December is proving to be a good month for filmmaker Lucy Walker and The Crash Reel
Walker's affecting sports documentary about champion snowboarder Kevin Pearce's recovery from a near-fatal accident has taken its place on the 2014 Oscars shortlist.
The film opens at NYC's IFC Center on Friday, December 13.
Additionally, Walker and the film have won two awards at Whistler Film Festival -- which is particularly appropriate because snowboarding is such a popular sport at Whistler, a favorite ski resort.
The Crash Reel won the juried Best Mountain Culture Film Award, presented by Whistler Blackcomb. The jury statement: "Unafraid to point her lens at the culture, hard truths, director Lucy Walker's The Crash Reel delivers a refreshingly intimate and disturbing look at the surreal world of high performance action sports."
Walker also won the EDA Award for Best Female-Directed Documentary At Whistler Film Festival 2014, presented by the Alliance of Women Film Journalists. The jury statement: In a compelling documentary about a valiant young athlete who fights his way back from a near-fatal accident, filmmaker Lucy Walker pays tribute to Kevin Pearce's strength of character and determination and points to the need for greater safety measures in the thrilling and extremely dangerous sport at which Kevin excelled. Using archival footage of 15 years in Kevin's life, Walker examines the clash between the seemingly insatiable appetite for risks among participants in extreme sports and the chilling reality of how dangerous their pursuits are. Walker's doc has a strong narrative arc that interweaves the intense rivalry between Pearce and fellow half-pipe champion Shaun White, the tragic accident and a supportive family's pain as they watch their brain-damaged son recover and announce he will take to the slopes again, unable to process the fact that another blow to the head could kill him."
The Whistler Film Festival took place from December 4 to 8.
Disclaimer: I was a juror for the AWFJ EDA Award for Best Female-Directed Documentary at Whistler Film Festival.
Members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Documentaries Branch are looking closely at the fifteen films on Oscars 2014 documentaries shortlist to determine which five of the fifteen shortlisted films will become actual nominees for the 2014 Oscar for Best Feature-Length Documentary.<p>
Everybody who watches documentaries has an opinion about which films deserve to be finalists for the award that really does make a difference in the distribution and shelf life of a nonfiction feature film.<p>
The official final five will be announced on January 16, 2014. Meanwhile, for my choices, Read on....
Ally Derks has been the director of IDFA for a quarter of a century, and has grown the renown documentaries festival into an established and essential event on the documentary film industry's annual calendar. In this exclusive interview, Derks chats about the current state of documentary filmmaking and documentary film festivals. Read more...
(PHOTO: Ally Derks. Courtesy IDFA.)
Even if you travel all the way to Amsterdam to attend IDFA, it's impossible to see all of the more than 200 documentaries that are screened during the documentary festival's eleven days.
Luckily, the festival has its own IDFA.tv Website where you can watch documentaries on demand, and its own IDFA YouTube Channel, where you can see a selection of the films screened theatrically at the festival for free.
Among the feature length documentaries currently playing for free:
- Rafea Solar Mama, an inspiring documentary about Rafea, a Jordanian woman who gains financial independence and relieves some of the poverty in her village by becoming a solar engineer. You can see the film by clicking here.
- Planet of Snail, an exquisitely insightful documentary about Young-Chan, a blind Korean man, and Soon-Ho, his soul mate, who together discover the beauties of their lives and the world in which they live. You can discover those beauties with them by clicking here.
- Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream, Alex Gibney's profoundly confounding and irony-clad comparison of the lifestyles of the rich who reside on Manhattan's posh Park Avenue with those of their impoverished neighbors who life just a few miles north, on Park Avenue in the Bronx, New York. You can see the film by clicking here.
Make checking the IDFA.tv site and YouTube Channel a habit. The featured films change, and you'll always something very interesting to watch.
With a rise in the number of visitors from 208,000 in 2012 to 222,000 in 2013, a increase in net receipts from 1,060,000 Euros last year to 1,257,000 Euros this year, more than 1,100,000 hits on its Website and a record-setting 34,000 views on its online documentary channel, the 26th annual edition of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, held from November 20 to December 1, comes to a close.
But not before awarding a very tidy sum of some 61,500 Euros (about $84,000) in prize money to nonfiction films in eleven categories of competition. For a list of winners, read on....
(PHOTO: IDFA Logo. Courtesy IDFA.)
It's impossible to see all of the 288 documentaries screening at IDFA 2013, so here's a list of must-sees.
Or, if your not one of the 2,200 registered festival attendees. look for these films at other festivals or in theatrical venues later this year and during 2014.
They're terrific documentaries. Read more...
(PHOTO: IDFA logo. Courtesy International Documentaries Festival Amsterdam.)
The international documentaries community is mourning the death of Peter Wintonick, a prominent filmmaker and promoter of the documentaries genre who passed away on November 18, 2013, in Montreal, shortly after he was diagnosed with late stage cancer.
As guru and cheerleader, Wintonick influenced film festival programming, found new funding and venues for documentaries, mentored and encouraged young filmmakers and augmented public awareness about the importance of documentary film and filmmakers.
Wintonick's death occurred two days before the November 20 opening of the 2013 IDFA, a festival at which Wintonick had been a highly regarded consultant, an integral part of programming and a huge presence in years past.
IDFA's administration and staff and the more than 2,200 documentary film professionals in attendance at the 2013 festival honored Wintonick with a number of events, starting with the opening ceremonies on November 20, where festival director Ally Derks delivered a moving speech about Wintonick's achievements, his importance to festival and to the innumerable filmmakers he'd so generously helped. Derks also announced the creation of a new award in memory Wintonick: the Peter Wintonick Special Jury Award for First Appearance.
There was also a formal memorial on November 24, where members of the documentaries community could share their warm recollections of the man whose physical presence they so sorely missed. And, at daily 'High Teas,' Derks and friends of Peter Wintonicks discussed his career and influence on the aesthetics and business of documentary filmmaking.
Wintonick was a consultant to documentary festivals around the world, including Sheffield Doc/Fest among others, and additional tributes and memorials are likely to be scheduled throughout the 2013-14 festival calendar.
RIP Peter Wintonick. Your spirit lives on in the memories and hearts of all who were fortunate to know you.
(PHOTO: Peter Wintonick. Courtesy DocQuebec.)
After half a century, JFK's legacy is still strong, and questions about his assignation prevail. Commemorate the 50th anniversary of his tragic death by watching the investigative and insightful Oswald's Ghost to see whether it answers any of your questions. (PHOTO: Still of JFK. Courtesy Quality Information Publishers, Inc.)
For its 26th edition, International Documentaries Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), the world's largest documentaries festival and arguably its most influential, will present 288 documentaries, 100 of which are world premiers.
The festival's dates are from November 20 to December 1.
Fifteen of the films are in competition for the best feature length documentary, an award that comes with a cash prize of 12,500 Euros (about $17,000) and an original sculpture.
This year's list of outstanding documentaries in competition covers a wide range of subjects and documentary styles.
Return to Homs,, one of the feature length documentaries in competition, is the festival's opening night film.
Here's the complete annotated list of features in competition.
(PHOTO: IDFA 2013 logo. Courtesy IDFA).
November 11th is Veterans Day. Take a break from the parades and barbecues to do some serious thinking about Veterans Day and what it means to the men and women who've been to war in service to the country. Documentaries that chronicle their experiences in combat, during deployment and when they return home will give you a lot to think about. Here's the list for Veterans Day 2013.
(PHOTO: Still from 'Where Soldiers Come From.' Courtesy Interntional Film Circuit)