Film and Television Features

Doc/Fest 2013: Day Four in Review

Doc/Fest 2013: Day Four in Review.

A good portion of Doc/Festers were up a little too early on a Saturday morning for one reason, Walter Murch at The Crucible. Murch has been, for the cinephiles at the festival, the most exciting and thrilling presence. Firstly providing a Q+A following a double bill of Hearts of Darkness and Apocalypse NowMurch has also been here to promote his first feature length documentary as an editor, Particle Fever, which played on both Friday and Saturday.


I attended the World Premiere of Particle Fever on the the Friday and it was a packed, sold-out screening. The film itself was quite wondrous and follows the progress of the Large Hadron Collider from initially being turned on in 2007 to the discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle in July 2012. To me, the film was absolutely essential viewing and was an extremely cinematic, compelling and human documentary holding interest for everyone from the layman to the genius. The screening was followed by a Q+A with director Mark Levinson, Producer David Kaplan and Walter Murch and it was later revealed that most of the physicists featured in the film were in the audience.

The film screened again on Saturday afternoon following From The Godfather to the God Particle, a masterclass from Murch largely focusing on his work on Particle Fever discussing the process of editing almost 500 hours of footage into a tight narrative and his own unique working methods. Murch also discussed previous work and expertly deconstructed the 1968 Prague invasion sequence from The Unbearable Lightness of Being before discussing the philosophy of filmmaking. For me, it was the absolute highlight of the festival and an invaluable film school from a legend of the industry.


Next up was a film in competition for the Special Jury award this year, Google and the World Brain.  An account of Google’s attempt to create a comprehensive digitised library of knowledge and the global impact this had.Originally titled ‘Project Ocean’, Google Books began as a continuation of the online preservation and sharing of knowledge in the vein of Project Gutenberg and Wikipedia, to be combined with the Google search engine. However, Google’s vision was met with opposition from authors and libraries as their project began to infringe copyright and the quality and integrity of the project was called into question. The film largely follows the consequent legal battle between Google and the International literary community and presents the chronology in a compelling fashion.

Taking the H.G. Wells concept of the ‘World Brain’ and contextualising contemporary events within the framework of other visionary thinkers such as Kafka and Orwell, Lewis presents a well-rounded argument for and against the digitisation and the film has opinion from an impressive and International set of interviewees. The result is an interesting debate upon the subject of the progress of mankind and issues of privacy, control and economy if a Monopoly is allowed to pass.


Following Google and an aborted attempt to get into the Ira Glass: This American Life session pushed back due to plane delays, I headed back to The Crucible for From the Sea to the Land Beyond, the collaboration between director Penny Woolcock and the band British Sea Power. Having been one of the opening night events at last year’s Doc/Fest, it’s perhaps seems strange to see the event return one year on but the show was one of the most popular and well-attended I’ve seen across the festival.

Marrying British Sea Power’s majestic and sweeping live score to archival footage of Britain from the birth of cinema until very nearly modern day, the film presents a unique cultural heritage of the country and sees the passing of traditions and the unique quirkiness of our country. I found the juxtaposition of music and film extremely moving and found it both uplifting and melancholic.

With the late-running of events, unfortunately, I had to miss the scheduled Muscle Shoals screening I was set to attend. However, this was quickly replaced by a trip to the East End Bar and a performance from Public Service Broadcasting. A hypnotic mix of multimedia presentation samples from old public information films, archive footage and propaganda material with live musical accompaniment with a dizzying array of instruments deftly juggled including guitar, banjo and electronic gadgets galore, it really kicked off the party for Saturday night. Following a mad scramble for a brief free bar, there was further chaos when the night was ended by a full fire evacuation, rumoured to be caused by the combination of a burrito and dry ice….

To the final day!