Documentary Edge Festival 2011
The latest of the best documentaries from around the world are about to hit our shores, as the Documentary Edge festival kicks off in Auckland on 16th February, then travels to Wellington in March. Make sure you add the following to what is bound to be a packed itinerary:
Echoing the fictional adventures of Jason Bourne, real-life Londoner David Bond decides to “disappear” for a month, in an experiment to see whether he can escape the Big Brother world we live in. Hiring two private investigators to track him, an often exhilarating game of cat and mouse ensues. You’d think today’s audiences would already know what a surveillance-heavy, data-capturing society we live in, but the extent of Bond’s discoveries is still horrifying, and Erasing David utterly compelling.
Back home, Stand Up seems an enticing prospect – tracking the history of stand up comedy in New Zealand, with footage of gigs and interviews with many of the forerunners. Well, be warned – if you’re expecting to just sit back and belly laugh for an hour, you’re out of luck. While interesting overall, the comedians’ motivations are not surprising, so wisely the filmmakers picked rookie stand-ups The Full English to follow their trajectory from whim to festival show. There are inevitably some excruciating moments, but as the veterans tell us “If you’ve ever thought about it, just do it”. Yeah, right.
The Long Goodbye
Surprisingly, I laughed more often and heartily during The Long Goodbye, three heartrending stories of dementia’s impact on the lives of two elderly couples and a middle-aged barrister. I was also frequently moved to tears (actually, sobs) at this depiction of true, unconditional love (each couple evoking their wedding vows in
heartfelt jest) and the pain of losing the person you knew.
All My Fathers
Nothing makes good documentary fodder quite like the secrets and lies of the modern family. In All My Fathers, young German film-maker Jan Reiber records his quest to get to know his biological father. But like peeling an onion, realities that affect three generations of his family, and many outsiders, reduce some characters to tears. Moving and genuine, the film eschews melodrama for a story that provides real-life twists and a true moral dilemma for this age.
Steam of Life
More truth, and more pain, in an unexpectedly touching film about naked Finnish men in saunas. Steam of Life teaches you much about this Scandinavian preoccupation with wet heat that, surprisingly, provides a forum for talking about feelings. These men of all shapes and sizes share painful memories, stories of redemption and inspiration. The film is subtle and sensitive, and ends on a glorious note.
Enemies of the People
Redemption is sought but not necessarily found in the spellbinding Cambodian documentary Enemies of the People – which title refers, as it turns out, not to Pol Pot and his genocidal Khmer Rouge, but the two million civilians who lost their lives between 1975 – 1979, lest they challenge the regime. It’s the first time Brother Number Two has spoken about his motivation, thanks to a decade’s commitment by local journalist Thet Sambath. Seeing blank-faced villagers recount their terrible deeds is horrifying but necessary.
Two films about “giving back”. In The Jade Bell Story, two New Zealand filmmakers take to Canada to tell the remarkable story of a young man, blind, mute and paralysed following a drug overdose, who has taken his morality tale to schools and prisons in the hope of preventing others from following his foolish lead.
Out of the Darkness follows Dr Sanduk Ruit on a 4-day trek across Nepal, to perform cataract surgery on villagers whose lives are transformed by this huge act of charity. Both films are heartening examples of how life’s tragedies can be turned around.
The bright pink festival brochures can be found in local cinemas and cafes, so make sure you check out the wealth of viewing pleasure inside.