One of the festival’s most admired documentaries was the world premiere of Battlecentre, by Leo Regan. Having turned to DV from photojournalism, Regan has carved a name by revisiting the subjects of his photography and emerging with extraordinarily intimate films. Following on from last year’s award winning 100% White about former British neo-Nazis, Battlecentre is a movingly empathetic portrait of a London house of Jesus Army Christians. Regan’s single crew films take us back to observational basics – a good lesson in the current British climate of gimmicky constructed documentaries. Despite the temptation provided by communal living and outbursts of speaking in tongues, Battlecentre refuses to patronize its subjects and instead serves up a compelling insight into the allure of redemption for people who have lost their way.
Widening the Doc Audience
As usual, festival sessions examined the challenges of bringing docs to a wider public, and the constraints of a television landscape increasingly dictated by stranding and branding. In a session on big screen documentaries, the Dutch Film Fund’s Kees Ryninks explained plans to introduce digital documentaries to Dutch cinemas. To circumnavigate the prohibitive cost of producing 35mm docs for cinemas, the Film Fund is equipping ten theatres with digital video equipment, with an agreement that they’ll screen documentaries once a week throughout The Netherlands.
At the annual Newcomer’s Day, the number of commissioning editors on hand to discuss slots for first-time filmmakers was noticeably fewer than previous years. The messages those who did appear had to share were also a sign of the times: Emma Read of Discovery UK (representing the cable & satellite industry – now responsible for 50% of factual commissions in the UK market) admitted that one-off commissions were practically extinct. In perhaps the understatement of the day she advised the audience that if a pitch is accepted by Discovery “you have to be prepared to watch your idea be moulded slightly.” Danny Cohen, representing Channel 4, was encouraging about the use of DV, a major theme of this year’s festival: “If you’ve got a good idea and get a hold of a digital camera, the possibilities are endless,” he told the audience.
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