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Essential Doc Reads: Week of April 5, 2021

By Tom White

IDFA Festival Director Orwa Nyrabia addressing the opening-night audience at the 2020 IDFA. Photo: Coen Dijkstra. Courtesy of IDFA

Essential Doc Reads is our curated selection of recent features and important news items about the documentary form and its processes, from around the internet, as well as from the Documentary magazine archive. We hope you enjoy!

Screen Daily’s Geoffrey Macnab talks to IDFA Festival Director Orwa Nyrabia about some new programmatic changes for this year’s edition.

The IDFA director acknowledged “classical” feature documentaries are still the films “making the headlines” and being acquired by big US distributors. “But it seems there is also a movement of filmmakers from around the world, and even more from the global south, who don’t have access to this market and are going in a much more experimental direction. We can clearly see a place being made available for these [filmmakers].”

Filmmaker presents a conversation between Sky Hopinka and Theo Anthony about Hopinka’s new film małni—towards the ocean, towards the shore.

But I very much lean heavily on the structure of the film for not instilling what the intention is, not showing all my cards in the beginning of a film. [Of instead being]: there’s going to be weird jump cuts. Things are going to be inverted. Text is going to go crazy; it’s going to reveal itself. I want to make a space for an audience to get comfortable within the film to ingest it. That takes some of the burden off of the more contextual facts of the film, or it unburdens the film as a site of knowledge and allows it to be a site of experience. 

Christi Carras of the Los Angeles Times profiles filmmaker Kyoko Takenaka and her latest short Home, in which she addresses Asian American identity and anti-Asian racism.

“I felt very empowered to make productive use of that nonconsensual way of speaking and way of fetishizing our culture, fetishizing me as a human, dehumanizing us. And recording was the only way for me to be able to translate this exact experience, because so often Asian Americans are gaslit about their experience.”

As we slowly emerge from the global pandemic and as live sports returns on a precautionary basis, the stay-at-home culture did yield an uptick in popularity in sports documentaries. Realscreen’s Jillian Morgan reaches out to a cross-section of programming executives about the future of the sub-genre.

“The place that sports and athletes and teams hold in our culture is really amazing,” Schell says. “Both for the live ecosystem but also for the stories that come out of that, and the ability to tell really interesting stories that fans are familiar with, but maybe you’re making connections for them in a different way maybe you’re providing them a different level of context or understanding or access — the future is really bright for projects that can do any or all of those things”

Moviemaker’s Tim Molloy talks to filmmaker Ken Burns about his ambivalence about the internet with respect to his process.

“I have a neon sign in our editing suite that says in cursive, ‘It’s complicated.’ That’s a reminder that too often we settle as people, as filmmakers, as artists, for something that’s seemingly working, when the better thing is the deeper thing, the more complicated thing, that that surf there, that seems so calm, holds deadly riptides or undertow. That seemingly shallow thing is profoundly deep. We’ll leave it to the tabloids to tsk tsk or shame, or the Internet. We’re interested in deep dives.”

From the Archive, Winter 2019 issue: “Where Shakespeare Meets Scheherazade: Towards a North-South Camaraderie in Documentary”

It might be risky to say, but the camaraderie of filmmakers, North and South, is the key. Maybe Northern filmmakers need to take a break from making films in the South and take an active role in supporting their Southern colleagues to tell their own stories with their own original voices, expressions and languages. This could disrupt the system and propose a new paradigm. 

In the News

AXS Film Fund Launched To Serve Nonfiction Creators of Color with Disabilities


DGA Announces Award Winners


My Octopus Teacher Wins BAFTA Award for Best Documentary


Hot Docs Blue Ice Fund Unveil Eight Recipients


Hot Docs Launches Relief Fund for Independent Cinemas


Grierson Awards Unveil Three New Categories


32 New Trainees Selected for Grierson DocLabs


Finalists Announced for First IF/Then x Hulu Shorts Doc Program


Sunny Side of the Doc Plans Virtual Event for June


Janus Films Acquires Jessica Bashir’s Faya Dayi 


African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) Partners with Jackson Wild on Conservation Awareness and Appreciation Training Program