2020 Open City Documentary Festival: The line-up and what’s streaming when
James R | On 09, Sep 2020
The 2020 Open City Documentary Festival officially goes live online today, with 48 new films, 10 cross-media projects and 3 audio documentaries.
Featuring new films from 28 different countries, the line-up includes 3 world premieres, 3 international premieres, 5 European premieres and 29 UK premieres, Highlights include Mehrdad Oskouei’s Sunless Shadows, Gu Xue’s The Choice, Amel Alzakout & Khaled Abdulwahed’s Purple Sea, David Osit’s Mayor, and Valentina Pedicini’s Faith, and Courtney Stephens and Pacho Velez’s The American Sector.
The festival programme is innovatively divided into two groups spanning its week-long run: Block 1 runs from 9th to 12th September and Block 2 runs from 12th to 15th September.
Each film is available to rent throughout its block’s three-day window (from midday on the first day to midnight on the last) and rentals cost $3 each – or £18 for the whole block. You have four days after payment to start watching a rental and, once started, you have 24 hours to finish watching – during which time you can replay it as many times as you want. Each film will have a pre-recorded filmmaker Q&A included as accompanying bonus content.
Special events will be live-streamed worldwide on evenings during the festival, including performance lectures from Courtney Stephens and Bassem Saad; a panel discussion and live presentation of Veronika Kusumaryati and Ernst Karel‘s new augmented sound work Expedition Content; a live storytelling session titled You Cannot Close You Eyes to New Horizons; and Seen and Heard, in which the co-curators of the Black Lives Matter Video Essay Playlist will screen selections from this resource and discuss them with their makers.
For more, or to get watching, head to the official festival site here – or read on for the line-up and what’s streaming when.
Block 1: 9th to 12th September
The American Sector
In the years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, sections of its 3.5-metre edifice have been transplanted to the USA and repurposed as public monuments in sites across the country.
A masterfully intimate observational documentary depicting life inside a Tehran juvenile detention centre, where a group of teenage girls serve sentences for the murder of abusive male family members.
A startlingly candid and at times darkly comic insight into the realities of political life in contemporary Palestine.
Shorts: Absent Collaborators
Unreliable narrators; dramatic reconstructions; testimony remade as myth. Voices summoned from the past are translated into new realities in this short film programme.
A dynamic, impressionistic city symphony capturing Nigerian city Ibadan’s distinct rhythms from a street-level perspective.
A sect of martial arts champions have devoted the past two decades to their master and his religion, undergoing relentless physical training to prepare for the coming apocalypse.
The Lake and the Lake / Land Underwater
Two mid-length films exploring fraught ecologies and bodies of water.
In the rainforests of southern Colombia, an imposing, unfinished concrete highway stretches out across the Amazonian tree line. Suspension presents a visually and intellectually rich study of grand scale human folly that makes clear the futility of attempting to conquer nature.
Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another
A probing inquiry into the act—and art—of preserving and constructing history, Jessica Sarah Rinland’s mesmerising debut feature-length work intimately examines the process of museological and ecological conservation through the production of a lab-engineered replica of an elephant tusk.
Bottled Songs 1-4
Bottled Songs is an ongoing media project depicting strategies for making sense of online terrorist propaganda.
As their aunt sits on life-support in intensive care, a family gathers to discuss her condition and plan the next steps.
From his turbulent life in Compton to the sparsely-inhabited and long forgotten California City, we follow Lashay T. Warren as he looks to make a fresh start amongst its crumbling buildings.
Block 2: 12th to 15th September
A spatial study of Derzhprom Palace in Kharkov, Ukraine. Intended as an architectural embodiment of communism, its constructivist design inspired a generation of avant-garde artists including Sergei Ejsenstein and Dziga Vertov.
Shorts: Between Generations
Repurposed found and archival materials prompt a series of fascinating dialogues across generations exploring forgotten histories, memories of colonial trauma, and gentrification as cultural erasure.
When the boat on which she was crossing to Germany capsized off the coast of Lesbos, Syrian artist Amel Alzakout recorded events using a waterproof camera strapped to her wrist.
