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The Birthday Blog: Highlights from the last 6 years

Monday 22 March, 2021

Bertha DocHouse opened its doors on 27th March 2015, which means this Saturday marks six glorious years of documentary screenings and events! 

To celebrate we decided to unwrap all our fondest memories from six years as the UK's only cinema dedicated to documentaries, and put them into one very jubilant blog!

Nothing would make us happier than if you ambled down memory lane with us a while. 

Happy Birthday Bertha DocHouse! Here's to the years ahead, in the cinema and online.


Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution / Stanley Nelson / 2015 / 113 mins

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is the first feature length documentary to explore the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails.

Director Stanley Nelson and official photographer, and member of the Black Panther Party, Mohammed Mubarak, joined us to discuss Nelson's definitive doc.


The Look of Silence / Joshua Oppenheimer / 2014 / 103 mins

After The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer's The Look of Silence was highly anticipated, and although a radically different film to its forerunner, it's a stunning, rich and equally shocking piece of documentary filmmaking that has stayed with us ever since. 

We were thrilled to welcome Joshua Oppenheimer to the cinema, and even more pleased that he was able to bring the film's subject, Adi Ruku, to join him for a Q&A.

THE PEARL BUTTON / Patricio Guzmán / 2015 / 82 mins

Patricio Guzmán has established himself as the voice of those silenced and ‘disappeared’ by the two-decade dictatorship of Chilean General Augusto Pinochet. In his previous film Nostalgia for the Light, Guzmán overlaid the ongoing search for the regime's victims with a contemplation on the unfathomable mysteries of the cosmos. In The Pearl Button, he finds an equally poetic metaphor in another vast universe considerably closer to home: water.

We're looking forward to showing the third film in this trilogy - The Cordillera of Dreams - in 2021 (fingers crossed). In the meantime, here's Guzmán's Q&A after our screening of The Pearl Button.


Human Flow / Ai Weiwei / 2017 / 140 mins

Ai WeiWei's spectacular film on the 'migrant crisis' follows a chain of human stories that stretches across the globe in countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, France, Greece, Germany, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, and Turkey. Coming at a crucial time when tolerance, compassion and trust are needed more than ever, this visceral work is a testament to the unassailable human spirit.

We're remembering it now not just as an excellent, creative and powerful documentary, but also for how it captured audience's interest and continued to run and run, selling out screenings for months of 2017. 

I Am Not Your Negro / Raoul Peck / 2016 / 93 mins

A groundbreaking film reimagining an unfinished James Baldwin manuscript to forge a radical examination of race in America, screening I Am Not Your Negro was a highlight of 2017 for the team and for the many, many people who came to the cinema to see it week after week. 

We were delighted to host Raoul Peck at the cinema for a fascinating Q&A, hosted by Gaylene Gould. 


Faces Places / Agnès Varda / 2017 / 89 mins

It's just a pleasure to remember this charming, thought-provoking, quietly radical film by the late, great Agnès Varda. The 90-year-old auteur forges an unikely partnership with enigmatic photographer JR for a road trip through the villages and small towns of rural France. 

Under The Wire / Chris Martin / 2018 / 93 mins

Chris Martin's hugely affecting documentary tells the story of journalist Marie Colvin who was killed in Syria in 2012, through first-hand footage and the account of photojournalist Paul Conroy, who accompanied her on that fateful mission. 

It's a striking testament to Colvin's fearless determination, and to the crucial importance of journalists like Colvin and Conroy. 

Paul Conroy joined Chris Martin for a moving Q&A at the cinema, hosted by the BBC's Chief International Correspondent Lyse Doucet.


Amazing Grace / Alan Elliott & Sydney Pollack / 2018 / 87 mins

Aretha Franklin recorded her bestselling album Amazing Grace during two days of gospel performances at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles. Sydney Pollack and his crew captured the incredible footage, but the project was shelved. 47 years later, the recordings have been brought out and the film completed.

This was the film that kept giving and giving with devoted audiences pouring in. We'll never forget our very special screening which included a live gospel introduction by the London International Gospel Choir, in partnership with We Are Parable.

For Sama / Waad al-Kateab & Edward Watts / 2019 / 96 mins

Waad al-Kateab's film letter to her young daughter, Sama, is a gripping and moving first-hand account of the effect of the Syrian war on the citizens and medics of Aleppo. A highlight of 2019 for critics, audiences and the DocHouse team alike, we played the film many times, and celebrated as it was nominated for four BAFTAs (the first documentary to be nominated in so many categories).

This Q&A with Waad al-Kateab and co-director Edward Watts, hosted by Channel 4 News' Jackie Long, was made particularly special by a guest appearance from Sama herself, along with Waad's husband Hamza al-Kateab.


Midnight Family / Luke Lorentzen / 2019 / 81 mins

There’s a severe lack of government ambulances in Mexico city - so families like the Ochoas have stepped into the breach. At night they scour the streets of the city in their second hand ambulance, coming to the aid of those in need - from whom they have to ask for payment.

This is a complex and thoughtful observational masterpiece, and we were delighted to have director Luke Lorentzen and producer Kellen Quinn join us at the cinema for what turned out to be one of the final in-person Q&As of 2020, hosted by critic and academic Maria Delgado.