February is flying past - the Spirit Awards, Oscars and opening weekend of SXSW all go down in the next three weeks...
It was another weekend awards giving, with THE COVE's Mark Monroe receiving the WGA Documentary Screenwriting award on Saturday night. As we noted, the Writers Guild win completed an unprecedent sweep of the four available guild prizes (Producers, Directors, Editors and Writers) for Louie Psihoyos' film.
On the other side of the planet, the BAFTAs were handed out in London, where MUGABE AND THE WHITE AFRICAN was nominated in the Best British Debut category (the winner was MOON). Although the BAFTAs don't have a Best Documentary category (there's a Facebook group pleading for BAFTA to add one), the British Academy lumps nonfiction nominees in with narrative features - and sometimes, the docs win: MAN ON WIRE and TOUCHING THE VOID both took Best British Film.
Also over the weekend, the Berlin Film Festival wrapped up and presented its prizes. Notably, Lucy Walker's WASTE LAND picked up the Audience Award in the Panorama Section. The film had previously won the Audience prize in the Sundance World Documentary competition. Walker has previously picked up the Panorama Audience Award for her 2006 film BLINDSIGHT.
In addition to WASTE LAND, a number of films that had made their debuts at Sundance had their international premieres in Berlin. Time Magazine's Tristana Moore and Dennis Lim, writing for the NY Times, both wrote about Laura Poitras' THE OATH, as did indieWIRE's Shane Danielsen, who said the film had "the strongest word of mouth by far". The great Meredith Brody (covering Berlin for Anne Thompson's column), the Guardian's Nick James and indieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez all have thoughts about EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP and director/artist Bansky's "appearance" in Berlin.
Also screening in Berlin were Sharon Lockhart's latest, DOUBLE TIDE, which screened in the Forum. Holly Willis wrote about the film prior to a Los Angeles screening in November. Michèle Ohayon (STEAL A PENCIL FOR ME) premiered her latest film, S.O.S. STATE OF SECURITY, a profile of outspoken counter-terrorism official Richard Clarke. Variety's Leslie Felperin (writing behind the paywall) found the film "overstuffed" and "strident", Reuters' Brian Rohan profiles. Berlin also saw the premiere of Bobby Sheehan's ARIAS WITH A TWIST: THE DOCUFANTASY, about the collaboration between drag performer Joey Arias and puppeteer Basil Twist. The Boston Herald's Stephen Schaefer talks to the filmmaker. Finally, Robert Koehler writes about James Benning in Berlin and in Rotterdam with two recent works, RUHR and TULARE ROAD.
With Berlin over, the page turns to SXSW, and late last week the film festival announced a handful of additional titles, including screenings of Tom DiCillo's Doors documentary, WHEN YOU'RE STRANGE, Don Hahn's WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY, Gregory Kallenberg's HAYNESVILLE: THE HUNT FOR AN ENERGY FUTURE and Peter Leichti's SOUND OF INSECTS - RECORD OF A MUMMY. In addition, the fest will offer premieres of Elijah Drenner's AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE, described as a "history of the American Exploitation Film", and Don Letts' STRUMMERVILLE, profiling Joe Strummer's charity of the same name.
One last bit of festival news - the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival announced their prize winners last Thursday with Best Feature going to Lixin Fan's LAST TRAIN HOME and the Artistic Vision prize going to Josh Fox for GASLAND.
Doc stuff we missed during the week: The Carpetbagger goes to the Martha Stewart-hosted reception for FOOD, INC. and asks Robert Kenner "what's for dinner?" Also in The Times, Constance Rosenblum profiles director Don Argott and his feature doc, THE ART OF THE STEAL. Jesse Ashlock writes for GOOD and wonders "who really lives in Middle America" in his profile of OCTOBER COUNTRY and 45365. Note to Jesse: upstate New York (the setting of OCTOBER COUNTRY) does not qualify as "the middle of the country". Ray Pride has Adam Curtis' short HOW WE HAVE ALL BECOME LIKE NIXON. And filmmaker Deborah Stranton talks to POV Blog's Tom Roston about this year's TED Conference.
Interesting film stuff (only tangentially related to nonfiction) we missed during the week: The Hollywood Reporter's John Scott Lewinski tells the story of Quentin Tarantino's heretofore quiet save of the Los Angeles revival house, New Beverly Cinema. Mark Olsen profiles this year's live action and animated Oscar shorts in the LA Times. ScreenDaily's (read it while you can) Mike Goodridge preview's the Toronto Film Festival's move downtown in 2010. And John Anderson looks at Participant's foray from socially-conscious docs to horror films.
Finally, this weekend a memorial was held in Boston for editor Karen Schmeer. Her friends and family have announced the formation of an editing fellowship in her honor andare accepting donations. You can find more details here. Jim Emerson writes a lengthy piece about Karen and her work on his blog.
Just after Schmeer's tragic death, we wrote about the role the NYPD might have played, in pursuing the car that eventually struck Schmeer. A bit of a follow-up - the NYPD has now admitted that the pursuit was "improper". There is still conflicting information as to whether the police were still chasing the car when the hit-and-run occurred. The NYPD say that a supervisor called off the chase prior to the accident. Streetsblog's Noah Kazis has all the details.