The Wonderful online video site mubi.com is making available for free three of the documentaries screening at the Sheffield documentary film festival this week. It’s worth signing up to Mubi just for this! Details below, taken from the Mubi site:
“No longer critically marginalized as of lesser importance than the fiction feature film, no longer automatically regarded as ‘box-office poison,’ and with many of its most notable works stimulating widespread debate throughout print and electronic media, the documentary today is enjoying an unprecedented outburst of creative vitality,” write the editors of Cineaste in the new Summer 2011 issue. What’s more, the rapid evolution of digital technology has made it possible for documentarians to move fast, to fashion raw material culled from ongoing events into cohesive narratives, arguments and/or essays. Case in point: Zero Silence (site; image above), an up-to-the-minute report on the generation that’s brought on the Arab Spring, drawing on footage shot between November 2009 and — literally — just a few days ago.
Not only is Zero Silence screening at the Sheffield Doc/Fest (site), running through Sunday, but we’re also teaming up with the festival to present it here, worldwide, for free, along with two other films from the lineup: Messenger of the Great River, the story of one of Mali’s musical sons, Afel Bocoum; and Remote Transmissions, the newest addition to the Big Stories web-doc series that features collaborations between small town communities and filmmakers in residence.
Sheffield has prompted the Guardian to check in on the state of the documentary. Sampling the package, we find Ben Dowell chatting with Steve James (Hoop Dreams), who’ll be giving a masterclass: “I sincerely believe we are living in a golden age for documentary filmmaking.” Ross Biddiscombe meets Adam Curtis (The Power of Nightmares), who “insists that he is not a documentary maker, but a journalist who tells stories that ‘take serious journalism and fine tune it with low-end trash and jokes’ and he dismisses anyone who considers his films — with their unique convergence of quick-fire visual images and off-beat music and background noises — to be some kind of modern art form.”
Meg Carter looks into the impact of the evolution of filmmaking technology and social media on documentaries, while Kate Bulkley tackles the transmedia angle. Justin Kary talks with filmmakers who make their docs the centerpiece of a larger online campaign. And Carter and Bukley ask doc-makers how they’re going about turning a profit these days.
A doc’s verity doesn’t necessarily have to be proportional to its “shoddy” aesthetics, argues Kaleem Aftab in the Independent. “[W]hen used in the right manner, composition and staging can enhance the understanding of reality and better put across the intentions of the director. The most eye-catching example showing at Sheffield is Bombay Beach, which won the best documentary film award at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.”
On a related note, in a study you can download from Film International, Jez Owen takes on the notion that by applying narrative techniques, contemporary doc-makers “are destroying the integrity of the documentary text by undermining an ideology established over 100 years of evolution.”