Month: September 2016

Desaparecidos: New Mexican Documentary

Leaving your house knowing that you might never come back is an ordinary feeling amongst people living in Mexico. It doesn’t matter who you are, or who you’re not, no one is immune to the day-to-day dangers. But people don’t really think about it; it has become part of life. In the past decade, levels of violence have escalated to horrifying numbers. Gradually, drug cartels merged with the government, the police, the army, the media…and suddenly Mexicans were left with a country where political campaigns are funded by the cartels, the army and the police follow orders of anyone above them, and the mainstream media covers up all the grimy work done by the authorities, manicuring stories and presenting them as if everything was normal. In a country where kidnapping, rapes and human trafficking are a common occurrence, mass graves are found day and night, and people disappear by the hour, while the current president invites Donald Trump for a visit, citizens have found a way to normalize the chaos in order to get on with their lives. They’ve gotten used to the perpetual presence of the army and armed police in public spaces, the sound of gunshots as a background noise, the constant search for missing people…the country is going through an invisible war that no one recognises, and therefore it keeps crawling into every corner of every street, going through every crack of every building and flowing through the veins of every individual whose shouts for justice are persistently muted by the establishment.

This year, Document presents a strand of New Mexican Documentary where three women filmmakers depict poetic stories of individuals that expose the complexities of the current state of affairs in Mexico. Betzabé García’s Kings of Nowhere conveys the recurrent fear that people have of invisible forces appearing out of nowhere to destroy lives and communities. Tempestad, directed by Tatiana Huezo, interweaves the stories of two women that have been victims of Mexico’s invisible war: Adela, one of the many mothers looking for her disappeared daughter, and Miriam, one of the countless innocent people that are incarcerated to pay for the crimes of others. An intimate portrait of prostitutes is captured by Maya Goded in Plaza de la Soledad, where she paints a picture with a new light featuring the women’s beauty and dignity, and the strength of an underground community that has been around since the Aztecs.

The courage of filmmakers like Betzabé García, Tatiana Huezo and Maya Goded are a contribution towards triggering change in Mexico; it is through these efforts and the efforts of many others that we are able to make this invisible war visible to the world by bringing these stories to international audiences and generating global awareness of Mexico’s status quo.

Carla Novi

Welcome to Document 2016

They expect us to call in sick, 
watch television all night,
die by our own hands. 
They don’t know 
we are becoming powerful. 
Every time we kiss 
we confirm the new world coming.

Extract from American Wedding by Essex Hemphill

Welcome to the 14th edition of Document Film Festival. Year on year we look to foreground the most innovative and challenging documentary film from around the world – from artists and activists committed to raising awareness and developing understanding of our shared human rights.

We look for films that demonstrate that at its best, cinema encourages us to look differently. It asks us to question the meaning and presentation of images and in doing so, to think differently about ourselves, our relationship to each other and to the world.

Over this extended weekend of screenings, workshops, performances and discussions we look particularly at the poetics of documentary form. We examine the creative, experimental and affective techniques filmmakers develop in order to work through complex, often overlapping systems of oppression that characterise so much of the global landscape.

The impulse to experiment finds many echoes, not only in the history of radical protest and thinking, but also in the explicitly contemporary context of social networks, grassroots organising and the emergence of genuinely intersectional political movements like Black Lives Matter.

Festival highlights include the sci-fi rendering of Zhao Liang’s polemic Behemoth and Hubert Sauper’s hallucinatory modern-classic We Come As Friends; a searing double bill charting the b-side of the Palestinian refugee experience from filmmaker Mahdi Fleifel; and a rare screening of Peter Watkins’ six-hour quasi-documentary La Commune (Paris, 1871), which reimagines the communard uprising of 1871.

We’re delighted also to showcase the work of Glasgow photographer and filmmaker Chris Leslie, whose lyrical urban portraits chart the shifting geography and changing communities of our city, and to hold a hands-on video activism workshop in collaboration with Camcorder Guerrillas and Reel News collectives.

Few filmmakers typify the art of looking differently more profoundly than the subject of our retrospective strand, Marlon Riggs; a black, queer artist who, until his untimely death, worked tirelessly as an educator and activist to confront overlapping legacies of oppression. His work stood as a defiant response to the US government’s inaction in the face of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Inaction that revealed whose lives mattered and whose didn’t in the eyes of the state.

Riggs understood the language of visual culture, how it is used to oppress and how it can be used to liberate. His was a striking, incisive and above all generative cinema of liberation. With this in mind, we hope you will join us for an exciting and invigorating weekend of looking, thinking and discussing.

The Document 2016 team