As ever in times of change it is invaluable to hold tight to whatever facts exist. For a calm and clear eyed view of what Brexit might mean for the British film industry Stephen Follows is, as ever, utterly essential. Sadly his conclusions are more of a Ken Loach sigh of despair than a Guy Ritchie whoop of delight.
From Open City Docs, two films that engage with enormous subjects in ambitious fashion. A six hour home video account of Iraq in wartime, and a dramatic, cryptic essay on the nature of border control in modern Europe.
On the day of its commencement, some notes on some of the films playing this year’s Open City Doc Fest, a festival that whilst young and small in scale compared to some of the other documentary festivals, is proving increasing impressive and ambitious. Offering challenging and intelligent programming in both the film and industry sections, and an approach that favours creative, smart documentary filmmaking over the more audience-friendly material you find leading elsewhere, Open City have been consistent from the beginning with their ambitions. It looks like this year will be the year they are most successful in achieving them.
In this first dispatch, three docs that are radically different in subject matter, but all address their relevant subjects with a deftness that disregards grander gestures for a gentle touch and an artful guiding hand.
British comedy innovator Alice Lowe provides her insight on your submissions for the June Film of the Month.
In this second dispatch from Doc/Fest, two films adapted from texts of some kind, and an exploration of the various challenges and opportunities that arise from this process. In a way, all filmmaking is about finding the right cinematic language to externalise something that exists only in the head of the filmmaker, but in these films that process of translation is unusually present.
After a whirlwind weekend at this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest, some notes on a few films seen. One unknown entity, one surprise highlight and a final statement from a legendary filmmaker. Three demonstrations of the scope and strength of modern non-fiction filmmaking.
Since humble beginnings at the start of the new millennium, East End Film Festival (EEFF) has grown into one of the capital’s most interestedly and diversely programmed festivals. Having been through a number of iterations since it’s establishment, first linked to Tower Hamlets council, then Raindance; since 2006 the East End Film Festival has stood alone as a fiercely independent, reliable fixture in London’s film festival circuit. In that period, they’ve presented the best in independent film from the local area and wider, premiering features from Ben Wheatley and Noah Baumbach in recent years, and hosting guests like Ken Russell, Tracey Emin, Julian Temple, Clive Owen and Mike Figgis. This year’s programmes offers films, concerts, guests and events of a similar calibre. We look at five things playing at this year’s fest at end of the month that you should take a look at.
Omer Fast is a Israel born, Berlin based video artist turned feature filmmaker. Born in Jerusalem, he spent much of his youth travelling back and forth between Israel and the United States. Much of his art builds from this dual-identity. “I grew up with two identities and two languages that I had to speak fluently, and so what is always connected to my work is this notion of being perceived as authentic, and how much that is a performance.” His films work with these dualities and contradictions, blending fact and fiction, reportage and storytelling, personal experiences and those of others, all the while mixing modes and approaches.
Running just a few weeks after its larger cousin Sheffield Doc/Fest, Open City Documentary Festival has, in just a few years, established itself as a formidable provider of quality documentary filmmaking in London. Founded by Michael Stewart, a documentary producer and lecturer in Social Anthropology at UCL, alongside the school and their year round screening programme, Open City aims to champion creative non-fiction filmmaking and showcase a mixture of new talent and interesting, disruptive works from more well known documentarians.
This year features their best programme yet, featuring 60 features alongside mini-retrospectives of the films of the Ross Brothers and of filmmaker and ethnomusicologist Vincent Moon, as well as masterclasses with Lucien Casting-Taylor, Marc Isaacs and Helena Třeštíkov, and a number of intriguing sounding panels and talks. Here are five features you might want to book early for.