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Editor's Note
I went to the opening night of DOC NYC last night to see Werner Herzog's Into the Abyss. It's a movie about a crime in Texas (a robbery and triple murder) and its aftermath -- specifically, the execution of one of the men responsible. Herzog pretty much says at the outset he's against capital punishment, and there's no suspense over whether or not there will be a stay of execution. (Given Governor Rick Perry's record here, I guess that would have been a stretch.) There are no protesters outside the prison gates, and aside from Herzog's polite objection expressed early in the film, not even much debate over the morality of capital punishment. Herzog only gets about 45 minutes or so with each of his interviewees, who include the condemned man, the daughter and sister of one of his victims, his jailed partner-in-crime, that man's father, the prison chaplain, and the guy whose job it was to oversee the executions at the prison. So it's not like he gets their life stories, or can build a relationship with them over time, or can lead up to that final interview where there's some kind of tearful epiphany. You know, all the things that define the death-row doc.

But Into the Abyss feels empowered rather than diminished by these choices and constrictions. That's of course because of Herzog, who is actually never seen in the doc. But his distinctive, German-accented voice juts from behind the camera, questioning, challenging, sometimes assuming and occasionally discombobulating. (Some of his queries provoke tangents that start out bizarre but wind up illuminating, like when he asks the prison chaplain to discuss an encounter with a squirrel on a golf course.) The incredible violence that seems to permeate all of these folks lives; the interviewees' struggles to reach some sort of grace; the odd neatness of everyone's homes -- it adds up to a film that is not your typical social issue doc but something more indeterminate, which is what makes it so fascinating. I think the film's producer said it best in the Q&A. If the crime and its aftermath were the rock thrown into a lake, this film is about the ripples. It opens at the IFC Center next Friday.

Some other stuff: I haven't seen Patrick Wang's In the Family, but after reading Dave Boyle's review this week in our Hammer to Nail spotlight, I want to. A three-hour American indie opening at the Quad with a 32-minute take? Writes Boyle, "This is a monumentally ambitious film that tackles some of the biggest themes imaginable -- identity, family, sexual politics, life itself -- but presents itself in such a modest and unassuming way that its emotional wallop feels genuine and earned." What's also cool: Boyle is a filmmaker (he made the charming Surrogate Valentine) and doesn't consider himself a critic. And he doesn't know Wang. But after seeing this film at a festival he was moved to get in touch with Hammer to Nail and submit this review. I wish more filmmakers did that.

There are a lot of events going on in New York right now. As mentioned, DOC NYC just began. Check their schedule for films as well as a number of interesting panels. Also beginning in New York is Performa 11, the biannual performance art festival which contains a number of film-related works, including a performance by James Franco and Laurel Nakadate, a series of events with Guy Maddin, and a live piece starring Grace Zabriskie.

I'll be in Copenhagen next week for the great and boundary-busting CPH:DOX, so expect some reports from there. (If you're attending, drop me a line.) I'll be doing a short talk for one of their programs on hybrid doc-fiction films. I have my list, but if you've seen any interesting ones recently you'd recommend, you can always e-mail at editor.filmmakermagazine AT

One more thing... we're launching a cinematography channel in the next few days, so visit the site for related posts and feeds from the Web.

See you next week.

Scott Macaulay

P.S. The Blue Velvet Blu-ray with deleted scenes comes out next week. Prepare for it by reading the most original film criticism on the Web, which is Nicholas Rombes's frame-by-frame Blue Velvet Project.

Upcoming At IFP
ADRIENNE SHELLY FOUNDATION 2011 IFP LABS DIRECTOR'S GRANT AWARDED The Adrienne Shelly Foundation announced that its 5th Annual IFP Labs Director's Grant is awarded to Sara Blecher for her film, Otelo Burning. The grant was awarded at the Foundation's 1st Annual "Woman of Vision Salute" held this week. Given in memory of actor and filmmaker Adrienne Shelly, the IFP Labs Director's Grant is a competitive award that grants a female director $5,000 in finishing funds to their IFP Narrative Independent Filmmaker Labs project or as seed money towards a new project. Otelo Burning is a participant in IFP's 2011 Narrative Labs and is currently on the festival circuit. It premiered at the Durban Film Festival, and has screened internationally at the London and Busan festivals. Somewhere between City of God and Blue Crush, Otelo Burning is a coming-of-age story of teenagers in the township learning to surf, set against the backdrop of Nelson Mandela's release from prison. For more information about the Adrienne Shelly Foundation, the grant, and the other finalists, click here.
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In This Newsletter
Editor's Note
Hammer to Nail Review
The Last Rites of Joe May
The Son of No One
The Making of a Grassroots Movement: Education, Exhibition, Sales Agents
IFP: Adrienne Shelly Foundation 2011 IFP Labs Director's Grant Awarded
Fest Deadlines
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Hammer To Nail

