Leicester’s First Documentary Film Festival – By James Black

Leicester’s first ever documentary film Festival took place at Phoenix Square on Saturday 22nd January. The 12 hour event was organised by the Citizens’ Eye Community News Agency in partnership with the Reportage Club. The DocFilm Festival featured over 36 hours of footage with films running simultaneously in Screens 1 & 2, the ETC suite and The Cube. Viewers where spoilt for choice with the diverse selection of documentaries on offer from big-budget releases such as The 11th Hour and The Corporation to the short-films that featured in the Local DocFilm Showcase.

The Pixar Story kicked off the DocFilm Festival detailing the enormous success of the company which brought a new style of animation to the big screen with CGI hits such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. Meanwhile in Screen 2 Joel Baken’s 2003 film The Corporation aired. A critical study of the unscrupulous actions of big business the film drew comparisons between the ruthless behaviour of the corporation and that of a psychopath. Reminiscent of Michael Moore’s work, (and featuring a lengthy interview with Moore himself,) The Corporation uncovered the unethical practices of the commercial sector including the use of sweatshops, the damage caused to the biosphere by the dumping of industrial waste and the insatiable harvesting of raw materials; and bias within the news media which favours the interests of advertisers over investigative journalism.

Anders Østergaard’s fascinating and multi-awarding winning Burma VJ uncovers the country’s harsh military regime using reconstructions and secretly filmed video footage that was smuggled out of the country. Documenting the popular uprising of September 2007 the film contains violent scenes of the army brutally beating the revered Buddhists Monks and the shooting of a Japanese photographer who was filming the violence. Although undeniably bleak at times the film is also extremely moving: the unity of the citizens of Burma facing down the might of the all-powerful military regime and the extraordinary determination of the journalists who lay their lives on the line so that the world will discover the shocking truth about the totalitarian state is extremely uplifting.

The Local DocFilm Showcase

Filmmaker Nick Hamer’s short Leicester Market began the Local DocFilm Showcase. Just 2 minutes in length the film captures scenes of traders setting up their stalls and customers purchasing items along with the small idiosyncratic details of a day in the life of the 800 year old market.

Gareth Morgan of ZenithFilms & Paul Trunkfield of Treasure Box Media film tells the story of former model and current proprietor of her own agency Pat Keeling. Featuring an interview with Ms Keeling and archive material the film informs us of the early days of her modelling career to winning the BBC Golden Girl competition and starting her own agency in Leicester back in 1977.

Stewart Charles’ Making of DKB is a hilarious behind the scenes look at the process of making a low-budget music video. The director encourages the band to ‘rock out!’ as hard as possible resulting in neck strain, tuneless bass playing and ridiculous demonic gurning. Funnier still are the side-splitting (and ear-splitting) heavy metal vocals which cause the director, and viewers for that matter, to roar with laughter. After the gruelling process has ended we are informed that it was all for nought as the film idea was scrapped and the final video was made using 6000 individual photographs… Brilliant!

Bipin Anand’s film covers the subject of the Special Olympics Young Athletes Programme which introduces disabled children to the world of sport and exercise. The film uses footage from the Special Olympics, which took place in Leicester in 2009, to explain how the Young Athletes Programme is making a positive change in the lives of many disabled youngsters. Not only is the programme a possible entry point for young people to go on to compete at the Special Olympics it also enriches their lives by helping them develop motor-skills, hand eye co-ordination and build confidence.

Steve Friendship’s interesting and informative Islam contains interviews with two young Muslims living in Leicester. Each interviewee explains the basic principles behind their religion, such as the Five Pillars of Islam, and why their religion is so important to them.

Shut your Mouth explores the subject of bullying and discrimination against disabled people. Made by the participants of The Big Mouth Forum, a platform which allows young people with disabilities or special educational needs to voice their opinions on a range of subjects that affect their lives, the film contains some very powerful and emotional scenes none more so than when group members tell of how they have been physically and verbally abused because of their disabilities. Shut Your Mouth is the work of local filmmaker Keith Allott who explained that “the main purpose of the film is to raise awareness of the difficulties disabled people, particularly young people, are faced with when they are singled-out and ridiculed.”

Just Do It by Victor Gonzales looks at the achievements of a Japanese photographer now living in Peckham. Yoshi Imamura, whose amazing talent has meant that he has designed some of the industries’ technological innovations including the Minolta Predicted Automatic Focus System which he gave to the company free of charge. Whilst Minolta went on to make £1000000 from the system Yoshi, uninterested in large sums of money, was satisfied with the free camera he received from the company along with a note of thanks. Displaying the cameras he has made from discarded parts found in a skip the brilliance of this modest and talented artist shines through. Yoshi Imamura explains his artistic philosophy and approach to photography “To make a photograph different from the original is a skill. You are born an artist you just concentrate it’s very simple, you just do it!”

That was just a small selection of the films that were screened over the 12 hours of the documentary film festival others included a trilogy of films which concerned themselves with global warming and the environment A Crude Awakening, The 11thHour and An inconvenient Truth. James March’s Man on Wire proved to be the most popular film of the day. The film tells the story of Philippe Petit’s 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Centre. An ambitious undertaking by Citizens598 saw the theatre, film and media company produce a film in just 24 hour in which members of the public were interviewed and asked what they knew about Leicester’s Comedy Festival and if they could tell their favourite joke. Social issues such as the importance of fathersin a child’s life were addressed in Dad’s Matter whilst a film by Pedestrian Arts explored the subject of young mother’s in Teenage Pregnancy.

For a full list of the films shown at Leicester’s first DocFilm Festival please visit: http://reportageclub.blogspot.com/2011/01/docfilm-festival-schedule.html

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One Response to Leicester’s First Documentary Film Festival – By James Black

  1. Pingback: Leicester’s First Documentary Film Festival « James Black online

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