Category Archives: Overviews

Venice 2016: Documentary Overview

Venezia-73-legiurieThis Wednesday, August 31 kicks off the 73rd Venice Film Festival, which runs until Sunday, September 10. Positioned at the start of Fall, the oldest film fest in the world is once again being eyed as a launchpad for awards season hopefuls, together with Telluride and Toronto. Among its more than a hundred feature offerings are nearly three dozen new feature documentaries, spread throughout most of its programming sections and in the autonomous Venice Days lineup:

dawson cityThe competitive sections remain overwhelmingly fiction-focused, with only two works of nonfiction represented in Venezia 73 – Terrence Malick’s VOYAGE OF TIME: LIFE’S JOURNEY and Massimo D’Anolfi and Martina Parenti’s elemental “visual sympathy,” SPIRA MIRABILIS – and three in the innovation-oriented Orizzonti: Bill Morrison’s excavation of a long-lost cache of early films, DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME (pictured); Wang Bing’s look at the challenges for migrants in East China, BITTER MONEY; and Federica Di Giacomo’s modern-day exorcism profile, LIBERAMI.

austerlitzThere’s more parity in the Out of Competition strand, with docs making up nearly half of the 19 features, including: Sergei Loznitsa’s AUSTERLITZ (pictured), a meditation on Holocaust memorials as tourist attractions; Ulrich Seidl’s SAFARI, which follows European tourists on African hunting safaris; Charlie Siskel’s AMERICAN ANARCHIST, about the haunted writer of THE ANARCHIST COOKBOOK; Kasper Collin’s I CALLED HIM MORGAN, on a noted jazz musician who was shot by his wife during a performance; and Bruno Chiaravalloti, Claudio Jampaglia, and Benedetta Argentieri’s OUR WAR, a profile of three Westerners battling ISIS alongside embattled Kurdish fighters.

along for the rideDocumentary’s primary home at Venice, like at Cannes, is in the Classics sidebar, where films about filmmaking appear alongside restored classics. Among the docs here are: Jon Nguyen, Olivia Neergaard-Holm, and Rick Barnes’ DAVID LYNCH: THE ART LIFE, wherein the celebrated filmmaker discusses his artistic practice and history; Nick Ebeling’s ALONG FOR THE RIDE (pictured), an overview of Dennis Hopper’s career via his enigmatic, ever-present friend; Claire Simon’s LE CONCOURS, an intimate look at the admission process of the pre-eminent Paris film school, La Femis; and Michael Palm’s CINEMA FUTURES, about the impact on archives of cinema’s digital transition.

francaRounding out the official selection, Cinema nel Giardino offers local fare, including Francesco Carrozzini’s FRANCA: CHAOS AND CREATION (pictured), a portrait of the director’s mother, Italian Vogue‘s editor-in-chief; and Michele Santoro’s ROBINÙ, a profile of young Mafia heads; while one documentary appears in the festival’s Final Cut in Venice works-in-progress program, Soudade Kaadan’s OBSCURE.

Luomo-che-non-cambiò-la-storia-1-1024x781Of the two autonomously programmed sidebars, International Critics’ Week again includes no nonfiction, while Venice Days offers seven works of its 22 feature selections, including both opening and closing selections: Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon’s THE WAR SHOW, a personal chronicle of Syria’s descent into civil war; and Paola Piacenza’s THE WAR WITHIN, which follows a war correspondent back to the Syrian jail where he was held for five months. Among the other docs presented are Thierry Demaiziere and Alban Teurlai’s ROCCO, a profile of legendary Italian porn star Rocco Siffredi; and Enrico Caria’s L’UOMO CHE NON CAMBIÒ LA STORIA (pictured), about an anti-Fascist Italian professor who plotted to kill Mussolini and Hitler.

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Sarajevo 2016: Documentary Overview

cfdb0c44d6883de8540b8e66e2e30d97_XLToday, Friday, August 12 kicks off the 22nd Sarajevo Film Festival, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s premier cinema event. Running through Saturday, August 20, the festival presents over 100 new features, among them nearly 40 works of nonfiction.

four passportsThe Documentary Competition, focused on work from the Balkans, includes such titles as: Mladen Kovacevic’s WALL OF DEATH, AND ALL THAT, a melancholy portrait of a motorcycle stunt-riding Serbian grandmother; Berke Bas and Melis Birder’s BAGLAR, about a Kurdish basketball team; Đorđe Čenić and Hermann Peseckas’ DOWN THERE, an autobiographical look back at Yugoslavian guest workers in Austria; Siniša Vidović’s KORIDA, an exploration of Bosnian bullfights; Mihajlo Jevtic’s FOUR PASSPORTS (pictured), a personal reflection on national identity and leaving home; and Tarik Hodžić’s SCREAM FOR ME SARAJEVO, which focuses on a music concert held against the odds in the midst of the siege of the capital – the latter also the subject of out of competition title THE SIEGE, by Rémy Ourdan and Patrick Chauvel.

sarajevo-rosesAmong the other nonfiction offerings elsewhere in the program are several titles in the national cinema showcase BH Film, including: Damir Pirić’s ROCK ‘N’ WAR… OR JUST BECAUSE IT’S FRIDAY, which details the importance of the wartime music scene in Bosnia; Roger M Richards’ SARAJEVO ROSES (pictured), a two decade long portrait of Sarajevo residents before, during, and after the war; Hari Šečić’s SEARCHING FOR HOME, a portrait of a Srebrenica survivor living as a refugee in the US; and Benjamin Dizdarević’s CUT, about a man on a mission to share his love of 35mm film.

