What’s the relationship between documentary and democracy?

Now more than ever, filmmakers are fighting to give a voice to the disaffected, the poor and the oppressed.

Remember the furore around Blackfish? The gut-churning horror of Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s 2013 documentary about the controversial practices of catching and keeping whales in captivity led to mass protests and petitions against SeaWorld and other aquariums. Real change was brought about directly because of this film and people exercising their democratic rights in response to it. Engendering activism is one of the strengths that documentary has over narrative film; we see real people and real situations, secrets are exposed and unpleasant truths are brought into the light so that we can no longer ignore them.

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It’s a riot: the stressful AI simulation built to understand your emotions

Inspired by global unrest, Riot uses artificial intelligence, film and gaming technologies to help unpick how people react in stressful situations

An immersive film project is attempting to understand how people react in stressful situations by using artificial intelligence (AI), film and gaming technologies to place participants inside a simulated riot and then detecting their emotions in real time.

Called Riot, the project is the result of a collaboration between award winning multidisciplinary immersive filmmaker Karen Palmer and Professor Hongying Meng from Brunel University. The two have worked together previously on Syncself2, a dynamic interactive video installation.

Riot was inspired by global unrest, and was specifically inspired by Palmer’s experience of watching live footage of the Ferguson protests in 2015. “I felt a big sense of frustration, anger and helplessness. I needed to create a piece of work that would encourage dialogue around these types of social issues. Riots all over the world now seem to be [the] last form of [community] expression,” she said.

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“Sheboots” aren’t the solution to Hollywood’s gender gap

Ghostbusters isn’t the only franchise to be recast with female leads – and that’s not necessarily a victory for equality.

When Bridesmaids was released in 2011 it broke new ground for female-centric blockbusters. Since then, however, Hollywood has moved away from making original women-led films towards ‘sheboots’, where a popular franchise is recast with the male roles going to women. The next in production is Ocean’s Ocho, the latest remake of Ocean’s Eleven, which will see the primary conmen played by Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett. Although it has been stressed that the actors will not be playing lady-versions of the male roles, it will be interesting to see what Olivia Milch is able to do with the screenplay within the constraints of the genre.

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Do female producers hold the key to gender equality in the film industry?

Julie Goldman believes more women should take an active role in the creative process.

You may not know the name Julie Goldman but she has produced some of the most renowned documentaries of the last 20 years. With over 60 credits to her name (including recent award winners Life, Animated and Weiner), she is something of a luminary on the festival circuit, and at this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest alone she has five films in the programme – an incredible number of projects coming to fruition at the same time even by her standards.

If Goldman were a man working in Hollywood you’d likely see her every year at the Oscars rubbing shoulders with the Harvey Weinsteins of the world. As things are, her relative anonymity reveals some uncomfortable truths about how women are perceived in the film industry.

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The Shining: FrightFest 2014

I first saw The Shining when I was far too young, probably about 10 years old. I remember being terrified, and rightly so, the father running around wanting to cut up his son tapping into that ultimate childhood fear of the bad parent. As the years passed I have seen the film – both cuts – probably a dozen times and am always left thrilled and impressed but never quite as scared as I was that first time around. Continue reading

Advice from Women Directors: ‘Don’t Listen to Naysayers…Just Do It.”

The indie film world is traditionally where women can find a place for themselves. A range of grants and funds specifically designed to encourage women to make films both narrative and documentary means more than ever they are making inroads into the indie scene.  The 22nd annual Raindance Film Festival was the perfect place to catch up with some female filmmakers from around the world at different places in their careers. Continue reading