Docs We’re Looking Forward to at EIFF
Year after year, Edinburgh International Film Festival has a reliably interesting and creative documentary programme, with many finely-crafted, internationally-produced films finding their UK premiere up in Scotland - and soon afterwards making their way to your friendly, neighbourhood documentary cinema in Bloomsbury.
With this year’s festival coming up from 12th to 20th August, we’ve picked out 10 docs that we’re looking forward to at this year’s EIFF.
The first 5 in this list will all be shown at Bertha DocHouse by the end of September; the second 5… watch this space!
EIFF says: “On the surface, Black Mambas is an empowering story about the first South African all-female anti-poaching group and the women who find economic independence through it. Far from a shiny tale of female empowerment, though, this documentary subtly illuminates the tensions and power dynamics that still exist in their community around men, women and who’s allowed to be the breadwinner.”
We say: Lena Karbe’s brilliantly nuanced, observational film takes an unexpected approach to the Black Mambas, revealing a complicated post-colonial world of blurred lines and grey areas
Coming to Bertha DocHouse from Friday 26th August.
EIFF says: “With a fierce no-nonsense attitude Hla, who is Buddhist, runs her makeshift maternity clinic, while her apprentice Nyo Nyo, a Rohingya Muslim, finds her ambition butting up against her lack of medical training. Filmed over five years of intense political turbulence, with the oppression of Rohingya people a constant presence, this intimate documentary is a tender and absorbing portrait of two messy, resilient, complex women, trying to get along and support mothers in their moment of need.”
We say: Far less about midwifery and far more a character study of two women and their relationship, in the midst of Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims and the country’s military coup. Director Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing has achieved something extraordinary in following the story of Hla and Nyo Nyo.
Coming to Bertha DocHouse in September - date TBA.
OFF THE RAILS
EIFF says: “Adrenaline-seeking Surrey teens Aiden and Rikke scale bridges and jump off buildings in pursuit of clicks and likes they hope will get them out of boring Guildford. But they can’t outrun their trauma. Friends and family members die, they fall in and out of love and prison might be more likely than YouTube stardom. Off the Rails offers sweat-inducing scenes reminiscent of Free Solo with a stylish urban twist, and a candid look at declining mental health among working-class kids.”
We say: Using so much of Aiden and Rikke’s own, dizzying footage, as well as filming the friends and their families at home in Guildford, Off the Rails pulls off an impressive feat in showing their reality through their own eyes, as well as revealing a broader picture of young men struggling with an impossible load of limited prospects, limited expectations and grief after the tragic death of a friend.
EIFF says: “Cinematographer turned director Alex Pritz partnered with the Indigenous Uru-eu-wau-wau people of Brazil to craft a three-year-long chronicle of the fight to protect their land against government-backed farmers. The result is a beautifully shot study of resistance showcasing Indigenous youth harnessing the power of technology to amplify their voices. Set against the backdrop of Bolsonaro’s rise to power and a growing disregard for Indigenous rights, The Territory is a pained yet vital watch.”
We say: Some extremely well-used drone footage reveals the devastation of the rainforest around The Territory at the heart of this unprecedented film. Within this space, director Alex Pritz meets the land-grabbers on a mission to forcibly claim protected Rainforest for what they see as progress and development, as well as spending years with the Uru-eu-wau-wau people, as their young leader, Bitate, organises the resistance to protect their land.
Watch it at Bertha DocHouse from Friday 2nd September, with a director Q&A on the opening night. Tickets on sale soon.
LICHT - STOCKHAUSEN’S LEGACY
EIFF says: “A wildly ambitious spectacle involving choirs, dancers, synthesizer-augmented orchestras and a string quartet playing from four separate helicopters, the 29-hour opera cycle Licht was the late Karlheinz Stockhausen’s magnum opus. This colourful documentary follows the turbulent production of the Dutch National Opera’s 2019 interpretation, which spanned nine days and required 500 performers. Illuminating for fans and newcomers alike, the film also delves into the electronic music pioneer’s polyamorous lifestyle, with frank recollections from his former partners and neglected children.”
