The 2014 Documentary Edge Festival hits Auckland May 21 – June 2 and Wellington June 4 – June 15. If you’re in either city during those times, this should excite you greatly.
Editor Steve Newall and assistant editor Liam Maguren look as excited about DocEdge as this guy pictured above – so they thought they’d share the 12 documentaries on the line-up they’re keen to see. (To see the full line-up, click here.)
A Brony Tale
In a nutshell: An examination of ‘Brony’ culture – a group of grown men who love My Little Pony, a television show aimed at little girls.
Why Liam’s keen to see it: As a grown man who loves kids’ cartoon shows, I feel I can relate to these guys. Sure, I don’t watch My Little Pony, dress up as a My Little Pony or attend My Little Pony conventions, but as a dude who has exuberantly expressed a “screw what everybody else thinks” attitude towards the geeky things I love, I have some admiration towards Bronies. However, I’m still not going watch My Little Pony, dress up as a My Little Pony or attend My Little Pony conventions.
As the Palaces Burn
In a nutshell: Music docos come and go, some appealing to a pre-existing fan base, others trying to uncover the next hardly known phenomena a la Searching for Sugar Man. As the Palaces Burn may have started off a bit like the former, following metal act Lamb of God on tour, but turns into one of those right-place-at-the-right-time films when frontman Randy Blythe finds himself charged with manslaughter in the Czech Republic after the death of a fan.
Why Steve’s keen to see it: There’s a precedent for metal and courtroom drama to intertwine, most notoriously in the case of Judas Priest’s trial over subliminal messages. When an outwardly aggressive, often misunderstood culture runs into trouble with the law, the results can be grimly fascinating.
Doc of the Dead
In a nutshell: No, not a film about a zombie doctor a la Doogie Howser (though we’d gladly see that too). Instead, Alexandre O. Philippe goes inside zombie culture to see what makes it tick. Longtime horror fan Philippe sets out to do for zombies what he did with his Star Wars obsession in The People vs. George Lucas, documenting the phenomena with the help of celebrities, filmmakers, and everyday fans in a manner that works for both zombie know-it-alls and those that don’t know their Fulci from their Fido.
Why Steve’s keen to see it: With zombie culture so widespread, to the point of oversaturation, I’m up to see if Philippe can rise to the challenge of making this film not only comprehensive but entertaining, as well as trying to establish why popular culture is so obsessed with the undead.
Farewell to Hollywood
In a nutshell: The true story of a controversial love affair between two artists: terminally ill 17-year-old Regina Diane Nicholson and 55-year-old filmmaker Henry Corra.
Why Liam’s keen to see it: Love is a peculiar thing, made up of passion, lust, impulse, intellect, understanding and determination. Amongst this complicated concoction are socially-instigated taboos and those willing to fight for exceptions, and when those people aren’t baby-snatching paedophiles (and others deplorables of that ilk), that’s when I get interested. I love having my morals challenged, and Eric Kohn from IndieWire ignited my interest best with this quote: “Moving or offensive? [Farewell to Hollywood is] the most paradoxical moviegoing experience this year.”
The Ghosts in Our Machine
In a nutshell: An examination into the moral quandary of whether or not animals are property to be owned and used, focusing on the creatures rescued from the machines of our modern society.
Why Liam’s keen to see it: “Where did this meat come from?” was not a question teenager Liam asked before wolfing down his bacon-wrapped steak every Saturday for breakfast. Whatever age has done to me, it’s a question that no longer escapes my mind, and The Ghost in Our Machine looks to tackle such absorbing topics for me to mentally chew on.
God Loves Uganda
In a nutshell: A look at how a heavy Western religious influence has converted Africa’s poorest country to one populated by fundamentalist Christians – spawning a violent attitude towards gay men and women.
Why Liam’s keen to see it: I can enjoy a decent horror with ghost, demons, werewolves and the like, but if I want to feel truly horrified by film, I turn to documentaries like Jesus Camp and The Act of Killing. God Loves Uganda looks to explore the terrifying ideals that have arisen due to the Western evangelical movement – the tragic irony being how such seemingly evil acts are grown from the best of intentions. It’s gonna be a rough ride.
In a nutshell: The life story of former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark is laid out here, tracing Clark from her humble beginnings on a Waikato farm through her student politics days, on to the top office in the Beehive and then beyond. Through archive footage and interviews, Clark’s story comes to life thanks to the woman herself and her family, friends, colleagues, critics and opponents.
Why Steve’s keen to see it: For years she was our Prime Minister, and we’ve all got an opinion about that. Perhaps this doco won’t change that radically, but I welcome the insight into the person behind the political persona that Helen will provide.
In a nutshell: One of the classic sporting docos, running nearly three hours in length as it traces two Chicago high school students dreaming of becoming professional basketball players. Filmed over the course of five years, Hoop Dreams is an unforgettable insight into the lives of underprivileged African-Americans in ’90s America, and the pressures young men contend with if they are to become disciplined, successful athletes.
Why Steve’s keen to see it: I’ve seen Hoop Dreams, and it’s great. If you’ve got an interest in human drama, sports, and therefore a soft spot for things like Friday Night Lights or Undefeated, this is essential viewing.
In Auckland: Sat 31 May
In Wellington: Thu 12 June
In a nutshell: A biography on biologists Bill Andrews and Aubrey de Grey who combine their genius to search for a cure to death (i.e. immortality).
Why Liam’s keen to see it: I want to live forever.
In God We Trust
In a nutshell: When Bernie Madoff was exposed as one of the biggest financial crooks in America, he took a lot of people’s savings down with him. While the coverage of his Ponzi scheme disaster has rightly focused strongly on his victims, In God We Trust explores a different story – that of his personal secretary Eleanor Squillari who worked with Madoff every day, blissfully unaware of what he was up to. In the wake of her life being tipped upside down, Squillari works with the FBI as she tries to unpick exactly what Madoff and his crooked contemporaries really got up to.
Why Steve’s keen to see it: The idea that your boss could be up to something really, really dodgy is pretty damn fascinating. Plus I’m just tiny bit sceptical that Squillari didn’t suspect something fishy was going on…
In a nutshell: Based on the memoirs of late, great, film critic Roger Ebert and partially completed before his death, Life Itself tells Ebert’s fascinating life story. A household name in partnership with fellow critic Gene Siskel, a screenwriter, a social commentator, and a very public face of cancer, Ebert’s views on film and American society actually helped shape it, such was his influence on the filmwatching habits of his countrymen, as well as audiences worldwide.
Why Steve’s keen to see it: He was a legend. A smart, funny, legend. If you like film – and I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t if you’re reading this – there’s really no excuse not to see this.
Short and Sweet
In a nutshell: A half-hour documentary on a struggling America poet, American Dreamer, is accompanied by three 10-minute docos from New Zealand: Close to Home details an elderly woman who has lived on the same street for 50 years; A Friend in Sight examines blind and independent Wellingtonian Julia Mosen; One Surfer tells the story of two disabled teens attempting to surf at Piha Beach.
Why Liam’s keen to see it: Short documentaries are an art form rarely championed, but deserving of an audience. Particular human interest stories are rightfully quaint, but cannot sustain a feature-length film. Nevertheless, the beauty in the truth of such stories should be highlighted, and the short documentary is the perfect, most concise format to express it in.