Magazine article Filmmaker

Cph:dox

Magazine article Filmmaker

Cph:dox

Article excerpt

I've long been championing events and VR as the twin keys to a sustainable documentary film fest future. In a perfect festival world, each individual fest would position itself as its own one-of-a-kind event - or more accurately, a series of unique events adding up to a one-of-a-kind experience. For example, both DOC NYC and CPH:DOX (whose dates frustratingly overlapped this year) screened A Good American, Friedrich Moser's portrait of NSA whistleblower Bill Binney and his scuttledby-bosses ThinThread system (that could have prevented the 9/11 attacks). Both tests also smartly featured cyber-hero Binney and the film's Austrian director in attendance for the Q&A. But only CPH:DOX invited Binney - along with Moser, security journalist Quinn Norton and fellow whistleblower Kirk Wiebe - to participate in a "Cryptoparty: Digital Self-Defense" educational seminar (as part of its technology-focused RealityGheck "democracy lab"). While I certainly don't mean to single out DOC NYC - as it's merely representative of the majority of U.S. (i.e., not government funded) festivals - in the 21st century it's often not enough to simply screen films with a Q&A and expect to pack the house. (And that goes doubly for docs better suited to Netflix, PBS or CNN than to the big screen.) For better or worse, you've got to put on an outside-the-box show to stand out from the way-too-crowded crowd.

While CPH:DOX bills itself as the "third biggest documentary film festival in the world," its proximity to the biggest documentary film festival in the world, both in terms of location (Amsterdam is a mere 90-minute plane ride from Copenhagen) and dates (this year's edition of CPH:DOX wrapped three days before IDFA 2015 opened), frustratingly makes it feel a bit like a prelude to Holland's longstanding mega-event. Fortunately, Copenhagen's feisty Millennial (less than half IDFA's age) still has the flexibility to swiftly change course and adapt - hence the savvy date change to March that was announced post-fest. Which makes it an exciting player to watch - and perhaps the player to watch when it comes to the hybrid documentary revolution that's occurring even as I type.

And watch I did. Sixteen films were nominated for this year's DOX; Award, CPH:DOX's main international competition, and because I agreed to be part of the Danish film magazine Ekko's "star barometer" I was tasked with viewing - and rating, on a one-to-four, bad-to-great, scale - every last one. And though Robert Machoian and Rodrigo OjedaBeck's SXSW sweetheart God Bless the Child ultimately (and inexplicably, to my mind) took the top prize, there were four other films from around the world equally deserving of those accolades.

Two of these were years-in-the-making, character-driven studies by female directors whose patience behind the lens paid off in brilliant and unexpected ways. While wholly different in subject matter, Mallory, by Czech director Helena Trestíková, and Brothers, by Norway's Aslaug Holm, shot over seven and eight years respectively, are both composed of a series of quiet revelations that ultimately add up to pure transcendence. Initially skeptical of Brothers, with its "documentary answer to Boyhood" tagline, I found myself immediately sucked in from the very first frame. …

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