Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Review of Stranger Than Fiction Doc Festival


Stranger Than Fiction had a ‘Best Of Fest’ feel to it this year with all of the international films having previously screened at major festivals and most of them having shown at probably the world’s top doc festival, Hot Docs in Toronto.

The outstanding programme opened with The Yes Men Fix The World, a doc following the stunts of the Yes Men, two giddy political activists who pose as corporate spokesmen to create bizarre situations that make us question the ethics of the corporate world. It’s fun stuff, with an edge, and does exactly what many modern documentaries seek to do: please the crowd while making them think.

The international programme proved diverse and fascinating, both in subject material and tone. There were films about a heavy-drinking 53-year-old's attempt to swim the Amazon, the oldest newspaper columnist in the world, the export of Indian Hair, Pop Idol Afghani style and the story of the worst film ever made. And much much more.

But the stand-out film for me, and the one I’m still thinking about many weeks later, was Dear Zachary: A letter To A Son About His Father. In many ways I don’t want to say a thing about it other than, ‘find a way of seeing this amazing film.’ There are so many twists and turns in this enthralling plot that it is hard to say much without giving the game away. Essentially, it’s a filmmaker making a film about his murdered best friend to give to his unborn son when he arrives to tell him what a great guy his dad was. But it’s much more than that. The audience were gobsmacked. Buy the DVD.

While there were no Irish feature-length documentaries in the festival this year, there were a number of shorts. The Liberties – a programme of 14 shorts about the Liberties area of Dublin – sold out twice, proving there’s a definite hunger for Irish content among the festival-going crowd and it was certainly popular with the audience (for podcast with directors, see Film Ireland website). The festival also showed three short documentaries from the past about Irish communities abroad

In the shorts programme, the highly entertaining and perfectly judged Forty Foot proved you don’t need a giant budget to make a beautiful and engaging film and it was the favourite with both the audience and the judges.

Overall, a festival with many great stories told in a variety of ways and all very enjoyable.

1 comment:

  1. I'm looking forward to seeing the liberties documentary tomorrow.