Silver Spring, Maryland, May 25, 2010—AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival today announced the competition films for the 2010 Festival, taking place June 21-27, 2010 in the Washington, D.C. area. Films will screen in five sections: Sterling US Feature Competition, Sterling World Feature Competition, Sterling Short Film Competition, and the to-be-announced Silver Spectrum and Spotlight Programs. New this year is a retrospective series of films by Guggenheim honoree Frederick Wiseman and a special “Peacebuilding On Screen” strand organized in collaboration with the United States Institute of Peace. AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs 2010 will present films from around the globe selected from a record 2,163 submissions and featuring exciting new work and festival favorites from the world’s top documentarians.
“This year we received more high-quality submissions than ever before, making it harder than ever to select the films for the 2010 program. This Festival slate represents the very best the documentary form has to offer, covering a wide range of issues and voices, and focusing on cinematic excellence,” said Sky Sitney, Artistic Director.
In addition to the three competitive screening sections, AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs will confer awards in four additional categories:
Audience Awards will be bestowed upon films based on the results of ballots cast by festival attendees after theatre screenings. Features and short films playing in the Competition and Silver Spectrum sections are eligible for Audience Awards.
The Cinematic Vision Award will be given to a feature film that exhibits excellence and innovation in the craft of visual storytelling.
WGA Documentary Screenplay Award will be awarded to the qualifying screenwriter (or screenwriters) of a feature-length film who demonstrates excellence in screenwriting in the documentary genre.
The Witness Award, in honor of Joey R.B. Lozano, will be awarded to a theatrical documentary that addresses human rights and social justice issues. Lozano was a respected independent human rights activist in the Philippines and one the country’s leading investigative reporters.
The winners from films eligible for the Audience Awards for Best Feature and Short will be announced on Sunday, June 27, 2010, the closing day of the Festival; all other award winners will be announced at the AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Awards presentation on Saturday, June 26, 2010.
STERLING US FEATURE COMPETITION
BEYOND THIS PLACE / USA/Switzerland, 2010, 92 minutes (Director: Kaleo La Belle)—Cloud Rock La Belle is the quintessential hippie, still living a perpetually stoned and carefree lifestyle 40 years after the ‘60s ended. His son attempts to re-connect with his absentee father by taking a 500-mile bike trip together around the Pacific Northwest. US Premiere.
CAMERA, CAMERA / USA/Laos, 2009, 60 minutes (Director: Malcolm Murray)—In Laos, the digital camera is the universal sign of the tourist, but when westerners take photos in seemingly exotic locals, what are they really capturing? A snapshot of reality, or a highly-distorted caricature that reveals more about the photographer than the landscape? This poetic film invites you to reconsider what it means to be a stranger in a strange land. East Coast Premiere.
CIRCO / Mexico/USA, 2010, 75 minutes (Director: Aaron Schock)—CIRCO is an intimate look at a family’s struggle to preserve the institution of their small traveling circus in rural Mexico. At once producers, performers, and roadies, the Ponce family—the driven owner-father, his questioning wife, and their dedicated children—forms the heart of CIRCO, which explores the inner workings of the circus business as well as family sacrifice, loss of childhood, and the preservation of a fading art form. East Coast Premiere.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MCKINLEY NOLAN / USA/Cambodia/Vietnam, 2010, 85 minutes (Director: Henry Corra)—Forty years after Pvt. McKinley Nolan vanished in Vietnam, his family learns there is hope the beloved brother, husband and father is alive and the decades-long mystery of his disappearance may be solved. World Premiere.
HOLYWARS / USA/UK/Spain, 2009, 72 minutes (Director: Stephen Marshall)—The film follows two deeply committed men of faith–a Muslim and a Christian–as they travel the world spreading messages they both feel represent “the truth.” What happens when the men are put in the same room? This thought-provoking film is sure to push buttons and instigate discussions about the nature of religion, extremism and tolerance. World Premiere.
THE KIDS GROW UP / USA, 2009, 91 minutes (Director Doug Block)—In his previous film, 51 BIRCH STREET, director Doug Block examined the marriage between his parents and, in particular, his relationship with his father. In this film, Block turns the camera on his daughter Lucy, meticulously documenting her life from birth, with the hopes that this will be a gift she one day enjoys, and that it might somehow help stave off the looming separation he hopes to avoid as she grows older and more independent.
MONICA AND DAVID / USA, 2009, 67 minutes (Director: Alexandra Codina)—Like many couples blissfully in love, Monica and David are getting married. Yet unlike most married couples, Monica and David have Down syndrome. The film offers an intimate glimpse into the first year of marriage for this charismatic young couple and reveals the joys and struggles that are much the same as that of any newlyweds.
MY PERESTROIKA / USA/UK/Russia, 2010, 87 minutes (Director: Robin Hessman)—The film’s intimate and heartfelt portrait of the last generation of Soviet children brought up behind the Iron Curtain presents a complex picture of the challenges, dreams and disillusionments of this cross-over generation.
