Documentary Awards Season – A Response

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Yance Ford
POV’s Series Producer Yance Ford responds to Tom Roston’s assertion that most of the nominees for the best documentary feature in the International Documentary Assocation, Gotham Awards and Cinema Eye Honors lists are obscure titles that haven’t received much in the way of “critical attention.”

What do The Village Voice, The New York Times, Filmmaker Magazine, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Art Forum, Time Magazine, New York Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, indiewire, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, Salon, The New York Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Time Out New York, Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun Times, Cinematical, The Nation, The Leonard Lopate Show, NPR’s Fresh Air, The New Yorker and The Onion A.V. Club have in common?

According to my colleague Tom Roston, none apparently qualify as “mainstream press.” In his post here on November 15th, Roston puzzles over the makeup of the first wave of award nominations, claiming that only Inside Job and maybe Exit Through the Gift Shop garnered "legit" mainstream press coverage or “significant critical attention,” and that the others suffered from a general “lack of awareness” among the public.

Huh?

These outlets — and many more — wrote extensive interviews, reviews, tweets, blog posts, you name it about every film listed in Roston’s post. Detailing the coverage of Exit Through the Gift Shop, 12th & Delaware, Last Train Home (POV 2011), Waste Land, Marwencol, The Oath (POV 2010) and Sweetgrass have received from outlets like The New York Times would be a hefty task. Armadillo blew the hinges off of Toronto and has been on a steady build ever since. The last bit of the lid on the film flew off at the beginning of November when nearly every article about Doc NYC mentioned Armadillo as well. Steam of Life has been submitted to the Academy in the Foreign Film category, and may very well make the Feature Documentary shortlist. Public Speaking took EVERYONE by surprise and its coverage so far has been of two veins: 1) Scorsese made a doc? and, 2) HBO picked up Scorsese’s doc. It airs on HBO on Monday, November 22.

I’m going to give Tom the benefit of the doubt and assume that when researching the doc press from 2010, he was on a dial-up connection or on a poorly-sourced Wikipedia page. Seriously though, whether these films will air on POV or another broadcast outlet, they have all earned their place on these award lists. What little return documentary filmmakers get often comes in the form of recognition by their peers and the critics who influence doc audiences around the country. With the Academy shortlist looming, and the Gotham and IDA Award ceremonies around the corner, let’s not give short shrift to films that deserve better.

The absence of Restrepo, Client 9, The Tillman Story, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Waiting for Superman (and a few other films, if you ask me) can wait for another day.

Yance Ford
Yance Ford
Yance works closely with POV's executive director and programming director to evaluate films submitted to POV She is instrumental in curating the series, a showcase of acclaimed documentary film on PBS. Yance frequently represents POV | American Documentary at conferences, festivals and markets, procuring work from filmmakers both nationally and internationally. Yance also oversees POV's annual call for entries, which yields upwards of one thousand entries, and coordinates POV's annual programming advisory board. Yance is a Programming Consultant and Pre- Screener for film festivals around the country, including the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, the Black Maria Film Festival, the Newport International Film Festival, Latino Public Broadcasting, Creative Capital and the Sundance Film Festival. She has served on festival juries at Full Frame and Silverdocs, appeared on panels at Sunny Side of the Doc and DocuClub and served on the IFP Advisory Committee. A graduate of Hamilton College and the production workshop at Third World Newsreel, Yance is a former Production Stage Manager for the Girls Choir of Harlem and has worked as a Production Manager on numerous independent productions for the Discovery Health and History channels. Ford has also worked in various capacities on the documentaries The Favorite Poem Project, Juanita Anderson, Executive Producer, Brian Lanker's They Drew Fire (PBS), and Barry Levinson's Yesterday's Tomorrows (Showtime). Yance's favorite documentaries include: 1. Hands on a Hard Body 2. Tongues Untied 3. Harlan County, USA 4. Cul de Sac 5. When We Were Kings 6. The Thin Blue Line 7. Night and Fog