Director’s Statement: Why Is Mr W. Laughing?

The film started out as a cinematic experiment: I wanted to portray three members of an atelier community of artists with different disabilities in an open collaboration. I wanted to dissolve the common power structures between the documentarist and the portrayed subject and chose to assist the artists in presenting themselves and their work in their own words, sounds and images. Without making a film about the socio-politics of participation through art, I wanted to make the film socio-politically, to dismiss conceptual coherence by indulging in the anarchic serenity of the artists, filming in an inclusive and empowering manner, rendering homage without advertising, so that the protagonists wouldn’t be subjected to preconceived aesthetics.

The project originally emerged from my interest in anti-psychiatry and progressive notions of dis/ability, like in the experimental psychiatric clinic La Borde in France under the direction of Jean Oury where Felix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze developed some of their concepts like “schizoanalysis”, or in the project of the poet Fernand Deligny who lived and worked in a silent community with autistic children in the French mountains.

The atelier community of the three protagonists Horst, Bernhard and Michael is singular in its organization because neither social pedagogy nor art therapy is involved. There is no rigid methodology, just spontaneous manners of interaction. The artists work autonomously and are assisted by other artists upon their own request. Many advantages like compassion and solidarity are much better developed in their community than in the art world of the free market.

Although I knew of several great documentaries both on dis/ability and outsider art, I was missing a cinematographic reflection of the naturalised distinction between the observed, supposedly disabled Other and the observing, allegedly sane and sovereign filmmaker. If inclusion should succeed, supposedly abled people are required to develop an understanding of disability that is neither patronising nor spectacularising, but a different original access to reality. That’s why I tried to integrate different perspectives that would not rule each other out but co-exist in an open conversation. It’s also why we produced the film in a collaborative process, co-wrote and co-filmed together with the protagonists and allowed ourselves to repeatedly drop our preconceived ideas about beauty, film, art and love.

Jana Papenbroock


Why Is Mr W. Laughing? screens at Document, 20/10 at 8pm.

Jana Papenbroock will be joining us to introduce the film and for a post-screening Q&A.

Tickets from CCA: Book online / 0141 352 4900

Why is Mr W. Laughing?

Director’s Statement: Left On Purpose

It’s true—some will say that I caused the death of Mayer Vishner. That by telling his story, I gave him permission to take his own life. Others—his doctors and his close friends—tell me that the filming kept him alive, giving him a reason to carry on. Sadly, I believe that both are correct…I extended Mayer’s life while ensuring his death.

I first met Mayer when I was shooting the documentary No Impact Man—the story of a family trying to live in New York City with no environmental impact. Mayer was the only member of the local community garden growing vegetables. In his words, the other gardeners were bourgeois flower growing narcissists. Mayer was a true Greenwich Village character, and to him, everything was political.  A lifelong radical, he grew up resenting the 1950s post-war conformity he was born into and then switched his focus to the fight against the draft and the Vietnam War. Mayer wasn’t content to just march—he organised, strategised, and made his home in the activist community. One of the original Yippies, he was mentored by the legends—Abbie Hoffman, Paul Krassner, and Dave Dellinger. But unlike many, Mayer never stopped protesting. He never stopped fighting with the world.

The mantra of Mayer’s youth was “never trust anyone over 30.” When I met him, he was pushing 60 and struggling with a world in which the revolution never came. I proposed a documentary profile and he opened his life to me. As our friendship solidified, it became clear that Mayer was engaged in serious battles with depression and alcohol. It was six months into filming when he confided to me that he was preparing for his “last political act”—his suicide. Suddenly, this was no longer a short documentary profile—it was life and death.

I had never before been faced with the tragedy of a potential suicide victim, and I was in no way equipped to handle it on my own.  I went with Mayer to his physician and psychiatrist and witnessed as he tried to make the case for his own death to them. Knowing that he was in the care of professionals was essential to my continuing with the project. But I had become part of the story. We’d become close and I didn’t want him to die, but I also understood that he was in tremendous psychic pain. To force him to live in that pain also seemed cruel. The film he wanted me to make had a sad ending, yet the act of filming was keeping him alive. I was stuck. 

