Laura Poitras became a rock star of the documentary world with 2014's Oscar-winning “Citizenfour,” an explosive and definitive account of the Edward Snowden story that brought Poitras' investigative filmmaking to a global audience. Since then, she has completed just one feature, the Julian Assange portrait “Risk,” but supported countless others as the co-creator and executive producer behind Field of Vision, the documentary film unit designed to support investigative filmmaking on a wavelength similar to her own.
Now, she's ready to return to her filmmaking full time. Poitras is stepping down from her leadership position at Field of Vision to focus on her next feature. Charlotte Cook, who co-founded the project with Poitras and filmmaker A.J. Schnack in 2015, will continue to lead the organization.
“In the last year, I felt like that Field of Vision established itself in the documentary field, and I felt I was spread too thin, having sometimes 20 films that I needed to look at,” Poitras said. She added that she would continue supporting a handful of documentaries in development, including three confidential projects about sexual assault and abuse. And there may be others. “There are many films I can continue to work on where I can bring my unique expertise if that’s around digital security or journalistic questions, because I believe in that,” she said. “But I’ve reached a point where I realized I can’t do everything.”
Field of Vision was launched by First Look Media, the independent journalism production company Poitras started with “Citizenfour” subject Glenn Greenwald and fellow investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill in 2013. The documentary unit was initially attached to The Intercept, a muckraking reporting site where Greenwald and others have produced much of their work. Field of Vision parted ways with The Intercept in 2016, after a falling out with the company over the treatment of its documentary archives. Since then, Field of Vision has supported shorts and features alike with a range of successes.
These include Marshall Curry's Oscar-nominated short “Night at the Garden,” which revisits a Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden, Poitras' internet surveillance short “Project X,” and Schnack's eye-opening look at mass shootings, “Speaking is Difficult.” All of those projects were released online and played at major film festivals. In the meantime, Field of Vision also provided partial support to major documentary features, including Sundance breakouts “Crime + Punishment,” Oscar nominee “Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” and this year's Netflix acquisition “American Factory.”
That movie, which eventually counted Barack and Michelle Obama as executive producers, chronicles the combustible relationship between a Chinese-owned glass factory and its U.S. employees; it took years to complete. Before Participant Media brought full funding to the project, Field of Vision helped the project through its development phase, winnowing down 1,200 hours of footage. Poitras stressed the need to provide a support system for that type of filmmaking in tandem with more immediate subjects. “It was essential for the culture to have filmmakers put the time and expertise into that,” she said. “I think documentaries do a lot of the investigating that the ecosystem for newspapers has been able to support. So many newspapers are closing and documentaries have been able to do essential work in terms of holding power to account, creating critical analysis of the historical moment while having a lasting impact. It's not just about a 24-hour news cycle.”
At the same time, Field of Vision's emphasis on shorts has allowed it to deliver fast responses to the current moment. While the company can only fund a certain percentage of features, it has been a key player in supporting the rapid production of documentary shorts, including 2016 immigration exposé “Best of Luck With the Wall,” produced in the moments leading up to Trump's election, and the online series “Our 100 Days,” a weekly series of shorts about underrepresented American stories produced when the election results were still raw. “We really wanted a space where filmmakers could work on a faster timeline, so we allocated money for shorts,” Poitras said. “They’re all very much responding to some cultural moment.”
As a filmmaker, Poitras has been tracking the complexities of national security and foreign influence long before the chaos of the Trump Administration: Her so-called “post-9/11” trilogy began with 2006's Iraq War portrait “My Country, My Country,” continued with the story of an Osama bin Laden bodyguard in “The Oath,” and concluded with “Citizenfour.” Her work, and many of the Field of Vision projects it has inspired, exposes shadowy governmental forces through a personal lens.
“I feel an enormous sense of urgency that what we’re witnessing at this cultural moment is really terrifying, and it has been now for a while,” she said. “I wish I could say there was a time when I didn’t feel this way, but it’s been so long. Obama was one of the worst at targeting journalists and using the drone program. There were so many concerns there, and this moment is obviously incredibly terrifying.”
