What’s Up, Doc? Weekly Round-up - Feb. 12

Time is among the 15 feature docs on the Oscar shortlist

By Madeline Lines

What’s up, doc lovers? Much of the country has been swept up in a deep freeze this week, so it’s a good time to grab a hot drink and curl up with a doc this weekend. There’s plenty to pick from, whether you’re joining in on the digital editions of fests like TIFF Next Wave, catching up on Oscar hopefuls, or streaming the latest hot-topic Netflix series.

The film world was buzzing in anticipation of the Oscars shortlist, which was finally released on Tuesday. Fifteen feature length docs and ten shorts made the cut. While some strong Canadian docs were on the list of over 200 eligible titles, none progressed to the shortlist. Nevertheless, many deserving (and predicted) films make up the well-received list, including POV’s top pick, Boys State. You can find the full shortlist here.

Check out some reactions:

Netflix appears to be in the midst of deciding on the location of their Canadian headquarters. Multiple reports suggest that the streaming giant is getting closer to establishing a hub for content creation, but the location remains to be seen. While the decision likely will be between the filmmaking hubs of Toronto and Vancouver, it will be interesting to see which city is chosen and how it will influence Canadian content and documentary production. Netflix has teased an office for years, and established a production hub in Toronto back in 2019. In an interview with the Canadian Press, Netflix’s co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos said, “We’re not just going to put one person in a little office in one city, in one place in Canada. We’re looking to grow our relationship with the creative community in Canada. So that’ll be as open geographically as Canada is.”

In other streaming-giant related news, Amazon Prime Video is donating $1.25 million to the Indigenous Screen Office. The ISO broke the news in a press release on Monday, announcing that the funds will go towards supporting the Canadian BIPOC TV and film production community. The funds will go towards the Solidarity Fund, the Indigenous Development Program, and the establishment of a new pitch program which will award $10,000 to 10 BIPOC creators. For more information, head here.

Still looking for Canadian docs to stream for Black History Month? Albert Ohayon of the NFB recently appeared on Global News Morning Calgary to shine a light on two docs that highlight Black perspectives from the Prairies. John Ware Reclaimed, a film setting the record straight on Alberta’s Black cowboy, was recently made available to stream for free on NFB.ca. Ohayon also highlights 19 Days, a film which follows the experience of a handful of refugee families during their first 19 days in Calgary, also streaming on the NFB website.

19 Days, Asha Siad & Roda Siad, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

The conversation around the explosive New York Times doc, Framing Britney Spears, continues to flourish online more than a week after its premiere on FX and Hulu in the United States. In Variety, Naman Ramachandran reports on the pop singer’s cryptic message that appears to be acknowledging the doc. Much of the ongoing discussion surrounding the film concerns the way Spears was treated by fellow pop icon Justin Timberlake amidst the aftermath of their widely publicized breakup. Timberlake released a statement this morning in which he apologizes to Spears as well as Janet Jackson, saying, “I care for and respect these women and I know I failed.”

Last week, we mentioned the upcoming educational series Lessons from Willie inspired by the career of Willie O’Ree, whose story as the first Black player in the NHL was chronicled in the doc Willie. The latest segment of Lessons from Willie features O’Ree in conversation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to advance the message that hockey is for everyone. The NHL also announced that it will retire O’Ree’s #22 jersey for the Boston Bruins on January 18, 2022.

Last, but certainly not least, TIFF Next Wave kicks off today with plenty of fresh films to watch from now until Monday. The youth-led festival has a limited number of free tickets available for people under 25. The high schooler-curated lineup includes highlights like Unapologetic, an apt doc that follows two Black activists seeking justice after the murder of Rekia Boyd at the hands of an off-duty Chicago police officer. Next Wave will be popping off with a virtual opening night party, plenty of Q&As and talks with everyone from upcoming Canadian talent to teen heartthrob Finn Wolfhard, and a Young Creators Showcase featuring 14 films repping the next wave of Canadian filmmakers. The full lineup can be found here.

Short Docs of the Week

This short doc is a throwback and a sweet treat to mull over during the weekend. Donuts, People, and Their Dreams travels to 24 donut shops across Southern Ontario in the early ’90s to ask people candidly about their dreams. An employee of one of the donut shops confesses to a nightmare where he is stuck in a donut prison, making donuts over and over into eternity. The strangers captured here have a frank openness and reflectiveness about an often private subject. The result is a meditation on dreams, donuts, and life, perhaps made more novel now with the tinge of nostalgia.

Donuts, People & Their Dreams – Documentary from Michael P. O'Hara on Vimeo.