DocFest has come a long way in the 5 years or so since I first attended. It’s now considered to be one of the UK’s finest film festivals, and attracts more attention than ever before. The documentary is too, more popular than ever, with breakout hits springing forth and playing in multiplexes year ’round. In the past I’ve always approached DocFest with quite a relaxed attitude. Unlike London, or any of the other festivals I attend, travel isn’t necessary. I live just around the corner from the festivals main venue, which means that upwards of 12 hours worth of movies a day can be consumed. Such is my method that advance planning really doesn’t come in to it. Scheduling is often an afterthought, with one or two big hitters often sought out at repeat screenings if needs be, but generally speaking I tend to just catch whatever is showing. However, since the medium has grown, thanks in part to the success of festivals like DocFest, with the rise of the “Docbuster” (The Imposter, Searching For Sugar Man, Blackfish, The Act Of Killing) expectation and anticipation is slowly starting to creep in. While this isn’t going to encourage me to change my ways too heavily, there are a couple of things that I really do want to make sure I catch this year.
Rory Kennedy’s Last Days In Vietnam sounds fascinating, while the Guardian headlined their coverage of this morning’s announcement with Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi’s documentary on The New York Review Of Books, A Fifty Year Argument. The film is one of 21 receiving their world premiere at the festival. Scorsese appears again in Life Itself, Steve James’ crowdfunded film on Roger Ebert, while Charlie Lyne’s also-crowdfunded Beyond Clueless (twice, once with a live score from Summer Camp) has been on the receiving end of much praise over the last few months (and even picked up an honourable mention at Canada’s Hot Docs festival last week).
There’s an increasingly greater presence of non-fiction works too. The Films On Film strand sees Dog Day Afternoon and a pair of early Hitchcock shorts (the French language Bon Voyage and Aventure Malgache) screening alongside a programme of Peter de Rome shorts. Dog Day Afternoon is accompanied by The Dog, a documentary on the real-life story that influenced the Lumet film, while the other films in the strand play with related fare. Elsewhere an accompanied screening of Victor Sjöström’s 1924 film He Who Gets Slapped promises to be an off-kilter highlight.
Lastly, the work of Agnes Varda has often skirted between fact and fiction, and that’s a fact that’s celebrated at this year’s DocFest with a retrospective of the French filmmaker’s work. The festival opens one month from now, on June 7th, and runs thru June 12th.
The full programme can be found online at the DocFest website.