We're more than half-way through the fifth month of 2010. Can summer be far behind?...
The Joe Berlinger/Chevron/CRUDE raw footage-subpeona situation continues to resonate throughout the nonfiction community. An open letter of support for Berlinger, spearheaded by Patrick Creadon and Doug Blush - and supported by the IDA, was released on Wednesday and signed by nearly 200 folks in the documentary community. Oscar winner Errol Morris signed onto the letter on Thursday, along with another 200 people (as of Monday) in the comments section here and 40 on the IDA's website.
Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, who both signed the letter, wrote in an opinion piece that while all eyes are on the oil spill in the gulf, "there's another important story involving Big Oil and pollution -- one that shatters not only the environment but the essential First Amendment right of journalists to tell truth and shame the devil":
"Some of the issues and nuances of Berlinger's case are admittedly complex, but they all boil down to this: Chevron is trying to avoid responsibility and hopes to find in the unused footage -- material the filmmaker did not utilize in the final version of his documentary -- evidence helpful to the company in fending off potential damages of $27.3 billion.
This is a serious matter for reporters, filmmakers and frankly, everyone else. Tough, investigative reporting without fear or favor -- already under siege by severe cutbacks and the shutdown of newspapers and other media outlets -- is vital to the public awareness and understanding essential to a democracy. As Michael Moore put it, "The chilling effect of this is, [to] someone like me, if something like this is upheld, the next whistleblower at the next corporation is going to think twice about showing me some documents if that information has to be turned over to the corporation that they're working for.""
At the theatrical box office, it was more of the same that we've seen the past couple weeks. The Banksy/Shepard Fairey/Mr. Brainwash documentary EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP continued its stellar DIY run - taking in another $230K for an estimated cume-to-date of $1,284,000. That makes EXIT the third million-dollar-doc of 2010, following the success of Disneynature's OCEANS ($17.7M and counting, although now seemingly less likely to reach $20M) and Focus' BABIES, which declined a respectable 53% in its second weekend, still taking in just over $1M. BABIES is now just shy of $4M.
indieWIRE reports that the NYC debut of Michael Paul Stephenson's BEST WORST MOVIE (a chronicle of so-bad-it's-awesome TROLL 2) made a strong $8,526 at the Village East. The film had previously opened in Austin. No word just yet on the second weekends of Alex Gibney's CASINO JACK AND THE UNITED STATES OF MONEY and Laura Poitras' THE OATH.
Two award-winning Sundance docs got picked up for theatrical release this past week. On Wednesday, Lorber Films announced that they had theatrical rights to Mads Brügger's World Documentary Grand Jury Prize winner THE RED CHAPEL, and earlier today, Magnolia Pictures announced that they were grabbing theatrical for Leon Gast's SMASH HIS CAMERA. Oscar winner Gast (WHEN WE WERE KINGS) picked up the Directing prize in the US Documentary competition and HBO has already acquired the film for US television.
From Cannes: Thom Powers posts on the STF blog about two docs he's seen: Sabina Guzzanti’s DARQUILA: ITALY TREMBLES and Patricio Guzman’s NOSTALGIA FOR LIGHT. We'll have a round-up of thoughts on Cannes buzz title INSIDE JOB, the sophomore effort from Oscar nominee Charles Ferguson (NO END IN SIGHT), shortly.
Speaking of festivals, indieWIRE launched their guide to the 50 best film festivals in the world just before action got under way in the south of France. No surprise that Cannes leads their list, but there are a few extraordinarily strange omissions, particularly top US regional festival Sarasota and premiere/vanguard European documentary festival CPH:DOX. Both made the top 20 on our list (which admittedly is doc-focused while indieWIRE's is not). Others in our top 25 that didn't make the indieWIRE cut of 50: Ambulante (although Morelia is in), Jihlava, Camden, Doc Lisboa, DokuFest Kosovo, Traverse City and Ashland.
Stuff we missed (kind of on purpose): Online film site The Auteurs changed its name to MUBI, a decision that - let's just say - failed to excite. Eugene Hernandez tweeted: "I've decided that for the indefinite future I will continue to refer to 'The Auteurs' by its original name." Ted Hope offered another of his lengthy diatribes on the ills of indie film, to which Mark Lipsky countered, "There you go again" and Brian Newman exclaimed, "more, Ted, more!" You're forgiven (in fact praised) if you ignore that whole back-and-forth.
This week: Laura Poitras' THE OATH debuts in Los Angeles (with a premiere tomorrow night at Cinefamily), Marshall Curry's RACING DREAMS finally comes to theaters (along with the single screen release of AFTER THE CUP: SONS OF SAKHNIN UNITED) and Cannes continues.