Film and Television Features

Doc/Fest 2013: Day Two in Review

Doc/Fest Day 2: 13th June 2013

The close heat of the opening day broke into a massive thunderstorm in the late morning of Day Two of Doc/Fest and with it seemed to come a breaking of the ice and a thrust into the festival spirit…


First up at 10am was NCR: Not Criminally Responsible with Director John Kastner on hand to introduce the film and provide a post-screening Q+A session. NCR follows Sean Clifton, a man deemed Not Criminally Responsible for the brutal stabbing he inflicted upon a young woman, at random, outside of a Wal-Mart in Cornwall, Ontario.

Kastner’s film is a well-rounded and empathetic portrayal of the aftermath of a severe and unfortunate incident. Following ,not only Clifton throughout his recovery and attempt to move back into society,  but also interviewing the victim (filmed solely in extreme close up and identified only as Julie), her parents, witnesses of the crime and medical professionals involved in Clifton’s rehabilitation.

The narrative is cleverly constructed and builds finally to a full account of the incident, cross-cutting cleverly between Clifton’s and Julie’s memories of the event.  The film moves at a leisurely pace and develops time with the subjects, giving the event and the life-changing effect it had on all involved the time to become clear. However, it felt as though the film could be slightly tighter and more focused with perhaps a shorter running time.

The film provided such a brilliant account of all involved that by the finale, as sincere forgiveness and regret were expressed between Clifton and Julie’s parents, it delivered a deeply emotional impact. Recommended.

Next up was Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, a film with much hype surrounding it and in competition this year for the Special Jury Award.  The film follows unpunished war criminals in Indonesia who following the overthrowing of the government in 1965 by a military dictatorship, murdered an estimated one million suspected “communists”. The horrific genocide is told by the killers themselves, led by gangster Anwar Congo, as well as the men demonising communists, such as journalist Ibrahim Sinik. Their open confessions to camera are chilling, amongst which are Sinik’s revelation that interrogations and interviews with suspected Communists in the press would be changed and doctored, senselessly deeming them to death.

Oppenheimer’s film has not only incredible access to his subjects but takes the imaginative and surreal route of asking the killers to recreate their crimes for a film, in whatever style they choose. The results are incredibly strange and it’s both extremely uncomfortable and yet, very compelling to watch reconstructions of the atrocities and hear the inconceivable and vile details. It’s hard to express how deeply disturbing the film is at times and how to even process the words of Anwar Congo, as he talks about dancing and celebrating after killing people and the ‘work’ was done.

Congo himself will surely go down in cinema history as one of the most compelling documentary subjects of all time. A cinema obsessed gangster, basing himself and his image on the American film stars he idolised, he is a vain and materialistic killer and the philosophy of “Relax and Rolex” is reiterated by the materialistic and self-professed outlaw gangsters surrounding him.

Oppenheimer’s approach of getting Congo and his companions to stage the atrocities at first seems sensationalistic and yet, it begins to make sense that by making them come to terms with the truth of their own past, they are faced with the realisation that they were the cruel ones and not the Communists they exterminated. Congo begins to show remorse throughout the film and reveals details of nightmares haunting him and forced to face the truth of the acts he committed, he begins to experience a physically sickening and violent remorse.

Shocking, chilling, absurd, horrific and bizarre, The Act of Killing is unlike anything you’ll ever see and is essential viewing.


A quick jaunt to The Crucible to have our spirits lifted courtesy of Adam Buxton: The Best of BUG. If you’re unfamiliar with Adam Buxton, he forms one half of comedy duo Adam and Joe, who over the years have crafted a niche of silly sketch comedy for TV and radio, beloved to my own heart. If you’re unfamiliar with BUG, it is a bi-monthly music video showcase Buxton has developed for the BFI Southbank dating back to 2007.

Driven by a passion for highlighting innovative and original talent, including here for the Best of... profiles of directors such as Cyriak and Megaforce, Buxton fills the in-between with his own brand of comedy. Adding visual jokes from his own laptop, playing his own sketch videos, performing songs and best of all, dissecting comments from the good users of ‘Yoot Yoob’, it’s a non-stop laugh riot.

It would do no good to simply list the videos played as BUG is really a unique live experience that you have to see for yourself with Buxton leading into the videos with informative tidbits about the artists involved. However, to give a taster of the sort of things you might expect should you seek out a Best of BUG show, my own favourite part was Buxton’s extensive dissection of David Bowie’s Berlin period and his recent comeback. An animated imagined scenario of how Bowie, Brian Eno and Tony Visconti recorded Warsawza for the Low album was one of the best written sketches I have ever seen.

The Best of BUG was one of the funniest things I’ve seen live and a real highlight of the festival so far.


Doc/Fest’s growth in popularity was reflected by some of the evening films such as Hearts of Darkness and Smash and Grab selling out by the morning. This somewhat derailed my own tirelessly planned out schedule for the festival and so it was decided in the good post-BUG spirits (and with a little persuasion from a free bar) to soak in some of the atmosphere outside of the screenings. The highlight of hopping between networking events and parties was the David Bowie Roller Disco at Skate Central. Marrying together the Thin White Duke with alcohol and rollerskating sounds like a dangerous mix but as far as I know, most made it out alive. Every other song was Bowie with associated acts like Roxy Music and Talking Heads filling the gaps whilst a screen played vintage Bowie footage whilst Classic Aladdin Sane lightning facepainting was available to all. Sheffield’s very own Sheffield Steel Rollergirls were on hand to show delegates how it was done and those not skating certainly had fun having a bit of an old fashioned boogie.  


Day Two was a fantastic way to blow off a little of the steam that builds inside a person watching endless documentaries on injustice but today, it’s back to the films. To paraphrase David Bowie: To the seat with the clearest view to be hooked to the silver screen!

Follow my live adventures and hangovers on Twitter @sicryan.