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MT&R's 6th Annual Television Documentary Festival

Thursday, March 17, 2005

New York, NY—The Museum of Television & Radio will present its sixth annual Television Documentary Festival in New York beginning on April 12 and running through April 22, 2005, with a special Members-only preview on April 11. 

Building on the success of last year's sold-out Festival, which premiered such documentaries as Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman's Oscar-winning Born Into Brothels, Ivy Meeropol's Heir to an Execution, David Grubin's RFK, Morgan Neville's Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues, and Barak Goodman's The Fight, the Museum will again showcase a selection of the season's most noteworthy nonfiction films. As always, each screening will be introduced by the filmmaker(s) and followed by a Q&A session, a hallmark of the Festival.

In addition to the slate of premiere screenings, the 2005 Festival will feature a variety of panels and events exploring issues crucial to the craft and content of the documentary form-including our popular pitch workshop (now with a $5,000 prize) and our ongoing youth documentary showcase, Docu-Jam. The Festival will officially open with "The Passion of the Partisan," an all-star roundtable on the future of the political documentary, and will also feature a conversation with Oscar-nominated director Taylor Hackford, as well as a new signature event, the Documentary Dialogue, which will unite an emerging filmmaker with an established master of the genre for a discussion on the tradition of documentary storytelling.

This year's all-premiere lineup includes Street Fight, a riveting account of the 2002 Newark mayoral race; The Last Mogul, a look at the life and career of MCA head Lew Wasserman; FDR: A Presidency Revealed, offering fresh insights into the man and his groundbreaking decisions; Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story, a haunting tale of violence, sexuality, and redemption in the 1960s New York City boxing world; Red Hook Justice, an exploration of a bold new approach to judicial reform in Brooklyn; Pucker Up, documenting the battle for top prize at the International Whistling Competition; I'm Still Here, revealing diaries of young people during the Holocaust; and Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea, an irreverent look at the economic, political, and environmental issues affecting this California landmark.

The Television Documentary Festival was inaugurated in 2000 with the mission of highlighting the role that television plays in bringing exemplary works of nonfiction to the public.  Over the past five years, the Festival has explored the art, craft, and history of the documentary through screenings and dialogues that have included such participants as Jon Alpert, Peter Arnett, Ken Burns, Ric Burns, Glenn Close, Robert Drew, Eve Ensler, Liz Garbus, Sebastian Junger, Susan Lacy, Rory Kennedy, Al Maysles, Michael Moore, Gordon Parks, Alexandra Pelosi, D.A. Pennebaker, Alvin Perlmutter, Sam Phillips, Alan and Susan Raymond, Gore Vidal, Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Weide, and Gideon Yago.  The Festival is the centerpiece of the Museum's ongoing commitment to the documentary form, with public premieres of such films as Control Room and My Architect: A Son's Journey in the past year.

A complete Festival schedule and ticketing information follows.

Funding for this Festival has been generously provided by The Hearst Corporation, A&E, HBO/Cinemax Documentary Films, and The History Channel.  The Festival's Media Sponsors include The New York Sun, The Village Voice, and IDA.  Additional support has been provided by Court TV; Success Express, Inc.; and Thirteen/WNET.


Members-Only Screening

Monday, April 11 at 6:00 p.m.

Street Fight

Street Fight is a riveting account of the most brutal of contact sports: politics. It is Newark in 2002, and in the race for mayor, young city councilman Cory Booker has pitted himself against the draconian political machine of four-term incumbent Sharpe James. The contentious campaign that follows is no Goliath-stomps-David matchup, but a dizzying onslaught of harassment, voter intimidation, and other sordid tactics. At one point Sharpe even accuses his Ivy League-educated opponent (they're both African-American Democrats) of not being "really black." As one voter puts it: "An election here is not a televised gentlemen's boxing match. It's a street fight." First-time documentarian Marshall Curry emerges from the fray with a film that raises vital questions about the health of our democracy. (2005; 83 minutes. Directed by Marshall Curry. Executive produced by Liz Garbus and Rory Kennedy. Executive produced for P.O.V. by Cara Mertes. Executive Producer for ITVS: Sally Jo Fifer. A Marshall Curry Productions, LLC production in association with Moxie Firecracker Films.)