At Field of Vision, Poitras developed a network of resources for filmmakers working on delicate subjects. “Most independent filmmakers don’t have access to a research team, or a First Amendment legal team, or a digital security team,” she said. “Those are all things we have. We can provide that insurance so the filmmaker can keep going.” The documentary market has accelerated in the past four years, with Netflix and other streaming entities creating new opportunities in the non-fiction space Field of Vision short “Ghosts of Sugarland” also sold to Netflix at Sundance.
But Poitras remained skeptical of how much filmmakers were able to control their work on that level. “I’ve seen enough contracts to know how bad they are — all rights are being handed over, all derivative rights,” she said. “We wanted to do something really filmmaker-driven, so at Field of Vision, filmmakers uphold the copyrights of their work, the raw footage. We didn’t want to encroach on those rights.”
Poitras envisioned a future for Field of Vision that extended beyond supporting filmmakers on individual projects. “The landscape tends to be very project-based in terms of how funding is rewarded,” she said. “We’re finding ways to support filmmakers and artists that is not project-based.”
Poitras thrives in confidentiality, and declined to offer specifics about her next feature, but she did rule out one subject. While it may invite many high-profile documentary projects, the upcoming presidential election wasn't her target. “I’m a little bit skeptical about the amount of journalistic resources that are going to be used to follow the election,” she said. “It’s a real horse race, and I’m not sure it’s the best use of our resources. I think we should be chasing the issues more than the personalities.”
Atlantics debuted at this year’s Cannes Film Festival to rave reviews, winning the esteemed Grand Prix award and becoming Senegal’s pick to be considered for the Best International Feature Film Oscar. It was a magnificent feature directorial debut for French-Senegalese filmmaker Mati Diop, who became the first woman of African descent to have a film screen at the festival’s Competition section. Watch the Atlantics trailer below.
Atlantics is a ghost love story with a twist, telling the typically male-centric story of Africans who embark on a journey across the Atlantic from the perspective of the women who stay at home. But one of the women, Ada, has a brush with the supernatural after her beloved, one of the men who left, returns as a spirit.
In his Atlantics review from Cannes, /Film reviewer Jason Gorber called Atlantics “an ambitious blend of drama and supernatural thriller,” writing, “It’s this dash of the metaphysical that gives the much of its bite, combined with the sympathetic way that Diop and cinematographer Claire Mathon have framed the faces. This mix of ghost film and coming-of-age love story injects a gothic/romantic flare into the sunbaked lands of Senegal, trading stone walls and somber, castle-like venues for shabby beach bars, dusty roads and the crashing of waves.”
After the Atlantics‘ Cannes premiere Mati Diop became a breakout at the festival, where the film was acquired by Netflix. It’s in line with the company’s plans to expand its offerings across the African continent.
Here is the synopsis for Atlantics:
After a group of unpaid construction workers disappears at sea one night in search of a better life abroad, the women they have left behind in Dakar are overwhelmed with a mysterious fever. Ada, 17, secretly grieves for her love Souleiman, one of the departed workers, but she has been promised to another man. After a fire breaks out on her wedding night, a young policeman is sent to investigate the crime. Little does he know that the aggrieved workers have come back as haunting, possessive spirits. While many of them seek vengeance for their unpaid labor, Souleiman has come back for a different purpose – to be with his Ada one last time.
Atlantics will hit theaters on November 15, 2019 before it premieres on Netflix on November 29, 2019.
The next step in Clint Eastwood’s late season crashing of the awards bubble: a buzzy world premiere at one of the last pre-Oscars fall film festivals. The American Film Institute AFI has announced that Eastwood’s fact-based drama “Richard Jewell” will celebrate its world premiere at AFI FEST this November in Los Angeles. The film, made in short order as has become Eastwood’s signature, debuted its first trailer just last week, announcing its entry into an already-crowded awards season.
“Clint Eastwood is an American icon,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO in an official statement. “It is an honor for AFI to premiere this next chapter in his storied career — one that continues to enrich the nation's cultural legacy with undeniable impact.” Eastwood himself will be on hand to introduce the new film, starring Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, and Olivia Wilde, which tells the story of the eponymous security guard whose life was upended by claims that he had planted a bomb in Centennial Park during the 1996 Olympics.
