News in Brief

Five International shuts down; a change in ownership for Discovery Germany; Israel's ratings board bans doc
December 12, 2002

Five International, the distribution arm of U.K. broadcaster Five, is shutting down. Headed by chief exec Richard Milnes, Five International handled the distribution of a number of doc projects, from wildlife shows to arts series. Danny Fenton, managing director of London-based Zig Zag Productions, says he received the news about the distrib last week. Zig Zag’s doc The Mile High Club was repped by Five International. No arrangements for the distrib’s catalog have been announced.

Discovery Communications has taken full control of Discovery Channel Germany by buying out the interests of Premiere Multichannel GmbH, a unit of bankrupt KirchMedia. Discovery said the wholly owned unit would continue to operate in the territory.

Israel’s Film Ratings Board has banned a documentary on the Israeli army’s offensive in the Jenin refugee camp last spring. Jenin, Jenin by Israeli Arab Mohammed Bakri was censored for a ‘distorted presentation of events in the guise of democratic truth which could mislead the public,’ Reuters reported the board as saying on December 11. The board also said the film presents Israeli soldiers as ‘perpetrating war crimes systematically and intentionally.’ It is only the second time the film regulator has banned a film – Japanese flick Empire of the Senses was banned in 1987 for pornographic scenes. Jenin, Jenin had its European premiere at the International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam in November.

Bowling for Columbine (Michael Moore) has been nominated the favorite documentary of all time by members of the Los Angeles, U.S., based International Documentary Association. The list was prepared as part of the association’s 20th anniversary and released December 12. In order, the rest of the 20 are: The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris), Roger & Me (Moore), Hoop Dreams (Steve James), Salesman (Albert and David Maysles), Nanook of the North (Robert Flaherty), Night and Fog (Alain Resnais), Harlan County, USA (Barbara Kopple), Grey Gardens (the Maysles brothers), The Civil War (Ken Burns), Crumb (Terry Zwigoff), Gimme Shelter (the Maysles brothers), 7Up series (Michael Apted), Fast, Cheap and Out of Control (Errol Morris), Titicut Follies (Frederick Wiseman), When We Were Kings (Leon Gast), American Movie: The Making of Northwestern (Chris Smith), Shoah (Claude Lanzmann), The Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov), and Sherman’s March (Ross McElwee).

Bowling for Columbine docmaker Michael Moore has received a death threat by a neo-Nazi group in the U.K., reports The Sunday Times. The threat that he would be shot was contained in a letter delivered to his dressing room at a London theater December 6, where he was giving a speech. The newspaper says it was signed ‘C18,’ which is an abbreviation of extremist group Combat 18. Scotland Yard is investigating. Moore delivered his talk, but was shaken and discussed the threat, the newspaper said.

Two of four journalists arrested in Bangladesh while working on a documentary have been released. Bruno Sorrentino and Zaiba Malik, both employed by indie prodco Mentorn Midlands on a commission for Channel 4′s ‘Unreported World’ slot, have been deported back to the U.K., reports The Guardian. A condition of their release included agreeing not to use any of the footage collected in the country, which Bangladeshi officials said would be used to present the country as a terrorist haven. The two Bangladeshi journalists, Saleem Samad and Priscila Raz, face trial. They were arrested at the end of November.

The war crimes tribunal in The Hague has determined a U.S. reporter cannot be compelled to testify, arguing that the safety and independence of journalists in conflict zones could be jeopardized by the move. A subpoena of Washington Post reporter Jonathan Randal was set aside by the tribunal after an appeal court came to the decision. Randal had launched the appeal after being ordered to give evidence at the trial of ex-Bosnian Serb deputy prime minister Radoslav Brdjanin (see RealScreen Plus, June 13, 2002).

Parents of a 13-year-old girl who was presented as a sexually abused AIDS orphan in the documentary Shouting Silent are threatening to sue the South African Broadcasting Corporation and the independent prodco that made the film. The Johannesburg Star reported December 9 that the doc, made by Naya Naya Productions and transmitted on SABC3 December 3, allegedly presents Molouwa as a girl whose mother had died of AIDS and who had run away from an abusive stepfather. Her parents, Paulos and Matsheko Secheka, claim she was asked to pose for a filmmaker and paid R250 (US$28) for her time. SABC spokeswoman Nalini Ramdhani told RealScreen Plus that the pubcaster’s legal department is reviewing the matter.

BBC2, the U.K. channel behind Changing Rooms and Ground Force, is turning its back on the makeover format. BBC2 controller Jane Root explained she was ‘sick of them,’ when announcing the channel’s £100 million (US$158 million) winter schedule December 9. ‘You go through phases where certain programs are the big thing but then you want to move on and do something else,’ she continued. A do-it-yourself format, Home Front, is the only makeover show airing this winter.

The line in the sands of outlandishness have been redrawn with U.S. network ABC‘s reality special Extreme Makeover. The program will follow two women and one man (ranging in age from 24 to 31) undergoing total body makeovers. The beautification includes nose jobs, dental work, liposuction, vision-correcting surgery and breast augmentations. ‘Who among us hasn’t wanted to change something about ourselves?’ Howard Schultz, the executive producer, said to the Associated Press. ABC declined to say how much the makeovers cost.

Toronto, Canada-based OMNI Television has launched a CDN$50 million (US$32 million) fund to develop and license independent productions in languages other than French or English. A unit of media giant Rogers Communications, OMNI said in a prepared statement the projects include a multi-lingual documentary on U.S. slaves who fled to Canada in the 19th century, a doc on Russian women living abroad and a series on Canada’s Arab community.

The Ontario Media Development Corporation and the National Film Board of Canada are supporting the production of up to six half-hour documentaries over the next 18 months through OMDC’s Al Waxman Calling Card program. Targeted at up-and-coming doc makers, the initiative includes Cdn$45,000 (US$29,000) in funding. For applications and deadlines go to

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.