Shorts: New Geographies
Endless horizons, haunted edgelands, symphonies of dissonant cities. The works in this short film programme map new pathways through landscapes both real and imagined.
Legendary casting director Martha Wollner traverses the streets of Queens, New York City in search of an actor to play a criminal in a film.
The Viewing Booth
In a darkened studio space, a young American student, Maia Levy, assesses a selection of videos depicting life in the West Bank. However, as the viewing progresses, alternative perspectives are revealed to her which, if accepted, would threaten her most deeply held beliefs. Read our full review
Once Upon a Youth
Thirteen years after the unexpected death of his best friend Marko, Croatian filmmaker Ivan Ramljak reconstructs the life they shared together using the photographs, home videos and memories Marko left behind.
A Radical Empathy: Esery Mondesir’s Haitian Trilogy
In this moving triptych Esery Mondesir collaborates with fellow members of the Haitian diaspora to bear intimate witness to their lives.
Things We Dare Not Do
A deeply moving tale of lost innocence and the complexity of queer identity, Things We Dare Not Do follows sixteen-year-old Ñoño who decides the time has come to find out how his family feel about his burgeoning desire to dress as a woman.
Albert and André, two Central African Aka Pygmies, attempt to establish a new education system in their forest community.
After a long period of isolation, Antonin, who suffers from chronic exhaustion, begins working at a bird rescue centre on Lake Geneva.
Songs of Repression
At the foot of the Chilean Andes lies an idyllic German colony where a terrible and traumatic history lurks beneath the bucolic surface.
Open City Documentary Festival goes digital for 2020
7th July 2020
The Open City Documentary Festival is going digital for 2020.
The tenth edition of the festival takes place this September, celebrating non-fiction and working to nurture and champion creative documentary and non-fiction filmmakers. The festival comprises international contemporary and retrospective non-fiction film, audio and cross media, as well as filmmaker Q&As, industry panels, workshops, and networking.
Open City Documentary Festival 2020 will have four film competitions, all with cash prizes attached. Feature films will compete for the Open City Award, and the Emerging Filmmaker Award. Shorts will be recognised through the UK Short Award, and the International Short Award, which is new for this year.
The jurors for the Open City Award will be: Susana de Sousa Dias, Ehsan Khoshbakht, Joanna Natasegara, and Genevieve Yue. The jurors for the Emerging Filmmaker Award will be: Julian Ross, Jessica Sarah Rinland, Rehana Zaman, and Dessane Lopez Cassell. The jurors for the UK Short Award will be: Rhea Storr, Claire Marie Healy, Lindsay Poulton and Lawrence Lek. The jurors for the International Short Award will be: Juan Pablo González, Jeanelle Augustin, Joseph Fahim, and Jay Bernard.
Festival Director Chloe Trayner says: “As a festival, bringing people together has always been at the heart of our activity. Although our understanding of what that means has shifted during the ongoing global pandemic, we’re hopeful that we can still create an open space with our new digital iteration for people to gather and celebrate the art of non-fiction together.
“Our goal is to continue to enable connections between artists and filmmakers as well as audiences and industry delegates in a way that feels appropriate for our current reality. We look forward to celebrating our tenth edition by sharing a version of Open City Documentary Festival that will be accessible to a larger and wider audience than has been possible before.”
The film programme will present a curated selection of new work across 24 film events. These will be available to UK audiences as affordably priced video-on-demand rentals, with windowed access available during the festival period. Filmmaker Q&As will be included in the rental packages alongside complementary shorts selected by filmmakers or the festival programming team. A number of additional special events will also take place online.
Savings made on the costs of arranging filmmaker travel and accommodation will be redirected towards granting an increased appearance fee to all filmmakers screening new work at the festival, in addition to the screening fees that are paid to each selected film.
The industry programme will also be streamed live online during the week of the festival, and will be free to access worldwide. It will feature 20+ events involving leading non-fiction practitioners working across film, audio and cross-media.
The regular Expanded Realities programme has also been adapted for a digital format, with a number of selected and commissioned interactive projects accessible at home as in-browser experiences. These will also be free to access worldwide.
The festival runs from 9th to 15th September, with the full programme announced on 11th August.