What’s Up, Doc? Doc Talk for Nov. 30

of the North

By Pat Mullen

This week’s round-up of documentary news and views takes a festival focus. The biggest story on the doc front this week is the controversy out of RIDM following the screenings of of the North, a YouTube archival film from Dominic Gagnon that samples footage of online videos posted by the Inuit. Various outlets report that acclaimed throat singer Tanya Tagaq (who appears in the Canadian doc Al Purdy Was Here) took to Twitter and blasted of the North for its allegedly racist depiction of Indigenous persons (POV hasn’t seen the film) and had her music pulled from the film in protest to Gagnon’s use of her work without her permission, calling the doc a “one-sided, racist slight propagating violence and actual violence.”

Comparisons to Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North abound, but RIDM stands by its decision to include of the North, saying in a release, “it was programmed as a critical discourse on colonialism and its still devastating impacts, through a montage of images recorded and uploaded to YouTube by Inuit peoples.” The fest adds that its programmers “are conscious of the images in the film and sincerely regret the harm these images have had on members of the public.” of the North invites two important discussions that doc filmmakers need to have about representation and fair use. (This relevant read from POV is worth checking out.)

Worth reading in this regard is Andrew Parker’s interview with Alanis Obomsawin (Trick or Treaty?) over at the Toronto Film Scene. Parker talks with the prolific filmmaker about her career and work with the NFB in improving films by and about First Nations persons in Canada. “When she started her career as a filmmaker,” Parker writes, “her main goal was to change the way that people talked about Indigenous cultures. In one of her first meetings with NFB brass early in her career, she pointedly noted that even in films that spoke of the native experience, they rarely, if ever, actually featured First Nations people speaking out or to the camera. Other people would speak for them.”

Toronto-based blogger Steve Gow at Strictly Docs offers a chat with Barkley Marathon filmmakers Annika Iltis and Timothy Kane. (The film screens at the Bloor until Dec. 3.) Iltis explains the important of being respectful while shooting a subject with an eye for objectivity, saying, “We knew right off the bat that it was important that we were there as guests and that we were documenting something that is very dear to (them) – the race is very important.”

Indiewire, meanwhile, offers five tips for good pitches and five tips for how best to maximize the potential of producers. Both lists offer handy toolkits for filmmakers both new and seasoned. The talks from DOC NYC highlight the important of accepting creative feedback from different parties and of finding the right “partner” rather than “benefactor” or “investor.”

Pitches are all part of the festival circuit and doc in development find a thorough report from Realscreen in its coverage of IDFA. The three part report on the IDFA forum (read Part One, Part Two, Part Three) highlights different docs in various stages of production including the forum’s “wild card pitch” of Anote’s Ark from Canada’s EyeSteel Films. The reports forecast some promising docs!

“What’s Up Doc?” bookends the week with sensational subjects as a report from France notes that CFACT (Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow) plans to premiere the new skeptical climate doc Climate Hustle during the UN’s COP 21 international summit on climate change. Climate Hustle claims to be “the first climate documentary to profile scientists who have reversed their views from supporting the so-called ‘consensus’ position to a conversion to skepticism.”

POV wonders what Naomi Klein might think of the film if she catches at the summit, as we chatted with Klein and Avi Lewis about their doc This Changes Everything, which encourages the world to take the issue of climate change seriously. On that note, this week’s round-up ends with a list of eco doc recommendations from the This Changes Everything team to watch during #COP21. This list includes Chasing Ice, Yes Men are Revolting, How to Change the World, and Age of Stupid. Unsurprisingly, Climate Hustle doesn’t make the cut!

What doc reads do you recommend for the week?