By Chris Knight, National Post
You might expect the director of programming at Toronto’s Hot Docs film festival to have a fixed notion of what is and isn’t a documentary, but Sean Farnel, now in his fourth year in the job, says it’s a moving target.
“I’m becoming less of a purist about the form as I see filmmakers doing impressive things,” Farnel says. “This is a case where the term ‘non-fiction’ is better than ‘reality’ — whatever that is. Documentary as a non-fiction form has become very fluid in the last 10 years ... You see docs consistently pushing the form in new directions.”
Two popular, form-pushing films released last year illustrate his point. Waltz with Bashir, by Ari Folman, recreates the Israeli filmmaker’s memories of the 1982 war with Lebanon through animation. Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg was part monologue, part travelogue and partly made up, though clearly even the imaginary parts of Manitoba’s capital are close to Maddin’s heart.
This year’s festival, which opens next Thursday with a screening of Jennifer Baichwal’s Act of God, includes a number of what Farnel calls “creative documentaries.”
Cooking History, about soldiers’ food during wartime, uses tableaux and elaborate reconstructions. Antoine, a Canadian film by Laura Bari, immerses the viewer in the universe of a blind five-year-old boy. Big River Man, which Farnel calls a “demi-documentary” in the festival’s program notes, “might be another example of walking the line between fiction and non-fiction to achieve what Werner Herzog would call poetic truth.”
Yes, it is true, Nik Sheehan and FLicKeR are coming to New York city to the Anthology Film Archive, June 13th.
See you there.
The enthusiasm of Nollywood Babylon is infectious. Focusing on the widely unknown (in the U.S., at least) Nigerian film industry, this documentary speeds its way through seventeen years of their film history. Starting in 1992, the video market in Lagos has provided financial opportunities for hundreds of actors and directors making thousands of films. Clocking in at about 2500 films a year, Nigeria has the third largest film industry (the first and second being the U.S. and India, respectively). Seeing the passion that these artists share for films showing the real experiences of Nigerians, and the love of Nollywood itself, is inspiring for independent filmmakers everywhere, struggling to get their little pictures made.
The Gates (HBO)
Maysles Films in association with HBO Documentary Films and CVJ
Filmmakers explored how the now-celebrated Central Park installation by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude came to be in this memoir of a creative process that survived a 24-year odyssey of bureaucratic hoop-jumping.
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Theater of War
Backstage insights into art and ideology
''Theater of War'' follows a 2006 production of ''Mother Courage and Her Children'' that starred Meryl Streep. ''Theater of War'' follows a 2006 production of ''Mother Courage and Her Children'' that starred Meryl Streep. (MICHAL DANIEL)
By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / March 27, 2009
In the summer of 2006, thousands of theatergoers, stargazers, and people who enjoy Marxist German classics braved impossible heat to attend a production of Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage and Her Children" in Central Park. It was more hoopla than Brecht ordinarily receives, even by the standards of the New York stage. But this Public Theatre production was somewhat out of the ordinary. Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline were starring in a new translation by Tony Kushner, directed by George C. Wolfe with music by Jeanine Tesori. And it was free.