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What to Watch on the 12 Days of Christmas

Thursday 16 December, 2021

Wondering what to watch online over the festive period? Wonder no more.

Here's a documentary to watch each day from December 25th to guide you through the 12 Days of Christmas. 

Saturday 25th December

Keyboard Fantasies Posy Dixon / 2021

Why? If you don't know Glenn Copeland's music, this is the perfect time to discover his utterly unique, soulful, joyful sound. A visionary musician always on the sidelines, in his seventies Copeland is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and sets off on a European tour with a ragtag group of young musicians. Above all, he is an inspiration to keep experimenting, learning, teaching and collaborating, however old you are. Allow yourself a sweet 63 minutes with Glenn Copeland  - you won't regret it. 

How? Watch on the Bertha DocHouse online screening room (via Modern Films).

Sunday 26th December

The Mole Agent Maite Alberdi / 2020 

Why? A boxing day treat to be enjoyed with parents, in-laws and relatives of all ages who you've, inevitably, long run out of conversation with by the 26th. Follow octogenarian Sergio as he infiltrates an old-age home as the world's newest, most technologically inept, undercover spy. A charming premise that develops into a moving meditation on aging, loneliness and compassion.

How? Available to watch free on BBC iPlayer, or lots more options to rent here

Monday 27th December

The Wolfpack Crystal Moselle / 2015 

Why? Family overload? Take a step away from your own family and into the world of the Angulo brothers.  The six boys have spent their entire lives locked away from society in a run-down apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, home-schooled by their mother, under the watchful eye of their strict father. Their access to the outside world comes through the movies, which they love to watch, and to re-enact, with elaborate home-made costumes and props. A movie about movies, about creativity, imagination, coming-of-age and, ulitmately, breaking free. 

How? Lots of options to rent online here

Tuesday 28th December

The Beatles: Get Back Peter Jackson / 2021

Why? On December 28th you officially enter the end of year time warp - the bleak and confusing period between Christmas and New Year. Dates are meaningless now. The one thing you have on your side is time. Now is the time for Peter Jackson's three part, eight-hour observation of the making of the Beatle's 1970 studio album, Let it Be

How? Watch on Disney +.

Wednesday 29th December

THE POWER OF NIGHTMARES (+ more adam curtis) ADAM CURTIS / 2004

Why? Get deeper into the end of year time warp and you'll find you have time to work your way through Adam Curtis's back catalogue - a lot of which is available to watch on BBC iPlayer. This includes the three episodes of The Power of Nightmares (2004), in which the incisive thinker and maker-of-connections explores how 'the illusory threat of a hidden network of terror has come to dominate global politics.' In his distinctive montage style, Curtis compares the rise of the neoconservate movement in the US and the radical Islamist movement in Afghanistan. This uncompromising and of course controversial series is a great primer for Curtis's more recent Bitter Lake (2015, also available on BBC iPlayer), but you can also catch up on 2002's 4-part The Century of the Self on the development of psychoanalysis, and 1992's 6-part Pandora's Box on the cultural impact of science on the 20th century. So, there's enough Adam Curtis here to keep you going till the Christmas decorations come down. 

How?  All available on BBC iPlayer.


Thursday 30th December

No Home Movie Chantal Akerman / 2015

Why? Visionary, pioneering auteur Chantal Akerman's final film was this portrait of her relationship with her mother, Natalia, and, like all of Akerman's films, it is unexpected, idiosyncratic and profound. With lo-fi recording equipment, Akerman films her mother at home in the flat she rarely leaves, capturing long takes of life, and conversations (in person or over skype) between mother and daughter. This is a film that refuses categorisation, and a film that rewards patience. 

How? Rent on the BFI Player.

Friday 31st December

Time Garrett Bradley / 2020  

Why? Every year should end with a re-watch of Garrett Bradley's nonfiction alchemy, taking decades of footage of Sibil Fox Richardson and her family during the long years of husband Rob's incarceration for armed robbery, and turning it into a spectacularly rich tapestry of life. The years collapse and we move back and forth through time with the Richardsons - the 'time served', the vanished years, the children growing up, and Fox's singular dedication to getting Rob released. 

How? Watch on Prime Video

Saturday 1st January

Aquarela Victor kossakovsky / 2018

Why? Give in to New Year's Day with a film of immense spectacle and awe. Settle into Victor Kossakovsky's stunning, visceral global journey to witness the power of water in our world. Give your senses over to a soundtrack by Finnish symphonic metal band Apocalyptica. Give your mind over to Aquarela.

How? Watch for free on BBC iPlayer.

Sunday 2nd January

Faces Places Agnès Varda / 2017

Why? Agnes Varda brings her warmth and playful brilliance to this roadtrip through the villages and towns of rural France with photographer JR. They seem an unlikely pair, but the two visual artists are matched in their curiousity and compassion, creating remarkably moving portraits of the people they meet along their route. Frankly, Faces Places is a film that sparks joy, and that's what we'll be looking for on 2nd January. 

How? Lots of watch options here.

Monday 3rd January

Homo sapiens nikolaus geyrhalter / 2016

Why? Consider humanity's interaction with the natural world. What will remain of our lives after we've gone? What have we altered forever and what will be reclaimed by nature? Nikolaus Geyrhalter's stunning vision moves through what feel like post-Apocalyptic landscapes, picking up on the embers of recently departed humans. Breathtaking, real-life science fiction to bring a little perspective to your New Year.

How? Watch on True Story.

Tuesday 4th January 

The Stuart Hall Project John akomfrah / 2013

Why? For many people this will be the first working day of the year, and a good time to get your brain re-focussed. Try John Akomfrah's brilliantly crafted portrait of the late critical theorist Stuart Hall. Akomfrah makes use of 50 years worth of Hall's own interviews and TV work to tell the story of his life, and convey his developing thinking and theory - on migration, identity, cultural memory and society. This rich archive is paired with a soundtrack of music by Hall's favourite artist, Miles Davis. The combination is a sublime and stimulating experience. Hall's reflections on and analysis of society continue to be strikingly relevant, and The Stuart Hall Project more than bears repeating, annually at least. 

How? Watch on the BFI Player.

Wednesday 5th January

Procession Robert Greene / 2021

Why? Finishing this 12 Days of Christmas viewing list with a film that is certainly not easy to watch, but which holds the kind of bravery that's impossible to look away from. Director Robert Greene brings together six men who are survivors of chlldhood abuse by members of the Catholic Church in a process of drama therapy, collaborating with each other and Greene to write, cast and film fictional scenes; to realise their memories, their nightmares, their thoughts, their wishes. Procession, the final film, is both a document of the process and the results of the process, and as Simran Hans writes in the observer, "an extraordinary feat of care, collaboration and creativity".

How? Watch on Netflix, and then watch a recording of our Zoom Q&A with director Robert Greene, hosted by Simran Hans, here.