For the eighth time, Open City Documentary Festival will highlight creative non-fiction filmmaking with its impressive programme consisting of 30 features and 48 shorts.

The line-up features two world premieres and three European premieres, as well as 26 UK premieres of documentaries hosted in central London venues, including Regent Street Cinema, Picturehouse Central, Prince Charles Cinema and Curzon Soho.

Taking place from the 4th to the 9th of September, the festival will engage cinemagoers through film, audio, as well as augmented reality and virtual reality projects. A variety of special events, panels and workshops will also open for those who would like to learn more about the art of the documentary.

Andreia and Leidiane lie in bed in a home in Belo Horizonte, Brazil in Juliana Antunes’s Baronesa (2018), the festival’s Opening Night film.

The festival’s Opening Night will be celebrated with a UK premiere of Juliana Antunes’s Baronesa. The documentary focuses on friends Andreia and Leid, who live in the slums of Brazilian’s sixth biggest city, Belo Horizonte and dream of moving to the safer neighbourhood nearby – titular Baronesa. The director spent five years in the city, observing the lives of the local people to get closer to them and understand their daily lives, capturing their calm life in the shadows of neighbourhoods’ violence.

90-year-old Antoine sits on the balcony of his Lebanon home in Cyril Aris’s The Swing (2018), the festival’s Closing Night film.

The Closing Night will be marked with another UK premiere – The Swing directed by a Lebanese filmmaker Cyril Aris. Casting the lens of his camera on a family that maintains the web of lies to shelter the bedridden father from a painful loss: although Vivi and Antoine have lost their daughter, no one dared to tell him about it. The family lives the lie, unable to process their grief properly, to keep him happy; the documentary focuses on the emotional costs of maintaining the secrecy.

The films in competition include both of the documentaries mentioned above, as well as Casanova Gene directed by a German filmmaker Luise Donschen (an inquiry into seduction and desire that first premiered at Berlinale 2018) as well as Flight of a Bullet by Beata Bubenec from Russia, a single-take doc about the Ukraine war. In Emerging International Filmmaker category, nominations include Neary Adeline Hay’s Angkar – her personal journey back in time and tribute to the victims of Khmer Rouge in Cambodia; Those Who Come, Will Hear by Simon Plouffe that unites speakers of several indigenous languages in Quebec in a feature film; Home of the Resistance directed by Ivan Ramliak about a controversial Yugoslavian memorial; and The Best Thing You Can Do With Your Life directed by Zita Erffa, another Berlinale 2018 premiere that dissects the filmmaker’s personal journey to understanding her brother’s choice to join an ultraconservative Christian order.

The selection of the films that will compete for the Best UK Short Award supported by the British Council consists of The Mess, dir. Dorothy Allen-Pickard (UK); Some of These Days, dir. Vincent Förster (UK, Germany); Absent Wound, dir. Maryam Tafakory (UK, Iran); Missed Call, dir. Victoria Mapplebeck (UK); Season of Goodbyes, dir. Philippa Ndisi-Herrmann (UK, Kenya); Plastic Man, dir. Yulia Kovanova (UK); Then a Hero Comes Along, dir. Marlon Rouse Tavares (UK); Landline, dir. Matet Houghton (UK). 

This year, Penny Lane (a found footage documentarian) and Kazuo Hara (a Japanese pioneer of action documentary) will be honoured with retrospectives. The special events will include screenings curated by filmmakers themselves, for example a selection from DJ and producer Nabibah Iqbal and filmmaker Marc Isaacs.

A dedicated industry programme will cover both the business of documentary filmmaking at every stage as well as different forms and techniques through masterclasses and workshops hosted by established filmmakers. The creators that will share their knowledge include Tadhg O’Sullivan, Steven Eastwood, Elhum Shakerifar, Rebecca Day, Emma Davie, Edward Lawrenson, Simon Ball, Chloe White, Rose Palmer, Sierra Pettengill and David Charap. Students can get a £5 entry to the Industry Bootcamp, or get a student accreditation to gain free entry to each event. For those who are looking to network or connect with other documentary fans, the festival hosts parties across Central London venues.

The full line-up of screenings and events, as well as the booking information, are available on the festival’s website.

Kasia Kwasniewska

Editor in Chief

Loves reading, watching films, eyeing (and producing) good design, listening to music and stuffing her face with chocolate whenever the opportunity arises. Cooks from time to time, and drinks far too much coffee to be a normal human being. Liked my work? Buy me a coffee!

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