Almost here is 23rd edition of DocsBarcelona, an essential date discover the best of the world’s documentary production, marked this year -like so many other cultural events by the uncertain evolution of Covid-19. Prioritizing the sustainability of the project and its commitment to the public and the industry, whilst guaranteeing a diverse and high quality offer, the event moves online.
Between the 19th and 31st of May 2020 and through the digital window of Filmin, DocsBarcelona maintains its restless and curious spirit, featuring 35 documentaries, a volume of titles that decreases only very little compared to past editions, in a huge effort by the festival organization to continue to be a benchmark in the world of documentary.
The festival presents a complete program with two facts standing out: on the one hand, more than half of the feature films that can be seen are directed or co-directed by women (20 titles, 55 percent of the total); on the other, 19 are premieres, which demonstrates a constant renewal of the documentary landscape. Likewise, professional activity is not disregarded, opening an online gateway to continue working towards the search for funding and development of new projects.
A superb Panorama
13 works will compete for the DocsBarcelona Best Documentary Award in the Official Panorama Section: titles such as Vivos, by the Chinese artist, activist, and dissident Ai Weiwei, stand out. After focusing on the issue of migration in Human Flow (2017) and The Rest (2019), the filmmaker now travels to Mexico to report systemic corruption in institutions by focusing on the disappearance of some forty students who one September morning in 2014, while travelling to Mexico City to commemorate the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre, were attacked by police.
Renowned for her original and poignant look at the subjects she deals with in her films, the Czech filmmaker Helena Třeštíková is the co-creator of Forman vs. Forman along with Jakub Hejna. A documentary about the figure of the Oscar-winning director of Amadeus and Someone flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which is also a look at communism, the American Dream and the Czech independence process. Also a portrait of an artist is the first feature film (and film testament) of the recently deceased producer Artemio Benki: Solo accompanies the composer and pianist Martín Perino, witness of the struggle between his own genius and the effects of the mental illness he was diagnosed with .
Another centrepiece of the festival is Winter Journey, by Danish filmmaker Anders Østergaard. A hybrid, a fiction disguised as a documentary or vice versa, which reveals the existence of the Jüdischer Kulturbund, or Jewish Cultural League with which in the early 1930s Goebbels’ Nazi Ministry of Propaganda allowed Jewish artists to perform for Jewish audiences. A film about the meaning of being German, and how the children of the generation that lived through the war had to face its consequences. And with an added bonus: the legendary Swiss actor Bruno Ganz (Downfall, Wings of Desire) shines through in the dramatisations that the story incorporates, in what was his last film work.
The Panorama section will also feature films such as Overseas, where Korean filmmaker Sung A-Yoon talks about the fate of Filipino migrants who go into exile in the first world to earn a living as nannies or domestic workers, previously attending a kind of school of modern slavery, which makes them almost national heroines in the eyes of their country’s government. Or titles like Hi, AI by German filmmaker Isa Willinger, which talks about the development of robots and artificial intelligence without ignoring the ethical conflicts related to them, from an unusual perspective filled with a sense of humour.
With 55 percent of the program being by female directors, this year’s edition of DOCSBARCELONA is especially sensitive with issues that put women in the foreground. Titles as powerful as That Which Does Not Kill, by AlexPoukine, one of the jewels in the What the Doc! section which opens a window to the most innovative and risky approach to documentary. The film deals with the subject of rape from a perspective as original as it is rigorous, as subtle as it is devastating.
In the Panorama section, Advocate by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaïche, really shines and it comes with awards from festivals in Thessaloniki and Krakow. The film develops a portrait of Israeli Lea Tsemel, known as “the Devil’s Advocate,” for her risky defence of human rights and, more specifically, of Palestinian political prisoners accused of resisting the occupation of Israel. We will see The Magic Life of V, by Tonislav Hristov, about a Finnish girl who only finds joy for life when she dyes her hair blue and becomes the character of a role-playing game. Also eligible for the festival’s grand prize is the aforementioned Overseas by Sung-A Yoon, previously awarded in Warsaw and Angers.
In Latitud you can see Zona Árida, where the Brazilian director and visual artist Fernanda Pessoa comes to the fore to demystify the American lifestyle from her experience living for a few months in Mesa, considered the country’s most conservative city. Screened as part of What the Doc! is Salka, en la tierra de nadie by Xavi Herrero, who takes us to Mauritania to follow the 1,500 km journey through the Sahara undertaken by a girl disguised as a man looking for a better future.