Hard to believe but it's June 1...
The beginning of June is also the end of something, the end of the first half of our documentary year - one that begins with the announcement of the Sundance line-up and the annual gathering of the doc world in Amsterdam.
Six months ago we were just hearing about LAST TRAIN HOME, ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE, THE OATH, RESTREPO, GASLAND, 12th AND DELAWARE, EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP and the rest. Now, with last week's announcement of the Silverdocs line-up, that six month stretch starts to wrap itself up.
Not that we won't hear about the above films for the rest of the year (we will, particularly at awards season), but Silverdocs signals the changing of the guard, the last major, domestic festival gasp for many of the creme of 2010's documentary crop and the first glimpse of a few films that will be stalwarts on the fall festival tour.
And the beginning of June reminds us that the unveiling of the Toronto line-up, when the fall season really begins in earnest, is less than two months away.
Summer is here.
Silverdocs will kick off its 8th edition in just over three weeks, leading with opening night omnibus doc FREAKONOMICS and closing with Amir Bar-Lev's THE TILLMAN STORY, both of which should be of strong interest to the DC-adjacent crowd. Competition titles include several festival favorites, including Doug Block's THE KIDS GROW UP, Alexandra Codina's MONICA AND DAVID (which won Tribeca), Robin Hessman's MY PERESTROIKA, Julia Bacha's BUDRUS, Yael Hersonski's A FILM UNFINISHED (which won Hot Docs, Roberto Hernández and Geoffrey Smith's PRESUMED GUILTY and Christian Frei's SPACE TOURISTS.
Silverdocs will also share a few competition titles with it's cross-country rival LAFF, which gets the jump this year by opening five days earlier than Silverdocs. Los Angeles is set to premiere Malcolm Murray's CAMERA, CAMERA and Aaron Schock's CIRCO, both of which will then head to Silver Springs. The two fests will also offer Davis Guggenheim's WAITING FOR SUPERMAN, the first time we've seen that film screen since it debuted in Park City earlier this year. They'll also share FREAKONOMICS, TILLMAN, Jeff Malmberg's MARWENCOL, Sam Green's UTOPIA IN FOUR MOVEMENTS, Mads Brügger's THE RED CHAPEL, Alexandre O. Philippe's THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS and others.
If I were headed to Silver Springs this year, I'd certainly want to catch Stephen Kijak's STONES IN EXILE - the 60 minute making-of "Exile on Main Street" doc which made such a splash in Cannes, as well as Francine Cavanaugh and Adams Wood's ON COAL RIVER, which chronicles a community action against Massey Energy prior to that company's coal mine disaster at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. Plus, there's a terrific line-up of 40+ shorts, including a few of the best shorts we've seen in years - Sergio Oksman's NOTES ON THE OTHER and Vance Malone's THE POODLE TRAINER.
Silverdocs is also gonna fete Frederick Wiseman (although they don't have his latest, BOXING GYM, which was just at Cannes) and will screen Oliver Stone's SOUTH OF THE BORDER, a profile of South American heads of state, which should make some kind of news, one suspects.
We will be covering the Los Angeles Film Fest, which will host large outdoor screenings of the GEORGE LUCAS doc and Mark Landsman's THUNDER SOUL and one of the first (if not the first) post-Sundance screening of Mark Lewis' 3-D doc, CANE TOADS: THE CONQUEST. LAFF makes its move from Westwood to downtown Los Angeles (HQing itself at the LA Live complex) and while we weren't big fans of this year's LA Live-based Spirit Awards, we're cautiously optimistic about the relocation of the film festival.
Five months into 2010 and the Cinema Eye Honors team (full disclosure: once again I'll be a co-chair for the 2011 event) has announced the 86 films that are already eligible for next year's awards - and most of the above named film titles (save for the recent premieres) are on the list. I can't get in the business of predicting which way Cinema Eye is going to go (not only that, I'm a relatively poor soothsayer as far as nominations for that event goes), but I'm very excited about that list of films - as well as by a bunch of stuff going on behind the scenes that we will be announcing later this summer.
The Joe Berlinger/CRUDE/Chevron case continues to unfold, as Berlinger's lawyers make their case for overturning the judge's decision (that he must turn over raw footage to Chevron) to an appeals court. Chevron, for their part, issued a press release this week that, in part, details their arguments related to the Berlinger case:
"The U.S. federal court proceedings in which Chevron seeks hidden evidence of corruption and misconduct captured by filmmaker Joe Berlinger have also centered on evidence of collusion in connection with the (Ecuadorian court appointee Richard) Cabrera’s damages report. Parts of Berlinger’s film CRUDE show plaintiffs’ lawyers Steven Donziger and Pablo Fajardo working with Carlos Beristain, one of the supposedly neutral experts on Cabrera’s team, at a focus group meeting related to Beristain’s supposedly independent health survey Cabrera relies on Beristain’s survey for his assessment of $9.5 billion in damages for excess cancer claims. While, at the direction of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Berlinger edited the DVD version of Crude to conceal Beristain’s involvement with the lawyers, the unedited scene remains in a recently released internet version of the film. This documentation of collusion supported Chevron’s successful argument to a federal court in New York that other Crude outtakes should be reviewed for further evidence of misconduct. In its recent order, the New York court ruled that the fact that this scene was cut from the final version of the DVD at the direction of plaintiffs’ lawyers is a fact suggestive of an awareness of questionable activity."
Stuff worth reading: 11/4/08 director Jeff Deutchman talks to indieWIRE about the collaborative filmmaking behind his doc (it screens at NYC's Stranger Than Fiction on June 15), which includes contributions from Margaret Brown and Henry Joost. There are reports that Warner Bros. plans to turn Jody Lambert's festival hit OF ALL THE THINGS into a narrative feature, with Steve Carrell being chased to play Lambert's songwriting dad, Dennis. indieWIRE has the scoop on the weekend indie box office and doc wise, the story continues to be EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP - now at $2M and still climbing.
Finally, point of personal privilege: CONVENTION, the film I made at the 2008 DNC with fellow filmmakers Steven Bognar, Daniel Junge, Laura Poitras, Julia Reichert, Paul Taylor, Nathan Truesdell and David Wilson (as well as producers Britta Erickson, Shirley Moyers and Jenny Chikes), opens this Friday at the IFC Center and a number of us will be on hand all weekend to toast the theatrical premiere and take your questions. A couple press pieces to note: indieWIRE re-runs their article from last summer with Brian Brooks quizzing yours truly on the making of the film. NY Magazine nicely calls the film "wonderfully counterintuitive...a generous portrait of the true face of modern democracy—if Robert Altman made documentaries, this is what they might look like." Previously, Variety's Eddie Cockrell said it was "a bipartisan, upbeat celebration of democracy's delicate membrane and can-do spirit". There's some other raves out there, but we'll spare the piling on (you can also find a negative review or two of the "nothing newsworthy happens" variety, which one might argue is beside the point, but one might also be biased).
Hope you can come out this weekend to the IFC Center - say hello.