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By Lewam Dejen Angola, USA A few weeks ago, President Obama pardoned 46 low-level drug offenders. The next day, he visited the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s annual conference in Philadelphia to proclaim his commitment to prison reform in the last stretch of his presidency. Although this issue may feel recent to many Americans, it has afflicted our country for decades. Seventeen years ago, the documentary film The Farm: Angola, USA brought unprecedented insight into mass incarceration and its disproportionate effects on black Americans. “I’ve been raised here,” Eugene Tannehill Jr. says matter-of-factly. By “here,” he’s referring to the former plantation he lives on, where his food is monitored, hard labor profited from, life threatened frequently, and individuality stripped. This place, which he is forced to call home, is the largest prison in the United States, known colloquially as “Angola.” (Its informal name derives from the Angolan slaves that previously worked the land.) “It was October 4th, 1959… I must have been 24 years old then,” Mr. Tannehill says of the day of his sentencing. At the time of this interview, he had lived in Angola for 38 years. Tannehill is a black man– one of many,... Read more →
By Drew Williams Technology and tradition collide, and a forward-thinking documentary industry may have to reconsider its Oscar addiction following a recently announced New York Times decision. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences currently requires a review from either the New York Times or Los Angeles Times to qualify a documentary feature film for award consideration. But the New York Times shifted its policy of reviewing every theatrically released film in New York City, Variety reported May 20. It is a move that could particularly target independent documentary films — which stand at an existential crossroads regarding style, distribution, and awards recognition. The Academy will have its annual meeting this month to discuss any potential rule change, while the Los Angeles Times will have to decide whether to copy its New York counterpart. “I can’t imagine [it] not following suit,” said Nina Gilden Seavey, director of the Documentary Center at George Washington University. The new film review policy went into effect in February, but did not become public until Variety obtained a courtesy email sent to publicists whose films will not receive a review, said A.O. Scott, the Times’ chief film critic, in an interview with IndieWire. “The... Read more →