Per the film’s official synopsis, “Based on true events, ‘Richard Jewell’ is a story of what happens when what is reported as fact obscures the truth. ‘There is a bomb in Centennial Park. You have thirty minutes.’ The world is first introduced to Richard Jewell Hauser as the security guard who reports finding the device at the 1996 Atlanta bombing — his report making him a hero who swift actions save countless lives. But within days, the law enforcement wannabe becomes the FBI’s number one suspect, vilified by press and public alike, his life ripped apart. Reaching out to independent, anti-establishment attorney Watson Bryant Rockwell, Jewell staunchly professes his innocence. But Bryant finds he is out of his depth as he fights the combined powers of the FBI, GBI and APD to clear his client’s name, while keeping Richard from trusting the very people trying to destroy him.”
The script comes from Billy Ray, who's already having a busy fall as the co-writer of studio tentpoles “Gemini Man” and “Terminator: Dark Fate.” Ray is best known as the writer-director of “Shattered Glass” and “Breach,” and he also wrote the script for Paul Greengrass' “Captain Phillips.”
It’s a familiar enough berth for Eastwood, who previously debuted his “American Sniper” at the festival back in 2014. Despite a later start than other contenders, the film went on to be nominated for six Oscars ultimately winning Best Sound Editing for Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman and earning a massive $547 million take at the worldwide box office when it was released in theaters weeks later.
Warner Bros. will release “Richard Jewell” on December 13, and the AFI FEST gala celebrating it will take place on Wednesday, November 20 at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre.
The festival runs November 14 – 21 in Los Angeles, and will open with the world premiere of Melina Matsoukas’ “Queen & Slim” and close with the world premiere of George Nolfi’s “The Banker.”
The actors who are playing the most current versions of Joker and Batman might be facing off against each other at the 92nd Academy Awards. Someone might not want to tell Martin Scorsese about this, right? The legendary helmer recently outed himself as not being a fan of Marvel Studios movies they’re “not cinema”, and although he hasn’t expressed an opinion on Warner Bros./DC films, one can assume that it’s gonna be strange if Joaquin Phoenix and Robert Pattinson end up on a split-screen with The Irishman‘s Robert De Niro, waiting for a winner to be announced.
This actually could be a conceivable scenario although Robert Downey Jr.’s hat won’t be in the ring for playing Tony Stark, but wouldn’t that be something?. Phoenix has drawn plenty of Oscar buzz for his frankly brilliant performance in the divisive Joker film. And Variety reports that Pattinson, who will don the cowl in Matt Reeves’ upcoming The Batman, will be submitted to the Academy for consideration in the Lead Actor category for The Lighthouse. Honestly, “from Twilight to the Oscars” sounds like the best career trajectory for an actor, and it looks like A24’s gonna make Pattinson a contender:
Robert Pattinson will compete in the lead actor category for “The Lighthouse,” Variety has learned exclusively. A24 will submit Pattinson in the lead actor category, with co-star Willem Dafoe in the supporting actor field.
Dafoe’s probably more than happy to take a backseat to Pattinson, not only in terms of goodwill but because, damn, the Lead Actor category is gonna be rough. Not only are Phoenix and De Niro likely nomination locks, but there’s a slew of strong competition including Leonardo DiCaprio for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Adam Driver for Marriage Story, and Adam Sandler for Uncut Gems, to name a few. Yes, that Adam Sandler! So why not toss in Pattinson playing a lighthouse keeper gone mad? That’s right, there’s gonna be a real knock-down, drag-out Oscar race in 2020. I can’t wait.
Disney launched its 2019 For Your Consideration website at the start of October and confirmed it would be campaigning its record-breaking “Avengers: Endgame” in Oscar categories such as Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, Best Costume Design, and more. The “Endgame” FYC page upset thousands of Marvel movie fans for not featuring an acting bid for Robert Downey Jr., but it turns out the actor has no interest in an awards campaign for his final outing as Tony Stark/Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Downey Jr. appeared on the October 7 edition of Howard Stern’s Sirius XM talk show, where the radio host expressed frustration with Oscar voters for not taking a superhero movie role like Downey Jr.’s seriously. “Because it’s a superhero movie they turn [up] their nose at it,” Stern said. “The performance is excellent. It’s a totally believable character.”