ON COAL RIVER / USA, 2010, 81 minutes (Directors: Francine Cavanaugh and Adams Wood)—When residents of the Coal River Valley begin noticing that a host of medical problems are linked to a Massey-owned coal-waste dumping ground that sits above the local elementary school, they demand action. World Premiere.
SONS OF PERDITION / USA, 2010, 85 minutes (Directors: Tyler Measom and Jennilyn Merten)—The film offers an eye-opening look into the world of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), a branch of Mormonism that has continued the practice of polygamy since its emergence in the early 20th century. Far too often they exile young men, who are forced to find their way in a world previously unknown.
WO AI NI MOMMY (I LOVE YOU MOMMY) / China/USA, 2009, 76 minutes (Director: Stephanie Wang-Breal)—Eight-year-old Chinese Fang Sui Yong is adopted by a Jewish couple from Long Island who name her ”Faith.” The film follows Faith and her parents’ twist-and-turn journey over a year and a half. East Coast Premiere.
US Feature Jury: Steve Bognar, Filmmaker (A LION IN THE HOUSE); Michael Palmieri, Filmmaker (OCTOBER COUNTRY); Jenna Rosher, Filmmaker (JUNIOR) and Cinematographer (JESUS CAMP)
STERLING WORLD FEATURE COMPETITON
THE ARRIVALS / France/French Embassy, (2009), 111 minutes (Directors: Claudine Bories and Patrice Chagnard)—Arriving on the shores of France is merely the beginning of a labyrinthian journey for more than 50,000 refugees seeking asylum through the municipal reception center in Paris each year. North American Premiere.
AS LILITH / Israel, 2009, 78 minutes (Director: Eytan Harris)—After a 14-year-old Israeli girl commits suicide, her mother, Lilith, wants the body cremated. Before she can proceed, she must fight ZAKA, one of Israel’s most powerful religious organizations, which is fundamentally against cremation. East Coast Premiere.
BUDRUS / Israel/Palestinian Territories/USA, 2009, 81 minutes (Director: Julia Bacha)—This rousing film about one Palestinian village and its unlikely hero—humble family man turned activist Ayed Morrar—reveals the power of ordinary people to peaceably fight for extraordinary change.
FAMILIA / Sweden/Peru/Spain, 2010, 82 minutes (Directors: Mikael Wiström and Alberto Herskovits)—Swedish filmmaker Mikael Wiström captures the emotional ups and downs of an impoverished Peruvian family struggling to create a better life and stay together in the midst of great difficulty. US Premiere.
A FILM UNFINISHED / Germany/Israel, 2009, 87 minutes (Director: Yael Hersonski)—In never before seen footage from a lost reel of an incomplete Nazi-produced propaganda film about Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto in 1942, the film captures images of manipulated and staged ghetto life mixed with stunning photographic evidence and testimony—all making for a riveting experience.
INTO ETERNITY / Finland, (2010), 73 minutes (Director: Michael Madsen)—This film ponders how to caution explorers from future civilizations who may be driven by curiosity, or a desire to understand their distant past, to stay clear of buried nuclear waste.
PRESUMED GUILTY / Mexico, 2009, 92 minutes (Directors: Roberto Hernández and Geoffrey Smith)—In its stunning indictment of Mexican jurisprudence, the film invites unsettling suspicion that legions of hapless prisoners face groundless decades behind bars. East Coast Premiere.
REGRETTERS / Sweden, 2010, 59 minutes (Director: Marcus Lindeen)—Mikael and Orlando are two aging Swedes with something unusual in common: They are both biological males who have undergone sex reassignment surgery but now wish to ‘change back.’ The pair’s startling testimony forms a complex philosophical interrogation of gender performance and selfhood.
SPACE TOURISTS / Switzerland, 2009, 98 minutes (Director: Christian Frei)—Amid the crumbling infrastructure of the former Soviet military space program, Russians allow civilians to travel into space for the low, low price of $20 million. Meanwhile, poor herders in Central Asia wait expectantly for the discarded remains of the rocket to sell on the black market. East Coast Premiere.
STEAM OF LIFE / Finland, 2010, 82 minutes (Director: Joonas Bergh?ll and Mika Hotakainen)—It’s neither a therapist’s office nor a lover’s bed where Finnish men’s deepest feelings about life, love and family are brought to the surface: It’s the sauna. The film allows the viewer to become a fly on the wall as it listens in on men—naked men—talking to other men (or occasionally a grizzly bear) in the sanctuary of the country’s ubiquitous saunas. US Premiere.
THE WOMAN WITH THE FIVE ELEPHANTS / Germany/Switzerland/Ukraine, 2009, 92 minutes (Director: Vadim Jeydrenko)—Witness to unspeakable horrors, eighty-five-year-old Svetlana Geier has dedicated her life to language. Considered the greatest translator of Russian literature into German, Svetlana has just concluded her magnum opus, completing new translations of Dostoyevsky’s five great novels—known as the five elephants. US Premiere.