I did some research and learned that, although Mayer suffered in his isolation, he was in no way a rare case. The suicide rate for men Mayer’s age has increased almost 50% in the past decade. His generation, the baby boomers, a generation that has had such an impact on the way they’d lived, were now choosing, more and more, to take this unconventional outlook to the way they approached death. As Mayer said: “My suicide is part of a lifelong quest for agency for the species and for myself. And as we grow older, more and more baby boomers will feel the way I do.” 

It is my hope that Left on Purpose can serve as a point of departure for discussions of the issues at the heart of the film that are so often spoken about in hushed tones—if at all. How do we care for a loved one who doesn’t want to live? What does it mean to help someone in pain? There are no easy answers, but it is important to ask the questions. 

Suicide is a tragedy that is never simple and straightforward. For Mayer, I believe there were a number of factors that came together to make ending his life a viable option. Perhaps the most operative factor was his lifelong depression. As a young man he persevered through the difficult times, aided by a close working relationship with his psychiatrist and the support of the community he found in the anti-war movement. By the mid 1970s, the war ended and Mayer’s therapist died in a car accident, leaving him without the support system on which he had so depended. Unmoored, Mayer began to rely more on self-medicating through drugs and alcohol; providing temporary “anesthesia,” but leading to a cycle of depression and dependence that lasted until his death.

Psychologists have long regarded suicide as being contagious — that is, it is a behaviour that is prone to being copied or imitated. Quite a few people in Mayer’s life made the tragic decision to end their own lives. In the late 1970s Mayer’s friend and legendary troubadour of the anti-war movement, Phil Ochs, succumbed to his mental illness and alcohol addition. More impactful in Mayer’s trajectory perhaps was the well-known photo taken in 1971 of young Mayer sitting between Yippie founder Abbie Hoffman and High Times Magazine founder Tom Forcade. Mayer referred to that photo as “two suicides and a procrastinator,” as both Forcade and Mayer’s close friend and mentor Hoffman took their lives. Hoffman’s first wife, as well as his daughter—both of whom Mayer knew well, also killed themselves. I believe that the suicide of these people he was so close to made his decision a real possibility.

Similarly, I believe that Mayer’s politics, while not the cause of his decision to end his life, were clearly a contributing factor. As stated in Left on Purpose, Mayer looked at everything from a political perspective. Mayer defined himself through his freethinking and his rebelliousness. (There was a time when the Hippies in San Francisco tried to “rebrand” themselves as “freemen.”) The fact that suicide is a taboo of church and state no doubt made it more than a personal act for Mayer and turned it into a statement.

Lastly, Mayer also felt an increasing sense of isolation in this age of ever advancing technology. Thought he did still have friends who cared about him deeply, he felt unequipped to be part of the changing social justice movement that had previously so defined his life but that now relied on digital communication. Mayer prided himself on being an organiser. Greenwich Village was just that—a community of people who met in the park, at the bars, clubs and churches. As the age of email and Twitter advanced, Mayer felt more and more disconnected.

Justin Schein


Left On Purpose screens at Document, 22/10 at 4pm.

Tickets from CCA: Book online / 0141 352 4900

Justin Schein will also be taking part in our panel event, The Ethics of the Documentary Filmmaker, 22/10 at 5.30pm.

Left on Purpose

SMHAF & Document: No Place For A Rebel

Document are proud to team with Take One Action to present the UK premiere of Ariadne Asimakopoulos and Maartje Wegdam’s No Place For A Rebel (2017) at Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival 2017. Sixteen years after rebels abducted him as a child, Opono Opondo returns home to Uganda as a veteran soldier. Now he has to re-adapt to civil society at large, and also to his family and community. No Place For A Rebel is the quietly moving portrait of a man with scars that are still healing.

Directors Ariadne Asimakopoulos and Maartje Wegdam will be in attendance for a discussion on issues raised by the film, joined by Yasmin Al-Hadithi (Highlight Arts), Mohamed Omar (Mental Health Foundation) and Tawona Sithole (Seeds of Thought Poetry Glasgow).


No Place For A Rebel screens at Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival, 3pm on Sunday 15 October. More details can be found here.

Buy tickets here or call CCA box office on +44 (0)141 352 4900.

