The art of documentary making has been celebrated in style at Kino-Teatr in Norman Road this month, with a eclectic thoughtful programme which had something to please just about anyone.
The festival opened with Michael Moore’s examination of the Trump presidency, Fahrenheit 9/11, and culminated in BBC Panorama producers talking about their work in Back To The Falklands - Brothers In Arms, and Aleppo - Life Under Siege, by way of unique Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, and a free-spirited street cat in Istanbul.
Olga Mamanova of Kino-Teatr commented: “This was the first DocFest that I curated and put together, after a short Human Rights Documentary Weekend in 2017, when we had a Q&A with Peter Taylor OBE, a BBC journalist, writer and presenter and film maker, especially known for his work in Northern Ireland.
“We then screened Bobby Sands 66 days, Ukraine On Fire and I’m Not Your Negro. The success of the weekend inspired me. Throughout the three and a half years of Kino-Teatr, we regularly screened documentaries of different subject matter - Bolshoi Babylon and Nureyev, Alexander McQueen and Dior, Amy and Poly Styrene, among others.
“As an author of three non-fiction books and an art documentary (screened on Russian television) I had personal interest in the genre. I am overwhelmed by the response from everyone who came to the DocFest at Kino-Teatr last week and enjoyed our programme of films and live events, by their support and appreciation, especially considering we are not a funded venue and the docfest was possible only through selling the tickets. “We celebrated the art of documentary making and the documentary makers, and how the genre evolved from the first newsreels, short ‘actuality films’ and romantic docu-dramas like Nanook Of The North, into the City symphonies of the 1920s avant-garde visual artists and historical, political investigations - and beyond.
“A documentary has to be convincing and creative, it is stating the truth as well as searching for truth - and the broad spectre and diversity of films of that week proved to be a mind blowing achievement in documentary making - an extraordinary artistic journey of Orson Welles in a film by Mark Cousins, and remarkable life of Japanese female artist Kusama, a reflection on the times of the Trevor Grifiths’ play Oi For England with a talk which included special guest, actor Paul McGann.
“It was great to see the community brought together by the screening of Re: A Pier, a documentary by Archie Lauchlan, and by the extraordinary story of defiance and solidarity of Scottish workers with Chile in the 1970s (Nae Pasaran was followed by a discussion that included director and the local refugee and Labour activists).
“One of the most popular films was an award-winning Turkish documentary about the secret life of cats in Istanbul - Kedi. The festival had its finale on Sunday with special screenings and Q&A with the film makers who produced documentaries for the BBC Panorama - Aisling O’Connor and Stephen Mizelas - they generously shared their experiences in working on Back To The Falklands’ and Aleppo: Life under Siege. These are the films that are vital, filmed with passion and purpose, true visual poems, and touched the audience with their humanity. Early documentary makers were convinced that the movie camera, with its different angles, editing, slow motion/ stop motion/fast motion - captures reality more accurately and diverse than a human eye.
“So a DocFest is established at the heart of St. Leonards on Sea - lets make it a new tradition. A tradition to celebrate most innovative documentaries and most surprising stories.”