commitments towards documentary shorts. Proudfoot’s films have shown at SDFF numerous times, including 2019’s That’s My Jazz and 2017’s Montage: Great Film Composers and the Piano.
Director Penny Lane will appear with her new film, Listening To Kenny G at the Key West Film Festival. The 5-day festival runs from Nov. 17-21, and will feature 75 films. The documentary, which interrogates public sentiment around the much-maligned sax player, is also upcoming on HBO. Lane’s film Nuts! about radio “doctor” and public health hazard of days past, Dr. John Brinkley, was an SDFF 2018 official selection.
DOC NYC is the venue for the U.S. premiere of Invisible Demons, filmmaker Rahul Jain’s new doc that captures the effects of climate change in Delhi and the environmental cost of India’s fast-growing economy, while meditating on the aesthetics of human disconnection with the natural world. Rights to the film were purchased by Mubi following its international premiere at Cannes, and will stream and see theatrical release in 2022. For more on that story, see Variety’s coverage. This, Jain’s second doc, had its world premiere at Cannes. His first documentary, Machines, a masterful meditation on work, was an SDFF 2018 selection.
SDFF ALUMN I IN THE NEWS
Song Sparrow (Farzaneh Omidvarnia, 2019), which tells the true story of tragic events that befell a group of refugees in Austria (2015) and Ireland (2019) using elaborate puppets got a strong reception and rating from Film Threat, which praised its artistry, craft and compelling story. The popular SDFF 2021 film shows the perils of fleeing a dangerous country may be more formidable than the ones that force people to run in the first place.
Tribal Justice (Anne A Makepeace, 2017) was screened in New Orleans this week in honor of Indigenous Peoples month by the Pontchartrain FF and the Women’s Center for Healing and Transformation. Tribal Justice is about two Native American judges who attempt to model restorative systems of justice by reaching back to traditional concepts of justice, addressing the root causes of crime, reducing incarceration rates, fostering safety in their communities and creating a better future for youth. The film showed at SDFF 2018.
LOCAL DOC SCREENINGS
Ascension (Jessica Kingdon, 2021) a new doc about the pursuit of the “Chinese Dream” that is on 2021 documentary shortlists from IDA, the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards and DOC NYC, is showing at the Sebastopol Rialto, starting Nov. 12. The Rialto will also be screening two other new docs this month, Paper & Glue (JR, 2021), in which artist JR explores his own work, most famously large-scale photographs that become integrated into cityscapes and lived space starting Nov. 19, and the Julia Childs biography Julia(Julie Cohen and Betsy West, 2021) starting Nov. 24.
The 10th Annual Napa Valley Film Festival is rapidly approaching. The festival will remain streaming in 2021 and runs from Nov. 10-14, 2021. Their official selections include 12 feature-length docs and 3 programs of documentary shorts. Streaming passes for the festival and for shorts programs only are available here.
Firelight Media made an open call for entries to the Spark Fund, a one-time, NIH-underwritten $50,000 funding opportunity for 36 BIPOC filmmakers working on humanities-based projects that were disrupted by COVID-19. The deadline for Spark Fund applications is Dec. 29.
The Sundance Institute Documentary Film program has released a list of 20 films that will receive $600,000 in Documentary Fund Grants. The projects are at various stages of production and distribution with eight in development, eight in production, three in post and one in impact. The grants provide non-recoupable support for nonfiction projects from around the world that continue to elevate and advance cultural dialogue, while breaking new ground in creativity and innovation. Eight of the ten U.S. projects selected this year are directed by at least one BIPOC director, half have international regions where freedom of expression is at risk or that lack adequate support for indie films.
Documentary+, a non-fiction streaming service that launched in January, will be available as a 24/7 linear FAST (free, ad-supported streaming TV) channel on Samsung TVs in the U.S., in addition to appearing as a channel on the normal array of streaming and mobile devices (Apple TV, Amazon, Roku, etc.). FAST channels are free, ad-supported streaming TV channels that don’t require a login or subscription to access content.
In the lead-up to the American Film Market earlier this week, The Hollywood Reporter published several articles discussing topics projected to be discussion worthy including the entry of NFTs (non-fungible tokens, essentially authenticating documents for digital files) into the business, as a source of funding and a gimmick for fans; the ways in which studios and streamers have created a scenario not dissimilar from that of the Studio System, locking up top talent; the ways in which an enormous increase in streaming and the need for local content are transforming the independent market; and how the industry will respond to the pandemic’s acceleration of changes in the business model—a move away presale and theatrical distribution to one focused on streaming, and international distribution.
A panel of commissioning editors recently met at Galway to discuss changes to the documentary world hastened by the pandemic. “Documentary — A European Perspective” focused on exploring broadcasters’ editorial strategies, how the shift from linear to virtual programming is developing and how the documentary production landscape has changed over the last 18 months. Cineuropa’s coverage gives an overview of the discussion, which mirrors many of the topics that appear in coverage of AFM in the U.S.
