Doc/Fest 2013 Day One



Welcome to the first day of our coverage of this year’s Doc/Fest, brought to you via all manner of multimedia devices from the heart of Yorkshire. Over the next five days we’ll be taking in all manner of documentary programming, with much to look forward to. Things kick off this morning with a very exciting screening of the new restoration of Chris Marker’s Le Joli Mai, fresh from it’s premiere at this year’s Cannes film festival. The Marker film will be followed by the dual-opening night events. This post will be updated throughout the day, and for an even more minutely detailed experience keep an eye on our Twitter feed (here).

Le Joli Mai – In short, the newly restored cut of Chris Marker’s Le Joli Mai is a revelation. Filmed in the wake of peace between France and Algeria, Marker’s film makes for an apt companion piece to Edgar Morin and Jean Rouch’s similar Chronicle Of A Summer. While both films are remarkable pieces of work, Le Joli Mai carries with it a greater sense of sincerity; the people being interviewed feel like real people, really responding to the questions posed, as opposed to the overtly structured figures of the other film. See the hapless suit seller, a man through whom the entire emotional palette can be seen, as he goes from despair in his professional life, to happiness in his personal. In the way that Morin and Rouch look to the holocaust as a means of a contextual hinge, Marker refers instead to Algeria, and the national mood in the wake of colonisation.

Tonally the film is very much split in to two parts (and literally so; credits split a part 1 and a part 2). A  playful series of credits open the film, with titles such as “henchmen” bestowed upon some figures, and gender relative alternatives for the female side of the “cast”. The credits roll out over a beautiful and ambitious long take of a camera elevated and looking face down upon a crowd.


The Big Melt – Not so much a film as a combination performance, as Sheffield legend Jarvis Cocker collaborates with the festival on an audio-visual project which tells the story of the city’s most famous export: steel. Stirring, bombast and ambitious, it’s the kind of thing that makes one proud to be a Northerner, and positively overwhelmed in parts, as Cocker relied upon a 50-strong band of musicians to tell his audible tale. As a brass-band parlayed in from the rafters of the atmospheric Crucible theatre a more perfect start to an ambitious opening night couldn’t be imagined. We had amazing seats too, with the photo above taken by yours truly.

Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer – In February 2012 three members of the Russian punk collective Pussy Riot were arrested after protesting in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. Formed out of the ashes of Putin’s dishonourable second stand of power, Pussy Riot see creativity as a tool of empowerment. A Punk Prayer, from Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin charts the scale of the situation, as well as giving some insight in to the women underneath the now-iconic balaclava masks under which identities are hidden.

While the Pussy Riot story is one that makes for a catchy headline, and has indeed done so across much of the world over the course of the past almost-18-months, A Punk Prayer offers an insight in to the bigger picture. As such previously under-heard from figures such as an almost militant off-shoot of the Orthodox church become captivating supporting players. Decked out like an inverse Hell’s Angels, the militants are equal parts terrifying and fascinating, with their deeming of the Pussy Riot women to be witches and demons provoking guffaws and sighs in tandem. The kangaroo court that plays out in the film makes for a nice analogy on the cinematic form itself.

The screening was followed by a Skype Q+A with the one member of the band since freed. I even made a Vine video marking the occasion (here). Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second: the home of technological advancement.

The opening day of Doc/Fest 2013 is one that begun with the old, and the roots of the modern revolutionary picture, and ended with an ultra-modern take on the protest movie.


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