“Creative Courage in Nonfiction Storytelling” from Getting Real 2018

Alain Resnais said about Night and Fog, “I want to address the viewer in a critical state…to create a space for contemplation.” In the Getting Real session entitled “Creative Courage in Nonfiction Storytelling,” filmmakers Yance Ford, Jenni Olson and Jennie Livingston showed us how to do just that.
Taken together, their personal essay films—Ford’s Strong Island, Olson’s The Royal Road and Livingston’s work-in-progress, Earth Camp One—reflect many of the formal choices that distinguish Renais’ film. He insisted on concentration camp inmate and poet Jean Cayrol as the author of the narration. Silence and music by Hans Eisler focus the viewer’s attention, along with extended tracking shots and landscapes of the barracks, and the use of color for the present, in contrast to the black and white archival footage. And, he infused the work with shocking moments of humor. He did whatever it took to remember and ask why.
The session was a model for filmmakers discussing their work. Their rapt attention to each other’s clips, their searching questions and their appreciation of the risks each had taken were adopted by the audience in an insightful Q&A.
The interdependence of the personal and political was a through-line in presentations and discussion. Livingston remarked about Ford’s and Olson’s works: “A personal film is really a political film and I think that is really true of both of your films.”

Report from Getting Real ’18 on Advocacy for Documentary and the Role of Documentary in the Public Sphere

Getting Real 2018 used complementary sessions to examine documentaries as tools for public knowledge and action as well as the policies, best practices and standards that enable documentary-making and distribution. In her “mini-keynote” that she delivered the day before “The Role of Documentary in the Public Sphere,” ITVS CEO Sally Jo Fifer called on the field to project the standards and values of independent documentary in an increasingly commercialized, dynamic and blended marketplace by holding true to the long-held commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. “Our purpose stays clear, no matter what disruptions come our way,” she asserted. “It is vital to keep the balance between public, nonprofit and market partners healthy in this disruptive economy to make sure that the boom does not damage our ecosystem and what we stand for, and that public and philanthropic funds are there whether the tide is in or out.”