News in Brief

Hot Docs announces dates and changes for 2003 festival; the BBC is criticized by potential Ofcom head; News Corp announces US$6.3 billion loss
August 15, 2002

The dates for next year’s Hot Docs festival have been set. The Canadian doc event will return to Toronto to celebrate its 10th anniversary edition from April 25 to May 4, 2003. Approximately 120 films will be presented, with submissions for the festival’s various programs accepted until December 13, 2002. A notable change to next year’s event is a new premieres-only policy, which stipulates that all films screened at Hot Docs cannot have screened in Toronto previously. In a prepared statement, Hot Docs’ co-chair Louise Lore said: ‘Since 2000, all of Hot Docs international selections have been Toronto premieres. In extending this policy to the Canadian Spectrum program, Hot Docs hopes to increase the stature and public visibility of its Canadian showcase, placing home grown documentary films on par with international productions.’

The BBC could be in for a challenge if Paul Bolt is chosen to head up content regulation for Ofcom, the U.K.’s new communications regulator. Bolt, who is currently director of the broadcasting standards commission, recently accused the Beeb of producing ‘humdrum’ programs and warned that the public will turn against the license fee if the pubcaster continues to put ratings before innovation, The Guardian reports. He is considered a front-runner for the Ofcom post. The BBC declined to respond to Bolt’s criticisms.

Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corporation took heavy hits last year, sustaining a loss of US$6.3 billion, The Guardian reports. A large part of the blame must go to the company’s investment in Germany’s KirchMedia, which is now insolvent, and Pasadena, U.S.-based Gemstar, which has seen its shares drop by 87% this year. Murdoch acknowledged that ‘we’ve had two black eyes in Kirch and Gemstar,’ but said his company’s fortunes are improving.

Debt-laden U.K. cable company Telewest Communications is asking shareholders to approve a plan to sell off its 16.9 percent share in SMG, owner of two ITV franchises and several prodcos. Proceeds from the sale of the holding, valued at roughly £52 million (US$80.1 million), would help pay down its £5.3 billion ($8.2 billion) burden. SMG owns SMG TV Productions, Ginger Television and the Scottish TV and Grampian TV franchises. Shareholders will vote on the proposal September 4.

The National Endowment for the Humanities in the U.S. has announced its slate of grants for 2002, totaling US$20.6 million. Thirty ‘film documentaries and radio programs’ are receiving a total of $5.6 million. Doc projects include profiles of cowgirl Annie Oakley and folk singer Woody Guthrie and the history of public health in the U.S.

Swiss pubcaster SRG SSR has pledged 50.4 million CHF (US$33.9 million) to support film and television productions as part of a three-year deal between the government and domestic film associations. The Audiovisual Pact sees SRG SSR giving a total of 16.8 million CHF ($11.3 million) each year until 2005, with 6 million CHF ($4 million) annually going to film productions, 7.4 million CHF ($4.9 million) going to TV productions, and 300,000 CHF ($201,800) going to animated programs. Another 3.1 million CHF ($2.1 million) is slated as performance incentives.

Samantha Daly, an independent producer based in Vancouver, Canada, has launched a new company, Nudge Productions. Nudge will consult on production strategies and product marketing, and will handle production management and sales and marketing for small indies based in North America.

Bad boy rap star Eminem is branching out from music to documentaries, according to a United Press International report. The rapper has been travelling with a film crew that is following band Girls Gone Wild on tour; his commentary (presumably colorful) and the footage will form the basis for a doc, MTV told UPI.

Director Damian Pettigrew‘s doc Fellini: I’m a Born Liar has been picked up by First Look Pictures, which acquired the North American rights to the film. A theatrical release is planned for winter 2002, followed by a home video/DVD release in spring 2003. The doc shows Fellini shortly before his death in 1993 (he was interviewed by Pettigrew), as well as private archival footage and film excerpts. Actors Roberto Benigni and Donald Sutherland also make an appearance, along with author Italo Calvino.

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, director Sam Jones‘ doc about the trials and tribulations of music group Wilco, has earned more than US$100,000 at the box office as of last weekend. The film is being distributed theatrically by New York’s Cowboy Pictures, and is showing on six screens in the U.S.

A film made by the co-author of a pledge to filter out all artificiality from filmmaking has been exposed as a fraud. Thomas Vinterberg, who with three other Danes coined the ‘Dogma Vow of Chastity’ in 1995, admits in the documentary The Purified that he broke the credo by draping a towel over a window when making The Celebration. In the documentary, the three others admit that they, too, broke the rules, according to the Associated Press.

It may not generate the on-screen heat of Temptation Island, but There is Someone Somewhere, produced by UTV, is India’s answer to vivacious TV. Hindi movie star Madhuri Dixit plays matchmaker in the format that sees a young woman – and her parents – selecting one of three perspective suitors as her groom, according to the Associated Press. The show, which started at the end of July, shifts between footage filmed in the young woman’s home and discussions shot in a Bombay TV studio with the potential spouses – and their families – about the man’s suitability. Each courtship lasts one week.

In a reality format that actually broaches the challenge of everyday life, the Argentine program Human Resources awards contestants with a paying job. According to The New York Times, the five-day-a-week broadcast has two unemployed people from the economically tumultuous country compete for a guaranteed six-month work contract. Viewers of the hour-long show pick which contestant lands the position. Argentina’s unemployment rate has climbed to 21.5 percent, the worst in history. On the air since mid-April, the show ‘can help establish the dignity of work, and remind people that the unemployed are not just statistics, but also people with faces, names and lives,’ host Néstor Ibarra told the newspaper.

A&E has signed up Phil Keoghan (The Amazing Race) and Alex Mcleod (Trading Spaces) to host Best of Both Worlds, two one-hour travel specials premiering in the first quarter of 2003. Granada Factual USA began in July work on the format that sees Keoghan and Mcleod traveling to Hawaii and Hong Kong, but with one being pampered in first class and the other toughing it out on a shoestring budget.

August 30 is the early deadline for entries for the 2003 Slamdance Film Festival, which takes place from January 18 to 25 in Park City, U.S. The final deadline for entries is October 11.

The Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films has awarded first place in its documentary category to Gay Block‘s Bertha Alyce, who takes home US$2,000 in cash. Album by Barbara Bird won second place, receiving $500 in cash. In the student category, Clyde by Mans Mansson won first place, earning $2,000 in cash and $1,000 in Kodak film stock. All three filmmakers are now eligible to submit their films for Oscar consideration.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.