Document Human Rights Film Festival is back! Returning to the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) in Glasgow for it’s 17th annual edition from Thursday 24 to Sunday 27 October, this year’s Festival brings discussions, workshops and parties on top of an eclectic programme of feature length and short documentary films from around the globe to Glasgow, including 6 Scottish, 2 UK and 2 European premieres.
Document opens with an exclusive Scottish performance of poet, filmmaker and 2017 Ted Hughes award winner Jay Bernard’s Surge, which blends poetry and archive film to trace a line from a New Cross fire in 1981 which claimed 13 black lives, through Thatcherism and the National Front to Grenfell and Theresa May. The Festival presents films exploring collective action and community, the rights and struggles of indigenous people, the state of Europe as seen from the margins, and responses to our environmental crisis, before finishing on Sunday 27 October with the European premiere of Nguyen Trinh Thi’s Fifth Cinema. This profound film essay leads viewers through narratives of colonialism and indigeneity, asking where the limitations of cinematic representation lie.
Other major events include a screening of dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s latest film The Rest; music documentary Lisbon Beat followed by a club night at Stereo celebrating the city’s thriving Afro-Portugese music scene, with sets from the film’s director, DJ Rita Maia, and Príncipe Disco artist DJ Firmeza; two screening and discussion events looking at the work of artist and filmmaker Ana Vaz, including her debut feature film The Voyage Out; the first UK screening of a digitally restored classic of Latin American political documentary cinema, Marta Rodriguez and Jorge Silva’s Our Voice of Earth, Memory and Future; and the European premiere of powerful Chilean film Haydee and the Flying Fish, followed by a discussion on the depiction of trauma in film.
While Britain remains consumed by its political relationship with Europe, Document takes a closer look at what life is like on the continent for those living on its fringes. Ai Weiwei’s The Rest tells the stories of refugees arriving on European shores only to discover that the liberal ideals they came for are receding, leaving them in a humanitarian limbo as press and political attention rolls on. The rights and lives of migrant sex workers are explored in Lovemobil by Elke Margarete Lehrenkrauss. Who is Europe? by filmmaker Ian McDonald presents the continent in split-screen, revealing cultural contrasts and posing questions around who ‘belongs’ and how the past affects the present, and will be followed by a conversation with McDonald on the topics explored. Document collaborates with The Unity Centre and political arts organisation Arika to present Lisbon Beat, a dazzling portrait of the city and its thriving Afro-Portugese music scene made by Vasco Viana and Lisbon-born, London-based DJ Rita Maia, who also performs live at a special club night in Stereo alongside DJ Firmeza.
With 2019 designated the international Year of Indigenous Languages, Document upends the myth that indigenous people are resistant to modernity or victims of change through films showing their centrality to cinematic history while exploring environmental justice and ideas of spiritual repair. The series takes its name from Colombian filmmaker Marta Rodriguez’s 1981 documentary, Our Voice of Earth, Memory and Future, a film exposing the historic repression of indigenous Colombian farmers and their long fight against it. The newly digitally restored feature is shown for the first time in the UK at Document 2019. The strand also features Scottish premieres of Susana de Sousa Dias’ Fordlandia Malaise – a vision of Henry Ford’s failed neocolonialist endeavour to build a factory town in the Amazon which remains in ruins in the threatened rainforest today – and Camila Freitas’s Chão, which depicts landless workers in Brazil fighting for land reform, a battle made all the more important as President Jair Bolsonaro declares the landless ‘enemies of the nation’.
The importance of communities and collective action is further explored in a strand which features Lucy Parker’s collaboratively made exploration of blacklisting in the UK construction industry, Solidarity, followed by a discussion with the filmmaker about how communities can work together to fight employment injustice. Long-time collaborators Glasgow Short Film Festival return with a programme of short films showing performative expressions of communities’ stories, including American artist and filmmaker Kevin Jerome Everson’s Black Bus Stop. Shengze Zhu’s Present.Perfect. explores less understood means of modern human connection through the live-streamed footage of Chinese vloggers, while Kavich Neang’s feature debut Last Night I Saw You Smiling is a quiet observation of an historic artistic community in Phnom Penh’s iconic White Building preparing to depart forever in the face of eviction – both films have their Scottish premieres at Document 2019.
The need to discuss and represent the overwhelming threat of climate disaster is felt in a series of films concerned as much with renewal and reconnection as with collapse. Mothers of the Land by Alvaro and Diego Sarmiento follows a group of female farmers battling climate breakdown in the Peruvian Andes, and is accompanied by a Mass Seed Deposit with Glasgow Seed Library. The straining connection between the human and the non-human world is delicately revealed in Honeyland from Tamara Kotevska and Ljubo Stefanov, which follows the last in a long line of Macedonian wild beekeepers. Carlos Casas’ cine-poem Cemetery blurs the boundaries of experimental cinema and nature documentary in its portrait of an elephant on the final journey of its life.
The annual Critical Forum session returns, this year focused on collaborative research, creative practice, and where the two overlap when making or curating human rights films, with an exclusive look at the Freedom to Run project. Kate Parker of City Projects leads Lux Scotland’s Superlux Seminar, which explores the ways artists and filmmakers car critically respond to their social or political environment.
Tickets for all films and events are available now online at documentfilmfestival.org and cca-glasgow.com, as well as by phoning CCA on 0141 352 4900 or visiting the CCA Box Office at 350 Sauchiehall Street, G2 3JD. All tickets are either free or priced on a Pay What You Can basis from £0 to £8 (in £2 increments). Tickets for the Lisbon Beat After Party at Stereo are £8 (£5 concessions). CCA Glasgow is a fully accessible venue with full details available at cca-glasgow.com.
Partners in this year’s Festival include Lux Scotland; Glasgow Short Film Festival; Scottish Documentary Institute; GRAMNet; Oxfam; Femspectives; Arika; The Unity Centre; The Confucius Institute at the University of Glasgow; Goethe-Institut Glasgow; IberoDocs; Aperture: Asia and Pacific Film Festival; ; Glasgow Seed Library; Research Collaborative Award, College of Arts, University of Glasgow.
Document is produced by Alexandra Colta, Sanne Jehoul, Sam Kenyon and Richard Warden. The Festival is supported by Creative Scotland and Screen Scotland through the Film Festivals Fund, Film Hub Scotland, part of the BFI’s Film Audience Network, and CCA Glasgow.