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Letter From the Editor, Spring 2024

By Abby Sun

Dear Readers,

This print issue of Documentary comes right before IDA’s biennial industry conference, Getting Real. In the tradition of past magazine issues that immediately precede the conference, this issue previews the conference’s themes of “Strategy, Networks, Access” through interviews with speakers whose work will be featured at the conference. At this point, however, I should show my hand. I’m not only the editor of this publication but also the conference director of Getting Real. These pieces illustrate the heterogeneous and earnest quality of the dialogue we hope to model at the conference—and model the actions we hope these conversations will inspire toward a more just and distributed documentary ecosystem.

Two keynote speakers are interviewed for our conference preview section. Jemma Desai, who was invited because of her longitudinal research into and engagement with institutionality in the film world, is interviewed by Arta Barzanji in the aftermath of widespread disillusionment with recent market film festivals. Cinematographer and filmmaker Kirsten Johnson is in conversation with Stephanie Jenkins in a wide-ranging treatise on the opportunities and threats of newly digital- and machine-based image-making. Jenkins is also a co-founder of the Archival Producers Alliance, whose other co-founders, Rachel Antell and Jennifer Petrucelli, speak with Williams Cole on the necessity for guardrails for the use of generative AI in documentary archival images. We will catch up with the conference’s other two keynotes, the masterful Cameroonian director Jean-Marie Teno, and the curator and institution-creator Jesse Wente, via online coverage in the coming weeks.

The cover feature is from Victor Guimarães, who returns to Documentary with a deeply researched discourse on a little-known U.S.-based film collective, the Victor Jara Collective, and its many connections to Third Cinema. Filmmaker and journalist Julian Rubinstein and attorney Robert S. Gutierrez alternate perspectives in their explication of how an anti-SLAPP statute saved Rubinstein’s film, The Holly. And we close out our features this issue with a trio of festival dispatches—from Sudipto Sanyal, Sevara Pan, and new contributor Matazi Weathers—which interrogate the promises of recent editions of the Kolkata People’s Film Festival, Berlinale, and Sundance, respectively, before spotlighting a bevy of standout films.

Our regularly published strands and columns return as well. The “Making a Production” strand continues with Alex Lei’s lengthy profile of an extraordinarily prolific indie production company, Memory, whose two co-founders have built a cult following out of essayistic and hybrid documentaries. The “Field Recording” for this issue is a first-person account from Moses Bwayo, whose personal life has been indelibly altered by his work on the Oscar-nominated Bobi Wine: The People’s President. And “Screen Time” continues with capsule-length reviews, written by a formidable group of film critics, on notable new releases.

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 issue,

Abby Sun  

Editor, Documentary Magazine