Sunday 12 June 2011

Sheffield Doc/Fest Day Four

My last full day at the festival was a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, and that was just the weather. Read on to see what I thought of Life in Movement, the outdoor screening of Albert Maysles' Grey Gardens and the 'Secret Screening' that closed the day.

To start the day I headed back to the Library Theatre, best described as a secret underground bunker for film nerds. First up was the short The Perfect Fit, juxtaposing the delicate and tough practices of Ballerina's and the construction of their ballet shoes. It was quite an interesting little story that offered a revealing look at the gruff workmen creating such refined objects. The first full film of the day was Life In Movement, the story of the dance choreographer Tanja Liedtke and the reparatory company who wanted to honour her memory when she tragically died. I would never call myself a fan of modern dance, but after seeing this film I have a new found appreciation for the creative process they go through with this highly personal art form. Without me realising it, the director of Life In Movement was also the Aussie guy from Shut Up Little Man! I'd tweeted something about the day before. If only I'd seen this following tweet from that film's director before I'd headed out for the day, the Q and A could have gone a lot differently.
I recommend you see Shut Up Little Man! to understand why such vulgarity is needed. On my jaunt to my next screening at Devonshire Green I came across this fantastic sign for a driver's training course. What does it have to do with the Doc/Fest? Nothing really, but it made me laugh a bit.
I arrived at Devonshire Green just in time to see a slightly bewildered Albert Maysles being greeted by a horde of lunatics dressed like Little Edie and carrying cowbells. He then led a procession of students and people who probably should know better down onto the main green where the carefully erected screen was waiting for us.

I decided that I didn't really want to be seen as part of that group, so instead helped myself to a couple of free cupcakes that were being handed out by some smiling young ladies.
After a brief introduction from Mr Maysles the film was underway, the audience encouraged to grab a seat on the tarpaulin that had been laid down in front of the screen for us. Surrounded by men wearing headscarves smoking cheap roll-ups, we certainly caught the attention of the kids on the skate park behind the lorry.
And then it rained...
and then it stopped raining...
and then the bloody screen broke down.
We were informed that there was a back up plan, and that the film was showing in tandem in the bar next door. So, knowing there was only ten minutes of the film left, off we all went into the Forum bar which managed to be uncomfortably packed, dark and loud. Not only that, it was a good 15-20 minutes behind where the other screen had left off.
I'm sorry Mr Maysles, I promise I'll finish watching your film on DVD as I had to abandon the screening at that point.
My next film of the day was Bob and the Monster, charting the ups and downs of Bob Forrest, former frontman for the early 90's group Thelonious Monster. Part of the same California scene that gave us Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane's Addiction, there sure was a lot of drugs around at that point, most of which appears to have been hoovered up by Bob. The Californian equivalent of Shaun Ryder, I wasn't familiar with his band before, but that's mainly because Bob's drug habit stopped them from ever making it big. Using plenty of vox pops from those lucky few who survived the 90's (Anthony Keidis, Courtney Love, Flea), Bob and the Monster is less about the band than it is about Bob the drug addict and the lengths he's gone to to turn his life around.
The last film of the day was the 'Secret Screening', which turned out to be the worst kept secret since Ryan Giggs last booked a hotel suite. From the director of Touching the Void and Last King Of Scotland, Kevin MacDonald's Life in a Day is a kind of crowd sourced documentary, asking people to film a day in their life (July 24th 2010) and then choosing his favourite parts for inclusion. Less of the director than the curator of the project, MacDonald had over 4500 hours of video to choose from, eventually whittling it down to a manageable 90 minute movie. I did enjoy it, but it's not without its problems. Kind of like You've Been Framed without the pratfalls, it's not exactly a well rounded portrait of an average day on Earth, instead coming across as a promotional video for an 'ain't life cute' political party. As I said, I did like it, but barring a few stand out sequences (a family deals with a Mother's cancer, a Korean cyclist spouts some words of wisdom, what can only be described as Giraffterbirth) a lot of the film is pretty interchangeable. You could show me an alternate cut of the film with different sequences, and I might not be immediately able to tell you what's new.
After the screening we were treated to a midnight Skype Q and A session with Kevin MacDonald who appeared on the screen before us like some gigantic cinematic overlord. Sitting in his laundry room so he could get a good reception, thankfully he was brief in explaining his approach to the film and what he considered his job to be, as it was getting a bit late and I kind of just wanted to go to bed.

And so Doc/Fest is almost at an end, with only one day left to go before it gets packed up again for another year. Join me tomorrow for my round up of the last day and the festival experience as a whole.

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