Mental Health Foundation (UK) also co-present We’ll Be Alright during Document’s festival weekend 19-22/10.

Document 2017: Full Programme Online

Our 2017 programme is now online! There are over 50 screenings, workshops, panels and special events taking place during our main festival weekend from Thursday 19th October until Sunday 22nd October. Full details of those can be found here. Tickets for all screenings and events at CCA Glasgow are available here. Day and weekend passes will soon be available.

We also have special free community screenings across Glasgow in the weeks leading up to our festival weekend. Full details of those here.

Women, Native, Other, part of our Trinh T Minh Ha retrospective, opens at The Pipe Factory, Glasgow on Saturday 7th October. Details here.

Our brochure can be found at locations across the city and Scotland now. You can browse our brochure online at Issuu:

 

SQIFF & Document: FREE CeCe!

The Scottish Queer International Film Festival returns to Glasgow on 27/09 and runs until 01/10/17. We’re very excited to be teaming up with our friends at SQIFF to present a film during their festival weekend. FREE CeCe! (Jacqueline Gares, 2016) tells the story of trans woman Chrishaun Reed “CeCe” McDonald. On her way to the store with a group of friends, CeCe was brutally attacked and in defending her life, a man was killed. After a coercive interrogation, CeCe was incarcerated in a men’s prison in Minnesota.

An international campaign to free CeCe garnered significant support from media and activists, including actress Laverne Cox. Cox signed on as executive producer of FREE CeCe!, committed to exploring the role race, class, and gender played in the case. In the end, CeCe emerged not only as a survivor but also as a leader. The harassment CeCe faced is unfortunately all too familiar for trans women of colour. As Cox told the LA Times, “I might not be here if one day some decided to take it too far or I felt the need to defend myself and ended up in prison. But for the grace of God, I haven’t had to fight for my life in the same way CeCe had to that day.”

The screening will be followed by a discussion with Chryssy Hunter from Bent Bars Project, a letter-writing scheme for LGBTQ+ people in prison in the UK.


FREE CeCe! screens at SQIFF at 1pm, 01/10 at CCA. More details can be found here.

Buy tickets here or call CCA box office on +44 (0)141 352 4900.

Full details of SQIFF’s 2017 programme can found at their website, www.sqiff.org.

SQIFF will also present a film during Document’s festival weekend 19-22/10. All will be revealed at our programme launch on 18/09 and full details will be online shortly afterwards.

PREVIEW: Take One Action Film Festival 2017

Our friends at Take One Action Film Festival launch their 10th anniversary programme this Thursday, 14/09, in Glasgow (Wed 13/09 in Edinburgh). The 2017 programme contains several documentary films screening in Glasgow that caught our eye. Here they are!

An Insignificant Man (Khushboo Ranka, Vinay Shukla, 2016)
Tuesday 19/09, GFT
This documentary focuses on Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of the Common Man’s party and dubbed “the Bernie Sanders of India”. The screening is followed by a discussion exploring the influence of grassroots social movements in shaping the political agenda in India and Scotland, with guests including Robin McAlpine (Common Weal) and Indra Adnan (The Alternative UK).

The Workers Cup (Adam Sobel, 2017)
Thursday 21/09, CCA
This doc follows four migrant workers – four of 1.6 million – who spend their days in slavery-like conditions constructing Qatar’s 2010 World Cup infrastructure and their nights competing in a workers’ football tournament in the same stadiums they help build. After the screening, there will be a discussion (with guests including Suzanne Crimin of Oxfam), focussing on the push towards “decent work” and some of the many international solidarity initiatives challenging systemic inequalities in Qatar and beyond.

Whose Streets? (Sabaah Folayan, 2017)
Friday 22/09, CCA
A document of the transformation undergone in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Folayan’s debut mixes original footage, interviews and cellphone footage to provide a vital counterpoint to the mainstream coverage of the ongoing events.  One of the film’s protagonists, Brittany Ferrell will take part in the post-screening discussion.

To End a War (Marc Silver, 2017)
Saturday 23/09, CCA
This intimate, observational documentary explores the peace process in Colombia, with unprecedented access to both political leaders, President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC Chief Commander Timochenko. It’s a behind-the-scenes consideration of an epochal moment in Colombian history, followed by a discussion exploring “what it takes, strategically and spiritually, for a nation of 50 million to move from hatred to forgiveness.”


