Extra: Best docs from AFI Fest, Chicago Critics; Vox acquires podcast studio

AFI Fest names best documentary AFI Fest 2021 announced the films that received jury and audience awards this year, with the best documentary prize going to director Tommy Oliver’s Juice WRLD: ...
November 16, 2021

AFI Fest names best documentary

AFI Fest 2021 announced the films that received jury and audience awards this year, with the best documentary prize going to director Tommy Oliver’s Juice WRLD: Into the Abyss (pictured). The film is an intimate documentary exploring the life and premature death of the young hip hop star, who died of a drug overdose in late 2019.

HBO will broadcast Oliver’s film on December 16 as part of its Music Box strand of music documentaries, executive produced by Bill Simmons.

The AFI Fest jury also gave a special mention to the short documentary BabyBangz from director Juliana Kasumu, about the owner of a natural hair salon, with an honorable mention for best documentary storytelling “for its combination of stunning imagery, important conversations and compelling subjects.”

Bernstein’s Wall named top doc at Chicago Critics Film Festival 

The Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA), the Chicago-area print, online and broadcast critics group, also announced the audience choice award winners at the recent Chicago Critics Film Festival.

Winning the documentary prize, as voted on by those in attendance, was Bernstein’s Wall from director Douglas Tirola. The film explores the life and legacy of Leonard Bernstein, one of the most acclaimed classical music composers of the 20th century.

The CFCA has set the dates for its annual year-end awards, honoring the best in filmmaking in the calendar year. Nominees will be announced on December 13, with winners to be announced at the group’s annual year-end awards event on December 15.

Vox acquires podcast studio Criminal Productions

Vox Media announced the acquisition of Criminal Productions, a leading narrative audio storytelling studio founded by former public radio journalists Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer.

The company, founded in 2013, has launched three successful podcast franchises: Criminal, one of the original breakout true crime podcasts, as well as This Is Love and Phoebe Reads a Mystery.

The acquisition by the Vox Media Podcast Network (VMPN) will see Criminal Productions more than double its staff and expand Criminal into a weekly show, while also launching new serialized podcasts. VMPN will also explore expansion beyond podcasting into possible subscription products, greater investment into live events and IP management. Vox will also manage Criminal’s podcast ad sales beginning in January.

“After making these shows independently for the past seven years, we are delighted to join the talented journalists and podcast team at Vox Media. This new chapter gives us a perfect home to grow Criminal, launch new shows and bring even more stories to our listeners,” said Judge in a statement.

Criminal broke new artistic ground when it launched, and Phoebe and Lauren have built it into an impressive business. As a longtime admirer of their work, I’m thrilled to see how we can take it to the next level as part of VMPN, while broadening the network’s scope into new genres,” says Marty Moe, president of Vox Media Studios.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.