SXSW kicks off tomorrow, Friday, March 7, and runs through Sunday, March 16. Between attending True/False (post to come) and working on programming Nantucket, I have been remiss in highlighting this year’s documentary line-up in any depth. As I’ve noted before, my annual pilgrimage to Austin feels like a rite of Spring, a week of typically warm weather that preps me for the eventual thawing out of a NYC seemingly caught in an endless polar vortex. While I’ll be checking out as many of the offerings, fiction and nonfiction alike, for Nantucket, my heart remains with the latter, so I’m especially interested in the fifty feature docs that are included in this year’s lineup. Selections from each section are highlighted below. Continue reading
Category Archives: Overviews
One of my favorite film events of the year, the True/False Film Festival, begins its second decade tomorrow, with its eleventh edition running through the weekend. Just over forty features plus several shorts will screen for the fest’s loyal local Columbia MO audience, as well as the scores of visitors that flock to the event each year. A festival with a distinctive vision, an appreciation for cinematic non-fiction, the organizers also have cultivated a unique approach to the event itself, peppering it with beloved traditions, like the March March Parade, eclectic screening venues, and fun parties. This year, they’ve decided to shake things up even further, revealing several weeks ago that they will be sharing revenue with their featured filmmakers. I’m always excited to head out to the festival, which carefully curates a program of new and recent work, cherry-picking from among the best of Sundance, IDFA, and other events, while offering some secret sneak previews, and, this year notably, a number of world premieres – though they don’t make a big deal about the latter. The following highlights these as well as other works I haven’t already mentioned here before. Continue reading
Croatia’s ZagrebDox celebrates its first decade beginning this Sunday, February 23, with the documentary fest wrapping up its tenth edition the following Sunday, March 2. Nearly a hundred features screen over the course of the event, representing new and recent docs, as well as a significant number of retrospective works. Amongst its lineup are several titles familiar from the international documentary circuit, already covered here elsewhere, and, more intriguingly, a healthy sampling of national and regional work, much of it spotlighted below: Continue reading
Montana’s largest film festival, Missoula’s Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, kicks off its 11th edition tomorrow, Saturday, February 15, and running through Sunday, February 23. Presenting a mix of new films, recent festival favorites, and a healthy dose of retrospective selections, the event has carved a distinctive space for nonfiction in the American West. This year, in addition to its annual Made in Montana sidebar, showcasing local productions like Daniel T Skaggs’ FREELOAD, about modern-day train hoppers; music doc section Sights and Sounds; indigenous showcase; and past fest participants, Encore; the event offers sidebars on comedy docs, wilderness films, and a retrospective on Robert B Weide. Other selections are highlighted below. Continue reading
The Berlin International Film Festival opens its 64th edition tomorrow, Thursday, February 6, unspooling approximately 400 films through Sunday, February 16 for audiences of over 300,000 in one of the best cities in the world. Just over 70 new feature documentaries appear in the lineup, while other nonfiction-related programming includes the Meet the Docs initiative in the concurrent European Film Market, featuring panels, consultations, meetings, and networking opportunities for accredited filmmakers and industry; and targeted mentorship sessions for ten international directors in the Berlinale Talents. While I’m once again not attending, the following offers highlights of the documentary film offerings that are most intriguing: Continue reading
The 23rd edition of the New York Jewish Film Festival kicks off tomorrow, Wednesday, January 8 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. A co-presentation of The Jewish Museum and the Film Society, the festival runs through Thursday, January 23, and presents more than 30 new and retrospective feature films, as well as shorts and special programs, such as symposium exploring film genres and identity-based programming, guest curation by Wim Wenders, a master class with Amos Gitai, and a celebration of the work of Otto Preminger and Saul Bass. Compared to last year’s edition, which saw about half the lineup focus on nonfiction programming, there are fewer documentaries screening, all noted below. Continue reading
Next month marks the 30th anniversary Sundance Film Festival. As I’ve done since 2011, I’m planning to profile each of the nearly fifty feature-length documentaries in the lineup, beginning with the US Documentary Competition this Wednesday, and continuing section-by-section before wrapping up in advance of the festival kick off on Thursday, January 16.
As a Documentary Programming Associate for Sundance, I will note that these profiles are not reviews – each simply features select background on the film and its filmmakers, noting past Sundance projects where applicable, and reasons why readers should add these films to their watch-lists. I hope those who are Park City-bound will see these, and as many other films at Sundance as possible, or catch them at other upcoming festivals, in theatres, TV/cable, or on DVD/VOD. For a sample, check out last year’s, which began here.