Take One Action Film Festival runs 13/09-24/09 in venues across Scotland.

Browse Take One Action’s full programme here.

Document teams up with Take One Action to co-present No Place For A Rebel at Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival on Sunday 15th October. Details and tickets here.

Info

Posted: 11 September 2017

Screening 05/11: Action Kommandant

This Saturday, we team with our good friends Africa In Motion Film Festival for a special screening of Action Kommandant (Nadine Angel Cloete, 2016). Action Kommandant is the untold story of the South-African anti-apartheid freedom fighter, Ashley Kriel. Known as the ‘Che Guevara’ of Cape Town’s notorious Cape Flats, Kriel became an icon of the 1980s youth resistance before being murdered by apartheid police at the age of twenty. Through a mix of animated sequences, previously unreleased archival footage, and intimate testimony from family, comrades, and his closest friends, this captivating biopic offers a necessary confrontation with South Africa’s fraught past that finds particular relevance today as a new generation of young activists – both in South Africa and beyond – demand historical redress.

This screening is part of AiM’s newly inaugurated documentary competition, sponsored by Scottish Documentary Institute, which aims to encourage and support young and talented African filmmakers. The winner is selected by their jury of acclaimed film practitioners and academics and will be announced after the screenings on the second day. The audience will also have the opportunity to vote for their favourite film with the Audience Award winner announced on AiM’s website at the end of the festival.


Action Kommandant | 05/11 | 8pm | CCA Glasgow |  Tickets here, or by phone: 0141 352 4900.

Document 2016

Journalist Patrick Harley was our roving reporter at Document 2016. Here he recounts his experience through the weekend.

This time last week, the Document International Human Rights Film Festival had just called time on its 14th edition, one that chairman of the board David Archibald described as being “one of the best, if not the best” years for the festival he’d ever seen. The chairman, of course, has no input on the programming side of things (that having been overseen by co-ordinators Eileen Daily, Sam Kenyon and Sean Welsh), but if that still seems too biased, I can give my own opinion: this year’s Document was the strongest and most thought provoking I have attended, both as cinematic showcase and call to action.

When planning this write-up, I originally considered separating it into distinct parts, each with its own theme, thread or angle. Yet the more I thought on my experience of the weekend, the more I realised the overarching heart of this year’s programme – and that, simply put, is freedom.

Because I still love a subheading though, let’s look back and break things down a bit.

The freedom to have a safe home

Before the festival’s opening film played to a near full house in the CCA Theatre, co-ordinator Sam Kenyon emphasised how Document seeks to expose people not only to socials issues, but also to the “poetics of documentary” itself, and just how powerful it is for us to be able to receive these images at all. Kings of Nowhere could not have followed this mission statement more perfectly.

kings-of-nowhere

Beautifully and hauntingly shot, the film tells of the waterlogged Mexican village of San Marcos. With the few remaining occupants transporting themselves around the half-destroyed settlement by boat or by mule, the decaying and overgrown buildings lend the visuals a dreamlike quality, yet their quietness also betrays a sense of loss. For those villagers still living there, San Marcos is a literal ghost town. Flooded by the government’s construction of the Picachos dam in 2009, the population has shrunk from 300 families to three, and the ones that remain live surrounded by both the spirits of the past and the dangers of the present.

Fearful of any passing vehicle, the exact nature of the threat plaguing the villagers’ psyches is never clarified (and with the line between police force and cartel in parts of Mexico becoming increasingly blurred, it’s unlikely to make a difference), but statements like “they chopped Ricardo into little pieces” leave us in little doubt as to its seriousness. “When it gets ugly, it’s scary,” one woman tells the camera, “locked doors won’t do you any good.”

Yet perhaps what’s most striking in Kings of Nowhere, is not what its subjects have lost, but what they have retained. In one moment, a woman affectionately argues with her rancher husband about his ability to lasso wandering souls in the town’s moonlit graveyard. In another, a second couple explain their mission to fix up the local church, showing thanks to God for letting them survive. “What we went through isn’t so bad,” they say. It seems that, despite everything, one thing the people of San Marcos will always have is their humanity.

