Now in its fifth year, Open City Documentary Festival keeps on growing, this year adding new venues to its once University of London campus based festival including Regent Street Cinema, Curzon Bloomsbury, Bertha DocHouse and Hackney’s Proud Archivist. This year’s themes include Croatian cinema and virtual reality technology for documentary.
Opening this year’s festival, the UK premiere of Sam Klemke’s Time Machine (16 June), a strange but charming story of a man who documented his life for 35 years. Directed by Matthew Bate, this self-portrait is juxtaposed with another mission of discovery, namely the 1977 NASA Voyager, equipped with the ‘Golden Record’, to tell extra terrestrials who we are. A freewheeling look at humanity and what makes us human. The festival closes with another portrait of humanity of a more sombre kind, The Closer We Get (21 June) exploring the devastating aftermath of director Karen Guthrie’s mother’s stroke.
The Croatia: In Focus strand celebrates the emergence of the new generation of documentary makers in Croatia. Highlights include The Waiting Point (20 June), centred around a crowded bus terminal in Rijeka and Naked Island, an investigative piece exploring a missing man, told by his granddaughter who sets out to learn the truth behind his disappearance and his connection to a political prison in ex-Yugoslavia known as the ‘island of broken souls’.
Elsewhere, fiction filmmakers get their chance to show the other strings in their proverbial bows with a new strand showcasing their little seen docs. This year, early works by the Dardenne brothers’ When the Boat of Léon M. Went Down the Meuse River for the First Time on the 1960 strike in Meuse region and Lessons From A University on the Fly, uncovering the lives of Polish immigrants.
Back in the UK, Estate, A Reverie (17 June) will be a standout highlight as Andrea Luka Zimmerman faces the challenges and joys of social housing head on in this intimate and powerful portrayal of the passing of Haggerston Estate. Reflecting on our apparent need to be permanently connected, A Smart Portrait of London (17 June) asks us to consider how we can shape our city with technology.
Technology is a big focus in this year’s programme including with intriguing – yet perhaps disconcerting – Alice Cares (18 June), following the lives of three elderly women in the hands of a robot carer in the Netherlands and an exploration of podcasts in Internet Killed the Radio Star (17 Jun).
Picking at random subjects from the programme we have China, tax avoidance, Arabic falconry, war, animal wrestling and Gore Vidal. And that is indeed one of the joys of Open City Documentary Festival – the complete randomness, perhaps reflected in the dropping of the distinct strands seen in previous years. This year’s programme is very much a dive in and see approach, but you are in safe hands. So do, dive in. And stick around after the screenings as many are accompanied by live elements including director and cast Q&As and discussions – always an enlightening end to the screenings.
Open City Documentary Festival takes place at various venues around London including: Regent Street Cinema, ICA, Bertha DocHouse, Picturehouse Central, Cine Lumiere, The Horse Hospital, Proud Archivist, Deptford Cinema, Hackney Attic and Bloomsbury Theatre – from 16-21 June.
Explore the full programme online: opencitylondon.com
Watch the trailer: