News in Brief

Discovery Channel turns to Jesus; Sundance Doc Fund doles out 23 grants; CNN makes combat-survival training mandatory
October 24, 2002

The Discovery Channel in the U.S. has found God. The Bethesda, U.S.-based cablecaster plans to air a program in the spring that investigates the discovery of what may be the earliest recorded non-Biblical reference to Jesus. The show will be based on the findings reported in the November/December issue of Biblical Archaeology Review and first disclosed October 21. Archeologists in Israel have uncovered a 2,000-year-old ossuary (a box used to store human bones) that carries an Aramaic inscription that reads: ‘James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.’

The Los Angeles, U.S.-based Sundance Documentary Fund has selected 23 feature-length docs to receive funding grants for 2002. The fund considers projects in two categories – development and work-in-progress. The recipients include Raed Andoni and Nizar Hassan for 13 Days in Jenin Camp; Malek Bensmail and Thierry Leclere for Algeria at What Cost; and Anne Aghion for Gacaca, Living Together Again in Rwanda? For further information, including a complete list of the recipients, visit //

In other Sundance news, festival organizers have launched a new, documentary-specific ticket group, in addition to its regular offering of ticket packages. Split into two time frames, package A (January 17 to 21) and package B (January 22 to 26) are US$400 each and provide admission to 17 documentary films and panel discussions, all doc-related evening parties, and admission to Sundance House, Music Café daytime access, Filmmaker Lodge/House of Docs, and the Sundance Digital Center. The tickets are now on sale at the Sundance Web site.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Atlanta, U.S.-based CNN has made attendance at a five-day combat-survival school mandatory for all employees who cover conflict zones. The newspaper say the training at the 100-acre farm near Atlanta is conducted by AKE Group, a security company started by several retired British special forces officers, and costs about US$2,000 in tuition per student. Much of the curriculum is devoted to first aid and how to interpret the dangers of scenarios like rebel roadblocks and mine fields.

On a related note, the Paris, France-based rights group Reporters Without Borders has released an index that ranks the countries of the world according to ‘respect for press freedom.’ The scores are based on the degree to which journalists are exposed to violence by ‘armed militias’ and criminal organizations, and manipulation by pressure groups, in addition to influence or outright control by governments. Finland ranked first on the index, followed by Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands and, in fifth place, Canada. Germany ranked seventh, France 11th, the U.S. 17th and the U.K. 22nd. North Korea ranked at the bottom, just behind China, Burma, Turkmenistan and Bhutan. For the complete index go to //

The Delinquents, a two-hour doc series about juvenile crime, is the first project to receive investment under a doc-development initiative backed by pubcaster Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the film development agencies Film Australia and ScreenWest. The series ‘will look at how juvenile criminals have been dealt with, in order to create better understanding of the phenomenon of childhood crime,’ Film Australia says in a prepared statement. Applications for two other development investments, of AUS$15,000 (US$8,300), are available. The deadline is December 6.

The BBC says it will re-air in its entirety the 1960s doc The Great War (26 x 45 minutes) for the first time since 1974. It will be accompanied by That Was the Great War That Was, an introductory program that looks at the impact of both the documentary and the war itself. It will air on BBC2 and BBC4 in 2003. A 70-minute version will also air on BBC4′s ‘Storyville’ strand on Remembrance Sunday in the U.K. next year, focusing on the 1916 battle of the Somme in which 20,000 British soldiers were killed and another 40,000 were wounded in the opening day alone.

Peter Bazalgette, the chairman of Hilversum, Netherlands-based format giant Endemol, has accused the broadcasters in the U.K. of treating independent producers like ‘serfs.’ According to The Guardian, Bazalgette made the comments in a submission to the Independent Television Commission‘s panel looking into complaints over programming. ‘Independent producers are like the serfs in tsarist Russia, who depended on the landowners for succor and were relatively secure at their lowly level,’ the newspaper says he wrote. Producers, he added, ‘are anything but independent and have little prospect of exercising true capitalism.’ The ITC plans to deliver its final report by this winter.

An RTE documentary investigating allegations that the Roman Catholic Church has protected priests suspected of molesting children has sparked an outcry in Ireland. According to the Associated Press, Cardinal Secrets, produced in-house by the Dublin-based pubcaster, documents how the Dublin archdiocese ignored complaints involving eight priests from the 1970s to the mid-1990s. The doc, aired October 17 on the strand ‘Prime Time’, appears at a time of increased attention on sexual abuse perpetrated by the church. Priests in Ireland were recently instructed to read a letter of apology for sexual abuse during Sunday Masses, AP reported.

Roseanne, the U.S. actor best known for her blue-collar sitcom of the same name, has agreed to star in an unscripted comedic reality show. According to Reuters, the 13-episode show – the title of which has not yet been determined – will be based in a workplace. Roseanne will be executive producer, as will doc-maker R.J. Cutler (The War Room). The show would air on ABC and launch possibly next summer. Cutler is developing this project in addition to American Candidate, a reality series that will seek a nominee for the 2004 U.S. presidential election.

Bell ExpressVu, a Canadian satcaster, has added two French digital channels to its lineup: doc-channel Planete and Radio France Internationale. They will be carried across Canada and will be offered free of charge until mid-February.

Fireworks Entertainment, a production and distribution unit of Winnipeg, Canada-based CanWest Global Communications, has received a US$110 million line of credit. Fireworks launched a factual division in June.

Nominations are now being accepted for the 62nd Annual George Foster Peabody Awards. Handed out by the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, nominations are open to U.S. and international applicants and must be delivered by mail by January 15, 2003. The Peabody is open to programming produced for original broadcast, cablecast or webcast in 2002. It also carries a US$10,000 award. Further information, including application forms, is available at //

The International Documentary Association has announced the 34 nominees for the 18th Annual IDA Distinguished Documentary Achievement Awards. The Los Angeles, U.S.-based organization says the winners, in four categories, will be named at a gala ceremony December 13 in Hollywood. The IDA will also present the ABC news VideoSource Award and the Pare Lorentz Award for career achievement. The IDA Pioneer Award will be presented to Agnès Varda (The Gleaners and I) for distinguished lifetime achievements.

Amnesty International has introduced a new film prize to be awarded to a film at the next International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) and the International Documentary Filmfestival of Amsterdam (IDFA). Both festivals regularly feature films that deal with human rights. The prize includes a scholarship of 5,000 euros (US$4,900) screening of the film in selected theatres in the Netherlands.

The Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC) has announced the establishment of the first AIDC Student Documentary Awards. Undergraduate and post-grad students at Australian post-secondary schools are eligible to submit their documentary works in two categories: Best Short Doco and Best Emerging Talent. The projects will be judged by a panel of industry professionals and the winners announced in January. For more information, check out

The Texas Film Festival has issued a call for submissions. The festival will be held at Texas A&M University in College Station, U.S. from February 17 to 22, 2003. The deadline for entries is November 12th; they are accepting independent feature, short and documentary films. For more information, visit their website at //

About The Author