Film - Open City Documentary Festival


Open City Documentary Festival has announced the programme for its eighth annual festival...

Celebrating creative documentary and non-fiction filmmakers, this year promises 30 features and 48 shorts, 2 world premieres, 3 European premieres and 26 UK premieres across shorts and features from more than 30 countries. The festival will take place from the 4th - 9th September with films, audio and immersive (VR/AR) projects, across screenings, special events, parties, panels, workshops and masterclasses in a host of great venues across central London.

Marking the festival’s Opening Night will be the UK Premiere of the Brazilian documentary Baronesa, directed by Juliana Antunes and in partnership with MUBI. Her debut feature follows friends Andreia and Leid as they navigate the perilous reality of daily life in the favelas of Belo Horizonte. At first glance, their days seem calm and untroubled, but the threat of violence is never far away and Andreia dreams of moving to the safer neighbourhood of nearby Baronesa. Antunes spent five years in Belo Horizonte, working with a non-professional cast, to create a work of rare intimacy and authenticity which—despite its simple structure—emerges as a complex, multilayered and moving portrait of contemporary life in the favelas.

The Closing Night will be the UK Premiere of Lebanese documentary The Swing directed by Cyril Aris. An assured, emotionally rich film about the lies a family tells to keep their patriarch happy and the unattended costs of their falsehood. After sixty years of marriage, Antoine and Vivi have lost their most beloved daughter; but no one has dared to tell the bedridden nonagenarian Antoine, lest his heart crack. A simple solution, though everyone else in this densely interconnected family has then to live the same lie, giving no expression to their grief. A deeply affecting, beautifully shot cinematic novella; like all the best stories The Swing is a simple tale, but one that never short-changes its viewers.


This year the festival hosts an outstanding Jury panel for each of its competitive Awards. For the Open City Award the following documentaries have been nominated: 

Baronesa, dir. Juliana Antunes (Brazil); 
Casanova Gene, dir. Luise Donschen (Germany); 
Flight of a Bullet, dir. Beata Bubenec (Russia); and 
The Swing, dir. Cyril Aris (Lebanon). 

The Jury will be chaired by esteemed director Sophie Fiennes and features Beatrice Gibson, Nelly Ben Hayoun, May Adadol Ingawanij and Mehelli Modi.

For the Emerging International Filmmaker Award the following documentaries have been nominated:

Angkar, dir. Neary Adeline Hay (France); 
Those Who Come, Will Hear, dir. Simon Plouffe (Canada); 
Home of the Resistance, dir. Ivan Ramljak (Croatia) and 
The Best Thing You Can Do With Your Life, dir. Zita Erffa (Germany, Mexico). 

The award will be Chaired by independent Dutch documentary programme cultural advisor and filmmaker Tessa Boerman, Luciano Barisone, Cecile Emeke, Chiara Marañónand Tadhg O’Sullivan.

The Best UK Short Award supported by the British Council has nominated 

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). 

The Award is Chaired by Stephanie Spray, non-fiction filmmaker (Manakamana) and professor of Critical Media Practices at the University of Colorado Boulder along with jurors Laure Bonville, Amar Ediriwira, Julia Nottingham and Lynn Nwokorie.

The festival will hold selected retrospectives of two unique voices in non-fiction filmmaking: The innovative found footage documentarian Penny Lane and Japanese pioneer of ‘action documentary', Kazuo Hara. Both filmmakers will be at the festival to present their work.

The festivals’ expansive special events programme includes a focus on the short form with programmes celebrating the Ethno-Fictions of Columbian filmmaker Laura Huertas Milan and the groundbreaking hybrid experiments of Polish maverick, Bogdan Dziworksi. The festival will also host launches of new projects from Radio Atlas and NANG Magazine, and a live Audio Visual performative lecture from speculative architecture think thank Tomorrow's Thoughts Today.

For the first time the festival has invited artists to present films that have informed their own practice, with special selections from DJ and producer Nabihah Iqbal and filmmaker Marc Isaacs as well as short films chosen by a number of the filmmakers with new work at the festival, screening before their own features.

This year’s Industry Programme has more breadth of programmes and sessions than ever before covering everything from the business of documentary filmmaking, funding, marketing, distribution, production and data. Industry sessions will cover themes such as VR/AR, the challenges of biopic documentaries, the short form, ethics, memory, cinematography, sound, editing, architecture, the future of journalism and the self. The festival is honoured to welcome esteemed filmmakers to share their expert knowledge and experience, including: Tadhg O’Sullivan, Steven Eastwood, Elhum Shakerifar, Rebecca Day, Emma Davie, Edward Lawrenson, Simon Ball, Chloe White, Rose Palmer, Sierra Pettengill and David Charap.

For the full programme and tickets visit the Festival website: http://opencitylondon.com/
Images - Four boys overlook the destruction in Northern Ireland in Donal Foreman’s The Image You Missed (2018).

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