Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Robert Redford talks documentaries

The Sundance Film Festival is just days away from kicking off and while I hope you don't forget to keep an eye out for our in depth preview of the documentaries of the festival, I'm sure most of you are already pining for any possible nugget coming out of Park City, Utah.

Luckily for you, The festival's founder, Robert Redford, took time last week to talk to NPR about Sundance and why he's committed to featuring documentaries. I've got to hand it to the man, while his festival has become quite mainstream (in terms of popularity), it still remains true to independent filmmakers (particularly documentaries) and has really become a great launching pad for films that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Head on over to NPR's website to catch the interview and see why Sundance has become the greatest thing for documentaries since... well... affordable cameras.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Oscars to tighten rules for documentaries

In case you missed today's major news, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences says it will start requiring a review from The New York Times or The Los Angeles Times for a film to qualify for its documentary feature category. The new rule will be officially announced later this week and will take effect for the 2013 awards.

This is a major blow to documentary fans hoping to see the Oscars move in a more populist direction. Count this site as one of those bemoaning this change as it also will only serve to allow the rich to get richer. Most documentaries don't get a review unless there's a big name or big budget behind it- or if it gains just the right type of buzz to lure a critic into a screening.

Admittedly, the rule change was probably necessary for the Academy's small (in comparison to other Oscar groups) documentary award staff. With cheaper equipment, a growing cult fan base and groups willing to help push films through the current rule process, the number of submissions for the category have been rising quickly. A staff already stretched thin had to find a way to curtail their ever growing work load.

The rule will also eliminate the complex and stifling rating system used to select the Oscar documentary nominees. The main change is allowing the committee to see screeners of films instead of forcing them to see films only in theaters - a major bonus for small budget films that can only afford to play in theaters for a week or two. Still, these small budget films need to get reviewed before this change even matters.

Ultimately, the rule changes will hurt many filmmakers looking for validation from the Oscars. The documentary industry is not a lucrative place to work unless you manage to make a name for yourself and even a nomination to the Oscars is a big deal (see Morgan Spurlock). So, for the time being, it seems small, independent filmmakers won't have much of a shot at cracking the tighter rules unless these two papers designate a critic specifically to documentaries - which is highly unlikely as they are struggling to keep pace with the changing climate of media news.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Louder Than a Bomb premiers Thursday, 9pm

Yes, it’s a new year, but I’m assuming the new work week has already left you stuck in the same old rut. Well, luckily for you there’s always a new movie to help lift your spirits and inspire change. If you need a good pick me up story that’s not your standard sappy Hollywood affair, look no further than Louder Than A Bomb.

Directed by Greg Jacobs & Jon Siskel, this documentary follows four schools preparing for the annual Louder Than A Bomb poetry slam competition. After watching an advanced screening, I couldn’t agree more with the film’s summary: “This is not ‘high school poetry’ as we often think of it. This is language as a joyful release, irrepressibly talented teenagers obsessed with making words dance.”

If you need more details, head to the film's official site. Otherwise, make sure to set your schedules now so you don’t miss out on a documentary that will help you kick the year off right.

Louder Than a Bomb premiers Thursday, January 5 at 9pm (Eastern Time) on the Oprah Winfrey Network- and don’t hate on OWN, they have got an excellent line up of documentaries this year.