In an article, “Documentaries (in name only) of Every Stripe”, for last Wednesday’s (October 13) New York Times, film critic A.O. Scott expressed frustration with pinning down not just the “truth” of recent documentary offerings but the very structural elements of the genre in its post-millennial form(s). His analysis echoes that of theater historian Carol Martin (NYU), who argued in a 2006 Theater Journal article “Bodies of Evidence” that documentary theater was best understood in terms of its diverse and sometimes contradictory effects or functions rather than trying to codify a set of structural or dramaturgical conventions for the genre. By the end of his piece, Scott seems to have come to a similar conclusion: “So the salient question might not be, “What is a documentary?” — an abstract, theoretical approach to a form that is grounded in the concrete facts of life. Instead it might make sense to ask what (or whom) a given documentary is for? Is it a goad to awareness, an incitement to action, a spur to further thought? A window? A mirror? The more you think about it, the less obvious the truth appears to be.”
Against the backdrop of Scott’s article, it seemed fitting to highlight the multiple events surrounding documentary media happening at Duke (and beyond) in late October and November. Check out the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) Porch for more details about documentary media (production, presentation & study) at Duke.
One of the most exciting pieces of news is the announcement that Duke’s new MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts is now accepting applications for its first class of students to begin Fall 2011. Click here for details about the program and the application process.
Katie Hyde’s Literacy Through Photography–Arusha, Tanzania project will be on display at CDS’ Kreps and Lyndhurst Galleries through January 8, 2011, but on October 21 CDS will host a formal reception for the work and a talk by the artist (reception 6-9pm, lecture @ 7pm). On November 4 there will be a panel discussion with Hyde and others about the Literacy Through Photography Program at 7pm. See the CDS Porch for more details.
On October 21 at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy (Sanford Room 05) there is a screening of HouseQuake, a documentary by alumna Karen Price (’92, daughter of NC Representative David Price). HouseQuake tells the story of the 2006 mid-term election and follows 7 Democratic candidates as they campaign to unseat Republican incumbents thought to be unbeatable. The screening will be followed by a reception and a brief Q&A with the director. The event is free and open to the public with free parking available in the Science Drive visitor’s lot after 5 p.m.
October 29 marks the culmination of a celebration of James Longley’s documentary films with a 6:30pm lecture by the filmmaker at the Nasher Museum. Longley’s visit is part of the Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel Filmmaker Series.
FULL FRAME FIX SCHEDULE:
SATURDAY, NOV 6
1:00pm – MARWENCOL, Dir. Jeff Malmberg, 84 min
3:00pm – STRANGE POWERS: STEPHIN MERRITT AND THE MAGNETIC FIELDS, Dir. Kerthy Fix, Gail O’Hara, 85 min
The first week of November also marks the inaugural celebration of DOC NYC (Wednesday, November 3 – Tuesday, November 9) a new festival of “documentary storytelling” holding events at IFC Center and at NYU. This first year boasts over 40 films and events, from gala screenings of new movies by iconic directors Werner Herzog and Errol Morris, to premieres of new documentaries from the U.S. and abroad, panels, in-depth discussions with filmmakers, tributes, retrospectives, and even family matinees for doc-lovers of all ages. They just announced the festival would screen the Bruce Springsteen concert film, Darkness on the Edge of Town, which captures a December 2009 band-only performance by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the historic Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, NJ.
On November 20 back at Duke there is a Full Frame Festival Benefit screening of Martin Scorsese’s A Letter to Elia at the Nasher Museum of Art (7:30pm) . A Letter to Elia (2010) was written and directed by Martin Scorsese and Kent Jones and is Scorsese’s intensely personal and deeply moving tribute to the films of director Elia Kazan whose films captivated Scorsese and inspired him to become a filmmaker. A discussion with Full Frame founder, Nancy Buirski, will follow the 60 minute film. Click the embedded link above for ticket information.
Remember, November 30 is the deadline for submissions to Full Frame 2011!
There is also a new publication to note. TAFASEEL, the Arabic-English quarterly on the Art and Industry of the documentary, is now available four times a year online and in a shorter print version, which will be freely distributed in major film festivals around the world. Reading the journal’s online requires a free registration, which should take two minutes. According to Orwa Nyrabia, TAFASEEL‘s Editor-in-Chief, TAFASEEL (which is available online in Arabic and English) will provide a window to the world of documentary in the Arab world, its makers, their films, their market and their history.
And just to cast an eye to the future, the 2011 Visible Evidence conference will be held in New York City. Keep checking the website for forthcoming details about paper/panel proposals and anticipated keynotes and events.