Yes, yes, we know. It's February 1 and we're still looking back at 2009. Call us belated, call us procrastinators, but we still have a word or three to offer about the year that's now a month past. Last year we offered a list of ten folks who've made the community a better place in 2008. Here's our list of 2009's nonfiction heroes:
2009 marked the year that Cinereach broke through as a major grant player – but with a significant twist. Their first high profile film, OCTOBER COUNTRY, was known less for its social justice/liberal agenda perspective than for its artistry.
Through his seafar blog, the guru of Hot Docs gave readers an unvarnished and thoroughly revealing look at the process behind programming a major documentary festival. By examining his own process so publicly, Farnel gave filmmakers a unique opportunity to understand what happens throughout a curator’s year – from fests to submissions to hundreds of index cards thump tacked to a wall.
The Board of Film Independent
There were those who deplored the actions of Film Independent and the Los Angeles Film Festival in their handling of the controversial documentary, BANANAS!*, but we found the organization’s dedication to screening the film – even in the threat of lawsuit – courageous. For those who believe otherwise, rest assured there are plenty of film festivals and organizations that wouldn’t have taken the risk.
Imagining a documentary festival that awards Harmony Korine’s TRASH HUMPERS a grand jury prize is a visionary thing. Fischer and her team at CPH:DOX have crafted an intimate, slightly unruly and completely invigorating revisioning of what documentary film festivals can be.
With OBJECTIFIED, Hustwit continued his rep as one of the most accomplished self-distributors in the doc world. Certainly, he’s one of the few who’s so willing to detail his experience and successes (including deal points) for other filmmakers.
As other distributors exhibited caution at last year’s Sundance, Roadside proved intrepid – acquiring box office successes GOOD HAIR and SEPTEMBER ISSUE and Oscar hopeful THE COVE. And although the latter was a box office disappointment, taken in total, the three films proved that aggressive theatrical acquisition was a recipe for success in 2009.
Two years ago, Schmidt grabbed hold of the reins at
the IDA and the result has been a thorough reinvigoration of the brand – from
the way in which the organization gives its awards (ANVIL! anyone?) to public programs
to their website.
Did anyone go for broke in 2009 more than Timoner? Fresh off her Sundance triumph with WE LIVE IN PUBLIC, Ondi utilized social media in aggressively new ways in her efforts to spread the word about her film. Later in the year, she’d make the first dent in the Academy Doc Branch’s fear of the internet, getting permission to show WLIP (as it came to be known) to press online, even as it was screening in theaters. If the Academy finally revises its moribund rules regarding digital and VOD releases, Timoner will deserve much of the credit for leading the way.
While his “Dear Documentary Filmmaker” tweets stirred controversy early in the year (did we really need to be told what to do), Tsiokos’ twitter feed has since proved to be a one-stop shop for breaking doc news, grant deadlines and RTing of the usual suspects (your humble correspondent included).
John Vanco/IFC Center
New York’s premiere venue for documentaries of all stripes added two screens and thus enhanced their ability to hold on to films longer and even to pick up films from downtown rival Film Forum.