Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney and Academy Award-nominated director Wim Wenders are partnering with director Michael Meredith for a new documentary Return to Timbuktu to chronicle the quest of Festival au Désert director Manny Ansar to bring his music festival back to Mali. After the country’s descent into instability in 2012, the Festival au Désert was exiled from Northern Mali. But 2015 will hopefully mark the return of the Festival to Mali, with Ansar leading a Caravan of Peace to restore his homeland. The filmmakers are currently on location in Mali and via email I recently spoke with Meredith and director of photography Troy Word about the many challenges this production poses.
The Big Picture
Next month when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens in theatres around the world it may well turn out to be a watershed event in the industry. That is because it will be the latest movie to be widely released in both the Barco Auro 11.1 and Dolby Atmos sound formats. As the budgets for large-scale movies continue to grow, the pressure to open on as many screens as possible increases and Sony Pictures Entertainment clearly wanted this film on every screen it could get.
Great stories, in reality, aren’t the only ingredient needed to make a successful documentary. Filmmakers also need patience, perseverance, creativity, luck and, of course, funding. To say that co-directors Pamela Green and Jarik van Sluijs have a great story to tell is an understatement. Largely unknown and unappreciated, Alice Guy-Blaché was, without question, one of the most important figures in motion picture history. Now, Green and van Sluijs are using digital cinema technology to gather, assemble and organize a wide range of information to get Guy-Blaché’s story ready for the big screen. And what a story it is.
I recently attended the seventh annual Art House Convergence, a four-day gathering of more than 400 people from all over the world who are devoted to making, distributing and showing quality films. The event, held under the auspices of Sundance, is devoted to the idea that cinema should be promoted and cherished as one of the world’s most important art forms. What’s interesting, though, is that where some people see real value in a particular film, others see vapid entertainment. Which may explain why filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier felt the need to apologize for the fact that his movie, Blue Ruin, which was screened there is a genre film. And that’s the art house paradox.
For more than four decades the Downtown Community Center in Lower Manhattan has been a vital resource for training and nurturing independent filmmakers, in particular documentary filmmakers. For most of that time DCTV has called a landmarked 1896 firehouse home. The center reached a significant milestone recently, as the funding is finally in place for a new theatre there that one DCTV executive called “the last piece of the puzzle.”
The seventh annual Arthouse Convergence conference takes place January 13-16 at the Zermatt Resort in Midway, Utah. The event is expected to draw nearly 400 arthouse theatre owners and managers to more than 25 sessions over the four days. Film critic Leonard Maltin is among the keynote speakers and the sessions will cover such topics as customer service, concessions, memberships and programming. I will be at the show and will have reports from there.
Russia has a long and proud tradition of 3D films and now comes a new entry. Already selected as the Russian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards, director Fedor Bondarchuk’s Stalingrad claims to be Russia's first movie ever to be completely produced with digital stereoscopic 3D technology.
Frank DeMarco’s most recent assignment, All is Lost, was an opportunity for the cinematographer to re-team with director J.C. Chandor and to work with a legendary actor, Robert Redford. DeMarco and Chandor had success with their previous project, Margin Call, which scored at the box office and earned Chandor an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay. Like Margin Call, All is Lost was reportedly made for less than $10 million.
Digital Cinema Report celebrates its eleventh anniversary this month and, rather bizarrely I admit, the milestone made me think of one of the most famous (and surely most often misquoted) conversations in movie history. Even though it’s comedy I think the scene speaks rather eloquently about the ongoing and never-ending dynamic between the creative community and the engineers who supply them with technology that is always better than ever. The conversation takes place, of course, in the cult classic This is Spinal Tap between heavy metal rocker Nigel Tufnel (played by Christopher Guest) and documentary filmmaker Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner). They are speaking about the band’s unique amplifiers.
Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity has created more buzz in the digital cinema production world than any motion picture in recent memory. The (quite literally) breathtaking twelve-minute single take opening shot that begins in outer space with a satellite repair mission gone wrong and ends with Sandra Bullock's astronaut cast terrifyingly into the void is just one of Gravity’s filmmaking achievements that has captured wide attention.