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