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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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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Robert Altman was a well-respected if not necessarily always commercially successful director whose career spanned over 40 years. He started off in TV and finally got his big break when he directed M*A*S*H* which won him the Palme d’Or in 1970 and finally gave him the recognition he had been seeking.

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Looking is the Original Sin

Inspired by the life of Diane Arbus this is the tale of Anna (Katie Boland) trying to find out who her mother Helene (Maria del Mar) really is. Despite them living together most of the time Anna is aware that her mother is keeping her at arm’s length We start to realise that Helene the photographer is very different from Helene the mother that Anna so desperately wants to get closer to. Continue reading

Dietrich Bruggemann director of Stations of the Cross

I spoke to Dietrich Bruggemann who directed one of this year’s more controversial and artistic offerings, Stations of the Cross.

Apart from 3 scenes the camera is static – why did you choose this way to shoot and what problems did it create for you? How much preparation was involved?

Back in 2005, I had shot my first feature in that same fashion. That was a comedy, and I was fascinated how well that extreme reduction worked, both for the drama and for the fun. Continue reading