World Feature Jury: Simon Kilmurry, Executive Director, American Documentary | POV; Havana Marking, Filmmaker (AFGHAN STAR); Andrea Meditch, Executive Producer (MAN ON WIRE, GRIZZLY MAN)
STERLING SHORT COMPETITION
ALBERT’S WINTER / Denmark, 2009, 30 minutes (Director: Andreas Koefad)—A young boy in Germany struggles to deal with his mother’s devastating terminal cancer. As the illness lingers unspoken in the background, Albert goes through the motions of his day-to-day life but knows that something is terribly wrong.
ARIRANG – LETTER TO BARACK / Germany/North Korea, 2010, 8 minutes (Director: Gerd Konrad)—The world appears very different from inside the hermit kingdom of North Korea. Huge mosaics created by one hundred thousand schoolchildren holding aloft colored cards in unison are a source of national pride, but so is the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. Pageantry and atomic blasts are juxtaposed in this chilling thought piece.
ARSY-VERSY / Slovakia, 2009, 24 minutes (Director Miro Remo)—Lubos is a happy-go-lucky 50-something who lives with his aging mother in what some would call a codependent relationship. The film takes a unique look at a mother-son relationship and the way in which Lubos lives his free-spirited life, like the title says, upside down.
BETWEEN DREAMS / Finland/France/Russian Federation, 2009, 11 minutes (Director: Iris Olsson)—A hundred souls lost in dreams in the dead of night cross a Siberian moonscape aboard a battered Russian train. A fortunate few dream happily and carefree, but most toss uneasily, gripped by fears for the future or guilt about the past.
BIG BIRDING DAY / USA, 2010, 13 minutes (Director: David Wilson)—Competitive bird watching comes alive in this delightful short. As three friends attempt to catch a glimpse of as many species as possible within the course of 24 hours, the special camaraderie that emerges between friends who enjoy the rituals of a unique hobby together is highlighted.
BORN SWEET / USA/Cambodia, 2010, 28 minutes (Director: Cynthia Wade)—Vinh, a rural Cambodian teen, dreams of falling in love, moving to the city and becoming a karaoke star. Alas, for Vinh and the millions of other children worldwide suffering from chronic arsenic poisoning, even reaching adulthood is a dream in doubt.
BYE BYE NOW / Ireland, 2009, 15 minutes (Director: Aideen O’Sullivan)—The film offers a charming look at the gradual disappearance of phone booths in Ireland. With the advent of modern technology, the phone booth has all but vanished all over the world. In a loving tribute to this soon-to-be relic of the past, the film is a nostalgic reminder of yesteryear.
CORNER PLOT / USA, 2010, 11 minutes (Director: Ian Cook)—In this heart-warming short, 89-year-old Charlie Koiner cares for a one-acre piece of farmland that rests just inside urban Washington, D.C. With help from his daughter, Charlie works the land and shares his crops at the local farmer’s market. In a rapidly changing modern world, this unique farmer remains dedicated to the life he has always known.
THE DARKNESS OF DAY / USA, 2009, 25 minutes (Director: Jay Rosenblatt)—This moving and thought-provoking meditation on depression and suicide stretches the boundaries of “documentary.” Built from found footage, and using both biographical details from Rosenblatt’s life and readings from a journal of someone who committed suicide, the film gently spurs you to ask exactly what it aims to document.
THE FAUX REAL / USA, 2010, 21 minutes (Director: Suzanne Hillinger)—This engaging short documentary introduces three biologically born females who identify as drag queens. Challenging traditional ideas of gender and drag, these unconventional women don wigs, false eyelashes, heavy makeup and chokers to perform burlesque as women trying to pass as men in drag.
FLAWED / Canada, 2010, 12 minutes Director: (Andrea Dorfman)—Unfolding like a graphic novel, director and artist Andrea Dorfman illustrates her way through her unlikely pairing with a cosmetic surgeon. This animated short is a lovely meditation on falling in love, when the most trying battle is the one fought between the heart’s desires and the mind’s insecurities.
FOUND / Canada, 2009, 6 minutes (Director: Paramita Nath)—For Laotian-Canadian poet Souvankham Thammavongsa, a discarded scrapbook sheds light on a harsh infancy in Southeast Asia emphasizing how family memory is often an aggregation of disparate pieces.
THE HERD / Ireland, 2008, 4 minutes (Director: Ken Wardrop)—One of these things is not like the other. But don’t tell that to the newest addition to the cow herd on the filmmaker’s family farm. When a little fawn finds herself out of place amid the sole company of cows, she attempts to fit in unnoticed. Can she succeed?
HOLDING STILL / Germany/USA, 2010, 26 minutes (Director: Florian Riegel)—Imagine if the last 20 years of your life were lived entirely in one room, yet you have the ability to see and photograph the world outside. This is the story of Janis, a woman whose artistic voice is remarkably unconstrained by physical obstacles or tragedies in her past.