I’ve also prepared a Twitter list of 2014 Sundance filmmakers and films, allowing readers a chance to experience the festival through their eyes.
The Dubai International Film Festival celebrates its first decade this month, with its tenth edition starting this Friday, December 6 and running through Saturday, December 14. The eldest of several high-profile Gulf State fests that began last decade, the Emirati event showcases work from the region, while also shining a spotlight on Asian and African work, and annually awards more than half a million dollars in prize money to competition winners. This year’s lineup consists of 174 films representing 57 countries. Among their number are 25 documentary features, a mix of new titles noted below and a number of familiar festival favorites that are just making their regional bows at the event.
Six films compete in the Muhr Arab Documentary Competition, including: Mohamed Amine Boukhris’ WAR REPORTER (pictured), following journalists of the Arab Spring; Ahmed Nour’s WAVES, a personal exploration of the young generation of Egyptians that enabled the revolution to take place; Sarah Francis’ BIRDS OF SEPTEMBER, in which a roving van serves as a confessional for the people of Beirut; and Philippe Aractingi’s HERITAGES, a meditation on the Lebanese director’s ancestral roots.
An additional eight titles are part of the Muhr Asia Africa Documentary Competition, including: Hafiz Rancajale’s BEHIND THE FLICKERING LIGHT (THE ARCHIVE), on Indonesia’s first film archivist; Surabhi Sharma’s BIDESIA IN BAMBAI, a celebration of the underrepresented migrant workforce in Mumbai; and Kazuhiro Sôda’s CAMPAIGN 2 (pictured), about a Fukushima-inspired anti-nuclear political campaign in Japan.
The fest’s non-competitive Arabian Nights section also features several new documentaries, among them Darin Al Baw’s OUR HOME WE CAN NOT WALK TO, about sisters caught in a war in a Lebanese Palestinian refugee camp; Mahmoud Kaabour’s CHAMP OF THE CAMP (pictured), on a Bollywood competition among migrant laborers in Dubai; and Nasredine Ben Maati’s A DOOMED GENERATION, a look at cyber-resistance to Tunisian repression prior to the revolution.
New York’s African Diaspora International Film Festival, one of the oldest events focusing on filmmaking by and about the people of Africa and the African Diaspora, enters its third decade beginning this Friday, November 29 and continuing through Sunday, December 15. The 21st edition of the fest brings over 70 films to audiences, including more than thirty documentary features made up of both new films and little seen retrospective programming. Special programming strands explore Afro-Brazilian, Haitian, Jamaican, and other Caribbean themes, with films representing 35 countries on offer.
The Gala nonfiction presentations include: Pratibha Parmar’s ALICE WALKER: BEAUTY IN TRUTH, an insightful portrait of the acclaimed author/activist; Centerpiece YOUTHS OF SHASHA, Emanuele Cicconi’s look at the musically talented but unsupported youths in an Ethiopian village; Joel Zito Araújo and Megan Mylan’s RACE (RAÇA), showcasing three black Brazilians who make a stand for equal rights and representation; and Closing Night film SPIES OF MISSISSIPPI (pictured), Dawn Porter’s intriguing tale of a state-funded covert spy agency fighting integration during the height of the Civil Rights struggle.
Among the other recent documentary offerings are: Ada M Babino’s I DON’ BEEN THROUGH THE SNAKE’S SKIN & COME OUT CLEAN (pictured), about the perspective and knowledge passed down by a long-lived Louisiana couple to their children and grandchildren; Nevline Nnaji’s REFLECTIONS UNHEARD: BLACK WOMEN IN CIVIL RIGHTS, a reclamation of the unheralded influence of women within the black power and feminist movements; James Brown’s RED, WHITE, BLACK & BLUE, which follows a South Central Los Angeles rugby team to a competition in New Zealand; Tukufu Zuberi’s AFRICAN INDEPENDENCE, a wide-ranging look at the history and struggles of post-colonial governance in Africa; Jaime Otero’s A COMMON ENEMY, about the first free elections after Tunisia’s Arab Spring; Joseph Hillel’s AYITI TOMA, THE LAND OF THE LIVING, a complex consideration of Haiti’s demonized voudou culture and historical exploitation by outsiders; and Valerie Scoon’s GRENADA: COLONIALISM AND CONFLICT, on the dark legacy of the Caribbean island nation’s colonial past.