×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Steve James honored at IDFA

Fest Traveler: Amsterdam Intl. Documentary Film Festival

“It is this 8,000-pound gorilla,” Steve James says of his 1994 landmark docu, “Hoop Dreams. “It has forced me to have perspective about my career. People are always going to judge what I do against that film and I’m OK with that.”

And so are IDFA programmers. Fest will honor James’ work, which includes “Dreams” and his six subsequent docus, in a retrospective.

Following in the footsteps of maverick docu filmmakers including Werner Herzog and Krzysztof Kieslowski, the Chicago-based, 56-year-old helmer will also present his 10 favorite docus of all time as part of IDFA’s annual Top 10 program. (See story this page.)

James is no stranger to the Amsterdam fest. He’s been attending on and off since 1994, when he brought “Hoop Dreams” to the fest. In 2002, his “Stevie” won the Joris Ivens Award for docu, he returned a year later to screen “The New Americans,” and was back in 2008 to host a masterclass and present “At the Death House Door,” co-directed by Peter Gilbert. His latest film, “The Interrupters,” will screen in the Reflecting Images: Masters section.

“What’s not to like about IDFA?” James says. “It’s in Amsterdam and the people who run it are always looking to stretch the boundaries and program provocative films.”

Regarding his top 10 docu list, James says, “The films I chose are each influential (to me) in terms of making my own films and the way I think about documentary. That’s why a number of them are older docs. They hit me around the time when I was trying to figure out what kind of filmmaker I wanted to be.”

James says it was Apted’s “28 Up” (part of the “7 Up” series) that “planted the seed” for what would become the iconic “Hoop Dreams,” which was shot over a 4 1/2-year period.

“I was blown away by ’28 Up’ — blown away that Apted had been able to make a film that had this concept of following people over time. To chart a person’s life and how it changed and didn’t change. What a brilliant idea!”

“Dreams” won every major critics award as well as a Peabody and Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in 1995 and was recently selected for the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

Although James tried his hand at narrative filmmaking after “Dreams,” including writing-directing Disney’s 1997 “Prefontaine,” he ultimately decided to focus solely on his doc career. Now 14 years later, he is reconsidering the genre.

“I’m interested in pursuing narrative film again. I haven’t made a narrative that I feel as good about as some of the docs I’ve made. I’m ready to try it again and do it better. I will continue to make documentaries without question. That is something I don’t see ever changing.”

Steve James’ Top 10 Docus

  • “28 Up,” Michael Apted, UK, 1984

  • “American Movie,” Chris Smith, USA, 1999

  • “Fallen Champ: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson,” Barbara Kopple, USA, 1993

  • “Golub: Late Works Are the Catastrophes,” Jerry Blumenthal & Gordon Quinn, USA, 2004

  • “Grey Gardens,” Albert Maysles & David Maysles, USA, 1976

  • “Le joli mai,” Chris Marker, France, 1963

  • “Our Trip to Africa,” Peter Kubelka, Austria, 1967

  • “The Staircase,” Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, France, 2004

  • “The Times of Harvey Milk,” Robert Epstein, USA, 1984

  • “Tongues Untied,” Marlon Riggs, USA, 1989

RELATED LINKS
Docus’ Dutch landing

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Baby

    Latido Takes Juanma Bajo Ulloa’s 'Baby' (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN – Latido Films has taken world sales rights outside Spain on Juanma Bajo Ulloa’s “Baby,” a drama with a psychological thriller narrative thrust starring Rosie Day (“Down a Dark Hall”), Harriet Sansom Harris (“Phantom Thread”), Natalia Tena (“Game of Thrones”), Charo López (“All Night Long”) and young actress Mafalda Carbonell (“To Live Twice”). [...]

  • Noahs Ark

    India’s Symbiosys to Co-Produce, Co-Animate Gullane’s ‘Noah’s Ark’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Noah’s Ark – A Musical Adventure,” Brazil’s most ambitious animated feature ever, just got a bit bigger with the announcement that producers Fabiano Gullane’s Gullane, Walter Salles’ Videofilmes and Felipe Sabino and Daniel Greco’s NIP will be joined by leading Indian animation studio Symbiosys Technologies as co-producers and co-animators. The partnership marks the first occasion [...]

  • Navarra

    Navarre Film Commission Celebrates First Decade at San Sebastian

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —    Since the 1950s, Spain has been a favorite European shooting locale. One of the biggest reasons remains its easily accessible, unique and diverse locations. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this past June, the Navarre Film Commission kicked off a traveling exhibition which has been touring Spain over the summer and will present [...]

  • Rambo Last Blood

    Film Review: 'Rambo: Last Blood'

    Home has always been an abstract concept for John Rambo, which is what the last scene of 2008’s otherwise expendable “Rambo” sequel finally gave the iconic Sylvester Stallone character: a moment when this unsettled Vietnam War survivor, looking very much the worse for wear, lumbers up to a mailbox bearing the character’s surname. At last, [...]

  • Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith. Jada

    Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith's Westbrook Inks Development Pact With Telepool (EXCLUSIVE)

    Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s new media venture, Westbrook Inc., has signed a co-development agreement for feature films, television shows and digital entertainment formats with German-based film and TV company Telepool. The move follows the acquisition of Telepool last year by Smith and Elysian Fields, a Zurich-based investment company. Westbrook, launched this year by [...]

  • There's Something in the Water

    Toronto Film Review: 'There’s Something in the Water'

    Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the unpleasant sights, smells and pollutants of industry have typically been located where the poor folk dwell, and police society needn’t notice. With the dawn of popular environmental consciousness about a half-century ago, it became clear that toxic byproducts with a dismayingly long shelf life and unknown (or, [...]

  • 'David Foster: Off the Record' Review:

    Toronto Film Review: 'David Foster: Off the Record'

    By the early 1970s, as the counterculture was dissolving and reconfiguring, there were new pop-star archetypes on the horizon that we still tend to think of — the glam rocker, the sensitive singer-songwriter, the hair-band metal strutter, the prog-rock wizard, the belting pop chanteuse, the punk rocker. But there was another figure of the era [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content