Open City Documentary Festival 2018
This year’s Open City Documentary Festival brings together a selection of films that strive to get to the very core of issues that we face in the 21st century. From migration to class to family, there’s an ongoing theme in this year’s festival about working towards the betterment of our communities and environment for generations to come.
Leading the pack this year is the visually inventive and philosophically enticing Becoming Animal. Based on a book by, and starring, philosopher and cultural ecologist David Abram, directors Emma Davie and Peter Mettler choose to subvert the genre of the nature documentary through its attention to humanity's relationship with the natural world and focus on cinema as a sensory experience.
A film that is also relevant to contemporary societal shifts is Håvard Bustnes’ Golden Dawn Girls. This fascinating exposé into Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party takes place during a period that saw its leaders momentarily imprisoned. Awash with controversies, and yet gaining quick popularity, Golden Dawn is taken over by the mothers, wives and daughters of these leaders - creating a temporarily matriarchal political party fighting for Greek nationalism. Bustnes attempts to reach these woman, and understand their attachment to a party with such untenable positions.
This year's festival also takes a look at various families across the globe who often face struggles that are forced upon them. This is Home gives the audience the opportunity to observe four Syrian refugee families while they settle into the West. We see the difficulties that come with attempting to assimilate to their newfound home, and the resilience they have in facing the challenge of adapting to a sudden and shocking cultural shift.
Voices of the Sea is a film that similarly follows a family as they consider what migration might mean, albeit voluntary. The topic up for debate is whether they should leave their rural fishing village in Cuba to seek better fortunes and quality of life in America. While mother of four Mariela wants to follow her brother’s family and pursue the tempting success and freedom that leaving Cuba can bring, her husband Pita would much rather face their challenges at home, favouring to remain with a community he loves and profession he is familiar with.
In a similar vein of familial dispute, América is a film that explores three brothers as they overcome their differences and estrangement from one another in order to care for their infirm grandmother. With her health quickly deteriorating, this film takes a heartwarming look at the pressures and strains of caregiving, and the need to resolve differences in order to put family first.
When it comes to observing issues at home, H is for Harry is a film that takes on the exploration of the UK’s ever present class system, through the journey of an 11-year-old school boy. Harry faces the challenge of beginning secondary school with the inability to read or write, something which the film takes a heart wrenching look at, within the looming backdrop of the UK’s disenfranchised communities, and ultimately the impact that the dividing class system has had in forcing them into the periphery of society.
Open City Doc Fest screens at Curzon Soho from Wednesday 5 September until Sunday 9 September.