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Letter from the Editor, August 2023

By Abby Sun

Dear Readers,

We are gearing up for the fall festival and awards bonanza soon, but we’re also doing our best to resist that gravitational pull and focus on films that are made in a defiantly independent spirit.

Two of our essays are deeply researched: in the first, the Brazillian scholar, critic, programmer and prior Documentary contributor Victor Guimarães makes a spectacular argument that reorienting our thinking of “surrealism” to include Latin American documentaries can unlock new understandings of the most exciting formal gestures in contemporary documentary films. In the second, Karen Cirillo returns to Documentary with a dispatch from the first Kundura DocLab, an artist development program combining documentary film and theatre, organized by the valiant staff of Beykoz Kundura, located in Istanbul. 

Three interviews with American indie filmmakers who released documentaries this summer highlight the craftsmanship behind their work as well as the unique ethical considerations of their craft. Dan Schindel interviews documentary stalwart Steve James on his latestA Compassionate Spy; Alex Lei draws out Elaine McMillion Sheldon’s forays into hybridity, sound design, and collaborative writing in King Coal; and Gabriella Ortega Ricketts interviews Jane Wagner on her debut feature, Break the Game, in the latest installment of our “The Feedback” column, which focuses on films who were workshopped through IDA’s DocuClub works-in-progress screening series.

And finally, this month, we also looked backward as a way to understand our present, and published two critical essays on two repertory screening series that included a healthy dose of documentaries. Both were written by new contributors to Documentary: Edward Frumkin comprehensively tackles a retrospective of Tom Palazzolo’s short films while Rauirí McCann provides canny insights into the motivations behind and sociological value of Jean Eustache’s nonfiction.

As a reminder, Documentary will relaunch as a print magazine for Winter 2023 in November/December. This relaunch will introduce a heftier look and feel to the magazine, compile the most influential articles we published digitally through this past year, and include new strands and sections. The magazine will still be included in all IDA membership levels. After the relaunch issue, Documentary will resume a biannual printing schedule.

Drop us a line at if you have suggestions, notes, pitches, questions, jokes, feedback, or kind words. Everything is appreciated. 

Thanks for your continued readership and support.

Until the next newsletter,

Abby Sun

Editor, Documentary