Film and Television Features

Doc/Fest 2013: Day Three in Review.

Doc/Fest 2013: Day Three, Friday June 14th.


With the coming of the weekend, Doc/Fest Friday was a packed affair both in schedule and attendance, with too much too see and too many people to see it. Tickets are becoming like gold dust with sold out screenings and bystander queues increasing.

I started off the day with the World Premiere of Emer Reynolds’ and John Murray‘s Here was Cuba, an Irish produced documentary profiling the Cuban Missile crisis. Profiling the unique moment in World politics when the globe teetered on the brink of complete annihilation and the Cold War stand -off between America and the Soviet Union threatened to erase the future of mankind.

Unlike previous films I have seen dealing with the subject such as the Kevin Costner starring fiction film Thirteen Days and the Errol Morris documentary, The Fog of War, Here was Cuba was an admirably more rounded affair, interviewing an impressive array of Soviet military personnel and Nikita Khruschev’s son, Sergei to produce a rounded account and oppositional perspectives of the crisis rather than focusing solely on the American version of events.

Here was Cuba at a slight 75 minutes felt very much like a complimentary film, rather than one attempting to be all encompassing and certainly couldn’t be said to be the definitive film on the subject. That said, many of the interviews contained new information and accounts I hadn’t heard before and is certainly one not only to be seen by people with an interest  The Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis but also by anyone wishing to see how fragile the existence of mankind is in the nuclear age.


Another World premiere followed and this time it was particle physics documentary, Particle Fever with Q+A session from director Mark Levinson, Producer David Kaplan and Editor Walter Murch. Aside from saying this was an essential documentary, I shall provide further coverage of the film in Saturday’s round-up as a companion piece to the masterclass from Walter Murch.


A Doc/Fest companion piece to Saturday’s Google and the World Brain as another documentary focusing on Copyright Law and internet is The Pirate Bay Away from Keyboard a profile of the founders of the internet’s largest file sharing site, The Pirate Bay.

Like Google..., TPBAFK centres around a court case and in this instance, it’s the legal David and Goliath battle between Hollywood copyright holders and the three Pirate Bay co-founders, Fredrik, Gottfrid and Peter. The film begins the day before the trial begins, seeing the three facing a $13 million damages claim and follows the twists and turns of the case.

Largely comprised of Court footage, it’s testament to the skill of the direction and editing that the film’s narrative is so involving, even attempting to involve the technologically uninitiated with onscreen jargon definitions.  More so, it’s the three protagonists and their unique personalities that drew me in; Fredrik is the seemingly quiet technical nerd with a hidden side, Peter, the articulate spokesperson with political leanings and Gottfrid, the antisocial and curmudgeonly prodigious hacker.  All three are smart as a whip and completely defiant, which makes not only their legal battle compelling but also their personal relationships with each other, which seem to gradually crumble and yet they are bound together in their situation.

The final film of the day in the Library Theatre was Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic, which mixed talking head interviews with the people that knew Pryor, including his two-time wife Jennifer and comedy peers such as Robin Williams, with archive footage and comedy clips from legendary live films Richard Pryor Live in Concert and Richard Pryor - Live at the Sunset Strip. The film provided an enlightening chronological account of the comedy legend and functionally communicated the arc of Pryor’s ascent to comedy and his trail-blazing empowerment of African-Americans in the entertainment industry, as well as his unwillingness to compromise as an artist.

Perhaps what is always an issue in biographical documentaries is the balance of providing an overall insight into the life of someone to both an audience unfamiliar with the subject and also providing enough meat and new information for long-time fans. As a personal fan of Pryor, the balance for me was slightly off with much of the footage and anecdotes overly familiar. However, footage from Pryor’s disastrous first comeback show post-suicide attempt was invaluable and saw the star as completely vulnerable and struggling. The final account of Pryor’s illness and struggle with narcotics was also extremely well-handled and the emotional impact of the film was very strong and tenderly handled.

Day Three exhaustion saw a very quiet Friday evening, seeing a lot of people, including myself opting for an early night and a recharging of batteries ready for a packed final two days.

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