Top Picks: Documentaries at London Film Festival
As London Film Festival kicks off today, the DocHouse team have put together the ultimate list of what to see at the UK's biggest film festival.
Elizabeth – Director
The Raft and Theatre of War both creative hybrid works but very different – each finding the perfect form for their challenging content. Putin’s Witnesses, Vitaly Mansky’s riveting film, includes clips from his 2006 documentaries The Red Tsars a trilogy of observational docs on Gorbachov, Yeltsin and Putin. The result is a chilling portrait of the rise and rise of Putin, and why I’ve chosen to programme to this film – as well as Theatre of War – at DocHouse this autumn/winter.
Also a must see is what Wiseman has to say about middle America In Monrovia, Indiana and I’m curious to see Kossakovsky’s Aquarela a global visual poem on the power of water – very pertinent right now.
Jenny – Associate Programmer
Pick: Monrovia, Indiana
You'd think that the sheer volume of films that Frederick Wiseman is still making, even in his late eighties, might lead to a drop off in his brilliance. But his take-your-sweet-time-tour-de-forces (don't call them observational!) continue to be as fascinating, humane and essential as ever. Set far from the big cities of his recent projects, I wonder if Monrovia, Indiana (which reports say isn't overtly political) will be an off-the-nose dark horse contender for the definitive Trump era documentary?
Ellen – Marketing Manager
Short docs can grasp the world through a glimpse of personal stories. From Charlie Lyne and producer Catherine Bray, the team that brought you Beyond Clueless, comes a very different documentary: Lasting Marks is a 14 min short tells the story of sixteen men put on trial for sadomasochism in the late 1980s. In the same shorts programme – 'Lust to Live and In Between' – is A Female Body, where Brazilian filmmaker Thais Fernandes explores the female form through the accounts and experiences of women. Finally, Morgan Quaintance's Another Decade compiles archival video from 90s to remember debates surrounding cultural identity and decolonising the institution through the perspective of a (disillusioned) present.
Sean – Technical Co-Ordinator
Pick: Dream Away
The idea of occupied but abandoned places is a fascinating concept and unique from other docs about totally abandoned places seen in films such as Nikolaus Geyrhalter's Homo Sapiens. Using this theme to address local community situations seems like a compelling way to make a political point on the desperate necessity of these places despite how unnecessary they are.
David Foster Wallace wrote essays on the deeper meaning of tennis and elevated it beyond merely a sport, he even wrote a New York Times article titled Roger Federer as Religious Experience. This sports doc takes the same reverent approach to John McEnroe. When the public figure becomes larger than the platform on which they stand, you get a person like McEnroe. Can this happen outside of the sporting arena? Time to see what all the fuss is about!
As a concept 'shoot first, asks questions later' holds more relevance in American society than merely a gun and a bullet. A documentary film maker holds the same power in their hands. So do politicians and social groups with the words and actions they use. The real world and personal implications of local political and social situations make fascinating subjects for documentary films, especially when that subject is youth and the affected world that surrounds them. This film will be a tough watch, but also an energetic and urgent exploration of a society on the brink of collapse.
Catherine – Social Media and Outreach Coordinator
Pick: Theatre of War
Originally conceived as a piece of documentary theatre, Lola Arias (of The Square fame) has adapted her visceral play about veterans of the Falklands/Malvinas for the screen. Putting Argentine veterans in the same room as the British, her performative, even-handed and formally-daring look at their interactions offers a fresh perspective on one of modern history’s most unjust wars.
Pick: Won't You Be My Neighbor?
A huge hit across the pond, Morgan Neville's latest crowd-pleaser profiles American children's television institution Fred Rogers. From Presbyterian pastor to lifelong advocate for public broadcasting, it's a moving study of a man who believed in the intrinsic goodness of people. Expect puppets, progressive politics and genuine human connection - there won't be a dry eye in the house!
Pick: Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache
The unsung, or rather underappreciated, heroine of film history is the subject of Pamela B. Green’s in-depth profile of the first female film director. Having directed, produced and written more than 1,000 films during her lifetime, this enduring testament to a great female pioneer is a must-see for cinephiles and film history buffs.