CATCH THEM WHILE YOU CAN: VIRTUAL FESTS, STREAMING DOCS
AFI will be streaming most of its 2021 selections as part of its hybrid virtual-in person festival from Nov. 10-14. In addition to its feature-length documentaries, the festival will continue its five-year collaboration with vaunted national Sunday news show Meet The Press to present five documentary shorts programs, which will be available to stream on Nov. 11.
The San Francisco Transgender Film Festival will take place virtually this week from Nov. 11-14. Their full roster is available now, and appears to be comprised of seven film programs featuring 32 shorts, many of which are either documentary, non-fiction or performance-oriented. All of the films become available on Nov. 11. The festival was founded in 1997 and screens films that promote the visibility of transgender and gender variant people, challenging negative stereotypes promoted by mainstream media representations.
The third annual San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival will be virtual this year and streams from Nov. 12-16. This year’s fest includes 10 films from South Asia and its diaspora, including work from India, Sri Lanka, France, the UK and U.S.’s Pakistani community. Two of the films In Process With Nishtha Jain (Nishtha Jain) and 7 Days (Roshan Sethi) will be live streamed and accompanied by filmmaker Q&As. The rest of the films will be available beginning on Nov. 12 and can be streamed any time during the fest.
There is still time left to check out the 46th Annual American Indian Film Festival, which streams virtually through Nov. 13. Check out their catalog here. The festival includes fiction and documentary features and shorts. Its roster of feature-length docs this year includes Dancing Through (Dir. Anika Syskakis and Madelaine McCallum) about an indigenous woman’s utilization of dance to guide her as she grapples with a cancer diagnosis; Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy (Dir. Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) a portrait of how substance abuse has changed a community; Savage Land (Dir. Campbell Dalglish and Dr. Henrietta Man) about historical trauma and their resonance in the present that examines the police killing of an 18 year-old child, a descendant of the Sand Creek and Washita Massacres; Spirit to Soar (Dir. Tanya Talaga and Michelle DeRosier) examines what happened in the wake of an inquest into the deaths and disappearances of seven First Nations high school students in Thunder Bay Canada from 2000-2011; and Warrior Spirit (Dir. Landon Dyksterhouse) about the first native American UFC champion Nicco Montano. The festival’s noms for short docs include: Dear Friend (Dir. Trevor Solway) about a group of women who plan rescue efforts when one of their own goes missing from their reservation; Guardians of the River (Dir. Shane Anderson & Swiftwater Films) about the Klamath River restoration and its importance; Indigenous Dads (Dir. Peter Brass) in which four indigenous dads candidly discuss raising their kids; Mary Two-Axe Earley: I Am Indian Again (Dir. Courtney Montour) about Canadian indigenous and women’s rights’ activist Mary Two-Axe Early; and Nalujuk Night (Dir. Jennie Williams) about the Nunatsiavut tradition Nalujuk Night.
FACETS 38th annual Chicago International Children’s Film Festival is streaming in the U.S. through Nov. 14. CICFF is one of two Academy Award qualifying international children’s film festivals. The program includes children’s films in all categories, including documentary. Virtual screenings cost $15.
SDFF ALUMNI STREAMERS, NOVEMBER END DATES
Filmmaker Adam Mazo’s new film Bounty will premiere via streaming through the Maine Historical Society and the Portland Press Herald on Nov. 11. The doc is follows citizens of the Penobscot Nation who bring their families to Boston to read their ancestors’ death warrants, which were part of a 1755 colonial government proclamation that paid settlers to murder the tribespeople. Mazo’s project with Ben Pender-Cudlip, Dawnland, was an Emmy® award winning film and SDFF 2019 official selection. Pre-registrationis required for this online screening. Dawnland has also been shown at a number of special screenings for Native American Heritage Month this October, including University of Massachusetts, Lowell, where Mazo did a post-screening Q&A.
Knocking Down The Fences (Meg Shutzer, 2019) will be streaming as part of Lunafest until Nov. 13, along with Maria Finitzo’s Until She Is Free, which imagines a culturally “cliterate” world. Knocking Down The Fences showed at SDFF 2020, and is about AJ Andrews, the first woman to win a Rawlings Gold Glove, and her struggle to make it as one of the best professional softball players in the world. Finitzo’s film The Dilemma of Desire was an SDFF 2021 selection, which was picked up internationally by Utopia and recently released a new official trailer. Lunafest is a traveling film festival by, for, and about women that began in 2001. This year it has been a hybrid fest with in-person and virtual events. You can find streaming dates here.
Gilda Shepperd’s Since I Been Down, will show at Nashville’s 12th Annual Black Film Festival, which was recently reschedule for Dec. 2-5 and will be a hybrid streaming and in-person fest. Shepperd’s doc approaches intersecting criminal justice and carceral issues by focusing on victims of the 1980s drug war who continue to languish behind bars.
The Woman Who Loves Giraffes (Alison Reid, 2018) will become available through Sundance Now! streaming service on November 22. In the SDFF 2019 selection, Dr. Anne Innis Dagg re-traces the steps of her ground-breaking 1956 journey to South Africa to study giraffes in the wild. Now, at 85 years old, Anne sees a startling contrast between the world of giraffes she once knew and the one it has become. Weaving through the past and present, her harrowing journey gives us an intimate look into the factors that destroyed her career and the forces that brought her back.
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