Yes, it was another good year for documentaries. New forms, hybrid, personal, came up with the classical engaged and committed Film still going strong in times of crisis. Yes, Film with a capital F. Yes, most of the festivals reported an increase in audiences who went to watch the films on the big screen. Yes, there were more documentaries released in the cinemas than before, at least in many countries that I know about. Yes, it is generally easier to get to watch good documentaries online via VoDs like the DOCAlliance
As far as I know, it is still not possible to make a living as a documentary director unless you are one of the few, but important names, who make contracts with the anglo-saxon broadcasters. I have earned my money from teaching, not making films, said legendary Richard Leacock, whose memoir The Feeling of Being There (see DOX #93) is the best film book that has come out for years.
Below, you find what I found to be the best documentaries of 2012, in alphabetical order:
Alan Berliner:First Cousin First Removed (USA). Berliner makes excellent associative sequences (often with trains through tunnels) that loosens up tension and gives us viewers a bit of free time to reflect … perhaps on “la condition humaine” to use a cliché. It makes you think what a wonderful thing FILM is. [see page 50]
Catalina Vergara:Last Station (Chile). Its beauty in approach and cinematography is rightly characterised in the DOKLeipzig catalogue as “picturesque dark tableaux vivants, the rhythm of slowness turns into poetry”.
Emma Davie & Morag McKinnon:Breathing(Scotland). The film could have been entitled “Letter to Oscar”, which is what dying Neil is writing, a letter, together with a beautiful “memory box” for his son to remember his father by.
Helena Trestikova:Private Universe(Czech Republic). It has a definite universal appeal at the same time as it writes (as a backdrop) the history of Czekoslovakia from 1967 until today. We see 1968 images of the Soviet invasion, we see Gustav Husak talking to the nation, we see pathetic TV images of hosts wishing the nation a happy New Year, we see images of the change in 1989. And all through the film the pop singer Karel Gott reappears once in a while to sing for us. His version of “Give Peace a Chance” is unforgettably original!
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