“I’m so glad you brought this up because there was some talk about [an Oscar campaign],” Downey Jr. added, “And I said, ‘Let’s not.'”
Whether or not Downey Jr. removed himself from the running or not remains to be seen, but it’s clear the actor has no interest in an Oscar campaign. Downey Jr.’s reveal will come as sad news to his “Iron Man” director and Marvel co-star Jon Favreau, who has been advocating for a Downey Jr. Oscar nomination since the release of “Avengers: Endgame” in April.
“He has my vote for sure,” Favreau told Variety. “I think he was able to discover and explore dimensions of the character over the course of many, many films, which is a bit of its own category. But I have to say that if you look at, especially how it began and how it ended in his performances between the first one and 'Endgame,' there was a really thoughtful arc to the character, both in his performance and how all the filmmakers contributed to that character.”
While superhero movies broke through in a big way at the Oscars earlier this year with “Black Panther,” they still have struggled when it comes to acting nominations. Michael B. Jordan’s performance in “Black Panther” had strong Oscar buzz for awhile but it did not result in a nomination. In a year where Joaquin Phoenix’s “Joker” performance is battling it out for a Best Actor nomination, would voters also go for Downey Jr.? Are the Oscars accepting enough for two comic book performances to make the cut? The only answer we know for sure is that Downey Jr. simply doesn’t care.
Marvel is making a major awards season push for Avengers: Endgame in nearly every major category this year. That's why it came as a surprise to many that Disney and Marvel Studios aren't campaigning to get Robert Downey Jr. a Best Actor nomination for his work as Tony Stark/Iron Man. As it turns out, Downey simply declined to campaign for an Oscar.
The reveal came during a recent appearance on The Howard Stern Show. At one point, the discussion turned to Martin Scorsese's recent comments regarding Marvel movies, suggesting they're theme park rides and not cinema. Stern said he feels many in the industry, including Scorsese, simply don't like those movies, which may be why Robert Downey Jr. was never nominated for his work as Iron Man in the MCU. Robert Downey Jr. had this to say in response.
"I'm so glad you brought this up because there was some talk about it, and I said 'let's not' and because I'm much more like you than you might really want to believe. I listen to the show and I agree with most all of your opinions, varied though they may be. Occasionally, you'll go on some tributary trail of thought [and] I'll go like, 'Oh that's not how I see it, but I love that you see it that way.'"
For as many in Hollywood that may feel Marvel movies aren't awards-worthy cinema, there are countless others who feel Avengers: Endgame, and specifically Robert Downey Jr.'s performance in the movie, much like Captain America when it comes to wielding Thor's hammer, is truly worthy. Certain fans even started an online campaign to get Downey the Oscar nomination. Downey, speaking further, explained that he simply never expected the MCU to get to become what it did.
Related: Marvel's The Infinity Saga Trailer Celebrates the MCU's Epic Legacy
I'll tell you the truth. I didn't expect [the Marvel Cinematic Universe] to become what it became, and it is this very large, multi-headed Hydra at this point."
In all likelihood, Avengers: Endgame will likely land at least a few nominations and could easily score a Best Picture nod at the Oscars. It's now the highest-grossing movie of all time and was embraced by critics and audiences alike. And let's not forget, James Cameron's Avatar, similarly, was a massive, sci-fi blockbuster that, at the time, became the biggest movie ever, and found its way to a stack of Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Plus, Black Panther broke the Oscars curse for Marvel last year.
To that same point, let's not forget that Robert Downey Jr. was previously nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category for his work in Tropic Thunder. If Downey can earn a nomination for Kirk Lazarus, surely he can earn one for Tony Stark? But Downey simply seems content to move on from the MCU at this point altogether. This news was previously reported by The Hollywood Reporter.