It’s January and all eyes are turning toward the Sundance Film Festival, held in Park City, Utah from January 17 to January 27, 2013. And, honestly, the first thing that caught my attention was the U.S. Documentary Jury that will be judging the films there. It’s a Dream Team of doc professionals. I swear this would be the starting five for anyone trying to overstock a five-slot roster of the best in docs. Here they are:
In the backcourt, there’s Liz Garbus, social cause director (and former classmate of mine) and HBO Documentary go-to. She recently broadened her range with Love, Marilyn, about Marilyn Monroe. Garbus started her career with the Academy Award-nominated The Farm: Angola, USA and built a career making tough, clear-eyed films such as Street Fight and Ghosts of Abu Ghraib. Also handling the ball is Gary Hustwit, a truly independent filmmaker who has produced nine documentaries beginning with 2002’s I Am Trying To Break Your Heart. He directed Helvetica, about that beloved font, and then went on to chronicle the world of design with Objectified and Urbanized. Follow @gary_hustwit for his indie distribution and crowdsourcing wisdom.
Up front, there are a couple of powerfully forward-looking filmmakers who can make all kinds of shots. There’s Davis Guggenheim, the director of the hugely influential An Inconvenient Truth, with Al Gore, and the highly controversial Waiting for “Superman” about charter schools. Guggenheim is the more genteel of the two; at his side is the muscular and highly stylized Brett Morgen, the director of the brilliant The Kid Stays in the Picture, about Hollywood producer Robert Evans, and the Oscar-nominated On the Ropes. If that makes Morgan the Dennis Rodman of docs, then so be it; but he’s not just a wild man—he’s a hall of famer.
And last, at center, there’s Diane Weyermann, Participant Media’s Executive Vice President of Documentary Films, who has helped shepherd some of the biggest docs in recent years, including An Inconvenient Truth and Food, Inc. Weyermann has all of the career and clout weight of Shaquille O.Neal, so she’s bound to be a deciding factor for this unprecedented gathering of talent. Someone should videotape the discussions amongst these five; it ought to be recorded for posterity.
If you’re looking for a preview of the doc offerings at the festival, I will do some version of one next week – but I know I could do no better than Basil Tsiokos, a Sundance documentary programming associate, blogger and all-around doc savant. So I’m going to highly recommend you go to his What (Not) To Doc blog, where Tsiokos has broken down the festival docs into comprehensive and convenient summations, including description, background and why you should look forward to watching the film. (I’ll be the first investor if someone wants to create a What Not To Doc app, because it would be a must-have at the festival.)