Festival, Events and Awards

Oscar changes the rules; Slamdance announces features in competition; Sundance unveils its short list
December 12, 2002

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has toughened theatrical exhibition requirements for both documentary features and short subjects for the 76th Awards, which will honor achievements for the year 2003. To qualify, a documentary must now have either a theatrical run in at least five cities, including a seven-day showing in Los Angeles or Manhattan, or it must be withheld from television and internet transmission for the nine months following the day nominations are announced in January 2004 for the 2003 awards year. Documentary short subjects, which qualify via a competitive film festival, also must fulfill one of these two options. To be eligible for consideration for the 2003 awards year, a documentary film must qualify between October 1, 2002, and August 31, 2003.

The Slamdance Film Festival is returning to Park City, U.S., in 2003 for its ninth edition. The fest, which will run from January 18 to 25 at the Treasure Mountain Inn, revealed earlier this week the list of 15 feature films in competition, four of which are docs. The feature competition section is limited to first-time filmmakers working with limited budgets who have not yet found U.S. distribution. The chosen docs are: Civilian Casualties: Fragments from the War on Terror, by Frances Anderson; End of the Century, from directors Michael Gramaglia and Jim Fields; Long Gone, by David Eberhardt and Jack Cahill; and Missing Peace, directed by Karin Hayes and Victoria Bruce. All are world premieres.

The Sundance Film Festival, which will take place in Park City, U.S., from January 16 to 26, has announced its lineup of short films (under 30 minutes). These will screen before feature-length films or as part of a Short Film Program, with American entries competing for a jury prize. The shorts often prove to generate the most chatter among festival goers and 2003 should be no different – a total of 3,345 submissions were received, up 40% from the year before. Of the 90 films chosen, 13 are doc shorts. Among them are: Kiss and Tell, (Michaline Babich); Downpour Resurfacing, (Sean McBride); 72 Virgins, (Uri Bar-On); Terminal Bar, (Stefan Nedelman); and Vanessa, (Kevin Jerome Everson).

The 2003 Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC), which takes place in Byron Bay from February 17 to 20, has announced its program lineup. Sessions include ‘Meet The Decision Makers’, designed to give producers an opportunity to meet acquisitions executives and broadcasters from Asia, North America, Europe and Australia; ‘Reframe’, a series of discussions that investigate online production and delivery of documentary programs and multi-platforming; ‘After The Pitch’, which counsels doc-makers on how to structure and sew up a deal; and ‘Distribution’, dubbed as a deliberation on ‘where the doc shouldn’t stop.’

Nominations for the 2003 IFP Independent Spirit Awards have been announced. Filmmakers in the running for the DirecTV/IFC Truer Than Fiction Award, presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features, are: Jeff Blitz for Spellbound; Jennifer Dworkin for Love & Diane; Eugene Jarecki for The Trials of Henry Kissinger; and Mark Moskowitz for Stone Reader. The winner receives a US$20,000 unrestricted grant. Documentaries competing for Best Documentary are: Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine; The Cockettes by Bill Weber and David Weissman; Lucy Walker’s Devil’s Playground; How to Draw a Bunny by John Walter; and Stevie by Steve James. The winners will be announced at a ceremony on Saturday, March 22, 2003 that will be hosted by director John Waters. The Independent Film Channel (IFC) will premiere the event, which will be rebroadcast later that day by Bravo.

Doc Soup, a screening and discussion series organized by the Hot Docs festival in Toronto, Canada, continues to draw a full house for its films. Alexandra Pelosi’s Journeys with George packed the 850-seat Bloor Cinema December 11. Previous films included Nick Broomfield’s Biggie and Tupac, and Jennifer Baichwal’s The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adam’s Appalachia. French doc Etre et Avoir, by Nicolas Philibert, is scheduled for the January 15 edition. The film won the prestigious Louis Delluc award for French Film earlier in the week.

Entries for Hot Docs 2003 must be received by or on December 14, 2002. For information on how to submit your films, visit

Vakvagany (Benjamin Meade and Andras Suranyi) was honored with the best documentary award at the Santa Fe Film Festival in New Mexico (December 4 to 8). Other docs that took home kudos are the U.K. film Little Lourdes (Elisabeth Unna), which won the best New Mexico film award, and Ruthie and Connie: Every Room in the House, (Deborah Dickson) that won the audience award.

The New York Documentary Center has lined up A Day’s Work, A Day’s Pay (Kathy Leichter and Jonathan Skurnik), for the December edition of docshop, a monthly screening and discussion series. The film will play at the Pioneer Theater in New York City on December 17, 2002 at 7pm. John Walter’s How to Draw a Bunny, a Sundance 2002 selection and a nominee for best documentary at the IFP Independent Spirit Awards, has been chosen for the January event.

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