Doc/Fest 2013 Day Five

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Things are slowing down on the final day of what has been a wonderful festival.

Our Twitter feed (here) is your source of the most up-to-date commentary, while this post will be updated as and when with more thorough thoughts.

Emptying The Skies – The final day of DocFest is generally a rather sombre affair, with many delegates leaving at midday to head back to from where they came. But it’s not all bad: Were it not for the mass exodus then amazing screenings like this would sell out well in advance, leaving those of us that are a tad more lax in deciding what to do without a ticket. Emptying The Skies is based upon a 2010 New Yorker article written by Jonathan Franzen, on the illegal hunt for birds in migration. That can be found online here. Franzen was in attendance for this special screening, joining producer Roger Kass and director Douglas Kass for a Q&A after the film. Also in attendance were a couple of the stars of the film, which charts the endeavours of CABS (the Committee Against Bird Slaughter), a group of kinda-sorta militant bird protection activists who pitch up tent in Cyprus during migration season in an attempt to quell poachers acting illegally.

Kass’ film is provocatively and affecting, with the plight being faced presented with no blanket between the audience and the act. As Franzen notes in his closing remarks, this is a tale of pure love: the efforts of CABS are so relatively minute that they won’t (single-handedly) change the world, but they’re trying anyway. It’s inspiring work. 

The presence of right-wing cliche Jeremy Clarkson in a found-footage cameo, chowing down on a hapless sparrow, only serves to drive the filmmakers point home even more effectively for British audiences.

Aguirre: Wrath Of God – My final film of this year’s festival was Werner Herzog’s masterpiece, Aguirre. While terms like “fever dream” are generally frowned upon, in this case it might just be apt. Settling in for Aguirre, with five days of films and very little sleep on my shoulders, one couldn’t but feel completely immersed in Herzog’s landmark tale of power and madness. Somehow this time around I noted the sense of confinement even greater than ever before. It plays out like Hitchcock’s Rope via the chaos of Apocalypse Now. One might see that in itself as an apt metaphor for a film festival. 

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