THE HOUSEKEEPER / Scotland, 2009, 13 minutes (Director: Tali Yankelevich)—The care bestowed on a venerable priest by his elderly Greek housekeeper may at first blush appear to be all in a day’s work, but beneath the surface flow strong currents of platonic love and mutual need.
IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK / Ireland, 2009, 12 minutes (Director: Anna Rodgers)— This haunting and visually stunning short film explores several desolate and abandoned psychiatric hospitals throughout Ireland. The voices of former long-term patients permeate the corridors, still struggling to understand the circumstances that brought them there.
I’M JUST ANNEKE / USA, 2010, 11 minutes (Director: Jonathan Skurnik)—Anneke is a 12-year-old girl who has begun taking a hormone blocker so that she can delay puberty to ultimately decide for herself whether or not she wants to grow up as a woman or a man. This thought-provoking film brings to light the choices of a new generation facing gender identity issues with remarkable sensitivity and respect.
KEEP DANCING / USA, 2010, 21 minutes (Director: Greg Vander Veer)—Well into their ninth decade of life, dance icon Marge Champion and Tony-winning choreographer Donald Saddler became fast friends while performing in the 2001 Broadway revival of Follies. Now 90, the two continue to rehearse and choreograph original work, revealing a passion for dance undimmed by the passage of time.
LAST ADDRESS / USA, 2009, 9 minutes (Director: Ira Sachs)—A series of exterior shots of buildings that all have one thing in common: they were the last residential addresses of some of New York’s most prominent artists who lost their lives to AIDS-related illnesses. This simple yet poignant short film is an elegant tribute to those remarkable people whose voices were silenced much too soon.
LIES / Sweden, 2009, 13 minutes (Director: Jonas Odell)—With playful animation and lively narration, three people share their individual stories of lying, and the surprising consequences of their deception.
LISTENING TO THE SILENCES / UK, 2009, 11 minutes (Director: Pedro Flores)—What does it feel like to hear voices inside your head? Roy Vincent attempts to explain. Living alone in the isolated countryside, Vincent’s battle with mental illness is a daily struggle. This quiet, penetrating film presents a sympathetic portrait of a man accepting his inner demons.
MARIA’S WAY / Scotland/Spain, 2009, 15 minutes (Director: Anne Milne)—A feisty elderly woman’s sole purpose in life appears to be setting up an isolated roadside stand along the historic Camino de Santiago pilgrim route. A seemingly mundane daily task soon evolves into a humorous and charming observation on the importance of purpose, commitment and tradition.
MISSED CONNECTIONS / USA, 2010, 9 minutes (Director: Mary Robertson)—This delightful film is an amuse-bouche for anyone who has ever perused the ‘Missed Connections’ section of the classifieds in the hope they will recognize themselves as the ‘missed connection’ in question.
A MOTH IN SPRING / USA/Canada, 2010, 26 minutes (Director: Yu Gu)—While attempting to produce a film in China inspired by her parents’ involvement with the Student Democracy Movement of the 1980s, a young filmmaker’s life and work quickly begin to parallel her parents’ trials and alienation when the film is shut down and she is ordered to leave the country.
MRS. BIRK’S SUNDAY ROAST / UK, 2009, 6 minutes (Director: Kyoko Miyake)—This beautifully shot slice-of-life short introduces Mrs. Fukio Birks, a Japanese woman living in England with her British husband. Embracing the new life she has created, Mrs. Birks dedicates herself to embracing English culture—beginning with its cuisine. As she prepares a delectable English Sunday dinner, Mrs. Birks shares her thoughts on cooking, home, culture and family.
NOTES ON THE OTHER / Spain, 2009, 13 minutes (Director: Sergio Oksman)—Ostensibly about Ernest Hemingway, this intriguing short is more a meditation on reality and simulation—like a Baudrillard lecture, except more fun. Contrasting Hemingway with his impersonators in Key West, the film questions the writer’s account of the running of the bulls, moving quickly to challenging the concept of the Real.
ON THE RUN WITH ABDUL / UK/France, 2009, 24 Minutes (Directors: James Newton, Kristian Hove Sorensen and David Lalé)—When sixteen year old Abdul’s life is suddenly in jeopardy because of his involvement with a film on refugees, the filmmakers take it upon themselves to protect the boy. Exploring the delicate balance of how involved documentarians should become with their subjects, the film is a remarkable reassessment on the craft of non-fiction filmmaking.
OVERNIGHT STAY / USA, 2009, 9 minutes (Director: Daniela Sherer)—Using hand-drawn animation, the film illustrates an 83-year-old woman’s vivid memory of an event during World War II that likely saved her life when she was a young girl. On a cold night in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1941, she was taken in by strangers and given a place to sleep.
PARA FUERA: PORTRAIT OF DR. RICHARD J. BING / USA, 2010, 9 minutes (Director: Nicholas Jasenovec)—How could a centenarian who is an accomplished doctor and musician sum up the totality of experiences in his life in one word? Dr. Richard Bing is able to do so—and along the way you will learn what motivated and assisted him in living his challenging yet charmed life.
