This year, in an acknowledgement of its roots and the current richness of the genre, it introduced a new award for best documentary.
Judges Alisa Katz, a US producer, an Australian “Variety” journalist named Russell and Jim Hickey, a former director of the EIFF, had a wide variety to choose from to find the recipient of the new doc award: from Kirby Dick’s engaging investigation into the anomalies of the US ratings system and Haskell Wexler’s impassioned plea for shorter working hours for American film crews in Who Needs Sleep? to a portrait of a globalised Willy Loman working at a Mumbai call centre in John and Jane and a new addition to the current ‘end of the world is nigh’ sub-genre of documentaries, “A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash.”
The winner, The Great Happiness Space: Take of an Osaka Love Thief (Jake Clennell, USA), is a beautifully shot, uncommonly non-judgemental portrait of life at one of Osaka’s top host clubs, the café Rakkyo in Minami. Focusing on the most popular host, Issei, and the hoards of women who pay thousands of dollars to spend time with him (sexually or socially), the film shows him frankly discussing how he lies to make them feel good, encouraging them to spend money on champagne, admitting that he would like to have a meaningful long-term relationship. The fact that most of the women who pay for Issei are themselves prostitutes who come to buy the very dreams they spend their working life peddling is particularly poignant.
Air Guitar Nation (Alexandra Lipsitz, USA), undoubtedly the most outright entertaining film at Edinburgh, looks at the unexpected success of the first US qualifiers for the Air Guitar World Championships, held yearly in Oulu, Finland. Contestants took the competition seriously, developing onstage alter egos, appropriating outlandish names. The film concentrates mainly on the burgeoning rivalry of two American entrants – punk rock “Bjorn Turoque”, by day a software developer, and Asian fury “C-Diddy”, an actor by profession – and follows them all the way to Finland. To declare the winner here would be to spoil the surprise but suffice to say that on their first entry to the competition the Americans pretty quickly established their country’s right to be recognised as the ‘home of rock’.
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