Social experiments, nudity and methods to the madness – don’t miss this year’s edition of CPH:Dox.

Bianca-Olivia Nita
Bianca-Olivia Nita
Bianca is a freelance journalist and documentary critic. She is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: March 5, 2018

What is the focus of this year’s edition? Do you have a theme for the films selected in the festival this year?

This year’s main focus is on social experiments. The theme cuts through the entire programme, exemplified in competition by the premieres of Marcus Lindeen’s The Raft about how six women and five men drifted across the Atlantic on a raft for 101 days. It was meant to be an experiment exploring the origins of violence and the dynamics of social attraction, exemplified by the German film Last Year in Utopia, about a reality TV show that went off track. Parallel to the new films, we are presenting an exhibition at our festival centre, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, curated by Irene Campolmi. I’ve also programmed a special section called A Method to the Madness to investigate social experiments in theory and practice through cinema. And we’re staging a live, social experiment where nudity is mandatory!

Why these sections?

Historically, social experiments – from the Stanford Prison Experiment to reality TV – have claimed to present us with the naked truth about ourselves and the society. And they most often tend to go wrong. All this is very interesting as social experiments operate in a fine balance between control and chaos (or method and madness). They work like social laboratories in the shape of role games with a fixed frame and a set of rules that the participants obey to – or subvert. Ideally, a social experiment is a way to develop new and radical ways of living together.

If you would have to describe the festival in five keywords that would describe the festival and what it means to you, what would those keywords be?

In fact, I tend to think of film festivals as a sort of social and artistic laboratories. In five words: Contemporary, curious, creative, cutting edge – and a lot of hard work.

Mads Mikkelsen, Programmer CPH:DOX

What does the term ‘movie that matters’ mean to you?

If a film is any good, it matters. But impact and change is more than what it has come to mean in the documentary discourse of the day. If a film makes an impression on you, then you leave the cinema as a slightly different person. Again, the idea is cinema as a laboratory.

Which three documentary films should everyone see and why?

That’s a hard one. Thanks to the filmmakers and their films, we have an edition of the festival that I think is close to ideal. Among the completely unpredicted discoveries for me this year were the Brasilian What Remains: a surreal, tropical adaptation of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, shot as a collective improvisation in five days (yes, another social experiment). Basir Mahmood’s short film All Voices are Mine is a beautiful and enigmatic film from Pakistan, which I found at an exhibition and just thinking of it makes me happy. It is dreamy and delicate unlike almost any other moving image work I can think of. From another point of the spectrum, the Afghan film Laila at the Bridge made a phenomenal impression on me – not least thanks to Laila herself, a woman struggling to maintain a health care centre for drug addicts in Kabul. I think everyone should see these films.

What is the standing of documentary films, compared to ten years ago, and also regarding your festival? 

The documentary ‘turn’ in cinema and art in general has been the most significant cultural current over the last 10-15 years, if you ask me. And it continues to mutate and evolve. But I think a major factor here is the audience (which includes everyone) and how the discourse around documentary continues to develop in parallel with the films. Watching thousands of them is of course a privilege, but I am a hopeless romantic when it comes to films, and I believe that documentary is essentially an art form and that only a certain kind of knowledge about the world and the lives of others, which is only obtainable through cinema. Providing a social space for that to take place is what film festivals are all about.

Modern Times Review