In Person: Marshall Curry (Filmmaker)

Museum Members should call (212) 621-6780 or e-mail to make reservations.

Tuesday, April 12 at 6:00 p.m.


The Passion of the Partisan: What Is the Future of the Political Documentary?

This year Michael Moore and the Swift Boat Veterans proved that there was a passionate audience for partisan documentaries. This Museum seminar will address whether the politically charged films that made headlines in 2004 have transformed the craft and mission of the documentary. Panelists will consider if filmmakers are now expected to bring a strong political viewpoint to a project before filming starts and to appeal to a specific audience. The long-term implications of the partisan documentary will also be examined, with executives and distributors discussing upcoming projects.

This seminar is presented as part of the Museum's University Satellite Seminar Series.

Sent via satellite to universities and colleges across the country, this seminar includes a live question-and-answer session between panelists and the off-site audience.

In Person: Robert Drew (Primary), Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight), Alexandra Pelosi (Journeys with George), Thom Powers (Guns and Mothers), Ted Steinberg (Celsius 41.11: The Temperature at Which the Brain Begins to Die), Paul Stekler (Last Man Standing)

Moderator: Steve Rosenbaum (Managing Partner, Magnify Media; Trustee, IDA)

Wednesday, April 13 at 6:00 p.m.


The Last Mogul: The Life and Times of Lew Wasserman

"If Hollywood is Mt. Olympus, Lew Wasserman is Zeus." —Jack Valenti

As the uncannily shrewd head of the Music Corporation of America (MCA) for more than half a century, Lew Wasserman transformed the way Hollywood did business. He was, until his death in 2002, the most powerful and feared figure in town. His reach extended from the underworld to the White House. But behind the snappy suits ("dress British, think Yiddish" was a favorite axiom) and trademark glasses he remained an enigma. Drawing upon interviews with scores of industry heavyweights, writer/director Barry Avrich probes the mythology of Wasserman—titan, tactician, kingmaker—with candor. What emerges is no mere biography, but a transcendent history of show business from its roots in vaudeville to its evolution as a global media empire. (2005; 105 minutes. Written and directed by Barry Avrich. Produced by Tori Hockin and Nat Brescia. Executive produced by Nat Brescia, Barry Avrich, and Jeff Sackman. A ThinkFilm presentation in association with Mpix and CHUM Television of a Melbar Entertainment Group Production.)

In Person: Barry Avrich (Writer/Director). Additional panelists to be announced.

Thursday, April 14 at 6:30 p.m.


FDR: A Presidency Revealed

As Geoffrey C. Ward noted in the Smithsonian, the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt "would profoundly alter both the relationship between Americans and their government and the relationship between the United States and the rest of the world." His legacy is so deep-seated that the New York Times recently asked: "Can Anyone Unseat FDR?" David Taylor's new documentary for the History Channel provides fresh insights into the man and his groundbreaking decisions. Taylor has unearthed never-before-seen footage of the private side of the Roosevelt family and draws on the secret diary of Daisy Suckley, FDR's constant companion in the last year of his life. After the screening, several of the scholars who contributed to the documentary will assess FDR's enduring impact on American society. (2005; 75 minutes, specially edited for the Festival. Produced and written by David C. Taylor of Team Productions, LLC. Executive produced for The History Channel by Susan Werbe.)

A screening in conjunction with The History Channel's 10th Anniversary.

In Person: Susan Werbe (Executive Producer, The History Channel), Matilda Bode (Senior Associate Producer), Thomas Fleming (Historian/Author, The New Dealers' War: FDR and the War Within World War II), Jon Meacham (Managing Editor, Newsweek). Additional panelists to be announced.

Friday, April 15 at 6:00 p.m.


Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story

Chosen by Newsweek's David Ansen as "the most moving film" he saw at this year's Sundance Festival, Ring of Fire is a haunting tale of violence, sexuality, and redemption in the New York City boxing world of the 1960s. Emile Griffith was an easygoing welter and middleweight champion when his deadly match with Benny "Kid" Paret on live television irrevocably changed the sport. Filmmakers Dan Klores and Ron Berger deftly interweave archival footage and contemporary interviews with boxers, historians, and members of the Griffith and Paret families to illuminate the issues at the heart of the tragedy: the taboo of homosexuality in sports and America's fascination with the cruel beauty of boxing. (2004; 87 minutes. Directed and produced by Dan Klores and Ron Berger. A Hole in the Fence Film in association with Shoot the Moon Productions to be broadcast on the USA Network.)

In Person: Dan Klores (Filmmaker; Chairman/CEO, Dan Klores Communications), Bert Sugar (Boxing Hall of Fame Historian). Additional panelists to be announced.

Moderator: Richard Sandomir (Television, Sports, and Business Columnist, The New York Times)

Saturday, April 16 at 2:00 p.m.


The Art of the Documentary Pitch: How to Turn an Idea into a Reality

Cosponsored by the International Documentary Association

All documentaries begin with an idea that is eventually pitched to a producer or network. In this workshop/competition, a panel of respected producers will discuss the process of developing a documentary and will hear pitches from novice filmmakers trying to sell a nonfiction concept. Five emerging documentarians (two directing credits or less) will be preselected to make public pitches to the panelists, who will critique both their pitches and their concepts. After all the pitches have been heard, the panel will choose a winner-based on persuasiveness, originality, and viability-who will receive a $5,000 grant to be used toward the completion of the film. The prize is sponsored by American Documentary Inc., the producers of the award-winning P.O.V. series for PBS. Panelists will also take questions from the audience about how a documentary idea grows from seed to fruition.

In Person: Chana Gazit (Producer/Director/Writer, Steward/Gazit Productions), Diana Holtzberg (Acquisitions, Project Development Director, Sales Director, USA, Films Transit International), Lauren Lazin (Executive Producer of Documentaries, MTV, VH1, and LOGO), Cara Mertes (Executive Director, P.O.V.), Steve Rosenbaum (Managing Partner, Magnify Media; Trustee, IDA), Susan Werbe (Vice President, Programming, The History Channel)

 Saturday, April 16 at 6:00 p.m.


An Evening with Taylor Hackford and a Screening of Bukowski

"When I went into features I tried to capture that level of reality I had in documentaries."—Taylor Hackford

Given the realistic detailing and emotional veracity he brought to the screen with such acclaimed films as Ray and An Officer and a Gentleman, it should come as no surprise that director/producer Taylor Hackford began his career in the realm of nonfiction. His "film school" was a stint with KCET, the Los Angeles public television station, where he pioneered the way rock 'n' roll was presented on television and won two Emmy Awards and an Associated Press Award for his journalistic work. In this special Festival event, Mr. Hackford will screen Bukowski (1973; 60 minutes), his prize-winning vérité portrait (in collaboration with Richard Davies) of iconoclastic poet Charles Bukowski, and discuss his journey from television documentarian to feature filmmaker.

In Person: Taylor Hackford

Moderator: Elvis Mitchell (Executive Production Consultant, Columbia Pictures; Host, The Treatment)

Monday, April 18 at 7:00 p.m.


Red Hook Justice

Documentarian Meema Spadola explores the bold new approach to judicial reform that is taking place in an experimental criminal court in a Brooklyn neighborhood plagued by an endless cycle of unemployment, poverty, and crime. Since opening its doors in 2000, the Red Hook Community Justice Center has sought to give misdemeanor offenders a second chance through drug treatment programs, job training, and community service—a radical alternative to imprisonment that has been hailed by the U.S. Department of Justice as "a standard bearer for the entire country." In tracing the ups and downs of several Red Hook defendants and staffers over the course of two years, the film shows the genesis of what may become a revolutionary new approach to dealing with crime in America. (2005; 57 minutes. Produced and directed by Meema Spadola. A First Run/Icarus Films presentation of a Sugar Pictures production.)

