London 2019: Documentary Overview

The 63rd BFI London Film Festival

October 2-13

Nonfiction makes up about a fifth of this notable UK event’s 200+ lineup.


The festival’s Documentary Competition includes a mix of both recent festival favorites and less familiar titles – among the latter are Rubika Shah’s WHITE RIOT, about 1970s protest movement Rock Against Racism; José Filipe Costa’s hybrid A PLEASURE, COMRADES!, which revisits the dawning sexual liberation of post-dictatorship Portugal of the mid-1970s; and Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian’s I AM (NOT) A MONSTER, a survey of alternative thinkers around the world.


Nonfiction is sprinkled throughout the event’s various one-word thematic sections, including, in Love, Dermot Lavery and Michael Hewitt’s LOST LIVES, which pays tribute to those who have died as part of Northern Ireland’s Troubles; in Create, Mike Figgis’ SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME, a portrait of The Rolling Stones’ guitarist Ronnie Wood; and, in Debate, Sasha Joseph Neulinger’s REWIND, in which the director recounts the childhood sexual abuse his sister and he endured; Nuno Escudeiro’s THE VALLEY, documenting the face-off on the France/Italy border between authorities and those who would help refugees; and Zed Nelson’s THE STREET, on the gentrifying new businesses that threaten longtime shopowners of a London street.


More innovative work appears in Journey, including John Skoog’s hybrid RIDGE, a free-associative portrait of life in southern Sweden; and Ridham Janve’s THE GOLD-LADEN SHEEP & THE SACRED MOUNTAIN, which blends observational doc with metaphysical fable to follow the quest of a shepherd in search of treasure. Finally, experimental projects are showcased in Experimenta, including Nina Danino’s I DIE OF SADNESS CRYING FOR YOU, an essay film exploring a once popular Spanish music genre devoted to unrequited love; Roz Mortimer’s THE DEATHLESS WOMAN, which takes a mythological approach to the genocide of the Roma by the Nazis; and Louis Henderson and Olivier Marboeuf with The Living and The Dead Ensemble’s OUVERTURES, a complex, performative history of Haiti’s foundation.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Overviews, Recommendations

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