Welcome to today’s liveblog. Yesterday proved to be a bit of a day off with regards to the festival: caught up in Cosmopolis the only festival event we actually attended was the evening party in celebration of a football match! Fret not though, for it’s back to business as usual today, with a mammoth six films lined up.
This post will be updated throughout the day. You can follow our special “DocFest Press and Assorted Journalist-types” Twitter feed too, at this LINK.
* First up today is the first of the days two “secret screenings”… Before that, breakfast with fellow press.
* The secret film was Stephen Maing’s High Tech, Low Life, a look at Chinese bloggers operating on the fringes of the law. The “Great Firewall of China” is a curious entity, blocking and cyber dictating what the Chinese public can and can’t view on the Internet. Over 500,000 sites are officially “banned” (one of which is HopeLies.com, interestingly enough).
The film revolves around a pair of citizen reporters, Tiger, a veteran of political rallying, and Zola, a boy reporter Tintin type, who has groomed something of a cult of celebrity around himself. The presence of this film was actually partially responsible for a boycott of this years DocFest by a number of Chinese television groups, lending the screening a fantastic relevancy and context.
There’s a second screening of the film tomorrow, I urge everyone to check it out.
* Queuing for film number 2, the geographically inclined Vivan Las Antipodas.
* Made a run from Vivan Las Antipodas over to another venue for Love Free Or Die, only to find that the screening had moved to the venue I was in previously! It’s raining, so we’ve decided to relax in a cafe instead of running back across the city.
* Vivan Las Antipodas is magnificent. Quite literally (it was the first film deemed to be a “Masterpiece” by yours truly on the festivals audience score cards). It plays with the idea of their being a polar opposite to specific places on the planet, and compares the two visually via the most extraordinary camerawork that I’ve witnessed all festival. It’s really difficult to describe just how the machinations of the camera are adapted to suit directs Victor Kossakovsky’s vision, but I don’t think it’s unfair to describe it as innovative and quite like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Shanghai, the geographical opposite to a small village in Argentina is introduced via a disconcerting, upside down, car-mounted chase through the rush-hour motorway traffic, while the frame is turned on its side and in on itself as the film goes on. The images speak for the film too: there’s no narration nor is there any expository dialogue between subjects. It’s documentary filmmaking at its most ambitious and impressive.
* I just discovered that the Guardian yesterday ran an article on the attempted censoring of DocFest by the chinese government (re- High Tech, Low Life above). It makes for an eye opening read, and provides some fantastic context for a couple of todays screenings. The article can be found here.
* The Other Dream Team proved fantastic, if not a little rough around the edges. The story of the 1980’s Soviet Olympic basketball team, which was made up largely of Lithuanians forced to play for a Union that they didn’t believe in, The Other Dream Team uses the sport as a means to examine the political state of Eastern Europe throughout the period. The films final act, in which the Grateful Dead of all people come to the rescue of a struggling freshly liberated independent nation is equal parts bizarre and uplifting.
* Next up is the final Secret Screening of the weekend. I’ve been told what it is, but have completely forgotten.
* The secret film turned out to be a BBC Storyville doc called The Albino Witchhunt Murders. It was only completed yesterday, and while no doubt a worthy subject it proved tough viewing so late on in the day.
Join us tomorrow for our final day of coverage.