But holding onto that sense of self can be struggle, particularly in the face of constant displacement – a battle the festival’s focus on the ongoing refugee crisis often showed. In Dreaming of Denmark, director Michael Graversen follows the journey of Wasiullah. An Afghan native who has spent his formative years awaiting asylum in Denmark, when he turns 18, Wasi’s request is rejected, leaving him no choice but to accept deportation or travel illegally to Italy in hope of better fortune. With post-traumatic stress disorder clouding memories of his birthplace and neither European state making his resettlement easy, Wasi’s past ties him to multiple nations, yet he can safely be citizen of none. He is quite literally homeless.

dreaming-of-denmark-poster

With Wasi finding himself reliant upon the kindness of strangers, the film showcases the power and importance of human connections: ones that transcend borders and, at times, laws (indeed, Graversen admitted during a post-screening Q&A that his time spent travelling with Wasi often placed him in those grey areas of legality where being humane becomes a crime). Moments where Wasi and his Ethiopian-born friend Mussa simply act like teenagers on camera are beautiful to watch, yet with the latter having been granted right to stay in Denmark, there is always a sense of sadness in the air. As his stresses grow, the effects of Wasi’s PTSD worsen. Suddenly he forgets Denmark and even forgets Mussa. To see that bond severed is tragic: how can a young man feel accepted by society when he has not only no home, but also no memory of ever having had one?

A fact brought home by Wasi’s story as well as the short films presented by GRAMNet (Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network) is that isolation and dehumanisation can often go hand-in-hand. In Frederik Subei’s Transit Zone there is a heart-breaking progression in which a young Sudanese man, Teefa, moves from an idealisation of England to hatred of its very being. Having dreamed of living there his whole life, his struggles to leave Calais leave him reflective and angry. “Why would I want to go somewhere that doesn’t want me?”, he announces in frustration. Meanwhile, in Anne-Claire Adet’s Bunkers we find ourselves plunged into Geneva’s subterranean refugee camps. With the structures originally built to withstand nuclear war, we hear from one resident who was a journalist in his native Sudan and now isn’t even deemed deserving of a home with a window. It’s difficult to retain a sense of belonging when your life is so hidden, it has literally been pushed underground.

The freedom to be who you are

That feeling of forced concealment was a major theme in this year’s films, with Micah Fink’s The Abominable Crime shining light on two stories from Jamaica’s LGBTQ community. With anti-gay discrimination woven so deeply into the nation’s fabric, the title is taken directly from Jamaica’s anti-sodomy law – the only one in which the crime is given moral judgment within the wording of the document itself. There is no “ghastly crime” of murder, no “fiendish crime” of rape, but there is the “abominable crime” of homosexual sex. With this as a starting point, it’s no wonder that Jamaican MPs such as Ernest Smith feel comfortable standing up in parliament to express concerns that “homosexuals have become too brazen”.

the-abominable-crime-poster

With 82% admitting that they are prejudiced against homosexuals, much of Jamaican society agrees with him, Fink’s film telling the stories of Simone Edwards, a lesbian single mother forced to flee the country following an attempt on her life, and Maurice Tomlinson, a lawyer and activist whose principals have spurred him to put his own safety aside in order to return. Also appearing at this year’s festival In Conversation, Tomlinson’s inspirational work has seen him spearhead the first ever legal challenge to this discriminatory law – but with some of Jamaica’s most influential religious bodies registering themselves as “interested parties” in the case, he’ll have his work cut out. After all, it’s difficult to argue against an opponent that believes their position is ‘essential to avoiding the potential extinction of the human race’.

As remarkable as such statements may seem to those of us on the outside, however, Tomlinson was keen to emphasise that an air of high-and-mightiness is never the most productive route. Using the acronym “ARE”, he encouraged Document attendees to consider that, if we want to help constructively, we must first:

  • “Acknowledge” that Britain and America are responsible for importing homophobia to Jamaica through religious and cultural colonisation;
  • Show “Respect”, treating both Jamaica’s local authorities and its activists with manners, not Holier-than-thou haughtiness, and accept that they can do the work themselves. Help is appreciated, a saviour complex is not.
  • And finally, “Engage” with the positives by realising that Jamaica is successfully moving toward such things as a reduction in homophobia and a decrease in HIV. Do not focus on what you might see as “backwards” – nobody likes to be patronised.