We say: Whether you know Stockhausen well or not, Oeke Hoogendijk’s well-crafted and entertaining film is a brilliant insight into the life of a creative pioneer, and the fall-out for the people who are close to said creative pioneer. And then there’s the musical legacy, which involved performing helicopters…
Join us for a special screening and Q&A at Bertha DocHouse on Thursday 29th September, in partnership with London Sinfonietta. Tickets on sale soon.
REWIND & PLAY
EIFF says: “Not your standard music documentary, Rewind & Play radically repurposes archival performance footage and interview outtakes from a revealing December 1969 episode of Parisian television programme Jazz Portrait, featuring Thelonious Monk. The pianist and composer’s iconic presence and otherworldly playing are pointedly contrasted with the show’s arrogant white studio host, who mistranslates Monk’s answers to patronising questions. Blending hypnotic sounds with uncomfortable conversation, it’s a sharp and witty snapshot of racial insensitivity from the acclaimed French-Senegalese director, Alain Gomis.”
We say: lain Gomis’s sharp, focussed and fascinating film has graced the programmes of several European film festivals this year, from Berlin to CPH:DOX, offering something far more intriguing and off-beat than your average music doc - just right for the genius of Thelonious Monk.
CHILDREN OF THE MIST
EIFF says: “The Hmong people live a remote existence in the Vietnamese mountains. Director Hà Lệ Diễm spent three years filming them, and her film boasts a palpable closeness, especially as she focuses on Di, tracing her evolution into a moody teenager burdened with the knowledge that one day soon she’ll likely be kidnapped (as is Hmong tradition) to be betrothed to marry. There is an intense level of involvement between the filmmaker and the family, creating a dynamic and challenging viewing experience.”
We say: One of our highlights from IDFA 2021, Children of the Mist is an extraordinary and compelling watch, that brings us (occasionally uncomfortably) close.
EIFF says: “Professor Devorah Baum travels to New York to give readings of her new book on feelings, particularly bad feelings, and how we should feel them fully. Her husband Josh Appignanesi arrives to support her, care for their two young sons and document her every moment of insecurity, yet still make it about himself. This meta commentary on the minutiae of marital angst amongst brainy metropolitans (including an appearance from Zadie Smith) is a riot of humour and middle age neuroses.”
We say: EIFF will be the world premiere of Husband, and while we haven’t seen it, having hosted Josh Appignanesi and Devorah Baum at Bertha DocHouse in 2016 for a screening of The New Man - a film about the couple becoming parents - we can’t wait to see how things are going for the family in Husband. Watch The New Man Q&A here.
EIFF says: “This bold exercise in narrative experimentation employs a blend of fiction and nonfiction to investigate the legacy of Agnes, a pioneering transgender woman who participated in gender health research in the 1960s. From the eponymous character’s story, director Chase Joynt builds a careful study of transness, utilising the format of a staged talk show to explore topics related to gender, race and class, weaving in the past to build a poignant reflection on the present.”
We say: An innovative, hybrid route into the legacy of Agnes, opening up conversations and topics that need more visibility, and which comes highly recommended from this year’s Sundance Film Festival - we can’t wait to see Framing Agnes.
NELLY & NADINE
EIFF says: “This strikingly researched documentary excavates and celebrates the profound love that developed between Nelly and Nadine, two women who met in Ravensbrück concentration camp and became each other’s lifeline and lifelong partner. Through archive photos, super 8 reels and memoirs that had been gathering dust in the family’s attic, we can now follow their magnificent global journey and tap into queer histories largely untouched by mainstream narratives. A tender and inspirational gem.”
We say: The dedicated research that led to the uncovering of Nelly and Nadine’s story is fascinating; the archive material unearthed feels like magic to watch, and the revelation of a life lived in (relative) freedom by Nelly and Nadine for decades is deeply stirring. This is a great love story, rescued just in time from being entirely forgotten.