What’s Up, Doc? Doc Talk for Dec. 7

By Pat Mullen

It’s a quieter week on the doc news front now that the major festivals are over and moviegoers are heading into the grind of the holiday season. Awards news gets a quick update to start, since that’s the main conversation of the moment (for better or for worse) with POV recently reporting thatThe Look of Silence is the IDA’s pick for Best Documentary of 2015. Silence looks to be neck and neck with Amy, which scooped the Best Documentary Prize from the Los Angeles Film Critics and Boston Film Critics this weekend with Silence netting runner up honours from both in addition to a Best Foreign Language Film win from the Bostonians. (Both films are also nom’d at the Online Film Critics Society awards along with Best of Enemies, Cartel Land, and Going Clear.

Both Amy and The Look of Silence are two docs performing especially well with younger audiences (Amy in particular) thanks to their subject matter and innovative style. Newsrewired reports that docs are actually making a comeback with younger audiences for a variety of reasons. “Losing the suit” and sharing docs across multiple platforms are key, as well as the obvious (but often overlooked) solution of asking the audience what they want to see. It’s good news for doc makers if the younger crowd craves not Marvel movies, but documentaries! (Although The Look of Silence sort of caters to the trend of franchise filmmaking!)

Innovations in documentary production and consumption also demand the doc community to re-evaluate practices and models. (Check out the upcoming POV for a thorough analysis of recent DOC findings!) For example, the International Documentary Association offers a study from the IDFA’s doc lab and examines the perks of non-linear virtual reality documentaries. Is it a gimmick or an effective way to engage audiences? (We’ll have more on web docs in POV 100!)

Sometimes the act of evaluating the state of the doc requires writers to revisit great films from the past. NonFics looks back at the 1965 CBC documentary The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam by Beryl Fox. This article offers a solid analysis of both the film, saying, “There is no “fly on the wall,” no platonic ideal of an exact representation of what actually happened. And, as was true of the similarly idealized Neorealism of Italy in the 1940s, the easiest way to show the hand of the filmmaker among these truthful images is to listen.” Moreover, it’s simply a strong assessment of a classic film and its context within the canon of Canadian documentary cinema. (Make sure to watch the film here at the CBC archives!)

Speaking of Canadian content, DOC’s monthly member spotlight looks at the career of Sylvie Van Brabant. Van Brabant, a member of DOC’s Quebec chapter, recalls her early work with the NFB on Wake Up, It’s Now or Never!. The profile also lets the filmmaker talk about her work with Serge Guigère (Finding Macpherson) on her 1981 film Depuis que le monde est monde. (Read more about Van Brabant in this POV profile!)

Doc fans who love a good retrospective best get a ticket to Hitchcock/Truffaut. The Kent Jones film about the convo between the two great directors is now in theatres and The Film Stage talks with the director at length. Jones speaks about finding the right directors to play the talking heads of Hitchcock/Truffaut and about his surprise on some of their scene analyses. The interview also touches on editing, music, and other stylistic choices that make this film a master class in film theory and history.

POV loves to hear filmmakers talk about their art, but we also champion the work of photography as an essential facet of documentary. It’s therefore exciting news to hear the National Gallery of Canada’s announcement about the creation of the Canadian Photography Institute, which aims to showcase the art of the photo. As the NGC says, “The influence of photography on contemporary culture cannot be overstated; humanity has become ever more dependent on and demanding of images. Digital photography is now a universal, daily, even hourly pastime, a standard medium for both mass and private communication. In future, the photographic image will be even more ubiquitous and versatile.” Let POV know what you think of the exhibits after your first visit! (And make sure to check out Issue 100 for a great article on photojournalism!)

The power of the photo, finally, feels strong in the National Capital as Rabble recaps a photo essay on the recent climate march on Parliament Hill. The photo essay by Jesse Maclaren captures the passion and collective call to action of Canadians hoping to inspire change. Recent eco docs like This Changes Everything convey the power of a united front, and this collection of photos from the ground show that the spirit of the movement for a greener earth is just as strong in photographs as it is in a film.

Short Film of the Week!
-New feature! Every week, POV spotlights one Canadian short doc for readers to enjoy.
This week: Asian Gangs by Calum Macleod and Lewis Bennett—a very funny highlight from TIFF 2012!

Asian Gangs from Lewis Bennett on Vimeo.

Do you have any reading recommendations?