Happy Monday one and all as the Cannes Film Festival has come to a close (and a certain television show has stopped eating my Twitter feed - God, please) and we head into the beginning of summer (with the June onslaught of film festivals soon upon us...
In the documentary world, the big news out of Cannes this year centered on two films - the premiere of Charles Ferguson's much lauded INSIDE JOB and the latest film from Danish filmmaker Janus Metz, ARMADILLO, which took the Grand Prix at La Semaine Internationale de la Critique. ARMADILLO is reported to be the first documentary ever chosen for a competition slot in the Critics Week section.
Metz made a mark stateside in 2009 when his LOVE ON DELIVERY and its companion piece TICKET TO PARADISE played at a number of US festivals. But ARMADILLO, which was one of the projects at CPH:DOX's 2009 Pitch Forum, should make many more doc film fans aware of Metz. The film, which follows four young Danish soldiers in Afghanistan (shades of RESTREPO) is already stirring controversy in Denmark over military tactics and reigniting debate there over the country's involvement in that war.
ARMADILLO's triumph further emphasizes (if one needed proof) that Denmark's documentary community is one of the most creative and vibrant in the world. In the last few years, the Danes have produced such award winning films as THE MONASTERY - MR. VIG AND THE NUN, GHOSTS OF CITÉ SOLEIL, THE RED CHAPEL, THE INVENTION OF DR. NAKAMATS and BURMA VJ.
And while Ferguson's INSIDE JOB didn't play in Cannes' main competition (where FAHRENHEIT 9/11 remains the only nonfiction film to have ever won the Palme d'Or), critic Todd McCarthy (no stranger to documentary) suggests that it should have:
"Given the dearth of strong competing entries as well as the scarcity of American pictures this year, it would have been a great boost both to Cannes and the film to include INSIDE JOB in the competition."
We summed up further Cannes crix reax to Ferguson's latest here. Sony Pictures Classics is due to release INSIDE JOB here in the fall, where box office for current events docs has not been sensational - Michael Moore's CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY is the only 2009 current events/political docu to break $1M and even that was considered a disappointment by his standards. In 2008, only the conservative intelligent design flick EXPELLED: NO INTELLIGENCE ALLOWED surpassed $1M.
But non-issue docs continue to find success, at least in limited portions, and it's hard to imagine a more successful recent release - particularly in terms of word-of-mouth - than EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP. The art world hype vs. reality film by Banksy continues to shake up the North American box office. Now in 43 theaters, the film declined just 5% from the previous weekend, for an estimated average of $4,721 per screen - which is a better per screen take than any of the films in the box office top 20.
EXIT, whose DIY distribution was profiled by indieWIRE's Peter Knegt last month, now has an estimated cume of $1.6M and seems certain to get to $2M shortly, perhaps by the end of the Memorial Day weekend.
Meanwhile, the spring's two wider releases continue to take in money, even as they begin to cede their screens to the big summer (and pre-summer) films. Disneynature's OCEANS now stands at $18.5M and looks to close out near (if not over) the $20M mark, while Focus Features' BABIES took in another $700K this weekend and now stands with more than $5M at the box office.
The weekend's major documentary release, Marshall Curry's Tribeca champ RACING DREAMS, seems to have stalled out on its way to theaters. Estimates have that film taking in just $652 on its 33 screens, a disappointing number to be certain, particularly for a film that debuted with talk of stratospheric success and Oscar nominations. We finally took in the film at the Ashland Film Festival last month and it seems certain RACING DREAMS will find an audience on television and DVD.
Switching gears (pardon that pun), news continues to unfold in the Joe Berlinger/CRUDE/Chevron case. Berlinger's lawyers were granted a temporary stay by Lewis Kaplan, the US District Court judge that ruled Berlinger's raw footage could be subpeona'd by Chevron, while they appeal for his decision to be overturned. Kaplan made clear, however, that he doubted his ruling would overturned.
Meanwhile, the filmmakers have taken to Kickstarter to attempt to raise $20,000 to support their legal efforts. As of this writing, the CRUDE First Amendment fund has raised nearly $8K. Here at the blog, nearly 250 people have signed onto the Open Letter of Support for Berlinger and there is talk bubbling of more high profile efforts in the coming weeks.
And finally: Tom Roston has a list and he's checking it twice. The former Premiere writer, now contributing to the POV blog, is about to spring a list of the 50 Most Powerful People in Documentary:
"How did I come up with this list? In this case, I defined power by imagining a room full of filmmakers, producers, funders and programmers. If you are a documentary filmmaker, then who would you most want to be in that room advocating for your film? We're talking about the power to get your movie made exactly as you want it — and giving it the best chance to be seen by as many people as possible."
No names just yet, but one wonders if - as tales used to be told about publicists and others scrambling to get clients on similar lists by Premiere and Entertainment Weekly - Roston's mailbox is bulging with "helpful suggestions" right about now. One also wonders if the list of 50 will be all individuals or whether a group of folks (the Sundance programmers for example) will take a single slot.
This week: Silverdocs announces its line-up.