Open City Docs Fest – 20-23 June 2013 in London

June 17th, 2013
Author: Meredith Taylor

Love documentaries? Then this film festival is for you!.  Open City Docs Fest is a vibrant and thought-provoking chance to explore the World through the vision of documentary film.

OPEN CITY DOCS FEST is London’s global cultural exchange which takes place at various LONDON venues, offering Live music, Q&As, panel discussions for the industry and the public; and it all happens during the long weekend of June 20 until 23rd 2013.

VENUES: Bloomsbury Theatre: Gordon Street WC1, The Darkroom: University College, Taviton Street WC1; ICA, The Mall SW1

CITY STORIES – Tales of The City looks at the modern city through documentary films:

LOST RIVERS (2012) ***

An idyllic co-existence between water man has always existed in our major cities in trade, industry and everyday life. But many waterways have long gone underground: The Tyburn in London, The Saint Pierre in Montreal and The Saw Mill River in Yonkers. Lift any manhole cover, and you can hear them gushing away below the surface.

Narrating in her soft Canadian burr, Caroline Bacle’s LOST RIVERS plunges underground in Montreal, Toronto, New York and Brescia to trace ancient waterways that have disappeared due to disease or disuse or have simply been capped and covered by car parks.  Fact-filled and fascinating, LOST RIVERS flits around and occasionally waxes lyrical but manages to produce an absorbing account of efforts to re-connect with the past and not all have been successful.

Q&A with Caroline Bacle follows the film.

Friday 21June/ 14.30 Darkroom

THE HUMAN SCALE (2012) – Andreas M Dalsgaard  83min

A Danish award-winning documentary examines what happens when we put people at the heart of urban planning in a bid to achieve a feeling of intimacy and inclusion in our major cities.  Danish architect and professor Jan Gehl looks at what it’s like to live in mega-cities in 2013.

Saturday 23 June/ 17.00/ Bloomsbury Theatre 

THE VENICE SYNDROME (2012) – Andreas Pichler  80min

Venice is one of the meccas of modern tourism, but how to the citizens cope with the constant influx of tourists that have led to high rents and a crumbling infrastructure.

Friday 21 June/20.30/ Darkroom

WORLD VISIONS – a cultural exchange of unique stories from around the World.

SALMA (2013) – Kim Longinotto 90min ***

Salma emerged from a troubled and traditional background in South India to become South India’s most famous poet. Told in Kim Longinotto’s famous observational style, this documentary shows how education can form a link to the outside world which liberates women in repressed societies.

SOFIA’S LAST AMBULANCE – Ilian Metev  76min ****

Joins a stressed-out and under-funded medical team in their clapped-out ambulances as they race around Sofia ministering to the needs of a growing population and remaining cheerful to the last against all odds.  A story full of humour and humanity making us glad of our own National Health Service in the UK.

Sunday 23 June/18.30/Bloomsbury Theatre  CLOSING GALA

PUSSY RIOT – A PUNK PRAYER – Maxim Lerner ****

Nadia, Masha and Katia unite in protest at the Soviet regime through the devastating power of Art.  For their efforts they’ve been jailed: what does this say about a regime that smothers mothers who dare to exercise their right to freedom of speech?

ELENA  (2012) – Petra Costa *****

Elena is one of the ‘must see’ films of this festival and one of the most visually intense and beautiful documentaries I have ever seen.  An elegy to her older sister (Elena) who goes to work in New York from their home in Brazil, Petra narrates the story through sumptuous visuals which are occasionally blurred, hypnotic and soften the visceral rawness of painful loss. She uses a palette of pastel hues overlaid with coloured lenses to show  photographs, diaries and footage of their childhood. Experimental in feel, this testament to family and catharsis through creativity intoxicates and beguiles remaining in the memory for a long while afterwards and marking Petra Costa out as a talent to follow in future.

Sunday 23 June/15.00/Bloomsbury Theatre


A highly moral piece of filmmaking in which John Appel strives to make sense of the murderous acts of terror wreaked on a small community by Anders Breivik. A tribute to those that survived, who tell their stories and discuss their coping strategies.  After a slow start, this develops into a moving and intense piece of filmmaking.

Friday 21 June/16.00/Bloomsbury Theatre


A series of stark and searing interviews with young people from Georgia make up this cinema verite piece that creates a fascinating portrait of modern Georgian society. Far from the cliche and the commonplace.

Friday 21 June/20.30/ICA


This strand focuses on perpetrators as protagonists, a theme normally only seen in fiction, and challenges the ethics of representation and responsibility.

THE ACT OF KILLING – Joshua Oppenheimer 159min ****

An attempt to recreate through narrative cinema, the astonishing acts of violence that took place in an Indonesian Massacre in 1965. Survivors remain silent as their attackers talk freely of their atrocities.  Even Werner Herzog describes this as ‘powerful, surreal and frightening”.


Saturday 22 June/Lightbox/WC1

CINEMA AND MEMORY – JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER – the director, discusses the ethical implications raised in the film-making process and the interplay of fiction and non-fiction in re-telling community memories.


The notorious S-21 KHMER ROUGE prison was run by the infamous Duch who disposed of 12,000 victims from 1975-1979. Together with archive material and face-to-face interviews, Pahn offers an alarming but objective study of the criminal mind of a sociopath who looks like a normal guy.

Wednesday 19 June/19.30/ AV Hill Theatre









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