Monday, 18 June 2012

Sheffield Doc/Fest 2012: Final Day

The first film of the day was Aluna, an eye-opening documentary that was interestingly instigated by its subjects and not the filmmaker. The Kogi tribe in the Sierra Nevada mountains were so alarmed by the rate of ecological destruction in the region that they contacted filmmaker Alan Eira to join them on their journey through their sacred places on the coastline. Together they contact experts and academics to share their knowledge of their environment and spread the word that action must be taken now. It’s fascinating watching the Kogi Mamas (as the leaders are called) compare their beliefs with a variety of experts who agree that, while they may phrase it differently, they are on the same page regarding the connected nature of the ecosystem and the core habitats of regional species. Eira was on hand with two of the Kogi featured in the film to stress the urgency of the situation. It’s a compelling and eye-opening film.


Director Alan Eira

Today saw a world first as the entirety of Mark Cousin’s series The Story of Film: An Odyssey was shown in a marathon screening. We haven’t yet managed to watch this, and so were excited to be able to catch a glimpse. Cousins is a lively and impassioned filmmaker and commentator, and the bit we saw, dealing with film noir, made us eager to see the rest – yet another for the DVD wish list! Cousins was there in person to answer questions in the interval, and used his incredibly long edit sheet to show the audience how far along they were. He was promising pints for people who stayed the course, but sadly we were needed elsewhere!

Mark Cousins and his edit sheet

A definite contrast to the stark ecological message of Aluna was the next film, The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus. It tells the well-known tale of the cephalopod who correctly predicted 8 out of 8 football World Cup results. It’s a highly entertaining, very funny documentary that shows just how far Paul’s influence and popularity spread in such a short space of time. Whether it was blind luck (as advocated by an admirably game mathematician) or genuine premonition (as affirmed by two animal psychics and a selection of international fans), it’s a hilariously watchable piece of work. Groundhog Day fans will also be happy to know that Punxsutawney Phil himself makes an appearance.

Cinematographer Robert Muratore and director Alexandre Philippe

To finish up we decided to go for a film on a subject we really knew nothing about, following our great experience last year in finishing with the A Tribe Called Quest doc. This year we went for Bones Brigade, Stacy Peralta’s autobiographical film recounting how he gathered together a rag-tag band of skateboarding youths and helped coach them to become a world famous team who redefined skateboarding culture. The audience was composed of a few remaining festival delegates and a lot of ageing boarders, and the film was enjoyed by all. Its strength is in its characters, with each interviewee a distinctive and interesting presence. What most impresses in the interviews is the candour – they are not afraid to talk about the bad with the good, and their self-criticism keeps them grounded despite their enormous successes (Tony Hawk is one of the people interviewed). Favourites for us were soft-spoken poetic soul and freestyle skating prodigy Rodney Mullen, and his polar opposite, the loud, silly and unrefined (but immensely likeable) Lance Mountain. The film made excellent use of archive footage, and made us want to hunt down all their old videos to appreciate their raw brilliance (as well as their film The Search for Animal Chin, because it looks hilariously awful – Peralta’s cringing when it is discussed it almost palpable).

It’s been a hectic, often flu-ridden, few days here at Doc/Fest but there has been a fantastic range of documentaries of the highest calibre. Our hearts have been warmed and broken! It’s also worth mentioning the obvious passion and commitment of everyone involved, from the organisers to the volunteers. We can’t wait for next year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest!

Full reviews of selected films will be appearing on the site over the coming days so keep an eye out for write-ups of the big hits and our personal favourites.


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