For all intents and purposes, the documentary year - though just half over - has reached a wrap point. The films of the first half of the year have come to the end (or nearly have) of their festival runs. Nearly every major American documentary festival showcase has come and gone.
Time now to take our only major break in the year - the two-plus months between the festivals of June and the unveiling of fall titles in Toronto, which then kicks off a busy theatrical season, the lead up to the European fests of late October and November and awards season.
Speaking of, here's a piece of Oscar trivia you might be interested in:
In the past five years, only one film - last year's THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE PENTAGON PAPERS - wasn't screened by this point in the year and went on to be nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar.
So, chances are, we've already seen this year's five nominees.
And while your scanning this year's titles in your head (THE OATH, ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE, LAST TRAIN HOME, A FILM UNFINISHED, GASLAND, INSIDE JOB, THE TILLMAN STORY are just a few that figure to play in the mix) you might wonder which of this year's most popular titles (OCEANS, BABIES, EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP, JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK) might be able to crack through the Academy's "serious ceiling".
And you might look at this week's box office returns to see how one film, which may be one of a few frontrunners at this point, happened to do with audiences...
That film is Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington's RESTREPO and the answer is, quite well actually. Buoyed perhaps by Junger's literary star-power (if not its Sundance Grand Jury prize, which has been hit and miss in terms of theatrical payoff for docs recently), RESTREPO opened this weekend to more than $15K on each of its two screens, battling back the notion that folks aren't clamoring for nonfiction (or fiction for that matter) pieces about current US wars. The film - currently only in NYC and LA - heads to SF, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia in time for the Independence Day weekend.
Sticking with box office for a moment, two of the aforementioned successes - Banksy's EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP and Ricki Stern & Annie Sundberg's JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK - continued to do well at the North American box office, according to estimates at Box Office Mojo. EXIT picked up nearly another $75K in its 11th weekend, taking its cume to $2.65M. And JOAN scored another $365K in its 4th weekend, for a total-to-date of $716K. That film is now in 86 theaters and may hit the $1M mark after this coming holiday weekend.
But perhaps the biggest heat around a documentary film this past week centered on the television debut of one of the year's best and most important films, Josh Fox' GASLAND. We have a full post up today about the natural gas industry's attempts to smear Fox and his film.
LAFF and Silverdocs have both wrapped (we had the winners yesterday) for 2010. LAFF has since announced their Audience Awards, with prizes going to both Mark Landsman's THUNDER SOUL (Documentary Audience Award) and Roberto Hernandez and Geoffrey Smith's PRESUMED GUILTY (International Audience Award). We're also pleased to note that OK Go's "This Too Shall Pass" music video (which we had a hand in) picked up the LAFF Audience Award for Music Videos.
And although we're planning an in depth festival recap for the coming days, it should be said that LAFF was a real success in its new downtown digs, by the way. Some of the biggest audiences we've ever seen at the LA Film Festival and great use of a number of downtown venues and locations. We had our doubts after this year's Spirit Awards (held in the same location), but whatever didn't work in March seemed to be remedied by last weekend.
Other stuff to note: At The Film Panel Notetaker, Brian Geldin recaps last Tuesday's Stranger Than Fiction benefit for Joe Berlinger and his efforts to overturn a judge's decision in his CRUDE case. Also at TFPN, Erin Essenmacher posts on the post-screening Q&A for Silverdocs' Opening Nighter FREAKONOMICS. indieWIRE profiles New Left Media's Chase Whiteside and Erick Stoll. We wrote about the team (who were in a documentary film class taught by our colleagues Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert) last September.
And, finally, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced last week their latest list of invitees to join the Academy. Eight made the cut in the documentary branch, including Director of the Sundance Documentary Institute Cara Mertes, Oscar winner Davis Guggenheim and Oscar nominees Rick Goldsmith, Tia Lessin, Julia Reichert & Morgan Spurlock, producer Fraser Pennebaker and noted editor Nancy Baker.