Last Friday saw the 4th annual Dublin Doc Fest, a showcase of the short documentary format, hosted at the Teeling Whiskey Distillery. Providing a platform for an under-served type of film, the festival continues to grow. Choosing from submissions from all over the world, thirteen films were screened this year, from Ireland to Israel to Zimbabwe. Some were eye-opening, some emotional, some a combination of both. Film In Dublin picks five standouts from the documentaries shown at this year’s festival.
The rise of the alt-right has been a worrying trend of recent years, with a lot of talk about ‘taking our country back’ in both the US and UK coming to a head in 2016. Black Sheep examines the mentality of those who want ‘their’ country back, featuring two teenage brothers from the north of England and their interest in the English Defence League. Director Christian Cerami doesn’t ask questions or provide much framework, simply showing the boys’ journey to a rally. The rhetoric of the EDL is shown failing even to stand up to the scrutiny of a 13 year old, as the younger brother, nervous about the rally, asks his elder questions and gets muddled, learned-off-sounding answers.
Though this was one of the shorter films shown at the festival, the skill and charisma of young Zimbabwean rapper AWA made this an unquestionable highlight. Directed by Max Thurlow for the Vice music channel Noisey, the film shows AWA (short both for her name Awakhiwe and African Women Arise) preparing for a music festival in Harare. AWA’s determination to succeed as a rapper and her interest in tackling social issues shine through as the short gets its information across incisively through its engaging subject.
Syrian refugees are often used as political talking points or headline grabbers, but director Melissa Langer shows them here in their ordinary lives. Having relocated to South Africa, a family from Aleppo is seen in their ordinary lives, baking in the kitchen, the children causing a ruckus, phone calls home on Skype, regular occurrences in many homes, except for when news of more violence comes from back home. Langer provides some style and poeticism to help this short stand out, but perhaps the most affecting aspect of My Aleppo is how normalised its subjects are to the horrors they’ve encountered back home. The truth about how a young man the family knew died-that he blew himself up-is delivered by a man slouched on the couch, yawning. It’s horrible and it’s sad but it isn’t uncommon.
The story of fresh-faced actresses arriving off the bus into Hollywood with dreams of “making it” are well-known, and it’s well-known too that they don’t work out more often than not, but what about those looking to succeed in the cinematic hubs outside of the United States? Directed by Belgian Maxime Bultot, Underground looks at Wenfang, who moved to Beijing hoping to become an actress. While she works to make that dream a reality, she like many other migrants to the city has to live in a tiny room located two floors underground, such is the population density. Underground is appropriately claustrophobic and its interesting to watch Wenfang running lines and watching the mannerisms of the actresses she hopes to emulate. Though Bultot’s navel-gazing voiceover is an unnecessary addition, it still makes for compelling viewing.
Of the films shown at the festival, Sounds of Kazinbarcika had one of the most distinct, individual senses of style. Packing a lot of character into the film’s short length, director Aleksandr Vinogradov depicts a provincial Hungarian town and its citizens with a charming through line of musical performances from the locals. Though the industrial town is hardly thriving financially and its young people aren’t sticking around, the film still shows the life in the individuals living there, from the stories of a local barmaid to random rock and rap performances.