Victor Kossakovsky’s VIVAN LAS ANTIPODAS! has likely been the most programmed documentary on the 2012 festival circuit.
It’s getting tired, “doc” this and “dox” that, and even more so “advocacy” and “campaigns” and “world changing” and pseudo-ignoramus spin about this kind of filmmaking being the “new journalism”. I suspect, of the 700ish docs on my 2012 tracking list, few could conceal their editorial weapons with even the most perfunctory of journalism 101 frisks.
And I could care less. It’s all fiction. “Doc”, as a brand, can no longer contain the most interesting places that the most relevant filmmakers are taking unfiction. “Doc” festivals that ignore this admittedly often audience unfriendly work may pin themselves into the same corner as the ethnographic festivals of yore…and it’s why the major feature film festivals are the most effective place to launch anything that you might consider a creative film or even, jeezus, cinema.
In short, I yearn for something more radical from major “doc” fest programmers (and filmmakers), especially in North America. Call it my mid-life crisis. RIP Chris Marker, but what of the young Markers? Could they find a slot in a mainstream documentary film festival? Would we recognize it if we saw it? Would we worry about audience walk-outs?
Anyway, with tiff announcing their newly branded “tiff doc” (guys!) programme this week, and Locarno in meidas res, we’re in the transitional season on the festival circuit….at least as it pertains to creative unfiction filmmaking. Even if it’s deep summer for most of us, the 2012 season (which actually began in Fall 2011) is waning and the works which will make up our 2013 reality diet are being launched over the next months.
Of the forty or so festivals I actively track, Sundance, as always, has dictated the core of 2012′s doc slate (at least in North America). Berlin, Locarno and Venice combined maybe (maybe) match this in the European context. Festival “tastemakers” drinketh most heartily from the Sundance cup, and perhaps more so then ever in 2012: AI WEI: NEVER SORRY, CHASING ICE, DETROPIA, THE HOUSE I LIVE IN, THE INVISIBLE WAR, MARINA ABRAMOVIC: THE ARTIST IS PRESENT, THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES, UNDER AFRICAN SKIES, THE IMPOSTER, THE LAW IN THESE PARTS, SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN, BESTAIRE, ROOM 237 and SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS! being the most ubiquitous. No one festival is more effective for launching a documentary than Sundance.
The Fall circuit was the next in importance, giving us VIVAN LAS ANTIPODAS! (Venice), TWO YEARS AT SEA (Venice), SHOCK HEAD SOUL (Venice), WHORE’S GLORY (Venice/tiff), CRAZY HORSE (Venice/tiff), PINK RIBBONS INC. (tiff), LAST CALL AT THE OASIS (tiff), THE ISLAND PRESIDENT (tiff), NEIL YOUNG’S JOURNEYS (tiff), DREAMS OF LIFE (London), 1/2 REVOLUTION (Nordisk Panorama), GRANDMA LO-FI (CPH:DOX), BALLROOM DANCER (CPH:DOX), PUTIN’S KISS (IDFA), PLANET OF SNAIL (IDFA), THE AMBASSADOR (IDFA) and 5 BROKEN CAMERAS (IDFA).
The Winter/Spring circuit brought WE ARE LEGION (Slamdance), THE PUNK SYNDROME (Doc Point), CALL ME KUCHU (Berlin), MARLEY (Berlin), THE VIRGIN, COPTS AND ME (Berlin), THE WAITING ROOM (True/False), ONLY THE YOUNG (True/False), JASON BECKER: NOT DEAD YET (Cinequest), TCHOUPITOULAS (sxsw), BEWARE OF MR. BAKER (sxsw), DOWNEAST (Tribeca), OFF LABEL (Tribeca), FAME HIGH (Tribeca), HIGH TECH, LOW LIFE (Tribeca) and THE WORLD BEFORE HER (Tribeca). Others, too, as films introduced at sxsw, Tribeca, Hot Docs, and Cannes gain critical mass through the Fall season.
That’s your 2012 film festival canon, so far, folks…the fucking docs that fest programmers flocked to most frequently.
Disclaimer: I consider an annual “canon” film as one that plays five or more key festivals. Also, this is a hobby (and a service, you’re welcome), not a profession…I’m likely wrong about some of the above events re: premieres, how many festivals played, etc. I’m sure there are omissions, which I’d be happy to know of.
Still, it’s illuminating to see which festivals truly pack the most tastemaking punch, and in this regard one-hand claps for CPH:DOX and TRUE/FALSE for curating above their weight class. They are two of the more right-on “documentary” events out there.