Every once in a while, a movie comes out of nowhere and hits you like a ton of bricks. First-time director Patrick Wang's In the Family was like that for me. I sat down to watch the film knowing nothing about it besides the fact that it was an American indie, it was three hours long, and it was being exhibited in 35mm. At the very least, I thought, it has to be a curio.

In the Family is so much more than that. This is a monumentally ambitious film that tackles some of the biggest themes imaginable -- identity, family, sexual politics, life itself -- but presents itself in such a modest and unassuming way that its emotional wallop feels genuine and earned. read more
New In Theaters
DRAGONSLAYER Tristan Patterson follows lauded skateboarder Josh Sandoval for his debut feature Dragonslayer. Soundtracked by NYC indie label Mexican Summer (which includes among its ranks Best Coast, Real Estate and Dungen) this documentary portrait of the Southern California skate scene is awash in a dreamy post-punk haze. Patterson follows Sandoval, who at only 23 already seems past his prime. He's a jaded punk rocker who suffers from bouts of depression as he ambles through bleak suburban landscapes. Patterson's doc is lyrical and hypnotic, a subtle portrait of fleeting youth highly indebted to the works of Terrence Malick. Read our interview with Patterson here.
THE LAST RITES OF JOE MAY This rich character piece from Virgil Bliss director Joe Maggio centers its focus squarely on the talents of veteran tough-guy actor Dennis Farina (Get Shorty, Saving Private Ryan). The Last Rites of Joe May stars Farina as an aging Chicago street scammer forced to share an apartment with a single mother (Jamie Anne Allman). Farina displays a surprising range; his Joe May is simultaneously testing and lovable. As May is entangled in a situation that requires some hard choices, Farina portrays him with depth and grace.
THE SON OF NO ONE A gritty New York police drama from director Dito Montiel (Fighting, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints), The Son of No One stars Channing Tatum as Jonathan White, a young cop trying to keep a murder he committed as a teen under wraps. Co-starring an impressive cast of Hollywood vets including Al Pacino, Katie Holmes and Ray Liotta, Montiel's film focuses on the drama that emerges after a mysterious informant starts leaking information about White's decades-old murder to a local paper. The Son of No One is tense and gripping, as Montiel continues to establish himself as a director just as concerned with character choices as he is with plot-turns. Read our interview with Montiel here.
Recent Blogs
This week on the blog, filmmaker Paul Rachman remembers Zoe Lund (pictured left), Dan Schoenbrun on Vimeo's new Perks Program, and Jason Guerrasio highlights the indie titles that are worth checking out on VOD this month.

To read more posts from our blog, click here.
Newest Web Article

"The Making of a Grassroots Movement" is a series of posts that are meant to serve as a case study on transmedia marketing and social engagement and distribution for an independent film called Grassroots. This is blog number 2 -- for introductions and context, check out blog 1. To meet our transmedia marketing and outreach goals for Grassroots, we divided our strategy into four areas of focus: Exhibition, Education, Opportunity and Partnerships. The first area - exhibition - was the segment that we needed to address right away: We needed a release date so we could gear everything else (marketing, outreach, education, social campaign...) towards getting people to see the film, when it came out. read more
Festival Deadlines
Atlanta Film Festival
Regular Deadline: November 4
WAB Deadline: December 16
Festival Dates: March 23 - April 1, 2012

True/False Film Fest
Late Deadline: November 7
WAB Deadline: December 7
Festival Dates: March 1 - 4, 2012

San Francisco International Film Festival
Regular Deadline: November 7
Late Deadline: December 12
Festival Dates: April 19 - May 3, 2012

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