What’s Up, Doc? Doc Talk for Dec. 14

Seymour: An Introduction: a speculative Golden Globe nominee?
Photo by Greg Loser. Courtesy of Mongrel Media.

By Pat Mullen

The big news on the doc front this past week is that POV editor Marc Glassman received the DOC Institute Rogers-Doc Luminary Award for his ongoing support for documentary film. Read up on the event in the POV report from the party. There’s also swell coverage from Realscreen and Playback (subscribers only), both of which kindly covered Marc’s award.

Doc fans looking for a conversation starter at parties like the DOC Toronto fête might want to visit Kevin McMahon’s provocative article in The Ottawa Citizen, which urges the new government steered by Mr. Trudeau to revive funding for the NFB. This article passionately reflects upon documentary’s birth in the Canadian cinema and the legacy it leaves for future generations. McMahon intuitively looks at the broader picture and taps into the growing popularity of documentaries among younger audiences. There’s more of a demand for docs than ever before, so now’s the time to re-line the pockets and support filmmakers. Fans of McMahon’s article should note that Barri Cohen’s latest “Policy Matters” column also tackles the sense of optimism that Canada’s new political winds signal. Pick up a copy of issue #100 (now on stands) and give it a read!

Alternatively, doc fans looking for conversation starters can add to their hors d’oeuvres the endless streams of chit chat that the current award season offers. For example, Nonfics offers its annual piece about the one major award show, the Golden Globes, that doesn’t acknowledge documentaries. (Docs aren’t even eligible in the song category at the Globes, which is why Lady Gaga’s popular song “Til it Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground was absent from last week’s nominations.) Nonfics wonders which films the voters at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association might nominate for their annual boozy party, which openly favours celebrity and star power. The speculative list includes fifteen “Globe friendly” docs, like Ethan Hawke’s Seymour: An Introduction, Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next, and the Marlon Brando pic Listen to Me Marlon, which best reflect the tastes of the HFPA. But POV wants to know: where is He Named Me Malala? That doc seems like perfect Globes fodder!

If doc fans want to keep the conversation short and sweet at holiday parties, perhaps the Oscar shorts race is a better place to start. Maybe take a gander at Filmmaker Magazine’s interview with Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman, the directors of the Oscar-shortlisted doc Last Day of Freedom, which recently won Best Short Film from the IDA. This piece allows award season chatter to be a springboard for deeper cocktail conversation since Last Day of Freedom is an animated documentary and animation opens up another world of doc talk. Mine the archive of past animated docs like the great Seth’s Dominion or Truth Has Fallen and show off your smarts on an artistic approach that challenges conventional notions of documentary form.

There’s also news of recent doc winners like The Look of Silence, which won Best Documentary honours from groups like the Toronto Film Critics Association and the Online Film Critics Society over the weekend. Ditto the list of docs on Canada’s Top Ten, which includes three documentary features and four documentary shorts. Discuss how the effort benefits Canadian film, like The Globe and Mail says here. Or maybe debate all the other films that didn’t make the list (cough, cough Al Purdy Was Here and This Changes Everything) and ask partygoers what can be done to bring these films to audiences, which provides a good segue for the Kevin McMahon article!

Finally, the folks at Indiewire ask another question about all this award season mania that becomes crazier and louder every year: who is behind it all? Oscar watchers can’t help but notice that 2015 yields more coverage of the documentary race than ever before. Industry insiders and members of the doc branch dish to Indiewire about how the doc race is out of control with glitzy champagne parties and ample favours. Documentary isn’t immune to the schmoozing that inspires voters to bump films to the top of the screener pile and thus increase the odds of landing on the coveted Oscar shortlist. While the exposure truly benefits docs, the sad reality is that aggressive campaigning leaves the field open only to the films that can pay to play.

Short Film of the Week!
This week’s short spotlight goes to the hilarious doc Spearhunter by LukePoling and Adam Roffman. This short is a Hot Docs 2015 selection, and the film chronicles the story of Gene Morris, the top spear hunter in America, and the museum that houses all his prized kills. This hilarious doc deconstructs masculinity in a riotous portrait of Morris’s self-serving glory.

SPEARHUNTER from Adam Roffman on Vimeo.

What reads do you recommend for the week?

Let us know in the comments, or send a tip to pat[at]povmagazine.com.