IFP MARKET 2001: Docs, Politics and Other Films, After Sept. 11th
by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE
Although it's been business as usual at the market, the events of the
11th of September have cast their shadow deep into the mindsets of both
filmmakers and buyers. Wednesday's panel "Docs in the International
Marketplace -- What Sells?" brought this home. While acquisitions
executives and commission editors are also struggling to come to
terms with appropriate material to buy or commission, execs from the
BBC, Canal+, Arte, ITVS, Denmark's TV2, The Passionate Eye, and distributor Films Transit tried to answer a few questions.
The BBC's Nick Fraser unveiled a new development within the Beeb -- a new
cultural, digital channel, BBC4. Fraser will be responsible for picking up
off-the-shelf purchases, older "classic" docs and even works-in-progress to
fill 52 slots a year, of any length. He cited "Hoop Dreams" and "An American
Love Story" as examples of long-form or serial docs that would interest him.
"We're looking for films that tell you interesting things about the US and
about the world," Fraser said in answer to the panel's title question.
"We are looking for ways to start up American productions from scratch and
we're looking at how to get US broadcasters interested in non-US films."
Catherine Olsen of Canadian cable strand The Passionate Eye noted how
there's now a greater interest in films about other parts of the world. Some
of her recently aired docs which were "heavily subtitled" have been getting
"There's an obligation now to look at things differently," added Fraser,
who lamented the paucity of daring or investigative reporting on American
television. "You can't rely on Michael Moore -- you must have more gonzo
anarchists out there...Issues that are treated in the New Yorker and
Harper's aren't examined by American broadcasters," he claimed, citing the
example of Christopher Hitchens unflattering book on Henry Kissinger
-- Fraser gave Hitchens financing to do a documentary on the former
Secretary of State, but they could find no US broadcaster willing to
co-finance the project.
One project that fits this bill is "American Coup d'Etat: the Stolen
Presidential Election and Beyond", a work-in-progress screened on Thursday.
Co-directors Richard Perez and Joan Sekler are at fine cut stage with a
piece on the Florida presedential election debacle last November. "We're
interested in the factual stuff the press missed -- this is not a left wing
agit-prop piece," says Perez. The events of the 11th September were "a
speedbump" he claims, since almost all of the material is already shot and
their hoped-for 20th January airdate -- one year after Bush's inauguration
-- will be time enough for patriotic fervour to have simmered a little.
Literary documentaries are a hard sell, but Mark Moskowitz's "Stone Reader", a masterfully crafted seven-minute No Borders work-in-progress, is more like
a literary sleuthing film. In 1972, Dow Mossman, then aged 25, published a
critically acclaimed novel "The Stones of Summer" -- and then vanished.
Moskowitz eventually tracks the author down through former editors, agents,
book jacket designers, and critics, including The New York Times critic
Leslie Fiedler. But part of the attraction of the film is the journey to get
to the author, a type of Salinger-esque odyssey, Moskowitz told indieWIRE,
citing "Confederacy of Dunces" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" as other examples of "people writing one magnificent thing