Saturday, October 30, 2010

Catch These Docs

Two Spotlight on Documentaries alums of IFP’s Project Forum opened theatrically this Friday, giving New Yorkers the opportunity for an IFP subway series of sorts - the ability to shuttle between two terrific documentaries.

Jennifer Arnold’s A Small Act (now at Quad Cinema), which premiered at Sundance 2010, chronicles how one small act can dramatically change the entire course of another person¹s life as it tells how the donation of a then-stranger (Hilda Back) allowed young Chris Mburu stay in school in Kenya. Mburu is now a Harvard Law School graduate who is a human rights officer for the United Nations, and A Small Act follows Mburu¹s efforts to honor his benefactor, give back to his community and continue the cycle of sponsorship. With clarity and grace, the film bears witness to the ripple effect one singular action can have.

At Spotlight on Documentaries 2010, Jen and producer Patti Lee connected with HBO’s Lisa Heller at a Project Forum meeting, and A Small Act rapidly became an HBO Documentary Film. Jen writes about this and her film’s production story this week on Ted Hope’s blog.

Last July, just prior to its HBO broadcast, A Small Act was the opening film for IFP’s ENVISION: Addressing Global Issues through Documentaries, produced jointly with the United Nations Department of Public Information. It’s always great when an IFP-supported film can work cross-programmatically and it was a perfect fit for this program - and it was especially wonderful to have Jen, Patti, and Chris Mburu here for it.

Speaking of being part of more than one IFP program…this brings me to our second opening: Doug Block’s The Kids Grow Up. Films that Doug has been involved with as a producer, DP, and, of course, director have been coming through IFP, well, since before even I was here. Most recently, Doug’s The Kids Grow Up (then titled Almost Gone) was one of my favorite projects in Spotlight on Documentaries 2008, so I was happy to be asked to join Doug and producer Lori Cheatle to introduce it at Friday’s theatrical opening at the Angelika. A companion piece in spirit to his 51 Birch Street, it continues his personal look at parents and children and family relations, centering on the emotional reverberations and ripples through time prompted by his daughter Lucy’s eminent flight from the nest as she prepares to depart for college. It’s a rich and moving work.

So, in short – seize the opportunity to see both of these docs – A Small Act and The Kids Grow Up now playing in New York, and continuing to play across the country the rest of this year.

And coming up:

Standing in front of the Angelika last night when I arrived was the tireless Thom Powers, handing out brochures for his upcoming inaugural DOC NYC (November 3-9). Check out their schedule – you really can’t go wrong with anything. A special shout out to the exquisitely compelling Puppet by David Soll, an alum project of IFP’s 2010 Independent Filmmaker Labs.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ten IFP Alum Ready to Rock IDFA!

IDFA, the world's largest documentary festival, has just announced its stellar line-up for the 2010 incarnation. IFP is thrilled ten of the 280 films (84 of which are World Premieres), are IFP supported projects!

These are:
Budrus, directed and produced by Julia Bacha and produced by Ronit Avni. An alumnus of IFP'S 2009 Spotlight on Documentaries, it will be showcased in the category "Reflecting Images: Best of Fests." Also in this category, which focuses on "Documentaries that have made an impact on this year's international festival circuit," is a fellow alumnus of 2009 Spotlight on Documentaries, Laura Poitras' widely acclaimed The Oath, also a nominee of the 2010 Gotham Independent Film Awards.

In the category "Reflecting Images: Panorama", which presents "films that are thought-provoking in form and choice of theme", a total of five IFP alum are included: Minustah Steals Goats (Minustah vole kabrit) (fiscally sponsored by IFP); Pushing the Elephant (Spotlight on Documentaries alumnus 2009); Sons of Perdition (Spotlight on Documentaries alumnus 2009); Utopia in Four Movements (Radziwill grant); and Queen of the Sun (Spotlight on Documentaries alumnus 2009). Queen of the Sun also will be shown in the Competitive Green Screen section. According to the website, "Documentaries that focus on the interaction between man and his environment will for the first time compete for a special award in this new competition."

The final IFP alum films are in Competitive Sections of the Festival. First, An Encounter with Simone Weil (An alumnus of the Independent Filmmaker Labs and Spotlight on Docs 2009) will make its World Premiere in the IDFA Competition for First Appearance. iThemba, directed by Elinor Burkett, is also in this competition, which is derived from the original concept/footage as Oscar-winner Music by Prudence, which came through IFP's fiscal sponsorship program and is an alumnus of Spotlight on Docs 2008. Finally, Our Summer in Tehran (2009 Spotlight on Docs alumnus) will compete in the IDFA Competition for Mid-Length Documentary.
We wish all our diverse and talented alumni great luck with their incredible films.

Update (11/18):

Four more IFP alum in the IDFA Forum

Bettie Page Reveals All (Spotlight on Docs 2008)

Diana Vreeland: The Eye has to Travel (Spotlight on Docs 2010)

From Texas to Tehran (Spotlight on Docs 2008)

Versailles (Spotlight on Docs 2010)

Have a great Festival everyone!