PLASTIC AND GLASS / France, 2009, 9 minutes (Director: Tessa Joosse)—In a recycling factory in the north of France, workers settle into the daily grind of reprocessing plastic and glass. In an effort to transcend the routine, the workers playfully adapt the steady rhythm of the machines into a melody for a song and dance.
THE POODLE TRAINER / USA/Russia, 2009, 8 minutes (Director: Vance Malone)—Irina Markova is a Russian poodle trainer who has dedicated her life to training her 20 colorfully costumed poodles to perform clever acrobatic tricks. Fueled by a childhood tragedy that sparked a fierce desire to avoid people, Markova welcomes the solace of her animals and the isolation she finds behind the red velvet curtain of the circus.
PRAYERS FOR PEACE / USA, 2009, 8 minutes (Director: Dustin Grella)—Through the use of stop-motion animation, a man reflects on the memory of his younger brother, recently killed in Iraq. This deeply personal film offers an elegant introspection about a brother and soldier whose loss is deeply felt by those who loved him.
QUADRANGLE / USA, 2010, 20 minutes (Director: Amy Grappell)—In the ’70s, two “conventional” couples embark on a most unconventional arrangement when they attempt to ward off marital ennui by swapping partners. Moving into the same home, merging families, sharing in a group marriage, can this four-way affair ever work?
SELTZER WORKS / USA, 2010, 7 minutes (Director: Jessica Edwards)—New York’s last seltzer bottler makes for a refreshing subject in this effervescent look at a tradesman who refuses to compromise on taste while facing the inevitable decline of a dying commercial tradition.
THE SPACE YOU LEAVE / UK, 2009, 10 minutes (Director: James Newton)—Thoughts of their long-vanished children are never far off for several British parents whose lives seem all but consumed by overarching loss. The daunting impact of an estimated 200,000 annual disappearances in the UK is brought to scale in three gripping portraits of lives now defined by the presence of absence.
THEY ARE GIANTS / Netherlands, 2009, 13 minutes (Director: Koert Davidse)—The Bibliotheca Thurkowiana Minor is a breathtakingly beautiful old world library filled with hand-crafted leather tomes nestled in exquisite mahogany bookcases. No human has ever walked its halls, climbed its stairs, or sat at its tables because this library is no more than eight feet long and four feet high; its books no taller than your little finger.
THIS CHAIR IS NOT ME /UK, 2010, 10 minutes (Director: Andy Taylor Smith)—While cerebral palsy confines Alan Martin to a wheelchair and inhibits his speech, he refuses to limit himself. When he gains access to technology that enables him to find a voice, his life is transformed. Utilizing stunning visual vocabulary and subtle re-enactment, the film presents a cinematic experience as unique as the subject himself.
TRASH-OUT / USA, 6 minutes (Director: Maria Fortiz-Morse)—This deeply affecting and simple short shows workers cleaning out a house that has been foreclosed. What do the things left behind say about a family? What does an empty house that was once a home say? In a mere six minutes, TRASH-OUT makes a poignant statement on a timely subject.
UNEARTHING THE PEN / UK/Uganda, 2009, 12 minutes (Director: Carol Salter)— Beautifully photographed, this film poignantly tells the story of a young Ugandan boy’s desperate desire for an education in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds: most daunting is the possibility that the symbolic burying of a pen decades earlier by tribal elders has resulted in a curse on formal education.
THE VEIL / Italy, 2009, 18 minutes (Director: Mattia Colombo)—A young postulant prepares to enter the convent. Older nuns go about their quotidian routines. This intimate portrait of Franciscan sisters in a small Venetian convent reveals the vibrant lives played out beneath the subdued cloth of their vocation.
WORLD CHAMPION / Estonia, 2009, 35 minutes (Director: Moonika Siimets)—Eighty-two-year-old Herbert Sepp is a man’s man. He works out, he speaks his mind, and he knows what he wants in life: a world masters title in pole vaulting. For him, it’s all about the run, the plant… and the very, very short amount of time in the air.
Short Film Jury: Ben Fowlie, Founding Director, Camden International Film Festival; Elena Fortes, Director, Ambulante Documentary Film Festival; Aron Gaudet, Filmmaker (THE WAY WE GET BY)
The Festival, which takes place at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in the Washington, DC area, presents seven days of programming plus special screenings, music performances and dozens of panel discussions featuring hundreds of filmmakers, diverse topics and media professionals. Now in its eighth year, AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs—along with its concurrent AFI-Discovery Channel International Documentary Conference—is the pre-eminent documentary Festival in the US.
Vimeo and YouTube are relatively new channels that have done much to change the way documentary work can move into the world. It is an ocean of video, everything from “camcorder test shots” all the way up to studio-film trailers.
SF360 has an interview with Vimeo’s community director, Blake Whitman, who talks about some shifts in that site’s directions. Whitman speaks of Vimeo as “a 24 hour film festival, 365 days a year.” Which is only part true: Film festivals cull from the mass of work out there to select the best, serving a gatekeeping role and giving deserving work a forum.