Indeed, the fight against belittlement took a central role in one of the weekend’s other standout black queer films, Marlon Riggs’ seminal Tongues Untied. Originally released in 1989, it plays as a statement of empowerment: a call to arms by a group of men no longer willing to accept the idea that to be both black and gay is somehow laughable. Through a mix of spoken testimonial, poetry and potent editing, Riggs’ film states that no black gay man should feel a need to prioritise just one of either their race or their sexuality, and that nor should they remain silent, bottling up their sadness as if agreeing that their two-fold marginalisation makes them the lowest of the low.

Tongues Untied

Closer to Tomlinson’s sentiments still is Tongues Untied’s central message that black gay men should not be reliant upon their non-black counterparts for salvation. Fetishised by the homosexual community, several contributors state that their first open sexual encounters came from white men with less obstacles to contend with. “To trust passion again: what a joy,” one speaker relates, “that it should come from a white boy with grey-green eyes: what a curse.” Bookended by its repeated refrain of “brother-to-brother”, Riggs’ film is structured as – and calls for – a progression from silence to acceptance, not just of oneself, but also the unique community these men form. As a result, an extended sequence of uninhibited group dancing toward the film’s close feels not just like an act of enjoyment, but also one of defiance. A statement that carries us toward what should be the most prevailing of all human freedoms…

the-other-side-poster

The freedom to be part of the world

The most admirable thing about this year’s Document programme was its diversity. On the festival’s final day, I watched Roberto Minervini’s The Other Side, a controversial American docu-fiction hybrid exploring the lives of both drug addicts and Second Amendment defending militia men, as well as Closing Gala film, Plaza de la Soledad, which provides voice to Mexico City’s ageing prostitutes. They were, of course, entirely different, yet what stands out about both is the complete absence of judgement. Despite dealing with topics as difficult as violence, abuse and childhood sexualisation, Plaza de la Soledad is at points joyous to watch, taking its tonal cues not from the directorial outsider, but from the strength and positivity of the women onscreen. In The Other Side, meanwhile, many viewers would likely experience revulsion as they witness a man inject drugs into the breast of a pregnant stripper, and bafflement as they listen to a gun toting conspiracy theorist offer legitimately insightful commentary on American interventionism. What Minervini deftly captures, however, is one universal truth – these people are human beings, just like us.

Tempestad Poster

Whatever our experience, all of us have the right to exist. Perhaps this is partly why Jury Prize Winner, Tempestad, left such an impression. Though not my personal favourite film of the festival, its story of two women caught in Mexico’s invisible war is an essential one. Imprisoned without reason or trial – Miriam Carbajal’s ordeal reminds us of the horrifying fact that many still live in a world where somebody can say the words: ‘we know you didn’t do anything, but somebody has to be punished’. There is no better illustration of humanity’s innate fear of freedom, a word still frequently seen as a synonym for disobedience, or even disorder – a threat to some perceived sense of harmony.

To borrow once more from the words of chairman of the board David Archibald: “Document stands not in that tradition, but absolutely swims against it.” Long may it continue.

Patrick Harley

Document Festival Preview @ Govanhill Baths

On Tuesday 18/10 we hosted a free Document 2016 preview event in the Govanhill Baths. The audience were treated to homemade soup, drinks and a sneak peak at the festival line-up, including a screening of Michael Graversen’s Dreaming of Denmark. Thanks to Michael for allowing us to screen his film (twice), to Stevie and all at the Baths for hosting us and of course everyone that came along to check out the programme. Hopefully see some of you again this weekend!

Picks of the Programme

Film Journalist Patrick Harley on his picks from Document 2016’s programme.

With over 40 events taking place across three-and-bit days, the Document 2016 programme is as densely packed as it is varied. Document, of course, is a festival that reveals facts and, sadly, one fact is that it’s just not possible to see everything. So, if you’ve browsed the brochure, but circled all of it, or scanned the website, but found too many favourites to count, here are my personal festival picks. I can’t promise you a list with zero overlap though; some decisions are so difficult, even I haven’t made them yet!

