What’s Up, Doc? Doc Talk for June 20
By Pat Mullen
What’s up, doc fans? This week’s round-up of documentary news and views starts with a controversy that’s been brewing since Sundance. Is it a documentary smackdown or the shrewdest viral marketing campaign yet? Let’s have a look.
The Sundance hit Tickled is making headlines again after previously reported controversies. The doc, which hits theatres this Friday, is causing a stir on social media after one of the film’s directors had an altercation with two of the film’s subjects at the movie’s LA premiere. (Tickled opens in theatres Friday, so check back soon for the POV review. In the meantime, here’s what we had to say about the film at Sundance.)
The incident, which was recorded by Tickled’s American distributor and posted on Facebook (see below), began when the subjects confronted Reeve about their consent to be filmed in the documentary. “The point is if you promise that something is off the record, it should be off the record,” Clarke tells Reeve during the Q&A, as Variety reports.
The Spinoff offers a pretty great play by play and analysis of what went down when subjects Kevin Clarke and David D’Amato appeared at the theatre and accosted director Dylan Reeve partway through the film’s screening and then hijacked the post-screened Q&A. Their appearance is unsettling given their behaviour in the film and their efforts to conceal their identities (particularly D’Amato) and actions. It’s hard to discuss Tickled without spoiling some major twists, but writer Joshua Drummond sums up Clarke and D’Amato’s party crashing as such: “If you’ve seen Tickled, this should freak you the hell out. If you haven’t: imagine being in the cinema watching Blackfish, only to discover either uniformed Sea World reps or the orca sitting next to you. It’s like that. Dylan walks down the aisle to meet D’Amato, who grasps him in what looks like a firm handshake. They don’t let go. There’s a bunch of inaudible stuff before the mic catches up.” Read the full recap here and see director David Farrier’s transcript of the event below. (And make sure to read the comments on the Spinoff piece for extra fun!)
Reeve seems to have a good sense of humour about the whole thing:
"Go to LA and do the Q&As there," they said.— Dylan Reeve (@DylanReeve) June 18, 2016
"It will be pretty easy," they said.#TickledMovie
I've received a few business cards after
tickledmovie</a> screenings. This is my favourite - was after Friday Q&A <a href="https://t.co/aPKDa40DZQ">pic.twitter.com/aPKDa40DZQ</a></p>— Dylan Reeve (DylanReeve) June 19, 2016
I'm up 17,203 places in the entirely mysterious IMDB StarMeter this week. So that's nice.— Dylan Reeve (@DylanReeve) June 18, 2016
On a more serious note, director Victoria Lean talks with The Ottawa Citizen about her film After the Last River ahead of its Ottawa premiere. (The film is currently playing at The ByTowne.) Lean, who was featured in the POV cover story The Class of ’15, discusses her relationship with the people of Attawapiskat following her time spent in the community during filming. “There’s a little bit more of an intimate connection with people in the film,” Lean says to the Citizen when asked how the film goes beyond the headlines. “When I was filming it was just me and them. There was a trust for me. So, I think there was an openness that you feel when it’s just every other day in Attawapiskat, rather than just a crisis when there’s lots of reporters.”
While filmmakers like Lean often need to confront issues of access and representation, the conundrum of distribution endures long after the shoot. Indiewire asks if Vimeo can expand and compete following the departure of former CEO Kerry Trainor and increased competition in the marketplace of subscription streaming and video-on-demand. The site is a go-to destination for film professional, content creators, and users looking beyond the cat videos of YouTube. Indiewire’s Chris O’Falt chronicles Vimeo’s rise under Trainor’s leadership through moves like the popular Staff Picks and the introduction of Vimeo VOD, but says the state of the platform embodies many of the battles that content creators and distributors face while trying to monetise work in the digital age. “In the age of SVOD giants and multi-billion dollar battle for content, the question becomes this: How is [temporary CEO Joey] Levin going to organically transition Vimeo from a service creators rely upon to a market they can use to reliably generate revenue? Many filmmakers will be waiting for the answer.”
Whatever problems Vimeo may face, one must agree that streaming services have helped increase the reach of documentary film. Grolsch Canvas makes a similar point while rounding up a list of documentaries that changed the world. Inspired by the UK release of Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next, James Luxford looks at films that made an impact such as Moore’s Bowling for Columbine, Davis Guggenheim’s _An Inconvenient Truth, and Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Blackfish. “What these examples prove is that even in a cinematic climate dense with superheroes and CGI, cinema has the power to affect real change within the world,” writes Luxford. “With streaming and the revolution in art house cinemas providing a bigger platform than ever for smaller films to find an audience, it’s up to a new generation of creatives to now continue that momentum and make sure their voices are heard.” What other docs changed the world?
Docs like the ones mentioned above risk being dismissed as “issue films” and Daniel Walber at Nonfics makes a very good argument that a doc can’t rest on the laurels of its subject matter alone. “Frankly,” Walber writes, “derision frequently gets in the way of trying to untangle this stuff. On the other hand, there’s nothing more frustrating than reading a review that praises a film exclusively for its ideological content. And the misguided neoliberal nonsense discourse around maximizing a documentary’s “impact” certainly doesn’t help things. Not every documentary can get someone sprung from prison.” Using the doc Growing Up Coy, director Eric Juhola’s film about six-year-old transgender girl Coy Mathis, Walber looks at how the film transcends the pigeonhole of the “issue film.” It’s a provocative read for filmmakers and critics alike.
Finally, the mini doc-series O.J. Simpson: Made in America has everyone talking. Sports Illustrated looks at the final episodes and offers some takeaways of the new O.J. renaissance: “Between the FX show and this documentary, 2016 has been a renaissance year of sorts for Simpson hysteria. I’m certainly guilty by watching the documentary and consuming all things Simpson as if it were happening right now. But seeing those bloody photos, hearing how Ron Goldman had deep defensive wounds on his hands, looking inside Nicole Brown-Simpson’s neck, it was a sobering reminder of the two lives lost and those emotionally wrecked as the result of a brutal crime.”
Here’s Twitter’s verdict on O.J.:
#OJMadeInAmerica dir Ezra Edelman takes us behind the scenes on
purenonfiction</a> #10 <a href="https://t.co/oHdhIFIzuv">https://t.co/oHdhIFIzuv</a> <a href="https://t.co/rOG5TBkm6T">pic.twitter.com/rOG5TBkm6T</a></p>— Thom Powers (thompowers) June 19, 2016
"O.J.: Made In America" was phenomenal because it was a meticulously macro look at a hyperanalyzed, infamous case. The Wire of documentaries— Adam Proteau (@Proteautype) June 19, 2016
O.J.: Made in America is essential viewing for a hundred reasons. Systemic racism, spousal abuse, privilege. It hits so many issues.— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) June 19, 2016
Last part of O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA is so suffused w/ irony that can't think straight anymore. I need the Genius Bar to recalibrate my brain.— Scott Tobias (@scott_tobias) June 16, 2016
few things have made me as aware of my whiteness as watching OJ: MADE IN AMERICA while eating fettuccine alfredo in khakis did just now— josh lewis (@thejoshl) June 18, 2016
Short Film of the Week:
Since we look at the world of Vimeo in this week’s round-up, it seems logical to browse the Vimeo Staff Picks to find a short doc for Pride Month. This week’s pick is First Kiss by Tatia Pilieva, which invites pairs of strangers to share their first kiss with the world. Do you see any sparks fly in this short doc?
What are you reading this week?
Let us know in the comments or send a tip to pat[at]povmagazine.com.