All of the hot agencies are either on Vimeo or using Vimeo to find creative work or creatives. There are people who have been hired, like motion graphic animators who have been hired to Google Creative Labs or various agencies who have seen trends of video styles and two months later we see them in a commercial. Every Super Bowl I sit and bet that I’m going to see stuff that I saw on Vimeo in the past year that they rip off from the content on the site. It’s flattering to see that Vimeo is actually a place where people are going to look for ideas. Sponsored content is going to be a big way for creators on Vimeo to find work, whether that’s through Vimeo or through people finding their work on Vimeo and hiring them to do stuff. There are a lot of opportunities for people on Vimeo already, and one of our goals is to create tons of more opportunities in lots of different ways going forward specifically targeted towards professional creatives.
Whitman also notes the differences between YouTube and Vimeo, as he sees them.
There are very fundamental differences between Vimeo and YouTube. Vimeo was started by filmmakers and creatives for people who are creating video. We’re a service for creators and not a destination for all content. I dare you to go to Vimeo and find a negative comment. If you do, let me know.
Whitman said Vimeo will also be looking to refine statistics to help people get to the most popular work.
Statistics are actually something we’ve been working on for a year and a half. It’s the culmination of an incredible amount of user feedback on Vimeo, from the last three years that we sort of boiled down and got to the basics of what people are interested in.
Two French journalists filming in Indonesia were expelled from that country for documenting a human-rights protest.
According to RFI,
(Badouin Koenig, 54, and Carole Lorthiois, 27) had arrived in Jayapura to make a documentary about a census, but they stopped to film a human rights rally. But Koenig only had permission to film cultural activities in certain areas and Lorthiois did not have a journalism visa, authorities said.
Papua province is closed to foreign journalists and aid workers without special permission. This means claims of human rights abuses there cannot be independently verified.
Sometimes a great indicator of where film is going is to look at what’s coming out of film schools. Stanford University’s MFA arts program screens its thesis documentary films June 12, and the subjects are interesting, both mimicking some trends and moving off in new directions as well. Lower-cost technology also allows for these finished products to be ready for virtually any venue, so we’ll keep our eyes out for where some go – among the thousands of thesis films hitting screens this month.
Screening of short films by Second Year students in the MFA Program in Documentary Film and Video.Date and Time: Saturday, June 12, 2010. 2:00 PM.
Approximate duration of 3 hour(s).Location: Cubberley Auditorium [Map]Audience:Faculty/Staff
MembersCategory: Film ArtsSponsor: Department of Art & Art History
NOT LISTED IN SCREENING ORDER
Indelible Mark (working title) by David Alvarado
Damage to the human brain can reveal deep insights into questions about ourselves and our personal identity. Three survivors of terrible trauma to the brain guide a journey of rehabilitation and self discovery.
Pure Fruit (working title) by Emile Bokaer
Everybody has heard of vegetarianism. Many people know vegans. Practically no one has met (or seen) a fruitarian, someone whose diet consists of 100% fruit. Pure Fruit is a whimsical road movie that chronicles two fruitarian lovers’ 3,000 kilometer journey from a Sydney, Australia housing project to tropical North Queensland, where they hope to settle in a climate of perpetual summer that will allow them to grow and eat copious amounts of nutritious, hearty tropical fruit.
The Art of Jihad (working title) by Alaa eldin El Dajani
“Yes, I carry explosives. They are called words.” In our heavily mediated world, words and images play an important role in the creation of misconceptions. In this film, three American artists combine those two elements to address and combat the prevalent stereotypes about Islam in the U.S.
Little Mom (working title) by Maria Fortiz-Morse
Shayna and Kassandra are twelve-year-old girls from different families, but they share a unique responsibility — they help their mothers take care of their disabled brothers. Through observational footage, this film offers a rare glimpse into the plight of child-caregivers in the USA, a hidden population of over 1.4 million. This film speaks to the sacrifices that child-caregivers must make each day in order to keep their families together.
Him-Dak (The Way of Life) (working title) by Carolina Kondo
A vacant desk might easily be overlooked in a classroom of 20 or 30 students, but it does not pass unnoticed under the keen supervision of Truant Officer Yolanda Miranda. As she visits homes and cites parents and kids to court, she witnesses the fabric of her tribe in ways statistics could never show.
La Familia (working title) by Theodore Rigby
After raising a family in the U.S. for almost twenty years, Sam and Elida Mejia are deported back to their native Guatemala. With intimate access and striking imagery, La Familia explores the complexities of the Mejia’s new reality of a separated family–parents without their children, and children without their parents.
The Sea is a Harsh Mistress (working title) by Jason Sussberg
By January 1st, 2030 will you be living in an independent country in the middle of the ocean? The revolutionaries at The Seasteading Institute are trying to make that a reality.
