Documentary and Nonfiction Emmy nominees panel: ‘Allen v. Farrow,’ ‘Boys State,’ ‘City So Real,’ ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ ‘The Social Dilemma’
This year’s batch of Emmy nominated filmmakers for both documentary and nonfiction encompass a wide spectrum that include veterans who have greatly influenced the genre and younger creatives getting their first dose of wide exposure. In getting to talk with them, it was incredible to hear them not only talk about the works that influenced their decision to go into nonfiction storytelling, but also the nonfiction works that have stood out to them in more recent years. Gold Derby recently had these discussions with Kirby Dick (“Allen v. Farrow”), Amanda McBaine (“Boys State”), Steve James (“City So Real”), Tom Campbell (“RuPaul’s Drag Race”) and Jeff Orlowski (“The Social Dilemma”) during our recent “Meet the Experts” panel.
You can watch the documentary and nonfiction group panel above with these five creative helmers. Click on each person’s name above to be taken to their individual interview.
For James, he cited Chris Marker’s 1963 film, “Le Joli Mai,” in which Marker interviews people on the streets of Paris. “I saw that back when I was in grad school and it was one of the films that made me want to make documentaries because it just seemed like anything was possible in a documentary when I looked at that film.” James connected the influence that film had to his nominated series, “City So Real.” “That film has stuck with me all these years and after I’d been in Chicago for a while, I thought maybe I could attempt to do something in that vein.”
McBaine was slightly embarrassed to admit how much of an influence James’s 1994 film, “Hoop Dreams,” was to his face but she also singled out Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker’s political doc, “The War Room,” as a huge influence. Turning to the more recent works that she’s been taken with, McBaine explains that the pandemic had allowed her to catch up on a lot of stuff she had missed in the last couple of years. “I finally watched ‘Honeyland.’ That was great, right in the middle of the pandemic to kind of go very far away from both the pandemic and from anything digital.”
Dick chose to highlight Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang’s recent film, “One Child Nation,” as he was a big fan of Wang’s style. “She immerses herself in this very personal kind of exploration of a subject and at the same time it’s very broad and theoretical. She’s able to handle both at the same time,” he says. For Campbell, his favorite recent piece of nonfiction was Questlove’s film from this year, “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised),” especially for how it showed black people in that time. “Usually what you see in cinema and television, you see groups of black people when it’s in the context of something more gruesome but this was just beauty and music and culture.”
For a film that influenced him, Orlowski immediately thought of “Baraka,” by Ron Fricke. He said that seeing that film in college “just blew my mind for what you could do with the camera and what cinema could do and completely fell in love with that film.” When thinking of what he’s seen recently, Orlowski lamented about how the pandemic has affected his relationship with the doc community specifically within film festivals. “I feel such a huge lack of the festival community in my life right now without the ability to go and see countless amazing films with your friends and peers on a every month or two basis and to be able to be blown away.” He did mention that he really enjoyed “Mission: Joy – Finding Happiness in Troubled Times” from Louie Psihoyos and Peggy Callahan.