Last August, three of the most impressive, innovative documentaries of the year, Eduardo Williams’s The Human Surge, Nele Wohlatz’ El Futuro Perfecto and Theo Anthony’s Rat Film, premiered at the Locarno International Film Festival. With an even greater focus on nonfiction film for this year’s 70th edition, it’s perhaps worthwhile to look back on the festival through these offerings alone.
Frames of Representation’s founding mission was to bring “new forms of documentary cinema” to London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, but this mandate felt a little looser for the festival”s third edition.
With nonfiction films that deal with a political subject, form can often be a secondary concern. This is particularly true of films about activist movements, wherein the individual depicting the organization can become so embroiled in its particularities that the resulting film ends up a mere record, or worse, a recounting, a mass of information and little else.
Like much of the work of filmmakers with former associations with Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Lab, the film has aesthetic qualities that rival anything contemporary documentary has to offer. Images are remarkably composed, with consistently interesting framing and smart manipulation of natural light, as well as sound design and editing that intensifies the visual environment being depicted or serves to link scenes together smoothly and create continual flow.
Most film festivals are largely alike; Doclisboa—a well regarded non-fiction film festival in Lisbon, Portugal that just held its 16th edition—does things a little differently.
While essentially about the past, it also concerns itself with continuities, intending to involve the audience in an assessment of their shared present through the deconstruction of a past they are too young to have been a part of.