Starting tomorrow, Wednesday, April 10, in Auckland, New Zealand, and running through Sunday, April 21 (before moving on to Wellington between May 8-19), the Documentary Edge holds its ninth edition. The event, originally known as DOCNZ before a rebranding to emphasize its aim to showcase cutting edge fare, annually presents scores of acclaimed international docs as well as homegrown work in a series of thematic programs. More than sixty features and shorts screen this year, bookended by opening and closing night films, THE ISLAND PRESIDENT and MUSCLE SHOALS, respectively.
The festival’s World Cinema section presents more than a dozen diverse films exploring other lands and people. Among these are: Davor Dirlic’s MISSING IN THE LAND OF THE GODS, in which Australian parents search India for their son who vanished six years prior; Simonka de Jong’s THE ONLY SON, about the pressure facing a Westernized Tibetan man to return to his village to take care of his parents; Robyn Paterson’s FINDING MERCY, a personal search for the filmmaker’s childhood best friend in a repressive Zimbabwe; Hap Cameron and Richard Sidey’s BIKES FOR AFRICA (pictured), on the efforts of a Kiwi couple to set up a sustainable bicycle program in rural Namibia; Nitzan Gilady’s FAMILY TIME, in which the director gets to know his family during a road trip to the Grand Canyon; and Esther Hertog’s IDFA-winning SOLDIER ON THE ROOF, a look at life in the holy city of Hebron, home of a Palestinian majority and a Jewish settler minority.
Generation Next focuses on younger subjects and perspectives. Included in this category are: Hark Joon Lee’s 9 MUSES OF STAR EMPIRE, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a K-pop girl group; Genevieve Bailey’s I AM ELEVEN, a survey of a diverse range of subjects on the cusp of adolescence; and Katrine Philp’s DANCE FOR ME, a portrait of two driven young dancers as they learn to work with one another. Documentary Edge’s arts section, Culture Vultures, features another dance-focused film, Sue Healey’s VIRTUOSI, about eight Kiwi dancers (screening in Wellington only). Other films in this category include Mike Jonathan’s ROAD TO THE GLOBE (pictured), following a Maori acting troupe as they prepare to take their spin on Shakespeare to his legendary London theatre; and Dustan Bruce’s THIS BAND IS SO GORGEOUS, about a middle-aged British punk band’s pioneering but chaotic tour of China.
Remaining thematic sections include Sign of the Times, which generally chronicles societal changes and activist docs, like Kathleen Mantel’s THE GREEN CHAIN, on a New Zealand sawmill industry whistleblower, and Ric Esther Bienstock’s TALES FROM THE ORGAN TRADE, an exposé of the black market in organ trafficking; Game On, the fest’s focus on sports docs, including James Brown’s RED WHITE BLACK & BLUE (pictured), which follows an African-American high school rugby team from South Los Angeles to New Zealand, and Monica De Alwis’ PRETTY BRUTAL, a portrait of Australasia’s first all-girl roller derby league; The American Dream, docs on the dark side of US politics and economic policy; Human Rights, a panorama of various social issue based films; and Special Presentations, to shine a spotlight on innovative projects like Slavko Martinov’s PROPAGANDA, a curious work either skewering North Korea or damning the West, or perhaps both.