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Dokufest 2016 Overview

DokuFest-2016-bannerKosovo’s 15th annual Dokufest launches today in Prizren, Friday, August 5 and continues through Saturday, August 13. The respected event will once again present a well-curated collection of some of the most interesting work that has popped up at other international events over the course of the past year, offering local audiences a chance to sample work in various thematic strands including environmental, human rights, and music docs, among others.

eva rasOf particular note are the offerings in the Balkan Dox competition, representing nonfiction work from the region. Included here are: Mathieu Jouffre’s DRUMS OF RESISTANCE, which recounts the response to the banning of Albanian education during the waning days of Yugoslavia; Elton Baxhaku and Eriona Çami’s SELITA, a look at efforts to stop the displacement of Roma by a highway construction project; Maria Averina’s FROM CREMONA TO CREMONA, following a violin factory worker as he dreams of visiting the Italian site of the world’s finest violins; Igor Grubić’s MONUMENT, which looks at the destruction of anti-fascist monuments during a time of hyper nationalism; André Gil Mata’s HOW I FELL IN LOVE WITH EVA RAS (pictured), which filters Yugoslavian history through a woman’s projection of old films; Ivan Mandić’s YOURS TRULY, SEXYMAJA, about an infamous sexworker blogger who was rumoured to not exist; and Roland Sejko’s THE AWAITING, a meditation on Albanian history through the lens of religion.

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Locarno 2016: Documentary Overview

Film-Festival-Locarno-2016Tomorrow, Wednesday, August 3 sees the opening of the 69th annual Locarno Film Festival, which this year will offer nearly 100 new and recent features over the course of its run, which ends on Sunday, August 13. About a third of these are nonfiction or hybrid projects, with some highlights noted below: Continue reading

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Melbourne 2016: Documentary Overview

miffThe Melbourne International Film Festival turns 65 this year, kicking off its latest edition tomorrow, Thursday, July 28. Running through Sunday, August 14, the long-running event will present approximately 200 new features, among that number over 75 documentary works, a selection of which are spotlighted below: Continue reading

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Traverse City 2016: Documentary Overview

Traverse-City-Film-Festival-2016Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival opens tomorrow, Tuesday, July 26, and runs through Sunday, July 31. The 12th edition of the event has generated headlines for championing the visibility of women filmmakers by including only female-helmed or co-helmed works in its competition sections, and cheekily naming a male-directed out-of-competition sidebar “Men Make Movies – The Struggle Continues.” In total, more than a hundred new and recent features will screen at the event, with about half representing documentaries. The well-curated event curates much of its lineup from larger festivals like Sundance, Toronto, SXSW, and Tribeca, but also includes a few world premieres or lesser-know titles, such as the films noted below:

generation_startup_NEWThe US documentary competition includes the debut of Kamala Lopez’s EQUAL MEANS EQUAL, which looks at the current state of gender inequality, while the international competition features the North American premiere of Yacine Brahem, Dario Cerruti, and Laurent Negre’s hybrid CONFUSION, about the extradition of a Guantanamo prisoner to Switzerland. Appearing in the Premieres section are the first screenings of Cynthia Wade and Cheryl Miller Houser’s GENERATION STARTUP (pictured), a look at several young entrepreneurs trying to make a go of it in Detroit; Jesse Nesser’s WALK WITH ME: THE TRIALS OF DAMON J KEITH, about a 94-year-old janitor-turned-federal judge; and Bob Apisa’s MEN OF SPARTA, on Michigan State University’s pioneering integrated 1960s football team. The fest’s Avant Garde section includes Alexandra Cuesta’s TERRITORIO, an immersive exploration of the filmmaker’s Ecuador. Finally, the event wraps with closing night film CONCERTO: A BEETHOVEN JOURNEY, Phil Grabsky’s chronicle of an acclaimed pianist’s three-year international quest to master several of the German composer’s concertos.

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Asian American International Film Festival 2016: Documentary Overview

BANNER1-finalNew York City’s Asian American International Film Festival returns for its 39th edition starting tonight, Thursday, July 21. By the time the event wraps on Saturday, July 30, it will present approximately 30 new features, including a dozen documentaries, in addition to shorts, panels, and special retrospective screenings.

Jolin-740x416Among the nonfiction programming are the international premiere of Ng Xi Jie’s SINGAPORE MINSTREL, a portrait of a street busker and his environment; as well as the NYC debuts of Siyan Liu and Danni Wang’s JOLIN (pictured), about a young Chinese country girl turned factory worker turned sex worker; Pamela Tom’s TYRUS, a profile of a centenarian Chinese-born visual artist; Michael Siv’s DAZE OF JUSTICE, a personal film about the Khmer Rouge trials; and Ben Wang’s BREATHIN’: THE EDDY ZHENG STORY, about a former convict turned prison reformer. Also screening at the festival is Haito Guo’s BRIGHT SUN MANSION, which follows a Peking Opera master as he tries to keep his art form’s tradition alive in New York City.

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