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Wednesday 2 October, 2019

Hurtling into Autumn we have some powerful docs – many of which chime with the political matters coming to the fore this month in the UK.

We’re easing into October with Hitsville: The Making of Motown as the first run of the month, following its event screening tonight. With a soundtrack that will have you dancing in your seat, if not in the street, Hitsville: The Making of Motown chronicles the astronomical success and enduring cultural impact of Motown Records.

On the 1st we have a Q&A screening of The Genius and The Opera Singer; an unsettling portrait of a mother-daughter relationship - a 92-year-old former opera singer and her volatile daughter who have inhabited a rent-controlled Manhattan penthouse for the last fifty-five years.

Also beginning on October 4th is the terrific documentary One Child Nation, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival this year. One Child Nation spirals from the personal impact of China’s one-child policy on co-director Nanfu Wang’s family and out into the all-encompassing and traumatic power it held over a nation.


Tuesday 8th is the follow-up screening to our September Sunday Session screening of Ama-San, a stunning documentary that explores an ancient diving tradition. In Wagu, a fishing village in the Ise Peninsula of Japan a group of women free-dive everyday not knowing what they’ll find - the Ama-San have been diving like this in Japan for over 2000 years.

On October 10th, we have the next screening in collaboration with gal-dem – a preview of Brazilian doc Your Turn before its run. The screening on the 10th is a special event in which we are also partnering with the charity RISE collective, who give platforms and agency for young people to be heard and make change. RISE has invited 3 of the young poets they work with to write original work in response to Your Turn and give readings before the screening.

In the wake of Brazil’s economic and social crisis, students protest and occupy hundreds of schools. Inspired by the collective voice of the movement itself, Your Turn is narrated by three high school students, who represent the central points of their struggle.

Music will still be flowing through October’s programme, as we’ll be having a couple of screenings of Suzi Q on the 11th and 12th, followed by a Q&A screening of Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool with director Stanley Nelson, following his UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival. Suzi Q is the definitive, unexpurgated story of the girl from Detroit City who redefined the role and image of women in rock’n’roll when she broke through around the world in 1973.

Featuring never-before-seen archival footage, studio outtakes, and rare photos, Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool tells the story of a truly singular talent and unpacks the man behind the horn.

We’re partnering with Take One Action, the UK’s leading global change film festival to put on a screening of the Bertha-funded documentary Push on Saturday 12th October, followed by a panel. With house prices sky-rocketing and incomes stagnating, Push follows Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur as she advocates for the right to adequate housing, and to reclaim housing as a human right, not a commodity.

With a preview Q&A screening on Weds 16th, Mystify: Michael Hutchence opens on Friday 18th. The INXS frontman oozed magnetism, but also had a tragic secret he kept to his grave. Kicking tabloid speculation into oblivion, his story emerges here with emotional and revelatory depth.

Roberto Minervini’s latest documentary What You Gonna Do When the World’s On Fire? also opens on Friday 18th. A blistering meditation on the state of race in America, the documentary chronicles the lives of Black communities in the Southern states, where the tragic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina remains acutely felt as police brutality claims lives with intolerable regularity. The acclaimed Italian director will be joining us for a Q&A screening on Monday 21st.  

On Friday 25th October, we’ll be hosting a screening of newly restored Hoop Dreams, followed by a skype Q&A. This year is the 25th anniversary of this classic documentary film, which follows two teenagers from inner-city Chicago as they work hard to escape systemic oppression and achieve the American Dream through professional basketball careers.

The Elephant Queen will also be opening on the same weekend. Narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor, this epic story of love, loss and coming home stars Athena, an elephant matriarch who will do everything in her power to protect her family when they are forced to leave their waterhole.

We will be welcoming London East Asia Film Festival back to Bertha DocHouse on 28th October, with a screening of My Name is Kim Bok-Dong. This moving documentary follows the courageous survivor of the Japanese military “comfort women”, now in her 90s, as she tirelessly campaigns decades after the events to receive reparations from the Japanese government.

Our final event of October - on a date that has the political potential to be more of a fright-night than your average Halloween - we’ll be screening the Berwick Street Collective documentary Nightcleaners with an extended intro. Made in 1975, Nightcleaners explores the highs and lows of the campaign to unionise women office cleaners, and is acknowledged as ‘a landmark work of British political cinema, and of collective and feminist filmmaking.’

An image from the documentary One Child Nation.