Imaginary Circumstances (working title) by Anthony Weeks
Within the “imaginary circumstances” of fictional Hollywood TV and film, the performance of disability on screen refers to social realities and lived experiences. Three actors with disabilities currently working in the Hollywood entertainment industry address the authentic representation of disability in the media as well as the ongoing struggle for access and inclusion.
First Run President Seymour Wishman Responds to Ruling on Chevron’s Subpoena of CRUDE Footage
First Run Features has the privilege of distributing CRUDE, Joe Berlinger’s brilliant documentary that lays out the basis of the $27 billion dollar lawsuit bought by the indigenous people of the Amazon against Chevron for the injury caused them and their land. Berlinger is one of this country’s most highly respected film journalists, and this film has received many awards and rave reviews.
A lower court recently granted Chevron access to over 600 hours of footage that the filmmaker chose not to include in the final cut. These outtakes are substantively no different from a reporter’s notes that form the basis of a written newspaper article. Inevitably some of the reporter’s notes, just as some of the footage of a documentary, will not be included in the final work. But granting access to the notes or the footage can reveal the thinking process and the kind of judgments the journalist is making. Subjecting the creative process of a journalist to this kind of scrutiny can profoundly inhibit other journalists in the future from embarking on a full and robust exploration of a subject.
Berlinger spent enormous time, effort, money and skill over a period of years to make this important piece of journalism. Some may view the result of his investigation as a devastating indictment of a predatory exploiter of the resources of an impoverished country who refuses to take responsibility for the injury to the people and land its pollution caused. But, in fact, the film has been cited by such authorities as The New York Times, The Boston Globe and dozens of other newspapers for being extremely thorough and extremely fair to both sides.
What is also at stake here is the high risk that other journalists in the future will be deterred from embarking on similar hard hitting investigations. In order to be informed, persuaded or disabused of misperceptions, the American public desperately needs the benefit of uninhibited documentaries like CRUDE, and journalists like Joe Berlinger.
Seymour Wishman President, First Run Features
DSLR HD is a site that espouses the benefits of shooting video with these stills-first devices such as the Canon EOS 5DMk2 and 7D, so when they’re telling you when not to use the cameras, it’s worth a listen.
DSLRs are amazing machines, but all machines have a theoretical limit. The big sensors in DSLRs soak in information, but the cameras can’t always process everything, leading to a variety of video problems. And they have limited audio capability, limited shooting time and limited high-end functions.
Some of the basics of the “No” list include the following:
- You’ll need lenses that can give you decent shots from the edges of the room and that’s likely to be 75 feet or more from the stage.
- You’ll need remote controls on those lenses so your operators can adjust zoom and focus from comfortable positions behind the camera.
- You’ll need all cameras to accept a sync signal so you can live switch the video.
- You’ll need to have all cameras connected to camera control units so a video engineer can adjust white balance, iris, gain and other parameters to keep the cameras as closely matched as possible.
- You need to be able to record continuously for the length of the entire presentation plus several minutes before and after the keynote. That could easily be 45 minutes total record time.
- As this is a one-take production you’ll want multiple HD recording systems for audio and video to ensure you’ve got it. At the very least you’ll want to record the live switched program with an ‘iso’ recording of each camera for editing later.
Having just again viewed the film “Exit Through The Gift Shop,” and read the various coverage pondering the question of whether it’s for real, there are some conclusions I have drawn.
Second, that the film is entertaining and points to some basic truths.
Third, that because of the success of this film, that we are going to see a wave of “documentaries” that dispense with fact when convenient.
Fourth, that all of the above are going to be something of a tipping point for documentaries as we have traditionally defined them.
“Exit,” by the British street artist called Banksy (apparently a pseudonym for Robert Banks), premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, where it was listed as a documentary but placed in the “Spotlight” competition rather than in either the U.S. or Word Documentary competitions, where filmmakers such as Sebastian Junger (with Tim Hetherington) and Laura Poitras had traveled far and risked personal safety to report on the War in Afghanistan and Al Queda, respectively. No one at Sundance apparently ran a fact check, or it they did worried about that in listing “Exit” as a doc.
The film focuses on a man named Thierry Guetta, whom the New York Times says “seems to exist.” But the story told about Guetta is, even in the Google age, a blank. Searches through news databases show nothing before 2009, and only in conjunction with the film. A Wikipedia page on Guetta has numerous challenges for factual accuracy, as well as a challenge that the entry “reads like an advertisement.” He may be real, but that doesn’t make the story real.
Guetta, in the film, is entertaining, but in the “truth in stranger than fiction” manner. What if it’s not the truth?
There’s always been a sub-genre of film generally called the “mockumentary.” It’s been a form that works because it allows the filmmaker to package a story with a thread of verisimilitude, and it also allows the film to be made very cheaply. “This is Spinal Tap” had fun with the form, and “The Blair Witch Project” had a success in the late 1990s using the doc form as a way of using low-cost video footage. But these films have always been clearly fictional.
The question may be, has Sundance, through “Exit,” opened a can of worms in which the word “documentary” no longer clearly defines the film as being fully factual?
