What impressions of the documentary industry can 100 seminars in one week at the festival DOC/FEST give?

Truls Lie
Editor-in-chief, Modern Times Review
Published date: October 1, 2012

I am at Doc/Fest in Sheffield without seeing any of the movie theatre screenings. I avoided around 100 docs and 50 shorts. Just didn’t plan to see them.

Actually yes, I saw one. The opening film Searching for Sugar Man is about the musician, Sixto Rodriguez, the man who failed to make a breakthrough with two Dylan-esque albums in the 60s. But without his or the producer’s knowledge, bootleg albums were mass distributed in South Africa – where the musician became better known than Elvis. We hear the myth of the man, the depressive who killed himself on stage. The film is a seldom example of a well-edited documentary that uncovers bits and pieces of a deeper story as it goes along. So I’m not going to tell you about the old man who played guitar before an enthusiastic audience here in Sheffield last night…

As I said, I don’t get any theatre tickets although I have a free pass as journalist. And the films are not bad. For example Marina Abramovic The Artist is Present is a touching film about the call of an artist, who through pain tries to come closer to what is essentially human; touching without touch, as seen recently when the performance artist sat gazing with her sad eyes at one stranger after another across a small table day after day for three months in NY. People waited in long queues, often they let their tears fall in front of Abramovic. I didn’t see the film, since I had already seen the masterpiece at DocAviv.

Neither did I sit in the outdoor cinema in the rainy weather – that would have been too cold and wet.


But let me mention Vivan Las Antipodas!, which I didn’t see on the big screen either. The film made by Victor Kossakovsky is a visual masterpiece from four parallel axes around the globe – for example from a little Argentinean shepherd’s hut and the surrounding desert-like quiet, it cuts directly to the noise and speedy metropolitan life of Shanghai. Spain and New Zealand. Hawaii and Botswana. Russia and Chile. I seldom experience a film that spellbinds me in a few …

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