Doc News: Federal Judge Labels Documentary Filmmaking a Hobby; Freetown Christiania; YouTube

– Here’s the most ludicrous thing you’ll read all day: federal tax court judge Diane Kroupa has decidedly stated that due to documentary film’s purpose to “educate and expose,” non-fiction filmmakers may not be allowed to make a profit on their “work,” which the IRS will therefore instead consider a “hobby.” There is no ruling yet, but according to International Documentary Association executive director Michael Lumpkin (via the IDA’s magazine and website), Kroapa raised the question in an Arizona court back in March whether or not Lee Storey (“Smile ’Til It Hurts: The Up with People Story”), or any other documentary filmmaker, should be allowed to deduct business expenses accrued during production.

This is surely the scariest thing to happen to the doc community since the recent federal order for Joe Berlinger to hand over raw footage tapes from his film “Crude.” Both cases broadly kill documentary’s qualifications as journalism (the IRS allows print investigative journalists to make a profit), but this news confuses me more. If documentaries can’t be profitable, then can’t they at least have the tax benefits of a non-profit organization? And also, if they’re not allowed to make a profit, will major studios and distributors lose what minor interest they have in the form? So many questions to think about, but the only answer I keep coming up with is that Kroupa apparently needs to watch more documentaries. While it still hurts the greater consideration of docs as journalism, we need her to know docs aren’t all and only about information and awareness. [via Kartemquin Films]

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“Life in a Day” Trailer

See the new trailer, from distributor National Geographic, of the film that surprised me most at Sundance: “Life in a Day.” Who knew that a crowdsourced documentary produced by Ridley Scott and brought to you by YouTube could be so meaningful and spellbinding? I guess I should stop doubting director (curator) Kevin Macdonald.

From my review at Cinematical:

Initially it’s easy to compare the film to Godfrey Reggio’s ‘Qatsi’ trilogy (especially the first, ‘Koyaanisqatsi’), and I’ve already dubbed this ‘YouTubisqatsi,’ given the partnership with the video-uploading site. Technically it’s the latest documentary classifiable as crowd-source or user-generated cinema (like last year’s election day documentary ’11-4-08′), yet this ultimately feels more like a single person’s vision than a collaborative effort. The many “filmmakers” involved are really just multiple second-unit camerapersons who’ve captured shots and sequences for Macdonald to fit into his own subjective view of humanity, as consistent or diverse as it may seem through the eyes and actions of different individuals.

Watch after the jump.

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