There is sure to be a wave of films coming on the heels of “Exit” in which younger filmmakers use the conventions of documentary to tell a story. But in that, will the term “documentary” come to not necessarily be one that speaks of truth, but only of the conventions of the documentary style – shot on video, employing sit-down interviews of subjects, using apparent B-roll (often rough and noisy, as in the Banksy film), overlayed with a narrator’s voice?
One might wonder if in future Sundance competition, or other film festivals, there would be “nonfiction documentary” and “fiction documentary” categories? Banksy isn’t helping, as he’s insisting the film is all true despite even a basic fact-check not supporting that.
But the use of the Guetta “character” allows a Banksy film to publicize Banksy without directly seeming to. The fauxhemian “irony” of the work is what fuels the hipster sensibilities of this world in which Banksy operates. By Banksy playing the hooded rebel, trying to hide his identity, people almost miss the fact he’s as driven for publicity as P.T. Barnum himself – and even uses an elephant in his quest.
The book world has gone through this kind of struggle for a different reason – unlike film, nonfiction books outsell novels ten times over. A spate of pure hoaxes such as James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces” have overshadowed and perhaps allowed middle-ground debates about the truthfulness of nonfiction, such as Frank McCourt’s acclaimed “Angela’s Ashes,” in which the writer recounted long stretches of dialogue that happened when he was four years old – an impossibility, but explained by the fact that there was a “basic truth” to the story.
But in the same way, there are basic truths to fiction. “The Hurt Locker” was produced on a budget microscopic for a feature film, but generous for a documentary, and it is representative of the reality of the war in Iraq. Conversely, if we were to find out that “The Cove” created as a fiction the events of the film, we’d be outraged.
A documentary, in my mind, is 100 percent factual. Anything less than that makes it a fiction.
And in the end, I can’t help wonder if “Exit” might have played just as well without the fiction. As a chronicle of Banksy’s street art, and of other artists such as the controversial Shepard Fairey, it would have been good. But to say that is to also miss the point. The buzz about “Exit” is a replication of street art’s challenge to the status quo. Banksy, in my mind, is hardly a renegade at all, but as much a mainstream careerist as the gang up at Goldman Sachs, cleverly manipulating the product for maximum return – the antithesis of the traditional documentarian, who toils for small pay and small audiences, in search of some illuminating truth. The controversy over this film has been its own best public relations campaign, and that, in my mind, is truly a statement of the cynicism that infuses this “documentary.”
A documentary on hackers, which had been shelved in 2007 due to a dispute among the producers, is out, and given the topic and technology that has changed in these intervening years, we wonder if it’s a bit of a hot-tub time machine.
According to Fleeing the Interview, “Hackers Wanted,” a film narrated by Kevin Spacey, has been leaked to Bit Torrent. It comes up on Wikipedia, stating,
Directed and written by Sam Bozzo, the film explores the origins and nature of hackers and hacking by following the adventures of Adrian Lamo, and contrasting his story with that of controversial figures throughout history. The film is narrated by Kevin Spacey.
Originally named “Can You Hack It?” The film failed to get a conventional release because of alleged conflicts between its producer and others on the team. On May 20, 2010, the film was leaked to BitTorrent. Adrian Lamo has stated that he had no involvement in the leak.
What’s the deal? We find this one a bit tough to believe. A hacker film, hacked and put on the web? Sounds like a marketing campaign, not a scandal.
Torrentfreak says this:
As soon as we became aware of the leak, TorrentFreak made contact with Adrian Lamo to request a comment. Clearly, as a former hacker, Lamo is acutely aware that the accusatory finger could be pointed at him, but he assured us that he had nothing to do with the leak.
Lamo told us that a release of the film was never going to happen, as the producer Dana Brunetti had too many “ego conflicts” with the cast and crew. But the movie is leaked now, so how does Lamo feel about that?
“I’m saddened that someone saw fit to violate our confidentiality, but in my heart, glad for all the cast, crew, and others who never would have seen their work recognized,” he told us.
Call us cynics. There is, we think, more of this than meets the eye – but we’re writing about it, right? So the joke may be on us…
Letus has followed suit of some of the other cinema-adapter makers in seeing that DSLRs are the flavor of the moment, and has built its line of aftermarket add-ons for cameras such as the Canon EOS line, the Panasonic Lumix and Nikon 720p cameras.
Birding seems the theme as Letus offers the Hawk and Talon lines, with the Talon K5 kit (pictured) running a shade under $1,400. It featues a base plate, rils and the indespensible viewfinder. It’s interesting that as Zacuto, Cinevate, Letus, Hoodman and other companies have moved to create these items, the camera manufacturers themselves have not.
But will DSLRs soon give way to camcorders with the basic features that have made DSLRs the rage: namely, a larger sensor and interchangeable lenses? Sony will have their first camcorder with these elements out later this year. The DSLR, game-changer that it is, may be something that is outdated in anothr year or two…