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Exploiting Vivian Maier: When Do Docs Invade Privacy?

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • March 27, 2014 1:14 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Don't get me wrong: I like "Finding Vivian Maier," the new documentary I wrote about in Indiewire, which is opening this week. And by raising the many issues that are inherent in the film, I don't mean to simply criticize the movie: I only mean to highlight what's already there. As I wrote today: The film raises many questions: When is it "appropriate to expose the lives and works of others who would rather be left alone? What responsibilities do filmmakers have when they speak on behalf of those who have chosen not to speak publicly for themselves?"

Six Warnings for Documentary Filmmakers

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • March 6, 2014 4:12 PM
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  • 9 Comments
Judging from the comments and Facebook posts in reply to Jill Godmillow's recently published editorial on "The Act of Killing," there are a lot of people--documentary filmmakers and fans--who took issue with the Oscar-nominated nonfiction director's response to the film. There has also been a strangely age-ist reaction--MovieCityNews touted "At 70, Doc-Maker Jill Godmilow Prescribes A 3,800-Word Warning For 39-Year-Old Joshua Oppenheimer"--as if the critique has something to do with Godmillow being some old fuddy-duddy filmmaker who is out of touch with formalist documentary cinema.

Documentary "Scenes of a Crime" Leads to Re-Trial of Man Coerced into Wrongful Confession

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • February 20, 2014 5:06 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Documentary filmmakers Blue Hadaegh and Grover Babcock are rejoicing with the landmark ruling today by New York's Court of Appeals, declaring that Adrian Thomas, the subject of their doc "Scenes of a Crime," underwent a "coercive" interrogation and that his confession was "involuntary." The 31-year-old man, who was convicted of killing his own child and was sentence to a lifetime in prison, will now have a re-trial.

Has "20 Feet from Stardom" Already Won the Oscar for Best Documentary?

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • December 4, 2013 3:00 PM
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  • 2 Comments
"The Act of Killing" won a Gotham Award for Best Documentary on Monday night, setting up what might be a run of accolades for this disturbing and impressive nonfiction opus. Or not? I don't put too much stock in awards. Although it's nice when you get them, there is way too much back-room manipulation, politics and other outside factors to suggest that an award for the year's "best" documentary is actually that. In my Docutopia column this week, I examine the context and conditions of award voting and how they don't reflect the best of anything, but rather, the preference of disparate constituencies.

This Thanksgiving, Remember the Native American (Docs)

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • November 27, 2013 1:57 PM
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  • 1 Comment
I am embarrassed to say that before watching "Young Lakota," a new documentary directed by Rose Rosenblatt and Marion Lipschutz (The Education of Shelby Knox), I had yet to see a nonfiction film that focused on Native American life. This was probably a result of my own oversight--Independent Lens has produced plenty of them, see my Docutopia column this week--but I assume it's also due to the general lack of media attention given to America's indigenous populations. As we visit with friends and family this week to celebrate our colonialist holiday, it seems like an opportune time to highlight the struggles of Native American people--and the documentaries that chronicle them.

When do docs need to provide political/social context?

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • November 21, 2013 11:34 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Over the last couple weeks, I've been thinking a lot about the ways in which documentaries provide social/political context or choose not to? Last week, I pointed out the potential problems that Jason Osder's "Let the Fire Burn" faces because of the way it eschews context, and this week, I found myself doing the same with respect to Shaul Schwarz’s "Narco Cultura" in my Docutopia column at SundanceNow.

Defending "Let the Fire Burn," Or How Not to Discuss a Controversial Doc

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • November 18, 2013 5:03 PM
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  • 3 Comments
"Let the Fire Burn," Jason Osder's found-footage doc about a violent standoff between Philadelphia police and a black activist group called MOVE in the 1980s, has emerged as one of the year's best documentaries. Nominated for two Cinema Eye Honors (for best editing and best debut) and the Gotham Award for best documentary, the film is a thrilling and disturbing historical document of racism, police brutality, and the catastrophic failure of local government. It's also arguably "complex"--a word, which I discovered recently at a heated Q&A for the film in which I moderated--can be drastically misunderstood.

Can the Documentary "Patrolman P" Free an Innocent Man?

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • November 14, 2013 9:57 AM
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  • 0 Comments
One of the great claims to fame of Errol Morrris's landmark documentary "The Thin Blue Line"--aside from its formalistic daring--is that it helped free an innocent man. I don't know the legal logistics it would take to reopen a more than 40-year-old double murder conviction, but Ido Mizrahy's new documentary "Patrolman P"--premiering at DOC NYC this Saturday--may have the potential to do just that.

Who is Captain America? The Real "Winter Soldier"

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • October 25, 2013 3:26 PM
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  • 2 Comments
The Marvel property "Captain America" is an easy target for ReelPolitik, one in which I took great joy in aiming at when the reboot was released (see: "Captain America" review: Old-fashioned propaganda or just old-fashioned?). Now I wouldn't have bothered to return to Cap except that I recently discovered the subtitle of the sequel: "Winter Soldier," which coincidentally or not, shares a name with one of the Vietnam era's most virulent anti-war docs.

The Bad Metrics of Box Office Reporting

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • October 25, 2013 11:24 AM
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  • 1 Comment
In my latest Industry Beat column for Filmmaker Magazine, I continue my ongoing fascination with the way that VOD and digital distribution are impacting the independent film landscape. Mainly, the article focuses on the ways that the film industry measures success--an outdated and increasingly irrelevant metric known as theatrical ticket sales.

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