In Person: Meema Spadola (Producer/Director), Gerianne Abriano (Bureau Chief, Red Hook, Kings County District Attorney's Office), Judge Alex Calabrese (Presiding Judge, Red Hook Community Justice Center), Leroy Davis (Court Officer, Red Hook Community Justice Center), Brett Taylor (Defense Attorney, Legal Aid Society, Red Hook Community Justice Center)

Wednesday, April 20 at 4:30 p.m.


In Association with Downtown Community Television Center (DCTV)

Across the country young people are documenting their lives and interests with video cameras. This year's Festival spotlights seven documentary shorts that explore identity, stereotypes, addiction, sex, cultural heritage, activism, and family. After the screenings, the youth producers will discuss the impact that making documentaries has had on their lives and future plans.

Films to be screened include:

·'Auhia Kae Kisu Atu Pe (A Journey against the Tides) (10 minutes; Spy Hop Productions)

·ASCODIMAYA (11 minutes; Ross School )

·Green Thumb (6 minutes; Raw Art Works)

·Happy Ending (11 minutes; HBO Young Filmmakers Lab)

·The Cries of a Teenage Soul (11 minutes; Downtown Community Television/DCTV)

·No Cinderella Story (7 minutes; HBO Young Filmmakers Lab)

·Beyond the Streets (11 minutes; Video Machete)

Tickets: This event is free to students with valid ID. Seats available on a first-come, first-served basis. For group reservations, please call (212) 621-6663.

Wednesday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m.


Pucker Up: The Fine Art of Whistling

Stephen Sondheim suggested that "anyone can whistle," but this engaging documentary demonstrates that whistling is an age-old art form of surprising musical depth. With the quirky spirit of Spellbound and Best in Show, Pucker Up follows a crew of enthusiastic practitioners—including a turkey hauler, an investment banker, and a Dutch social worker—as they vie for the top prize at the International Whistling Competition in Louisburg, North Carolina. Filmmakers Kate Davis and David Heilbroner delve into the intriguing history and physics of whistling as they offer evocative clips of such celebrities as Harpo Marx, Elvis Presley, and Monty Python all puckering up. (2005; 79 minutes. A film by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner. A Q-Ball Production.)

In Person: Kate Davis (Director), David Heilbroner (Director), Geert Chatrou (Whistling Competitor), Steve Herbst (Whistling Competitor), Fred Newman (Mouth Sounds Expert)

Thursday, April 21 at 7:00 p.m.


I'm Still Here: Real Diaries of Young People Who Lived During the Holocaust

While Anne Frank has come to symbolize the voice of innocence during the Holocaust, many other firsthand witnesses wrote about the horrors. Director Lauren Lazin, whose documentary Tupac: Resurrection was recently nominated for an Academy Award, brings to life the words of young writers who "refused to quietly disappear." An emotional montage of archival footage and personal photos with a hypnotic score by Moby animates the diaries, which are read by some of today's most talented young actors, including Elijah Wood, Kate Hudson, and Joaquin Phoenix. Lazin worked closely with Alexandra Zapruder, whose award-winning book Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust first collected these diaries, and the documentary is part of MTV's Fight for Your Rights antidiscrimination campaign. (2005; 45 minutes. Produced and directed by Lauren Lazin. Produced by Allison Leikind.)

In Person: Lauren Lazin (Director/Producer), Katy Garfield (Coproducer), Alexandra Zapruder (Producer; Author, Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust).

With special guests.

Friday, April 22 at 6:00 p.m.


The 2005 Festival inaugurates an annual seminar that will bring together a master of the documentary genre with the next generation of filmmakers. The evening will begin with a screening of the emerging filmmaker's documentary, followed by a discussion of the tradition of documentary storytelling and how the form and technology continue to evolve.


Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea

In a harsh desert valley in a forgotten corner of California lies a glimmering blue jewel, the Salton Sea. Along its desolate shores stand boarded-up motels, half-flooded vacation homes, and miles of sunbaked dead fish. Plagues & Pleasures blends the economic, political, and environmental issues affecting the sea with an offbeat portrait of the eccentric people who populate its shores. It is an epic tale of fantastic real estate ventures and failed boomtowns, inner-city residents fleeing to white small-town America, eternal optimism thriving among the remains of what was once hailed as the "Riviera of the West," and the subjective notion of success and failure amid the landscape of the American Dream. (2005; 65 minutes. A film by Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer. A Tilapia production.)

In Person: Chris Metzler (Director/Producer) and Jeff Springer (Director/Editor)

In dialogue with Jon Alpert (Video Documentary Pioneer)

  • Tickets for Festival events, unless otherwise noted, are $15 each ($12 for Museum Members) and $5 for students with valid ID. The series price for any three events is $40 ($30 for Museum Members) and $12 for students.
  • Admission to Docu-Jam is free to students with valid ID.
  • Tickets may be purchased in advance by calling the Museum at (212) 621-6600 Mondays to Fridays from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m., or at the Museum's front desk during regular Museum hours (Tuesdays to Sundays 12:00 to 6:00 p.m., Thursdays until 8:00 p.m.).
  • Members of the American Women in Radio and Television, Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, DocuClub, the International Documentary Association, and New York Women in Film & Television may purchase tickets at the Museum Members price.

Programs and participants are subject to change. Doors open thirty minutes before scheduled start time, and all seating is general admission.  No refunds or exchanges. Go to for up-to-the-minute Festival information, or e-mail for additional information.

The Museum's Television Documentary Advisory Committee members are Jon Alpert, Downtown Community Television Center; Nancy Dubuc, A&E; David Fanning, Frontline; Paola Freccero; Liz Garbus, Moxie Firecracker Films; Chana Gazit, Steward/Gazit Productions; Rena Golden, CNN International; David Grubin, David Grubin Productions; Diana Holtzberg, Films Transit International; Marjorie Kaplan, Discovery Kids/Discovery Communications, Inc.; Lynne Kirby, Court TV; Barbara Kopple, Cabin Creek Films; Susan Lacy, American Masters; Lauren Lazin, MTV News and Documentaries; Ruby Lerner, Creative Capital; Beni Matias, Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers; Al Maysles, Maysles Films, Inc.; Cara Mertes, P.O.V.; Stanley Moger, SFM Entertainment, LLC; Nina Henderson Moore, BET; Sheila Nevins, HBO; Elizabeth Peters, Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers; Steve Rosenbaum, Broadcast News Networks Inc. and Camera Planet; Vivian Schiller, Discovery Times Channel; Prof. George Stoney, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University; Rosalind P. Walter, The Rosalind P. Walter Foundation; Susan Werbe, The History Channel; Christopher Wilcha, Filmmaker; and Kristal Brent Zook, The Graduate School of Journalism and the Institute for Research in African American Studies, Columbia University.

The Museum of Television & Radio, with locations in New York and Los Angeles, is a nonprofit organization founded by William S. Paley to collect and preserve television and radio programs and advertisements and to make them available to the public. Since opening in 1976, the Museum has organized exhibitions, screening and listening series, seminars, and education classes to showcase its collection of over 100,000 television and radio programs and advertisements. Programs in the Museum's permanent collection are selected for their artistic, cultural, and historic significance.

The Museum of Television & Radio in New York, located at 25 West 52 Street in Manhattan, is open Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 6:00 p.m. and until 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays. The Museum of Television & Radio in California, located at 465 North Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, is open Wednesdays through Sundays from noon to 5:00 p.m. Both Museums are closed on New Year's Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Suggested contribution: Members free; $10.00 for adults; $8.00 for senior citizens and students; and $5.00 for children under fourteen. Admission is free in Los Angeles. The public areas in both Museums are accessible to wheelchairs, and assisted listening devices are available. Programs are subject to change. You may call the Museum in New York at (212) 621-6800, or in Los Angeles at (310) 786-1000. Visit the Museum's website at