Doc Digest: November 21, 2014

David Suzuki / Photo by Ari Gunnarsson

Welcome back to the Doc Digest! We’ll be brief this week, as we’re busy putting the final touches on our Winter 2014 issue. If you’re a subscriber, watch for it in your mailbox in the next two weeks (and hey, if you’re not a subscriber, what are you waiting for?)

Amid protests against its immense budget cuts, it was a confusing week for documentary at the CBC (the Canada Broadcasting Corporation, for our international readers). Last weekend, news broke that the network’s in-house documentary production team had been laid off, putting a question mark on the future of long-running programs like Doc Zone and The Nature of the Things with David Suzuki.

The @cbcdocs Twitter account posted a three-part tweet on November 15th confirming Doc Zone’s cancellation, and that these layoffs were related only to “in-house documentary production.” Part of the confusion stemmed from the fact that two of the three tweets were soon deleted, followed up by several others clarifying that Doc Zone was not cancelled, just taking on a new form.

So, to recap: The Nature of Things is not cancelled, Doc Zone is being reborn, and the number of hours devoted to documentary programming is not changing. Jennifer Dettman, Executive Director of Unscripted Content, reiterated the CBC’s commitment to documentaries to the Documentary Organization of Canada this week, as laid out in their 2020 programming strategy. Their specific strategy towards documentary is still in the process of being defined, but the one major change is that all production will now come from the independent world. Bad news for CBC’s employees, but a new opportunity for independent producers. News on the new iteration of Doc Zone is expected soon.

“The lingua franca of non-fiction filmmaking should be the language of cinema and not the language of grant applications.” That’s Tabitha Jackson, Director of the Sundance Documentary Film Program, giving her keynote address at the 2014 DOC NYC Conference. Many of her views echoed those of Michael Moore at the TIFF 2014 Doc Conference, where he stated that too many doc makers forget that they’re making films and not “medicine.” Read more on her keynote in this recap from Filmmaker Magazine. (And for more Doc Manifesto reading, check out this popular feature from the late Peter Wintonick.)

Michael Moore is one of the doc world’s best examples of a first-person documentarian, inserting himself into his films to help get his message across. But Tom Ralston at the PBS Doc Soup blog wonders: Where Are the First-Person Women Documentarians? (A few answers, as suggested by our network: Laugh in the Dark by Justine Pimlott, Shameless by Bonnie Sherr Klein, and Chi by Anne Wheeler.)

Christopher Campbell at Nonfics says it’s time to stop calling observational documentaries fly on the wall. Frederick Wiseman agrees.

It’s the final weekend of RIDM 2014! Here’s our handy guide to what to see – there may still be some screenings left for you to get tickets for.

Batman documentary? Batman documentary.

See you in two weeks!