What’s Up, Doc? Weekly Round-up - Dec. 11

Sarain Fox’s Inendi is among a series of COVID-era docs released by CBC Short Docs


By Madeline Lines

In a year of immense upheaval that’s left no industry untouched, the world of documentaries has faced unique challenges in 2020. After months of online festivals in which the majority of films still reflected a pre-COVID world, it will be interesting to see how the coming year in documentary film will reflect our “new normal.”

For example, CBC Docs recently spoke to the directors of the films in their series Alone Together: Personal Stories from the Pandemic to learn about what it was like to film a documentary this year. “For so many of my people, this is not their first ‘pandemic’,” wrote Indigenous filmmaker Sarain Fox on the making of Inendi, a film that deals with the threat COVID-19 poses to Indigenous elders and knowledge keepers. “As the director, I needed to make sure our crew did not become unwitting transmitters of this virus. I was terrified of the harmful effect we could have on my community.”

Many reflect on the challenges of cutting down a crew, travel restrictions, and the increased difficulty of gaining the trust and comfort of their subjects. Increased logistical challenges have forced many to get creative, like Nicole Bazuin, director of Last Night at the Strip Club. “Early in the doc, Andrea recalls a patron asking her for ‘tongue kissing’ as the pandemic loomed,” writes Bazuin. After struggling to find a way to recreate this key scene visually, they decided, “Andrea would portray both herself and the creepy dude — nicknamed ‘Marco’ — in a Parent Trap -esque way. After watching a beard-painting tutorial online…Andrea borrowed her boyfriend’s clothes and ‘Marco’ was born.”

The New York Times Magazine recently published a feature on Anand Patwardhan titled, India’s Leading Documentary Filmmaker Has a Warning. Writer Abhrajyoti Chakraborty explores how documentary-watching has become a dangerous act in India, where Patwardhan’s latest film Reason remains officially unreleased two years after premiering at TIFF. “With almost every documentary he has made, Patwardhan has had to approach a court to ensure it is shown without restrictions,” Chakraborty writes. “His films have won publicly funded awards at the same time as efforts have been made to limit their viewership. They reflect, both in their reception and content, the schizophrenic nature of Indian democracy.” Read POV’s interview with “The Michael Moore of Indian documentaries” in this piece from the archives.

ICYMI, someone was trying to pull the plug on a documentary screening in Calgary late last month. Const. Chris Harris of the Calgary police attempted to block the CUFF Docs screening of No Visible Trauma, a documentary on police brutality in Calgary produced by Lost Time Media. While the injunction was rejected, Harris is suing for defamation, and filmmakers are banding together to contribute to a legal fund for Marc Serpa Francoeur and Robinder Uppal. “We take our work very seriously and stand 100% behind the accuracy and integrity of our film,” Serpa Francoeur noted in an email to POV. “We emphatically deny Cst. Harris’s allegations, reject the veracity of the evidence advanced in his court filings, and intend to vigorously defend the claim.” Read more about the situation here.

On Monday Dec 7, a letter pushing for Telefilm to discontinue its Fast Track funding program was penned by 49 Canadian film organizations. “Many members of our industry support the elimination of the Fast Track Program, because it was not transparent, equitable, or successful at yielding profitable and culturally relevant films,” the letter writes, signed by DGC National, DOC org, DOXA, and more. The letter comes amid ongoing debates around measures to promote diversity and inclusion within Telefilm and its funding, which Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail reports creates a complex situation for the funding body to navigate.

In Briarpatch, Mattias Graham looks at how Indigenous women were affected (or neglected) by the Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit, which was cut in 2012, as the NDP is currently pushing to bring it back. “The tax credit program never invested in independent filmmakers, and especially Indigenous filmmakers, telling their own stories. Do we risk re-entrenching inequities by bringing it back?” Graham wonders. While the tax credit era saw the beginning of renowned Cree filmmaker Tasha Hubbard’s (Two Worlds Colliding, nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up) career, Graham writes that, “Despite Hubbard’s trailblazing, Indigenous women were still shut out of Saskatchewan’s film industry.” The piece offers a detailed history of the tax credit and looks forward at what the potential impact for Indigenous women filmmakers could be if it were to return, with some changes. Watch Hubbard’s nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up below:

nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up, Tasha Hubbard, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Dorothy Woodend invites us to Spend Some Time with the Heroes of North Shore Rescue in a review of Grant Baldwin’s latest documentary series, in The Tyee. Search and Rescue: North Shore shines a light on “the biggest of all interior search-and-rescue organizations in Canada,” the SAR of Vancouver’s North Shore. “A colleague of mine suggested the show be aired on incoming flights to Vancouver as an educational tool about how dangerous it can be to enter the terrain unprepared,” Woodend writes. The series is available through the Knowledge Network.

Finally, Hot Docs has a call to give some air play at one of the world’s premier podcast festivals to creators. Hot Docs Podcast Festival’s Opening Act offers homegrown podcasters the opportunity to get their shows heard at the upcoming fest running online and worldwide from January 27-29, 2021. If you’re a Canadian creator, and actively producing an original podcast, submit the best two-minute audio clip of your show for consideration. Winners will also receive a complimentary pass to the Festival and will be listed online and across our various social media channels. Podcasts may submit here for free by Monday, December 21 at 11:59 PM (EST).

Short Doc of the Week: The Condom King of Newfoundland

Prajwala Dixit’s short on the remarkable life of Madhukar Parab, an artist, immigrant, and the “condom king” of Newfoundland, is well worth the watch. The film paints a multidimensional portrait of Parab through Wes Anderson-esque flat-lays of little scraps of his life, guided by candid interviews with his sons and a family friend that speak to his life and character. Parab was an impassioned artist who, after immigrating to Canada and falling in love with a white woman, struggled to keep his family afloat and opened a condom factory. While the factory and many things along the way may have failed, those who loved him have come to define his life as a success, especially in overcoming immense racism as an Indian immigrant to Newfoundland in the 1970s.