Documentary film has often used the medium to hold a mirror up to the industry and craft itself. From Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man to Crystal Moselle’s The Wolfpack, documentary has long been the vessel through which film can be further explored and understood. This year, the Doc/Fest film programme contains a handful of documentaries that play with the theme of film, challenging their audience to consider the role of the filmmaker, the audience and the subject. Here are just a few of the documentaries in this year’s programme that centre around film itself - using video art, 16mm footage, activist videos along the way, these films reflect on how we use and look at moving images.

The Vasulka Effect

Hrafnhildur Gunnarsdottir, Iceland, Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden / English, Icelandic, Czech / 2019 / 85' / UK Premiere

Artists Steina and Woody Vasulka met in Prague in the early sixties, before moving to New York where they discovered video and later founded the legendary gallery, Kitchen. In the film, the couple are now reaching retirement age, living in Santa Fe. Their entire life has been dedicated to art, as pioneers in music, waves, collage, and landscapes. As lifetime hackers and known as the “grandparents of video art”, their experiments can now be seen as having had a huge impact on a generation of digital artists. With Woody having sadly passed away in December 2019, now more than ever their work deserves to be rediscovered.

Watch on Doc/Fest Selects

A Month Of Single Frames

A Month of Single Frames

Lynne Sachs, made with and for Barbara Hammer, USA / English / 2019 / 14' / UK Premiere

In 1998, filmmaker Barbara Hammer had a one-month artist residency in the C-Scape Duneshack which is run by the Provincetown Community Compact in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. While there, she shot 16mm film with her Beaulieu camera, recorded sounds with her cassette recorder and kept a journal.
In 2018, Barbara began her own process of dying by revisiting her personal archive. She gave all of her Duneshack images, sounds and writing to filmmaker Lynne Sachs and invited her to make a film with the material.

Click here to watch Lynne Sachs discuss her own evolution as a filmmaker by sharing excerpts from her films, from 1987 to the present, exploring the fraught and bewildering challenge of looking at the human form from behind the lens.

Watch on Doc/Fest Selects

The Business of Thought: A Recorded History of Artists Space

Sierra Pettengill, United States / English / 2020 / 11' / World Premiere

An oral history of Artists Space, the legendary New York artists organization. Told through the voices of the artists, critics and curators who formed it, the film is narrated by voiceover culled from 30 hours of archival cassette tape interviews over a 45 year period. Artists such as Laurie Anderson, Mike Kelley, Hito Steyerl and David Wojnarowicz walk us through the decades. A formally-experimental and raucously-told chronology composed of rare archival documentation, The Business of Thought: A Recorded History of Artists Space is a reminder of the radical potential of the arts and the importance of collective, cultural spaces.

Watch on Doc/Fest Selects

The Viewing Booth

The Viewing Booth

Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, Israel, USA / English, Hebrew, Arabic / 2019 / 71' / UK Premiere

In a laboratory-like set up, The Viewing Booth, the filmmaker chooses an American student—enthusiastic supporter of Israel—Maia, and invites her to watch and comment on the videos made by a Palestinian activist collective who are filming the daily life of inhabitants of the occupied territories and the behaviour of the Israeli army. The film explores the relationship between viewer, documentary footage, and filmmaker; the way one builds one’s own fiction and analyses sounds and images through pre-established opinions.

Building a unique relationship between viewer and filmmaker, the film is a deep and essential reflection on how we look at images.

The Viewing Booth Official Website

Watch on Doc/Fest Selects