When We Talk About KGB Fri 12:40 | CCA Theatre

Bringing together seven separate stories, Maxì Dejoie and Virginija Vareikytė’s film deals with unanswered questions, unresolved pain and life-changing decisions. From freedom fighter to KGB officer, exiled writer to former interrogator, this examination of a difficult and complex past is conducted from both sides – something mirrored by the contrast of archive and new footage; the stories told during the Soviet Era are markedly different from the stories told today.

A Brilliant Genocide Fri 13:00 | CCA Cinema

When news of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony’s 20-year reign of terror became a viral sensation in late 2012, the world seemed certain it had uncovered a modern monster, hiding in plain sight. What, then, does that make Yoweri Museveni, the dictator that has overseen the displacement and destruction of Uganda’s Acholi people, yet regularly rubs shoulders with both US presidents and UK royalty? Engrossing and important viewing in its own right, the film will also serve as a keynote for Document’s critical forum discussion, Looking for Truth: Programming Documentary Film Festivals, which will follow directly afterward.

The Hard Stop Fri 20:00 | CCA Cinema

With the need for America’s Black Lives Matter movement currently seeming to be demonstrated on a weekly (if not daily) basis, there is no better time to address Britain’s own problems with discrimination and law enforcement. In 2011, riots tore their way across London – The Hard Stop traces things back to the moment that sparked it all: the murder of Mark Duggan at the hands of the police and the atmosphere that allowed it to happen.

Tempestad Fri 20:30 | CCA Theatre

Though opening and closing galas Kings of Nowhere and Plaza de la Soledad might bookend festival, it would be remiss of me not to draw equal attention to their Desaparecidos strand stablemate. Reflecting on the nightmarish inescapability of a system that allows those in power to act with impunity, Tempestad gives voice to the haunting and human journey of two women struggling against the tides of corruption.

The Abominable Crime Sat 12:00 | CCA Theatre Kiki Sat 17:45 | CCA Theatre

One telling of Jamaica’s fierce anti-gay laws and the other of New York’s fiercest teen subculture, in some ways The Abominable Crime and Kiki may seem at opposite ends of the spectrum, yet both revolve around concerns of prejudice, identity and equality for LGBTQ people-of-colour. With black queer voices still vastly underrepresented, this year’s Document finds multiple opportunities to place them at the forefront. Indeed, I could have filled most of this list with the festival’s Marlon Riggs: Freaky Free retrospective, but some things go without saying: see everything you can.

Activist Maurice Tomlinson will also be attending the festival In Conversation following Saturday’s screening of The Abominable Crime.

Behemoth  Sat 20:00 | CCA Cinema

Literal fire and brimstone fuel this meditation on the destructive effects of the Chinese mining industry. Viewing both society and the environment as under threat, director Zhao Liang’s visual poem draws directly on Dante’s The Divine Comedy, seeing both the flames of hell and the never-ending toil of purgatory in his country’s grimly insistent march toward industrialisation.

Dreaming of Denmark Sun 16:15 | CCA Cinema

Two years ago, Document hosted a screening of Nowhere Home. A festival highlight, it shone heart-breaking light on the situation facing Norway’s underage asylum seekers, often kept in a state of perpetual waiting until they reach 18, before being sent home to a near certain death. Despite unfolding in a different part of Scandinavia, Dreaming of Denmark seems a natural companion piece: the story of what happens to those 18-year-olds that would rather disappear than die.

The Other Side Sun 18:10 | CCA Cinema

Something of an anomaly in the programme, the latest from Italian filmmaker Roberto Minervini has been openly described by its creator as treading “the fine line between documentary and fiction”. A mix of observation and re-creation, Minervini employs a level of cinematic technique he deems necessary to tell a story that is testament to the lives of his subjects – drug addicts and militia members who inhabit the fringes of society. Surely an intriguing and provocative way to round-off a weekend where the conveyance of truths promises to be just as captivating as the truths themselves.

Patrick Harley


Patrick Harley is a freelance film journalist who has written for TVBomb, VirginMedia and the Directory of World Cinema: Scotland.